Cox Alumni Courtney Caldwell and her husband Tye Caldwell, pose at Salon74 by Tye and their We Work space, Monday, December 17, 2018. They developed the app ShearShare to help salons and barbers fill empty chairs.

The Making of “HairBnB”: Entrepreneur Magazine Features ShearShare

Entrepreneur magazine is the premier source for everything small business. In their latest issue, ShearShare was featured as the “HairBnb” of the beauty and barbering industry. Co-founders, Dr. Tye and Courtney Caldwell were interviewed about ShearShare and what led them to create the industry-disrupting app. Learn about our co-founders’ background in Plano, Texas, the challenges they faced, and how it led them to reshape the industry with ShearShare.

Entrepreneur Magazine Interviews ShearShare 

Build the minimum viable product.

Three years after the stylist called, the Caldwells were sharing a veggie bowl at Chipotle when they had an epiphany: This rent-by-the-day thing could scale! And no one else was doing it. On a napkin, Tye sketched out an app that would match independent stylists to salons and barbershops with empty space. Courtney, who’d previously run Oracle’s digital marketing, was all in. First, they needed a minimum viable product (MVP), so they drained their savings and Courtney’s retirement account (“It’s still painful,” she admits) and hired an engineering firm to build it. That MVP helped them win pitch competitions and gain entry to programs like the y Combinator Fellowship and the incubator 500 Global. But they struggled to fundraise. In 2016, only 0.8% of VC funding went to Black founders-and investors were extra cautious of the Caldwells as spouses. “VCs would talk about divorce or nasty fallouts,” says Tye. “But then that same investor would say, ‘Cofounders have to be like a married couple.’ And I’m thinking, What is the difference?”

Reframe the pitch.

The Caldwells spent years pitching ShearShare as a beauty app, and hardly got anywhere. Then they had a breakthrough in 2019. They’d heard people call their company “HairBnB,” and began describing the startup as a property tech platform that managed over $95 million in salon and barbershop space assets. “That’s a totally different conversation with a VC,” says Courtney. “Maybe they don’t care about people getting their hair cut. But when we talk about excess capacity, they hear it differently.” Thanks to that pivot, they’ve raised $5.5 million.

Solve a pain point.

Many of ShearShare’s clients – stylists who move around or work part-time – struggle to afford the liability insurance salons often require. Once the Caldwells saw the problem. they reached out to Lloyd’s of London (cold, by filling out a contact form). Although it took two years of talking, in 2020, ShearShare was able to offer liability insurance by the day.

Refine the cost.

How much should a chair cost per day to rent? Salon owners and stylists had very different answers to that. When the Caldwells got accepted into a Google accelerator program for Black founders, they used it to make everyone happier: Now ShearShare has a machine learning-driven dynamic pricing program, much like airlines use which maximizes the earnings potential for both parties based on variables like location, amenities, and how far ahead the booking is.

Grow smart.

Having worked out the product, it’s time to scale. ShearShare will introduce subscriptions this fall, and is actively developing partnerships with national chains. The Caldwells also joined another incubator, called 43North. “We’re gonna ask questions until someone tells us, ‘Stop asking me,’” says Courtney. So far, no one has.

Read the full article on Entrepreneur.com.

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