Pandemic will drive more stylists to go independent, ‘hairbnb’ founders say

As Covid-19 closes salon doors, more beauticians and barbers are becoming independent contractors.

According to Courtney Caldwell, cofounder and COO of ShearShare Inc., about 70 percent of beauticians are independent contractors – and that increase was already disrupting the beauty industry before the pandemic. The industry has the second largest number of freelancers, she said.

After shelter-in-place restrictions lift in many states across the country, the number of independent stylists may continue to see growth.

“People think, ‘Oh, I work for a corporation. I stay for this type of security,’ while actually we’re seeing that there’s not,” Caldwell said.

ShearShare, a B2B mobile marketplace that connects licensed independent beauticians and barbers with empty salon space, has seen website traffic almost double and new users grow 150 percent during the last three months.

“People know us widely as a ‘hairbnb,’” Courtney said.

Tye Caldwell, the company’s cofounder and CEO, said he estimates the pandemic will close between 4 to 11 percent of salons and barbershops. This, in turn, could encourage more stylists to become independent.

In a recent survey conducted by ShearShare, 76 percent of respondents indicated they were interested in working at a daily booth rental, while only 4 percent expressed interest in working by commission.

The survey also showed that beauticians and barbers plan on making changes as they return to work, Courtney said. This includes shortened hours and an increase in prices, she said.

Having experience with the 2008 recession, Courtney Caldwell said beauty and barber shops are an evergreen industry, and more jobs can be expected even in the wake of an economic crisis.

The industry is rebounding now, but some stylists are without a workplace, Courtney said. She is glad her company can play a part in helping the industry recover by helping independent beauticians find space to work, she said.

“Regardless of anything that’s ever happened economically, the beauty industry has always moved forward.” Tye said.

ShearShare cofounders see more independent stylists coming out of the pandemic

Jake Dean

Courtney Caldwell co-founded ShearShare Inc., a B2B marketplace that connects licensed stylists with empty salon space, with Tye Caldwell.