GE 212: How First-Time Founder Melody McCloskey Built a Salon-Booking Empire that Did $1.6B in Transactions Last Year (podcast) With Melody McCloskey

Melody McCloskey

Hey everyone, today I share the mic with Melody McCloskey, CEO of StyleSeat, the largest marketplace for beauty services.

Tune it to hear Melody share how she encountered a problem in the marketplace and then set out to solve it, how someone with no background in tech built a booking company for stylists that did $1.6 billion in transactions last year, how StyleSeat acquired 10K clients with essentially no marketing, and why she chose an equity-based model for her employees.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: How First-Time Founder Melody McCloskey Built a $1.6B:Year Salon-Booking Empire TRANSCRIPT

Time-Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:48 – Leave a review and rating and subscribe to the Growth Everywhere Podcast
  • 01:07 – Eric welcomes Melody McCloskey
  • 01:17 – Melody’s company, StyleSeat, made $1.7 billion in bookings last year
  • 01:40 – StyleSeat is Melody’s first company
    • 01:50 – She is the daughter of a police officer
    • 02:02 – She is a French major and International Relations major
    • 02:12 – She planned on going back to France after college but realized she wanted to work on her own business while in San Francisco
  • 02:53 – Melody just recently moved to San Francisco and wanted to get her hair done but she had a hard time booking an appointment
    • 03:12 – She found out that the tools that were available were poor and awful
    • 03:32 – When she did her research, she found that part of the problem was that professionals in the industry did not have a good way to market themselves
    • 04:11 – Melody thought she could bring value to the business owners by helping them with their web presence, customer acquisition, and CRM
  • 04:26 – Last year, they made $1.6 billion in bookings, powered about $3.5 billion since the launch, and 70 million appointments across the platform
  • 05:04 – In the beginning, Melody was overwhelmed by the idea of starting a company as she did not have a background in tech
  • 05:12 – Melody mapped out all the things she needed to and then placed it into phases
    • 05:26 – Every day, Melody would attack one or two things from the phase she was in
    • 05:50 – Breaking it into small projects made the goal doable for Melody
  • 06:28 – Melody did not know a lot of stylists so she asked her friends to send her the emails of their hair stylists
    • 06:45 – Melody got 30 names and sent an email saying she wanted to change the beauty industry and that she wanted to meet them
    • 07:02 – Melody met the 30 at her friend’s salon and gave a presentation
    • 07:27 – The beauty professionals were excited about the mission and were willing to help Melody
  • 07:40 – When the first version was launched, the beauty professionals gave Melody feedback every single day
  • 08:10 – A year and a half later, they had about 10,000 businesses using them on a regular basis
    • 08:17 – It’s 100% organic and until now, they have done essentially no marketing and have grown through word of mouth
  • 08:58 – Melody loves that she is working on a combination of awesome software, product development and building a community
  • 09:41 – It was hard for Melody to be social but she got over it and loved hearing the feedback of people
  • 10:32 – In the early stages, it was about how good you can pitch your company, your vision, and being able to constantly sell
  • 10:46 – When people are buying, you now have to build your team
  • 11:06 – Melody had to be good at identifying talent and supporting them to do what they needed to succeed
  • 11:50 – The unifying theme for Melody is having a curious mind and eagerness to learn, change, and evolve
  • 12:07 – Melody assumes she knows nothing every single day
    • 12:21 – All she does at meetings now is ask questions and then makes decisions
  • 12:45 – Eric recommends the audiobook Multipliers – the premise is to ask questions, not give directives
  • 13:07 – Melody says it is about teaching people how to think
    • 13:52 – It is teaching your team to have ownership and accountability and to drive the solutions themselves
  • 14:47 – Melody says the market has been a little bit crazy
    • 14:57 – Melody was hiring a candidate and the candidate wanted a guarantee that she would earn $40 million in the next two years
    • 16:06 – Melody has been good at setting expectations
    • 16:30 – Melody believes in an equity motivated business rather than a high salary motivated business
  • 17:15 – Customer acquisition is done organically
  • 17:46 – From being free, they shifted to a paid product
    • 18:11 – Customers either left or those who paid had higher expectations
    • 18:52 – They dramatically improved the product
    • 19:07 – The experience galvanized the team and motivated them to fix the problem
  • 19:35 – The challenge of being a free product is that you get a ton of customers
    • 19:56 – When they were free, it was less clear who the real valuable customers were
  • 20:37 – Melody says advisers are everything
    • 20:42 – Find an amazing adviser who has done it before and can give you their time
    • 21:13 – Melody’s advisers change over time depending on the need
  • 22:32 – Melody found her first developer on Craigslist and she gave him equity from the beginning
    • 23:15 – The equity is diluted down as the company grows
  • 24:23 – Melody says the hardest part is the ups and downs
    • 24:56 – You have to be really good at all the things that are thrown at you daily
    • 25:20 – You have to lean into the pain and chaos and get good at solving problems
  • 25:55 – What’s one big change you’ve made in the last year that has either impacted you or your business? – Melody brought on a new executive team
    • 26:26 – Melody is also more into fitness
  • 27:11 – What’s one tool you’ve added in the last year, like Evernote? – Evernote and Sworkit
  • 28:28 – What’s one must read book you’d recommend to everyone? – The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
    • 28:52 – Tenacity and resiliency are the two most important traits needed as a founder
  • 29:10 – Follow Melody on Instagram and Twitter
  • 29:47 – End of today’s episode

3 Key Points:

  1. Teach people how to think by asking questions and letting them come up with their own answers—this will empower them to find solutions themselves.
  2. Find yourself an adviser who has walked this road before you and learn from them.
  3. Tenacity and resiliency are the two most important factors to becoming a successful founder.

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