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Melody McCloskey, Co-Founder + CEO of StyleSeat

Melody McCloskey (MM): I’ve always loved computers, I’ve always loved tech, but it wasn’t something that I ever thought that I could do because I wasn’t a software engineer.

CARD: Melody McCloskey – Co-Founder + CEO – StyleSeat – San Francisco, USA

MM: I came up with the idea for StyleSeat really from the consumer’s perspective. I’m not from the beauty industry, I didn’t know a lot about the beauty industry. StyleSeat is a platform for stylists, aestheticians, makeup artists, nail artists to run their entire business. We give them a website with online booking, we manage all their client relationships, we also give them a mobile app so they can run everything from their phone.

CARD: Melody grew up in San Francisco.

CARD: In high school, she was the only girl to enroll in an Advanced Placement computer course.

CARD: Melody as a kid…

MM: I was really excited about it. I actually loved the curriculum and the class but 10:19:47.5 The teacher didn’t know how to treat me and it was a different dynamic than any of my other classes and you know no one turned to me and said you can be a software engineer if you want, so I ended up dropping out of it.

CARD: Putting computer studies behind her, Melody majored in international relations in college. After graduating, she fell in with San Francisco’s tech crowd.

MM: The benefit of being in San Francisco is that you can’t, throw a rock and not hit five engineers and, and a founder. My friends were talking about raising money, or how do I get the best engineering talent, what are the technologies that you’re using. You know, a lot of the factors that had to do with building a business. 10:26:41.8 And so I learned a lot. It was the first time that I realized this could actually be a career for me.

CARD: Inspiration came from a few bad haircuts.

MM: I got three haircuts and color in a row. So ultimately I spent $1,000 and every time I just wasn’t that happy with the result. 10:33:52.5 And then I ended up going to someone who was amazing, and the difference from “well, when’s my next appointment?” you know, with someone else, to I feel like my best self. I feel confident.” So I wanted to figure out a way where I could help more women feel, that feeling.

CARD: Melody imagined a website that would connect women with beauty professionals.

MM: The more research I did the more I realized that it’s not just consumers but stylists needed a better way to run their business.

CARD: She found a developer to write a program and roped in a friend to design the site.

CARD: Once she had a prototype, Melody contacted a former colleague and software engineer, Dan Levine.

MM: I said, “I’d love for you to be my co-founder. This is the vision. What do you think?” And he said yes. And I was like, “Okay, but you’re gonna have to quit your job, and actually I can’t pay you. I have no money, and we’ll probably have to bootstrap.” And he said yes. And I was like, “Well, maybe you should think about it a little bit. Like we might need some investment from you to get this going.” And he’s like. “Yes. I already said yes.”

CARD: Melody and Dan started StyleSeat in 2010. They worked in the time-honored tech start-up way – Seven days a week — with no pay.

MM We ended up bootstrapping for the first year and a half of the business. And that certainly wasn’t because we didn’t want to raise money. It was because raising money was a huge challenge for us.

MM The vast majority of investors are male. And so they see this woman come in with this app that’s really focused on female entrepreneurs and needs of, you know, mostly women and they just don’t get it. And so much feedback initially was, “I don’t think women really want this or need this.” Stylists and salon owners are not going to use technology. Plus about 20% of VC’s in Silicon Valley are bald so they don’t think about problems that arise with hair.

CARD: Finally, after Melody and Dan pitched StyleSeat at Tech Crunch Disrupt, they raised $700,000 from investors, including Ashton Kutcher.

CARD: They hired a team, built out the platform and attracted users.

MM: A stylist signs up, they get a bunch of clients, they tell all their friends that they know and then those people sign up, and we grow from there.

CARD: Melody and Dan have raised another $14 million to keep growing the site.

CARD: More than 250,000 stylists across the US have joined StyleSeat.

MM: When you’re bigger, things are a little bit easier, people are more excited because they realize that this is something that people want. You go back to those original investors they’re like, “okay, well, I didn’t get it but those numbers don’t lie.” You know I’ve been in this for three years and I’ll do it as long as its necessary to build something really big and meaningful.

CREDITS

Producers – Victoria Wang and Sue Williams
Director – Sue Williams
Editor – Merril Stern
Director of Photography – Richard Neill
Production Assistant – Rekha Shankar
Assistant Editor – Gregory E. Smith
Music – Killer Tracks

Images Courtesy of:
123RF
StyleSeat
Northbound Films

© Ambrica Productions