How to Innovate Salon Services in London

Salon services in London are being transformed via a digital beauty booking tool

Fiona McIntosh is the co-founder and creative director of blow LTD which is a beauty tech startup reinventing salon services in the British capital.

Blow LTD offers express manicures, blow dries, facials and many more salon services to modern women wherever they are in London – and at a moments notice.

An app, website and phone line constitute blow LTD’s multi-channel appointment booking service which has been a  part of the company’s growth strategy.

And, just as a team of mobile beauticians and hair stylists provide salon services for clients in the comfort of their homes or hotel rooms, appointments can also be enjoyed on-site at two beauty bars in London.

Blow LTD’s e-commerce platform also carries a beauty product inventory, whilst a blog helps women make product choices and fine tune their own makeup applications.

To further strengthen its presence in the UK and to establish international expansion, blow LTD has also launched a funding round on Seedrs -an equity crowdfunding site.

A woman having her makeup done by beauty professionals at blow LTD

We latched on early to the idea of on- demand – making the experience even more convenient for busy women by coming to their homes, offices or hotels.‘- Fiona McIntosh- Co-founder and creative director, blow LTD

Here, Fiona tells Nativa World how her beauty tech startup is innovating salon services in London and why tapping into the on-demand economy is key to the success of her business…

Fiona, what’s your background?

Prior to founding blow LTD I was in editorial – I was editor-in-chief of ELLE magazine, launch editor of Grazia in the UK and worked with Mondadori helping to launch international editions of Grazia. As fashion e-commerce took off, it made sense that the next natural transition for me was applying those skills to create content for digital platforms. The idea to be able to offer instant gratification by creating shoppable content for e-commerce was very exciting. The next logical step was to find a way of offering instantly bookable services to busy women – tapping into the burgeoning on-demand economy.

Why did blow LTD come to life?

At first we were really inspired by the speed and efficiency of New York City blow dry bars. Every time the fashion teams went to the shows in New York City we would book a blow dry and walk out 30 minutes later with great hair. Recreating that experience was paramount to our mission at blow LTD. My co-founder Dharmash Mistry and I then thought it would be great to super-charge that experience by adding fast & fabulous makeup and nails – a full event-ready experience. His background in tech also meant we latched on early to the idea of on- demand – making the experience even more convenient for busy women by coming to their homes, offices or hotels. Instead of booking a salon visit, the salon would come to you.

How has your entrepreneurial journey been thus far?

Since that light-bulb decision last summer to pivot the business to on-demand, we have had to rebuild the team, shifting us from a traditional service business to an on-demand service business with a hugely complex operations and tech structure. Building the most efficient booking apps for customers and stylists and testing, training and on-boarding only the most expert beauty professionals has been a real learning curve.

What are your goals for your business?

We are in a unique position in a very new market so scaling up fast, but still maintaining the very best quality control is our single biggest ambition. Personally, I am also proud of the fact we have such wide appeal – we are accessible and interesting to everyone from the CEO in her fifties who needs to look fabulously well-groomed 24/7 to her 20-something PA who will use us for a night out with the girls.

How did you come to collaborate with Dharmash Mistry?

Dharmash and I worked together at EMAP – he was on the board when we launched Grazia in the UK and he always asked the trickiest questions! He then became a venture capitalist, specializing in tech startups, so his business and marketing brain and my background in editorial work as a Yin and Yang,

Dharmash Mistry co-founded blow LTD in the UK

Who inspires you in business?

Strong, clever women creating great, innovative businesses. I loved and miss Nathalie Massenet’s enormous style and drive at net-a-porter. I hugely admire Carolyn McCall who has completely transformed Easyjet into a family-friendly carrier which is super-easy to use – but the big, shameful question is: Why are there only six female CEOs running FTSE 100 companies? What is stopping other Carolyn McCalls rising through the ranks?

How do you source your hair stylists and makeup artists?

Through a lot of trial and error we now have a very efficient recruitment system which helps us weed out the best experts in each area who are not just technically brilliant, but have the attitude and presentation to represent our brand. We then spend a lot of time testing applicants (only 15% get through to on-boarding) and running all the CRB and reference checks before they are mystery shopped and added to the blow LTD platform.

Who are your users?

Our main users are busy women. She could be a full-time worker who needs to looks great 24/7, a stay-at-home mum with small kids who finds it hard to escape the home, or a woman going to a big party or date night. We also have lots of group bookings – getting ready with the girls is great fun – plus photo-shoots, press events and weddings. Our on-demand business is growing by more than 20% each month.

How do you select the beauty products featured?

Our e-commerce is very much based around the products we use in service, so if a customer really loves the Laura Mercier primer we used on her or our best-selling #10minuteblow dry shampoo, she can buy it then and there.

What’s your favorite beauty app?

The biggest and the best – Youtube. Beauty tutorials and ‘How Tos’ have become so ubiquitous, looking for and watching the best vloggers (and emerging talent) is important.

How did you assemble your team?

Once word got out that we were launching a beauty business, we had a lot of organic inquiries from our own networks. Dharmash and I have been around for while (!) which can be a good thing when you start out. That was really helpful. We then recruited the specialists we needed.

When you travel what do you miss when you’re away from home?

My kids. I have two teenage daughters who drive me nuts when I’m at home, but I do miss them terribly when I’m away. They have now forced me into using snapchat while I’m away – which appears to be their only means of communication these days.

Fiona’s Essential Beauty Products For Travel:

Fiona’s Startup Tips:

  • Find a business partner who has the polar opposite skills to you
  • Network shamelessly to spread the word about your business
  • Even if you are reasonably well-funded, stay lean and laser focused on your business’s absolute priorities.

blow LTD helps women book beauty and hair salon services to their homes

Photography courtesy of Fiona McIntosh, Dharmash Mistry and blow LTD