Memo Exclusive: An Interview with Drybar Founder Alli Webb

Author of “The Drybar Guide to Good Hair for All,” and the founder of Drybar, Alli Webb, along with her husband, Cam Webb, and brother, Michael Laundau, opened the first Drybar in 2010 to offer one service—the blowout. Today, with 70 locations throughout the US and Canada, Drybar also offers a product line and tools sold through their shops, as well as inside Sephora, Nordstrom, Ulta and Bloomingdale's.

MODERN met with Webb to talk about the success of Drybar and the “extend your blowout” category she helped to create.

 MS: Tell us about the evolution of Drybar.

 AW: I’ve spent time in fashion and public relations but hair was always my passion. I have very naturally curly hair, and I used to beg my Mom to blow dry my hair. Being a stylist was the thing in the back of my mind that I always knew I wanted to do and when I did go to beauty school, I loved every second of it.  When I started on the floor, I had the privilege of working with John Sahag in New York at his Madison Avenue Salon.

 After moving back to Los Angeles with my husband, I spent about five years as a stay-at-home Mom before starting my mobile business, “Straight at Home.” I charged $40 for a blowout and I got really busy, really fast. To meet all the demand, I had to make a decision about my next move, either choosing to expand the mobile business or to open a brick-and-mortar. That’s when I went to my husband, who had always worked in advertising, and my brother, and we put our heads together.  My husband designed the website and the branding and Michael and I found space for our first location in Brentwood. That was seven years ago and we’re getting ready to open our 70th location in Florida.

MS: How was the response when you first opened?

AW: It was extremely well-received. We were very busy, right away. When we opened that store in Brentwood it was in the middle of the recession so women were cutting back on cut and color appointments but they were getting more frequent blowouts. My thinking was that women would start getting blowouts on Monday or Tuesday so they would have good hair all week.  And they did.  We are still someplace that people come for special occasions, of course, but we also have many women coming in who don’t even wash their hair anymore because they come to Drybar twice a week.

MS: Do you have franchisees?

AW: Shops are predominantly company-owned but there are some franchise locations. We are very careful about who we partner with because we are very protective of the brand. Our franchisees are people who uphold the brand standards and we have a lot of infrastructure in place to make sure there is consistency among all the shops. As a consumer or client you won’t know the difference.

MS: What kind of stylist works at Drybar?

AW: Our stylists are a mix of seasoned professionals and those new to the industry, some full time, some part time. It works for both. I’m very proud of all the jobs we have created. We have almost 3,000 stylists across our locations. 

Stylists who are working as assistants at a full service salon can work at Drybar, which allows them to get their sea legs and get comfortable interacting with clients. When I came out of beauty school, you had to assist for two years and you didn’t make any money and you didn’t build a clientele. The first time I did a haircut on the floor, it was nerve-wracking. Working at Drybar creates an avenue for growth and development because we offer training and it provides real world experience. A blowout isn’t permanent and even if everything went wrong, you can rewash the client and start over.

We also have stylists working for us, part time, and working for other salons, part time. They are turning Drybar clients into cut and color clients because they have built up a relationship.

Most of our managers started on the floor with us and we have many stylists working with us on product education because we have a real need there.

MS: Talk about your product line.

AW: We have a full wet line, a system of styling products and also tools, including Buttercup, our blow dryer, curling irons, flat irons and brushes.  Our best-selling products are probably Buttercup and our Detox Dry Shampoo. The whole ‘extend your blowout’ category has become very big for us. 

We develop our products by working with our thousands of stylists. They get samples to test and they give us such valuable feedback.  Stylists do not lie.

MS: What’s coming next?

AW: There’s a lot of international opportunity for growth with our products.  This is a huge focus for us.  And I just finished my book tour.  We will probably open 20 more shops in 2017. There’s a lot going on.

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