Beauty
From Management Consultants to Starting Up: The Humble Beginnings of LookBooker PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 September 2014 07:00

Singapore’s digital scene is getting more exciting everyday, and we are thrilled to be able to come across new websites and products launching every week. Other than the rise of food-related websites such as BoxGreen, Grain, Feedex and ChefBox, we also noticed the rise of websites aiming to improve the beauty industry, such as PagePink and of course, LookBooker. 

The story of LookBooker is an interesting one: founded by Renee Robbie and Giorgia Rossi, two Australian girls who met while working together at global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, LookBooker is an online booking platform for the hair and beauty industry in Singapore. You can easily search, select, and instantly make salon appointments anytime through the internet. 

They Know Something We Don’t

One might wonder, is Singapore ready for an online booking platform like LookBooker? Both Renee and Giorgia is confident: the time is now ripe. Currently, there are over 18,000 salons in Singapore, and while some of these salons thrive, a majority of them are facing some challenges and this present valuable opportunities to LookBooker. One of the main challenge is that an average salon operates at 60-70% capacity, leaving much room for available appointments ready for customers. Staff resources are also too often spent on the manual task of taking, confirming, and rescheduling appointments.

“Everything we have done at LookBooker had been driven from feedback we’ve heard from the hundreds of salon owners we’ve spoken to. Salons also have a limited online presence which they believe are making it hard to reach new customers,” LookBooker told Vulcan Post. 

Renee and Giorgia 

Other than that, current booking methods of these salons do not reflect online scheduling innovations seen in other industries in Singapore. When you think about transportation, there’s taxi booking app such as GrabTaxi and EasyTaxi. When you think about food, there’s also a lot of restaurants booking and discovery sites helping customers discover food. When you think about travelling, there’s a sea of hotel, air tickets, and tour booking sites out there.

But when you are looking at making an appointment for your next haircut, a massage, or a waxing session, there’s nothing out there.

“We know that Singaporeans as consumers are becoming more eager to try out new trends whilst simultaneously getting busier and busier. You need only look at the proliferation of scheduling and booking platforms in the market in other industries to see that there was a large gap in the market waiting for someone to provide a place where people could go and search, compare and instantly book their hair and beauty needs.” - Renee told Vulcan Post.

LookBooker hopes to fill out that gap.

Pretty much similar with other online marketplaces, you can search for the service you want on LookBooker either by the location you want it in, or with a salon/stylist that you already know, pick a time that suits you, enter your details and you’re done. Customers can book appointments with a range of salons, spas, barbers and nail spots that have been hand selected to participate in LookBooker’s beta phase.

The Decision To Quit And The Plunge Into Starting Up

Having identified the opportunity in the space, it didn’t take long for the duo to quit their jobs and focus on kicking off LookBooker. Quitting their comfortable jobs at McKinsey & Company was easy as both Renee and Giorgia come from very entrepreneurial families in Australia.

“It was more the idea than anything that inspired us to make the switch – when you go to bed thinking about the same thing and wake up the next morning thinking about it still, day after day, there comes a point where you just have to make the leap. We both have partners and families who encouraged us to leave – the hardest part was probably telling them that we were planning to launch LookBooker in Singapore and the USA therefore we’d have to be leaving Australia,” Renee told Vulcan Post.

Renee and Giorgia met in the halls of McKinsey’s Australian office, bonded over their mutual appreciation of six weekly haircuts and are now in Singapore launching a site which will give consumers the convenience of searching, comparing and instantly confirming salon and spa appointments online. 

Coming from a management consulting background, things are certainly different when running LookBooker.

“In some ways it’s like chalk and cheese and in others it’s very similar. The fast paced and think on your feet environment is very reminiscent of our time at McKinsey. Likewise, we found that the skills we learned the most at McKinsey – how to ruthlessly prioritise and how to be unendingly curious, serve us well as founders who every day wear a dozen different hats.”

“We would not have been able to do what we do today without having the “training on steroids” experience we did at McKinsey. On the other hand, it’s quite different. We don’t have the safety net of a large corporate background to rely on – working out payroll, tax, bank accounts all of the administrative aspects that run a business was something that we underestimated,” said Renee.

What If The Idea Doesn’t Work Out?

As entrepreneurs, there will definitely be time where there are doubts. What if LookBooker were to fail? Renee told Vulcan Post confidently that they definitely do not think it would.

“We’re so busy we could barely even pause to consider it! Giorgia and I did have a laugh pausing to consider our answer for this question though – if for some reason things didn’t work out, we’d go into business again together.”

Renee and Giorgia are also fully aware of the competition in the space. While there are no clear leaders in this space yet, there is a big gap in the market from both the salon and the consumer angle. The team is fully occupied around the clock and they have “enough salon interest” to keep them busy for a while.

While still on its beta test, things are looking positive for LookBooker as consumers seem to be referring new friends to the service after they have tried the service.

So, feel like making an appointment with your hair salon now? 

 
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