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Woman of Colour: Debra Shigley

Give us the pitch. What's Colour?

Salon-fresh hair, on-demand. (Think Uber, for Black hair!). Black women spend an estimated $19 Billion on hair services annually, yet have been underserved for decades-- waiting all day in salons for services that take literally 45 minutes. COLOUR gives you the freedom to wear your hair how you want, when you want. For our stylists, it works similar to Uber, giving stylists the freedom to work independently, and earn extra money on their own schedule.

How did you get Colour started?

If you google #blacksalonproblems, which recently trended on Twitter, you'll get an idea of the collectively negative experience black women have faced getting their hair done! As a woman of color, (I'm biracial, half black, and half Jewish) with super curly hair, I found it incredibly difficult to find reliable salons that knew how to blow-dry and style my hair... but also met the needs of my lifestyle. I was a lawyer and journalist (and have four kids!) and I just don't have the time to be waiting in salons all day. I remember when I was practicing law in DC, I found myself at a Dominican salon one Saturday, sweating under the dryer and waiting for hours to finally complete my hairstyle. There was a miles long wait list and really inefficient operations.. and I thought why are we all here?! There has got to be a better way! This was years ago.. before the Drybars, and Glamsquads (hairstyling services geared toward a mainstream audience). Finally I just decided, let's change the status quo and do something!

Explain how the app works.

We're by-invitation for now, so a client who has an invite code would download the app and create a profile. Then she'll swipe through our "lookbook" do see our 6 main styles of how she'd like to wear her hair. She then clicks on the style to pull up the date calendar, then picks a date and time. If she's a first time user, she'll enter her address and credit card info; if she's a returning user all that info is stored in the app. Then, she clicks to book the appointment!

Clients create a profile telling us a little about their hair texture (natural? chemically straightened? wearing extensions?) and can take a selfie to let us see her hair and personality.

How much traction have you gotten on this?

We're pre-seed, so I prefer not to share numbers! We're at the early phases of the business and very pleased at the growth so far, the stylists also seem to be having a great experience. I will say we've had downloads from all over the country (even though we're just operating in Atlanta!)-- from Oakland to Houston to Iowa, Chicago and DC, and requests to launch the service in London and Paris. And 98% of women who've booked with us once, rebook another appointment within a month.

Who are your founders and what is their background?

There's me-- I did my undergrad at Harvard and my law degree at Georgia State. Prior to launching COLOUR I was a journalist, beauty editor and employment lawyer (at different times ;). I also went to beauty school while living abroad in Mexico City. My co-founder Stephanie Belcher earned her MBA at Harvard and her bachelors at Wellesley. Her background is in finance and operations. We are advised by my best friend and college roommate Jennifer Hyman, who is founder and CEO of Rent the Runway. Other key members of our team include Alliah Livingstone, who is our marketing lead, she earned both her undergrad degree and MBA from Harvard. She worked as a brand manager at P&G and EOS. Our tech was developed by a fantastic group out of NY called Heady Inc.

How are you funded?

Bootstrapped. I've funded the company with savings!

What's your revenue model?

Clients choose either membership for unlimited appointments ($200/monthly) or book one-off appointments ($65/appointment). Our stylists receive a flat commission per appointment that is competitive to other on-demand beauty apps.

What's next step Colour?

We're very excited about the growth in Atlanta. We're working on "ipsy-like" strategic partnerships with Atlanta beauty influencers and that should roll out in the next couple months.

How did you turn your "vision" into reality?

I would say I spent literally years thinking about this idea and looking at it from different angles.. watching DryBar etc come along, doing survey research etc etc. And at a certain point a couple years ago, my best friend Jenn (of RTR) said, this is going to work, you need to JUST START! She advised me to just set up a pilot test of the idea. So , I did! I flew back to Atlanta from Mexico City, recruited 4 stylists, sent out an email to 50 black friends that we were doing on-location appointments that weekend, did anyone want to book? And the response was incredible. That was a key turning point to go from thinking about this idea to actually just doing it!