Inspired by the need for a last-minute blowout at a hotel in Florida — as well as her life-changing experience with contract work — Ruth Shrauner turned to tech that she hopes will reshape the foundation of the beauty industry.
The Shawnee-based founder and CEO plans to launch her app — Poshed On The Go — at the end of October. The technology is expected to allow users to find and schedule salon providers to come to them either on-demand or by appointment with services for hair, nails, skincare, massage, spray tans, and lashes.
Shrauner first had the idea for the app last year while on a short break at a conference in Florida.
“I called the salon or the spa at the hotel to see if they could give me a blowout and they weren’t available,” she explained. “So then I spent the next 30 minutes looking on Google for somewhere nearby (and) spent 40 minutes to and from in an Uber. And while I’m sitting there, I’m like, ‘Why isn’t this a thing? Why can I not get on an app and just book someone to come to me at any time?’”
But for the wellness and women’s business coach, the startup’s goal goes beyond just an on-demand blowout. It’s also about empowering those in the beauty industry, Shrauner said, who are 84 percent women.
“But truly, as we started looking into it, what propelled me further was seeing the need for the beauty professionals and the hit that they took during the pandemic, a massive hit,” she continued. “The opportunity that we have (is) to provide to them a really, really cool business structure that is more lucrative for them right now and gives them more freedom in their scheduling and really takes the business side off of their hands.”
Shrauner was inspired by own contract work for the past eight years with a well-known wellness company.
“I was under this umbrella for this nationally-known brand, and in that opportunity, it changed my entire life,” she explained. “(It’s about) really being able to take my experiences there as a 1099 contractor — and the amazingness that company gave to me and how they treated me so well and compensated me so well — and paying that forward in an entirely new industry, where these primarily women providers are working really hard. But they sometimes don’t see the compensation or the recognition.”
It’s also about empowering women in the tech industry, Shrauner said.
“We hope to build this amazing tech business that’s founded on women leadership fully, from our CEO to our soon-to-be CTO to everything in between,” she continued. “Really giving women the opportunity to elevate themselves in this industry that’s so untapped with females and just lead the way. … We believe we have an idea and we have the heart to make this the next big app within the app industry.”
So far, the app has been self-funded. But Shrauner said she just pitched to Digital Sandbox KC a few weeks ago and is hoping to hear back this fall.
“We kind of wanted to get that one under our belt and now we’ll start approaching angel investors and other grant/funding opportunities within the Kansas City area,” she added.
Users of the app will be able to download it for free, create a profile, and then be able to scroll through providers, see the services they offer, reviews, and photos, and book an appointment at home, work, or other location, Shrauner said. They may also request an on-demand appointment through InstaPoshed.
“Let’s say you’re in a hurry, just like I was last year,” she explained. “I could get on and just simply say, ‘I’m at this location. Here’s my budget. Here’s what I want. Match me up with somebody.’ And it’ll be like the Uber option, where that is then sent to our eligible providers and our providers can take that client. It’ll be like first come, first served. Then they’ll confirm that request and take that appointment.”
Like with Uber or InstaCart, users will pay a user fee to Poshed, and then, of course, the provider’s service price.
In the future, Shrauner said the app is expected to add in social and ecommerce features. Users will be able to see beauty tips and tricks from experts in the field and be able to purchase products directly from their provider. For example, she said, if you get a blowout, the provider could link the products used to your account. So then you could order them at any time.
“This is a massive, I feel, game changer for the providers,” she added. “They don’t have a way to make residual income right now in their business unless they have a website already set up, which most of them don’t. So this is really introducing a revenue line for them that they don’t have right now unless they’re in a very sophisticated salon or own something like that themselves.”
Empowering new bosses
Beauty providers typically choose from two routes, Shrauner detailed: They can work in a salon that often takes a 50-percent commission or they can rent a chair or a suite, which normally ranges from $600 to $1,000 a month.
“But in that, they’re a one-man show,” she said. “So they’re trying to do marketing, bookkeeping, taxes, client communications promotions, all by themselves.”
This is especially difficult, she continued, when they are straight out of cosmetology school and have little experience. That’s where Poshed comes in.
“They’re not really equipped to run their own business and then also work on their feet six hours to eight hours a day,” she explained. “So we saw that as an amazing way where we could provide a service to them to kind of take that workload off, allow them to focus on what they’re good at, and pay them 100 percent of that commission — which they don’t get anywhere else in the market. (They can) be their own independent boss while partnering with us, who are going to build this nationally-known brand name.”
When the vetted providers join Poshed on the Go, they work as 1099 contractors, said Kathleen Livingston, business manager at the startup.
“So they are building their own independent business underneath the umbrella of our brand,” she added. “So they get to set their own prices. They get to set their own schedules. So we’re really empowering them to be independent business women on their own.”
The intro price for providers is $99 per month, but Shrauner said the first 30 days are free to try out.
“The feedback we’ve gotten with that has been honestly incredible,” she added. “No pushback. Everyone’s just very, very excited about this opportunity.”
For the on-demand InstaPoshed appointments, the providers will pay a small fee.
“We will take a smaller commission from that because we’re providing that direct client match,” she explained.
To work on-demand, they can just turn on that function through the app.
“So that’s exactly like that Uber function, where they’ll just say, ‘Oh, I’m bored or my friends all canceled on me or I need an extra 200 bucks today,’” she said. “And they can turn on that switch to be matched with those clients who are looking for last-minute services.”
Providers will also have the option of paying a fee to boost their profile on the app or to create a promotion to advertise.
Poshed is also working to build partnerships with brands, Livingston said, so that providers can receive discounts on the products they use.
The app already has providers committed to working with Poshed and Shrauner is hoping to add about 100 in the KC area, she said.
“We really want to create a company and culture for our providers that allows them to come together as a community,” Shrauner noted. “Again, 84 percent (of beauty providers are) women, and we know that women, we really thrive on community. We also thrive on feeling recognized in what we’re doing every day and uplifted by others. And so establishing this community in the background for providers is really important for us. In my mind, we work for them, to be honest. We’re here to cater to their needs.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.