Best On-Demand Beauty App
Part of the fun of traveling is creating a global network with other women who are doing the same. Though one part of me was bummed to leave my French country villa, another was so excited about all of the fabulous people I would be meeting soon in London. It was fashion week, and everyone seemed to be there—even our featured local insider from the Provence issue, Vicki Archer.
Vicki and I hadn’t managed to cross paths in person in Provence, so I was delighted to find the author-turned-entrepreneur in London, where the two of us got together for a delicious breakfast at Colbert, a classic French café. I’m always thrilled but never surprised that any time I meet a woman entrepreneur we’ve featured in DLM, they introduce me to yet another inspiring woman-owned business.
Among her excellent recommendations for where to go and what to do in London, Vicki showed me the number one app I needed to download. Ruuby, London’s first and finest digital beauty concierge, would give me access to same-day salon, spa and makeup appointments, at the salons or at home. And it just so happened to be founded by Vicki’s daughter, Venetia.
I was fascinated to learn that prior to founding Ruuby just a few short years ago, Venetia worked as a political risk analyst with a focus on Somali piracy. As a successful and busy professional who also wanted to look and feel her best, Venetia was tired of constantly calling up salons and asking for last-minute appointments. She felt disorganized, and like she was having to arrange her life around beauty—rather than the other way around.
Being an early adopter of UBER, Air B’N’B and all the others, Venetia thought, why isn’t there an app that can connect me with an available beauty appointment right now? She saw a need for something on-demand yet curated, with service providers you could trust to do amazing work. Though she loved her career, she felt called to start her own business, so she decided to go for it.
With the idea for Ruuby in hand, Venetia didn’t hesitate before diving into market research. She sent surveys out to her networks and interviewed tons of women in-person to find out what they really needed from London’s beauty pros. She put together a business deck outlining how the product should be built and what kind of revenue her model could generate.
After getting feedback from developers, contacts and friends, Venetia refined her product and pitch before raising the capital to make it real. With seed funding from family and the backing of Virgin Startup, in 2014 Ruuby was up and running, making booking a mani-pedi, a massage or a blowout simpler than ever before.
Today, Ruuby is growing and thriving with a major presence in London and a chic online magazine. Naturally we wanted to know more! Divine Living spoke with Venetia recently to find out what she learned in her first two years as a successful entrepreneur.
Take us behind-the-scenes of the research and development process for RUUBY. What were some of your major learnings?
One of my major learnings has been that the product will always need refinement, and will never be finished. Over the first year spent building the platform, the requirement changed. We initially were focussed on in-salon appointments, and then demand showed us that our clients were looking more for at-home treatments. The technology build required was naturally different, and so we had to amend the functionality—which took time. Now 80% of our bookings are for at-home treatments, and we are planning a whole host of additional tech product to make this even more seamless.
I also learned that there is no one right way. Everyone has advice, and this will come as a rolling commentary from all directions. I realized early on to listen, but not get too off track. I have a solid board of advisors who I trust implicitly and who offer up much wisdom.
Tell us about some of your favorite features of the RUUBY app. What makes it such a unique service?
Our USP (unique selling proposition) is quality. It is absolutely key for us. We ensure that all beauticians offer only the utmost quality. Given how precious our time is, it is vital for us that Ruuby offers a fantastic service that is done well, and which lasts. All our salons and mobile beauticians are the best—they do editorial/catwalk, and have been trained by the best.
What have you learned about recruiting the right people and leading a team toward success?
I believe it’s important to enable people, and to give them a real sense of ownership. We are a very small team and we rely on each other, which I think is important. That said, it hasn’t been without its struggles. Finding people who you can trust, and who excel, can be difficult. It was a challenge I faced very much in the early days, and am slowly learning more about.
What steps have you taken to create an effective and happy company culture?
Above all Ruuby is fun. While it can be super stressful (we live and die by our bookings!), we have a great time doing it. The office is a little bit quirky—we play hip-hop music when we receive bookings, we don’t always play by the rules, and we have a very open office culture. I think this makes people feel at home, and therefore happy.
For all the women out there who have the dream of developing their own app, and perhaps no tech experience themselves, what advice do you have?
It doesn’t matter if you don’thave tech experience yourself. By having the concept and the idea, you bring somethingelse to the table. What is important is ensuring that the people around you working on the tech (whether it’s an agency, or contractors), are skilled and intent on ensuring a great product. This can be hard, and so it’s about constantly reviewing, and running ideas and avenues past multiple people (it would be great if you could get a tech advisor to help, too).
How did you go about monetizing the app and creating a profitable business?
It’s definitely important to develop a strong business plan and monetization strategy. Ours was always commission-based, but this too has refined and evolved as we have grown. We’ve played around with the commission structure a bit—there are some clever strategies that can be built in to ensure greater buy-in from our providers. I always look to other businesses that I admire and observe how they have approached monetization, as it is an evolving science!
For more about Ruuby, visit: ruuby