At Drybar, The Heat Is Om
Entrepreneur|October 2017

Alli Webb opened the first Drybar in 2010, thinking women would love a blowouts-only salon. But when she unintentionally sparked a new business category, she had to learn how to stay ahead of the competition.

Stephanie Schomer

In 2008, after five years as a stay-at-home mom, hairstylist Alli Webb was ready for some grown-up time. She started traveling from home to home in Los Angeles, providing affordable blowouts (that’s a wash, a dry, and a style, gentlemen) to other moms who, like her, were eager for a small break from nonstop responsibilities. Nearly a decade later, Webb’s brainchild has grown into Drybar, a blowouts-only salon chain beloved by women across the country. The bar themed business—styles offered include the Cosmo (loose curls) and the Mai Tai (beachy waves)—is chic and girly, and serves up as many mimosas as hairstyles in a given day. As the business prepares to open its 100th location and eyes international expansion, Webb is the first to admit that she and her cofounders—who are also her husband and her brother—are still learning as they go.

Drybar is approaching 100 locations after just seven years in business. How do you keep the service consistent at scale?

It’s one of the biggest challenges we face. We’ve learned how to make good stylists great through our training programs and audition processes, but it is tough, especially in some smaller cities. New York and L.A. are ripe with stylists with a lot of experience, but we definitely have challenges in smaller cities. And we don’t run an actual school—not yet, anyway—but we’ve got a robust training program to teach our signature tricks and styles. The best compliment I can get is from a woman who travels a lot and can depend on Drybar in any city.

The company has really made blowouts ubiquitous and inspired quite a few copycat businesses along the way.

It’s funny because when we first opened, customers would come in and I would tell them literally everything about the business, because I was so proud. And then we started seeing similar models open up.

People actually copied the model and opened shops where Drybar already existed?

Yes! One woman came in, asked me a bunch of questions, and then opened her own store. She even wrote me a letter almost apologizing, saying I was so generous with my time and she was feeling guilty. But we always knew that if this took off, there would be competition. We didn’t know people would take actual verbiage from our website and put it on theirs, which has happened, but we knew there would be competition. But you can’t really duplicate what we do just by hiring some stylists and making a space look cute. We’ve got a secret sauce.

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