A niche market in beauty
Entrepreneur’s latest venture links beauticians, clients
It all started with a Grace Jones haircut. Rica Elysee went to a hair salon to get a haircut similar to her idol, but much to her dismay, it took four and a half hours to get the cut and style that she wanted. Normally, it would have taken 20 minutes.
That experience, coupled with stories from other women who also faced difficulties getting to the salon for a variety of reasons, inspired the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate to create the online platform BeautyLynk.com. It offers personalized hair and make-up services by beauty professionals — all in the comfort of one’s home.
“After doing the research and talking to the right people, it made a lot of sense to go with BeautyLynk, and offering it for the woman that’s like me — who’s really busy, and doesn’t have the time to sit at a salon, and wants to look great all the time,” says Elysee, founder and CEO.
The budding entrepreneur —whose professional background is in development — wanted to create something different. She began by placing a job posting on Indeed.com and that first week received 187 applications, many from women who graduated from beauty schools but couldn’t find work within the beauty industry. Elysee knew she was on to something.
She created a rigorous interview process that included vetting certified and licensed professionals and assessing their skill sets. She also was searching for individuals who had a passion for beauty. One of the questions posed to each applicant was, “Why do you want to be in this particular profession?” The common thread for every hair and make-up stylist on the BeautyLynk platform is that “they want to make everybody beautiful,” according to Elysee.
The company, which is self-funded, began in February of this year when Elysee completed the Future Boston Accelerator program. She initially walked into the program with the concept of Boston Naturals (a meet-up group comprising women with natural textured hair and similar interests in hair care), but soon realized that the concept wasn’t sustainable as a business. “I had to dig deeper, and I hit a pivot and that was BeautyLynk. And BeautyLynk wasn’t going to be actual hair services. It was going to be delivering a product, and then it flipped into actually doing services. It was a real interesting journey,” says Elysee.
The company now is up and running, offering hair and makeup services to women who have a variety of hair textures and come from different ethnic backgrounds. Customers can either be matched with a beauty professional by reviewing their profiles on the website or call or email BeautyLynk to speak to a representative. Once the customer decides on a service and sets up an appointment, advance payment is required. Elysee states that “everybody that goes through our platform pays before an appointment is actually done, so that way our beauty professionals know for sure that they’re getting paid.”
The company is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. with the majority of the services available on the same day. “They were originally supposed to be in real-time,” says Elysee, but she’s discovered that a number of her clients like to book out in advance.
BeautyLynk’s team consists of 15 beauty professionals and after September 15 they’ll expand to a team of 30 people, providing beauty services throughout Boston and the surrounding areas.
Similar to the hair services offered by the company, the make-up service operates in a similar manner. A make-up artist will go to a client’s home and instruct them on how to do their make-up. For an additional fee, the make-up artists also will accompany a client to help assure the right makeup is purchased.
The business team consists of Elysee and a digital marketing person (who both are full-time) and two part-time employees. She hopes to add another member to the business side, but it has to be “someone who’s just as passionate about beauty.”
The company currently is based at the Quincy Center for Innovation; this fall, they’ll have a second office at the Roxbury accelerator Smarter in the City. They’re part of the third cohort. “I am really looking forward to being part of Smarter in the City because I think we’re both in that place where we want to mature more and we both want challenges. I think I can bring challenges to the table for Smarter in the City since I’m a little past the idea phase and we’re actually running. I’m hoping to really learn how to run my business.”
In the next year, Elysee hopes to expand her services throughout New England and in three to five years, she hopes to expand both nationally and internationally. Up next for the company is building community partnerships with the organizations Dress for Success and Jane Doe, Inc. “Those two organizations are fundamental about empowering women, and so we really tried to put ourselves in a position where we can be there with their mission. It’s been working out pretty well, thus far.”
BeautyLynk will also be involved with Boston Fashion Week. Since hair and make-up go hand-in-hand with fashion, BeautyLynk will be the official “glam squad” for designer Conrad Lamour and for Hype Fashions in late September through early October. Of the company’s involvement during the high-profile week, Elysee states that it “will give us coverage in the community, all at one time.”