qutbluebox Innovation Challenge Finalist: LookBooker – Q&A

lookbooker-logo

Today for our Innovation Challenge we got our virtual interview shoes on and spoke to LookBooker Co-Founder Renee Robbie out of New York.  Read on to find out what LookBooker is all about.

What is LookBooker?

LookBooker is an online appointment aggregator for the hair and beauty industry. We make the process of discovering, browsing, and booking appointments at salons, spas, and barbershops seamless and digital through the LookBooker app. We’re based in New York City and currently work with over 350 of the city’s best salons and spas to make scheduling your next grooming appointment as easy as booking a hotel, restaurant, or taxi. In the US, there are 1.3 million hair and beauty businesses, and personal grooming is a $53B industry, but currently less than 1% of appointments are made online. We want to change that and be the business that moves one of the oldest industries in the world into the digital age.

Who are the people behind it?

LookBooker was founded by me, Renee Robbie and Giorgia Rossi.

What is your connection with QUT?

Renee is a QUT alumni (Bachelor of Business (Honors), Economics & Marketing). She and LookBooker were recently featured in the latest QUT Real World campaign!

How long have you been operating as a business?

The LookBooker app launched in October of 2015.

 How did you come up with the idea for LookBooker?

We were both working in Sydney as management consultants at McKinsey & Company pulling long hours and travelling constantly, when we realized that hair and beauty was the one area of our life that wasn’t organized online. It became a running joke between us that we hadn’t had our hair cut in over six months because the process of doing so was so painful: having to call around and wait on hold during business hours, in open plan offices in front of our colleagues and clients, just to book an appointment. We were actually working on projects out of town on coal mines and would say to each other “how am I supposed to book a bikini wax on the phone in front of all of these miners?!”. We came to the US to do some market research and see what businesses were doing online hair and beauty booking well here… and realized that no one was. The size of the market here was too big for us to ignore, so we packed up bags and moved to New York to start LookBooker.

Do you have any experiences in startups or business?

LookBooker is our first business, but we both come from families full of entrepreneurs. We grew up talking business around the dinner table, so taking the plunge into our own venture felt very natural.

What has been your biggest challenge with LookBooker do date?

LookBooker is a double-sided marketplace so we have two customers that we are serving: our users on one side, and our salons and spas on the other. We are constantly juggling between focusing on one side of the market versus the other, and trying to make the right decisions for both. For example, while our users are incredibly technologically savvy, salons and spas are at the other end of the technology scale, and we need to make sure that we have a product and business that can grow and cater to both of these customers’ very different needs.

What has been your greatest success with LookBooker to date?

Being interviewed by Vogue for the launch of the LookBooker app was a real pinch-us moment!

Where do you find inspiration and what entrepreneurs are you influenced by?

We are both passionate about supporting and growing the number of female entrepreneurs, which are very much a minority and face many challenges their male peers don’t. We have such admiration and respect for women who go out and give it a go, and are excited and inspired by a growing number of female leaders who are out there charging through brick walls and taking no prisoners. Some of our favorite leaders and entrepreneurs include Diane Von Furstenberg, Sara Blakely (Spanx), Julia Hartz (Eventbrite), Marla Malcom Beck (Blue Mercury), Susan Koger (Modcloth), and of course we are big Sheryl Sandberg fans.

What would it mean to you and your startup to win the Innovation Challenge?

Winning the Innovation Challenge would mean a huge deal to our business and to us personally. We would be excited to use the prize money to help grow LookBooker and make investments in product features to improve the booking experience. Personally, as a QUT alumni, it would be wonderful and humbling to have LookBooker recognized by QUT in this way, and to have the university on the LookBooker journey with us.

You can find out more about LookBooker at https://www.lookbooker.co/.