We know how daunting it can be to start a new business, especially if you’re disrupting an industry or creating an entirely new one. When there is no path to follow, the biggest question is, where do I start? There is so much to do but before you get ahead of yourself, let’s start at the beginning. To kickstart the process (and ease some of those first-time founder nerves) we’re asking successful entrepreneurs to share their story in our new series, From Scratch. But this isn’t your typical day in the life. We’re getting down to the nitty gritty from writing a business plan (or not) to sourcing manufacturers and how much they pay themselves, we’re not holding back. If you want to know how to start a business, you’ve come to the right place.
Drybar. If you haven’t tried it yet then it’s highly likely (in fact, we’d say it’s a guarantee) that you’ve at least heard about the chic salon for blow-outs. The buttercup yellow is hard to miss along with its co-founder and C&C 100 nominee, Alli Webb—she’s taken her 117,000 Instagram fans along for the ride. But we’re not here to talk about Drybar, this story is about their former head of marketing, Brittany Driscoll who, after taking the company from $30M to more than $100M in four years, was asked by Alli Webb and her brother, Michael Landau to head up their revolutionary new massage concept, Squeeze as the CEO.
The industry-leading business is so much more than just another massage parlor. Squeeze is also a technology company. Their app allows you to book, pay, tip, and review all in the one place so you can walk in and float out without the hassle—it’s the Uber of the massage world.
We tapped Driscoll to find out how they launched this new concept from scratch—from writing a business plan, to choosing the name, and funding it.
Did you write a business plan? If yes, was it helpful?
"I did. I outlined our company's positioning based on market analysis and competitive research, identified our target audience, created a rough go-to-market plan as well as a longterm vision for scale, and built a financial model to determine my staffing mix, expenses, and to determine if my pricing strategy would ultimately result in profitability. While we knew we'd have a lot to learn once in-market, the business plan and financial model has been a helpful guide in measuring the initial performance of the business.
How did you come up with the name? What was the process like?
I can't take credit for this one, it was all my co-founder's idea, Michael Landau. The entire concept for Squeeze, including the name, was really his brainchild. But we all immediately fell in love with the name. We knew there was so much fun we could have with it. All of our services include the name—Mini Squeeze, Mid Squeeze, and Main Squeeze, my email sign-off for example is always "Big Squeeze," our Valentine's Day campaign was "Squeeze the Ones You Love," and of course the commonly used "Easy, peasy, Squeezy"— there will be many more to come.
What were the immediate things you had to take care of to set up the business?
The initial things we did when setting up the business included creating the business entity, developing our operating agreement, securing our web domain, filing for a trademark, and securing our social media handles. I'm sure there were plenty of other small things that I'm forgetting at the moment, but those where the big ones.
What research did you do for the brand beforehand? Why would you recommend it?
Squeeze was really born out of personal necessity. So many of the insights of our experience came from frustration with the lack of options available in the marketplace. We are all avid massage goers who wanted a personalized, convenient, and quality experience. Since there really wasn't anything else out there delivering on those things, we decided to create it ourselves.
Did you self-fund the company? Did you raise seed money or initial investment money? What would you recommend?
The founding team put in the initial capital to get the business off the ground and develop our technology platform, and then we raised a small friends and family round to open our first location and begin the franchising process.
How big is your team now? What has the hiring process like?
Our corporate team consists of just myself and our chief product officer, David Werner. Our Studio City shop has over 30 team members and counting. I did have experience building a team from my time at Drybar, but the process of building a team never gets old. It's magical and incredibly important. We're in the people business at the end of the day so who you are at your core matters most in our business. We conduct a cultural interview before we assess your skills because so much of what we're delivering is a genuine, healing service and that has to first come from the heart.
Did you hire an accountant? Who helped you with the financial decisions and set up?
Yes, setting up your books for long-term success is critical so I definitely recommend investing in this from the outset. The longer you hold-off on this front, the messier it's going to get.
What has been the biggest learning curve during the process of establishing a business?
What isn't a learning curve when starting a business?! I am still learning something new everyday. There's so much you don't know, so much you're figuring out as you go, and really the most important thing is that you keep going no matter what. Anyone who says they had it all figured from the beginning is lying. Launching anything from scratch is hard and there are many moments of doubt, it's important we are all honest about that.
Do you have a business coach or mentor? How has this person helped? Would you recommend one?
I'm super fortunate to have the business partners that I do who are available to help guide me when I have questions or need to gut-check anything. I believe having a mentor is crucial when starting a business—there are just so many small, but critical decisions to make in the beginning. Even if you don't know someone personally, don't be afraid to reach out on Instagram or LinkedIn. We all thrive on helping each other so you never know who will respond.
How did you promote your company? How did you get people to know who you are and create buzz?
My background in marketing and the success of the founding team of Drybar helped to launch Squeeze successfully. We used a mix of PR, social, and local marketing to get the word out, however I think ultimately the strongest form of marketing is word-of-mouth so anything you can be doing to create authentic conversation, the better off your business is going to be. The true measure of success is to have your customers market for you.
What is one thing you didn’t do in the setup process, that ended up being crucial to the business and would advise others to do asap?
I'm not sure there's one thing per se, but I would definitely dive into as many of the details as you can in the beginning. Think through all of the what-if scenarios and how you would respond. You won't think of everything but the more upfront preparation you do, the less frazzled you'll be. On the flip side, try not to stress yourself too much. I can't tell you how many times I woke up at 3 a.m. worrying about things that never ended up being an issue. Entrepreneurship is a dance.
For those who haven’t started a business (or are about to) what advice do you have?
If there's anything for certain, building a business is a rollercoaster, you have to be up for the ride.