Alli Webb is a winker. It’s her thing, her modus operandi. It is exa-ggerated, goofy, a little tongue in cheek and a lot of fun. Alli Webb’s wink seems to say ‘I’ve discovered the secret to success and happiness.’ And why shouldn’t it? She has.
Five years ago, Webb founded Drybar, a business that has now generated $40 million in sales. Armed with the skills of a seasoned stylist, ambition and an ingenious idea, she created a service that is now utilized by more than 100,000 women a month. As you might expect, the 38-year-old entrepreneur is living her dream.
“My life has completely changed,” Webb says. “Drybar was meant to be and my one little shop, which is pretty different from how I’m living today. Now I get to travel and meet great people and do fun things and helm this amazing business, which makes women feel great. It’s surreal.”
That’s putting it mildly. In 2008, the mother of two was zooming around Brentwood in her 2001 Nissan Xterra offering at-home blow dry services on a referral basis for $40 a pop. When the popularity of her Straight-at-Home side business grew to unmanageable proportions, she came up with the epic idea that would result in the creation of Drybar.
“I didn’t know how much of a demand for [this service] there was,” Webb admits now, adding, “I got busy very quickly. I asked my clients, ‘What do you do when I’m not around?’ They said ‘nothing,’ and a light bulb went off for me.”
After accepting a $250,000 loan from brother Michael Landau, who is now her business partner, and hiring husband Cameron on as Creative Director, the rest, as they say, is history. Within eight hours of opening Drybar’s flagship location in Brentwood, 1,000 women had booked appointments. Drybar generated over $1 million in its first year of operation and now has 35 locations nationwide in cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Dallas and Chicago. As a result, Webb has also successfully created 3,000 jobs.
Things don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, either. Though its expansion won’t be as rapid-fire as its growth of 2013, Drybar will certainly continue to dominate the hair care market in 2014. Webb will open new locations in LA and New York — including Long Island — and even plans on taking her brand internationally.
She has also created a Drybar product and tool line, which is sold in her salons as well as at Sephora. “It’s taken off exceptionally well,” Webb admits. “By the end of 2014, we’re going to be in all Sephoras nationwide. We’ve got our hands full, that’s for sure.”
Luckily for Webb, she juggles every-thing masterfully. She and Cameron are still happily married and the parents to sons Grant, 8, and Kit, 6. Though she lives in the Orange County city of Tustin, she regularly flits back and forth between LA and New York, checking in on her various properties. And she does it all with a smile on her face.
“I’m pretty optimistic,” Webb reveals. “I’m such a glass half-full type of person. There’s a light at the end of my tunnel. I stay pretty confident and I enjoy life to the fullest.”
There’s only one thing that might get her down…if she lets it, that is, and that’s the plethora of imitators that have cropped up in the wake of Drybar’s overwhelming success. However, Webb prefers to think of imitation at the sincerest form of flattery.
“It’s frustrating that there are a lot of copycats out there, and I mean copycats: places that are even picking up the verbiage from our website. On the other hand, it’s somewhat flattering. We typically just try to focus on the magic that is Drybar,” she says.
Making magic happen isn’t as easy as one might think: there is a very specific formula to making her business run efficiently. Webb certainly doesn’t plan on turning Drybar into an all-in-one beauty stop shop by adding an in-house makeup bar, however time saving such a thing might be for patrons. If it isn’t broken, why fix it?
“We’ve always felt strongly that we do one thing really well, and that’s all we do,” Webb says. “Although it’s tempting, and I do understand the convenience of getting everything done in one place, I know how much work we put into training our stylists, into giving the best blowouts. I worry that if we added too much, that we’d be just OK at a bunch of things and not just great at one thing. I have a do-what-you-know mentality, and hair is my passion.”
Webb knows hair, of course, but has also managed to hone in on what it is women really want. She knew to offer mini-head massages called “floaters” for a fee, but to offer Champagne and cookies for free. She knew to choose yellow over aggressive pink for her décor, but to still keep things female-friendly by playing rom-coms in-salon all day long. She knew to create a VIP room for her celebrity clientele, but to make said room available to just about anyone who really wanted to feel special. “We make women look better, but more importantly, feel better,” Webb says earnestly, adding, “I stumbled onto this great business that’s been needed for so long, and I feel lucky to make women feel great. I’m changing the world, one blowout at a time.”