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Drinking and Drying

Drybar will style your mane (and pour your champagne) for $35. No wonder business is booming.
September 20, 2010
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/217294

Beware the woman with a blow-dry. She walks taller, negotiates tougher and can blind opponents with a toss of her freshly coifed locks. Such is the thinking behind Drybar, a new chain of high-concept salons in Los Angeles that caters solely to women who skip the cut and color for a simple shampoo and mane styling.

"You see this amazing metamorphosis that goes beyond their appearance," says Drybar co-founder Alli Webb, who conceived the idea after operating a mobile hair service for two years. But when Webb went to her older brother, Michael Landau, for business advice, she quickly inherited an ambitious partner. Landau, a former marketing exec at Yahoo!, foresaw a Drybar empire. "Women either had to go to a high-end salon for a very expensive blow-out or to one of those discount chains," he says. "There was a big hole in between."

Knowing that women are fiercely loyal to their hairdressers, the duo focused on branding its concept. Step inside the first Drybar--which opened in February in Brentwood--and you'll find a long, white marble bar rather than individual stations, and built-in iPod chargers by each chic white leather swivel chair. Servers--er, stylists--give you a menu of blow-outs to choose from (the Mai Tai is an order for beachy waves, the Manhattan will get you sleek, shower-curtain-straight locks). Each costs $35, plus gratis champagne. Even cheekier, the mirrors hang behind the customers so they have to stand and turn around for the big reveal. "Come on. No one really looks great with wet hair," Webb says. The overall effect is more Sex and the City-style saloon than salon.

Without a surplus of funds, Landau and Webb found creative ways to get the glamour quotient they wanted. To lure award-winning New York architect Josh Heitler of Lancina Heitler to design the space, the team offered him a slice of equity. "We took a little bit of heat for it, but we don't regret it," Landau says. "Because he had a vested interest in the concept, he gave us his heart and soul." They also enlisted the expertise of Webb's husband Cameron, an art director with Secret Weapon Marketing, who created the whimsical website, which attracted one investor before the first salon even opened. (In fact, a few of their female customers even came in as early investors.)

Webb and Landau knew that they had a hit when they were forced to turn away customers within a week of opening. "We had pages of people on waiting lists," Webb says.

By the end of this year, three more Drybars will open in Los Angeles and two more locations will follow in early 2011. Franchises are in the works, too. For the sibs, working closely together has strengthened their mutual respect and taught them at least one new boundary, too: Regressing back to childhood roles is absolutely verboten. "There are certain places that you just can't go," says Landau, with a laugh.