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Alli Webb and "The Messy Truth": In Her New Book, The Drybar Co-Founder and Serial Entrepreneur Gets Real

Published November 14, 2023
Published November 14, 2023
Alli Webb

While Alli Webb didn’t set out to pen a page-turner with a whopper of an “Afterword,” there’s no question that readers of her latest book, The Messy Truth: How I Sold My Business for Millions but Almost Lost Myself (Harper Horizon), are in for a rollercoaster ride, hairpin turns included.

There’s the nail-biting, making it up by the seat of her pants approach to starting a business. There’s the needs-his-mom kid struggling with addiction. There’s the collapse of a marriage. And all of it marches swiftly toward an ending readers surely aren’t expecting.

A mashup of memoir and prescriptive journal that prods would-be entrepreneurs to dig deeper to uncover their fears, motivations, and potential stumbling blocks around launching their own venture, The Messy Truth provides a treasure trove of insight into the founding and meteoric rise of Drybar, a pioneer in the luxury-blowout space.

The physical manifestation of “Straight at Home,” a mobile blowout service Webb started as a young LA-based mother of two little boys, Drybar made its debut in 2010, with a premier location in Brentwood. Taking off like a rocket, the brand Webb started with her then-husband, Cameron Webb and brother Michael Landau, expanded to 140+ company-owned and franchised salons within a decade, and included a highly successful product line that helped consumers replicate a Drybar blowout at home.

Chatting on Zoom from Los Angeles, Webb recalls the insanity of essentially running three businesses—company-owned salons, a franchise operation, and a product line—simultaneously. "Bananas," is the word she used to describe it.

“The product line started somewhere between the second and third year,” she says. “And that was after we’d raised a lot of money from Castanea, our private equity partner—something like $26 million. I think only a million or so of that was earmarked for product, but I was pretty gung-ho about creating a line. The combination of products that I had at the time didn’t really cut it for me.”

With a tagline of “Crafted for the perfect blowout,” the Drybar range of shampoos, conditioners, and styling products launched exclusively at Sephora.

“They loved it,” she says of the retailer, which tapped Webb for countless in-store promotions. “It was all about buying yourself a little piece of the brand; of giving yourself a Drybar blowout even if you didn’t have a Drybar near you.’”

While Webb sometimes found the endless back and forth of product creation tedious, she considered one aspect utterly fascinating: developing the line’s signature scents. “I think the most fun for me was coming up with the fragrances,” she recalls. “I’m really sensitive to fragrance, and I’ve historically never worn perfume in my life. I’d much more opt for a scented lotion than a spray-on perfume.”

Webb credits her Creative Director ex-husband with teaching her the impact of stepping away from the pack. Case in point: Drybar’s wildly successful Buttercup blow dryer.

“Blow dryers in salons are black or red,” says Webb, who got her hair training at Toni&Guy and later worked as an assistant for the legendary John Sahag. “So we were like, let’s do something no one else has done, which is bright and sunny and yellow.”

But an even bigger break from tradition than lemon-hued hair tools was Drybar’s no-mirror salons.

“The idea actually came from my mobile blowout business,” Webb notes. “I was in people’s homes, in their kitchens or living rooms, and never in front of a mirror.”

That decision proved beneficial to everyone involved. “It takes the pressure off all of us. The client isn’t staring at and dissecting herself for an hour, and the stylist has the freedom to get the hair looking the way they want it to before the big reveal.”

Had she not had the mobile business, Webb says the idea of a salon without a wall of mirrors facing the clients and stylists never would have occurred to her. “I was in salons all my life, and always in front of a mirror,” she says. “We all just pick ourselves apart.”

“I think there’s some kind of special sauce that we have, between all of our skillsets, that has really helped us build brands.”
By Alli Webb, co-founder, Drybar

After selling the Drybar product line to Helen of Troy for $255 million in cash in late 2019, the company sold its franchisor rights to WellBiz Brands in 2021 for an undisclosed sum.

And seemingly without missing a beat, Webb and a good chunk of the Drybar crew quickly dove into a slew of new ventures. Under the umbrella of The Feel-Good Company, they've launched the franchised massage spaces Squeeze; Okay Humans, a modernized take on talk therapy with an office in LA; and Brightside, a Culver City wellness studio combining infrared yoga and sauna.

“I think there’s some kind of special sauce that we have, between all of our skillsets, that has really helped us build brands,” Webb says, referring to herself, Cam Webb, Landau, architect Josh Heitler, Squeeze co-founder and CEO Brittany Driscoll, and others formerly in the Drybar trenches. “It’s pretty rare.”

In addition to all that, Webb also serves as the President of clean humidifier brand Canopy, as well as co-founder of jewelry line Becket + Quill.

Although she’s co-founder of the rapidly growing Squeeze, Webb says it’s primarily Driscoll who’s “boots on the ground” and heavily involved with the day to day operations. “Brittany was our head of marketing at Drybar. She's phenomenal.”

To date, Squeeze has already sold 80 locations—a blistering start for the two-year-old entity. “I think Squeeze has the potential to be much, much bigger than Drybar because it services both men and women,” says Webb. “It’s just so special, this brand. You book and tip on an app, but it’s a brick-and-mortar location. It has all the bells and whistles, and because it’s so highly customizable, it’s such a personal experience.”

Surrounded by competent team members she’s worked with for years, Webb directs her focus when and where it’s needed. “I’m not involved with Squeeze, or Okay Humans, or Brightside, on a daily basis. I’m in board meetings, but I’m not in the thick of it, so it doesn’t require a ton of my time. I’m able to dip in and out, as needed.”

One recent project Webb is excited about is Intentions Aroma Kit, a range of aromatherapy scents she just developed for Canopy’s clean diffusers. “I want to make them actual fragrances because they smell so good,” she says. “I’m really proud of them.”

For now, Webb is in the book promotion trenches and will no doubt be fielding lots of questions about the shocking ending in which she shares that she’s already separated from her second husband, Executive Life Coach Adrian Koehler, after what seemed like a fairytale courtship and an exquisite wedding in the picturesque California town Solvang.

Though it was an agonizing decision, and the book was due at the printer, Webb decided to go for it—for authenticity’s sake, if nothing else. 

“I felt like I needed to address it,” she says of the separation. “Because if you follow me, and you know anything about me, you know that something big happened in my life.”

After putting it off “for as long as humanly possible,” Webb wrote her Afterword. 

“It was not pretty,” she shares. “It was messy.”

BeautyMatter founder Kelly Kovack in conversation with Drybar co-founder Alli Webb.

Some founders are driven by the monetization of an idea while others unlock opportunities following their passion and fueled by creativity. The confluence of these motivations can lead to game-changing brands. Kelly Kovack sits down with Alli Webb, the co-founder of Drybar to discuss how she built a business that disrupted the beauty industry, and what's next for this consummate visionary. Click here to listen now.


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