A former Alternative Investments Analyst at Goldman Sachs who worked in makeup artistry on the side, Cohen-Shohet found herself frustrated with the lack of business management opportunities for her creative endeavors. A self-empowered maverick, she taught herself to code and built the first iteration of GlossGenius, an all-in-one software platform to build custom booking sites to manage appointments, payments, and client communications. Other features include a tailor-made reporting and analytics system, as well as inventory management. Through its use, salon owners, aestheticians, makeup and hair artists and more have shown an increase of $1,500 in bookings and 90% rebooking rates.
Cohen-Shohet managed to raise $2.8 million in pre-seed and seed funding through angels and Techstars, but bootstrapped the business for five years thereafter. This year, GlossGenius closed a $16.4 million Series A funding round, backed by industry figures such as Shopify co-founder and CEO Tobias Lütke and Mindbody co-founder Robert Murphy.
GlossGenius was a recipient of the inaugural Sephora Accelerate program, and since launching in 2016, has been used by over 30,000+ independent beauty and wellness entrepreneurs, and has built a team of over 100 GlossGenius employees. It has received backing from Bessemer Venture Partners, Imaginary, and Left Lane, and surpassed $1 billion in gross merchandise volume.
With more GlossGenius salons in the US than Starbucks, according to the company, success shows no signs of waning. In keeping with the constantly shifting tides thanks to its vertical SaaS approach, GlossGenius also recently introduced a fintech-friendly card reader which integrates into the app, which sold out in 24 hours, as well as iPhone-to-iPhone payments (no card readers required) in partnership with Stripe. What’s even more impressive is that the company has managed all this without the use of a sales team, building all this success via word-of-mouth, according to its founder.
BeautyMatter sat down with Cohen-Shohet to discuss her transition from investment analyst to beauty entrepreneur, her tips for attracting investors, and the need for customized business management systems.
What differentiates GlossGenius from other existing business management systems?
As GlossGenius has grown to power tens of thousands of beauty and wellness businesses across the US that trust us with billions of dollars flowing through their businesses, GlossGenius stands out on several vectors.
First, we are a vertical software company that’s hyper-focused on beauty and wellness. The majority of other business management systems have taken a “one-size-fits-all” approach with tools that lack the customization options that businesses in any space need to succeed. The beauty industry has unique workflows, creating nuanced needs that one-size-fits-all systems don’t address. Because we’re focused on a specific vertical, we’ve been able to really understand specific business needs and build a product that’s perfect for them. Ultimately, this helps business owners do even more with less time.
Second, the GlossGenius product offers one of the most holistic, intuitive product experiences—focused on helping business owners build their own brands, not stand in the way of them. We have obsessed over the product experience, driving differentiation with a product that combines more power but less complexity than other platforms. While we not only offer a powerful product that offers rich functionality, we also offer unparalleled customer service that removes barriers for business owners and helps them be more successful with the product. The level of support and concierge offered when it comes time to onboarding goes far beyond what most software companies provide, and is one of the most in-depth, hands-on offerings in the market.
And finally, beyond the product itself, our customer base and their consistent excitement for our product is unmatched. Most business owners don’t get jazzed about technology in the way that our customers do; we know that few business-focused software companies ever see the level of excitement for their product that we do.
How did your previous experience at companies like Goldman Sachs aid in your current success?
Alongside my passion for the beauty industry, I’ve always been interested in finance. Working at Goldman Sachs gave me a strong foundation for my career, as I had an opportunity to deepen my analytical skills, learn how businesses are valued, and work with other driven colleagues. My time there helped me see how a real business operates and I learned a lot about people, culture, and leadership along the way.
What was the process of educating yourself in coding and becoming a beauty entrepreneur like?
There’s actually more in common with coding and beauty industry artistry than one may think: both can be channels of expression for something you envision. I was passionate about makeup artistry in college because I got to be hands on and create; from there came a broader interest in the beauty industry. I became interested in coding for similar reasons: I got to build and create software applications. It was challenging to balance teaching myself how to build software apps at the same time as working full-time at Goldman Sachs, but I persevered because I was excited to learn. Ultimately, GlossGenius was born out of my own experience with and knowledge of the beauty industry and my technical skill set, as that removed many initial barriers related to getting the first version of the product launched.
What has been your secret to word-of-mouth fundraising?
Our secret to attracting investors is our incredible team, best-in-class product, and strong business fundamentals. We consistently hear positive feedback about our product innovation, industry market fit, and strong growth. Investors are also excited about technologies built for specific industries and types of businesses—and our industry has long been underserved by technology. Our investors are thrilled that we’re filling this gap within the market by delivering a solution made for the way beauty entrepreneurs work. As a result, we’ve been able to raise funding from top VC firms like Bessemer Venture Partners, as well as angel investors that include visionaries in small business software such as the founders of Toast, Mindbody, and Shopify.
How can the beauty industry improve its relationship with tech?
The beauty and wellness industry has characteristically lagged in technological adoption, as a substantial number of businesses are still run on pen and paper. I see powerful, intuitive technology solutions like GlossGenius playing a critical role in improving the industry’s relationship with technology. We support the two most important stakeholders in the industry: business owners and their clients. With the right technology, business owners can spend less time stitching manual workflows together and instead focus on providing better services and experiences to clients. For clients, easy-to-use scheduling, booking, and payment tools will lend to a better overall experience. It’s a win-win that will accelerate the industry’s adoption of tech.
What is your advice to other individuals looking to launch their own beauty business?
For individuals looking to launch your own business, my best advice is to 1) first make something people love or need, 2) focus on something that allows you to start small but think big, and 3) ensure that you’re the absolute best at it. While there are many determinants to success, one of the most important ones is resilience. Having a mindset that you will succeed no matter what will always take you farther.
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