After moving to Austin in 2012 and having traveled for work as co-founder and senior director at Alterity Group LLC (a fully owned National Financial Partners company), Dr. Tausha Robertson realized there was a need for a new service in the beauty industry—one that would make it easy for newly relocated and visitors to find the beauty services they needed.
“I’ve moved several times for work and travel quite a bit,” says the first time app developer. “I rely heavily on apps to help find the things I need in different cities and it worked well for most things. However, it never translated as an easy way to find personal services like beauty pros. Those always came from my network of friends around the country. I often vented to other professional women that the worst part of moving is finding a new ‘glam squad.’ The trial and error process is risky. A wrong move with a hairdresser could be devastating.”
So Robertson developed the beauty-sharing app Primpii to solve that problem. It’s a clear win for both consumers looking for beauty services and beauty professionals looking to connect with clients. The iOS app leverages the power of social media to connect users with beauty pros, creating a one-stop show for word-of-mouth referrals. With this tool, women can find beauty referrals from those they trust most: their friends.
EBONY.com caught up with Robertson to talk about Primpii and how it works for both customers and beauty pros.
EBONY: Where did the name Primpii come from?
Tausha Robertson: It was a cool way to use the word Primp that would also allow me to get a domain name that wasn’t in use. We wanted to focus on that word because it was a very direct way to communicate what the app was for.
EBONY: What kind of research did you do to determine the need for this app?
TR: When I moved to Austin, I started going to some of the local meet-ups for entrepreneurs, which led me to the tech-related startup scene. I surveyed 100 women to see if they would be interested in a mobile app, and how they found trusted beauty pros. The results were overwhelming that this would be a welcomed solution.
I did research on how decisions are made regarding beauty services and research on the power of word-of-mouth referrals. In addition, I researched the demographics of women who spend a substantial amount on beauty services, and their preference of either Android or iPhone. I looked in the app store to see what was available in this vertical and there was also a void.
EBONY: How does the power of word-of-mouth shape how you developed Primpii?
TR: This is the basic premise of the app, making that word of mouth easier. I used Nielsen research on word-of-mouth referral impact on purchases. Just think about it. If you get all your friends around the country to put their hair, nail, brow, makeup artist and skincare specialist recommendations into Primpii, you would have a valuable resource available at your fingertips. It would save you a social media post to ask for a recommendation or a call or several texts to find a referral. The app is designed on that premise.
Once you login with your social network, other users in your network will be able to see the recommendations you made and the positive content you shared about your beauty pro. No one outside of your network will see what you wrote about the beauty pro. There’s also a bit of exclusivity to that as well. You are sharing your great find with your circle, not the world. General users will see the beauty pro listing but not the referral content, which is the most important part. For example, there might be a beauty pro I recommend for short haircuts vs. one I recommend for a blowout of my now long natural curls. This is the golden information that makes the app valuable.
EBONY: So once a user downloads the app, how does it work?
TR: New users easily login with Facebook. Once they are on the landing page, they will see beauty pros in their geographic area. They are able to push the “plus” sign to add their beauty pro contact information right from their contact list and then add their referral text content. Users can also click “My Friends” on the menu to see who in their network has made referrals. Users can also use the search box to look for other locations or service types.
One thing we feel very strongly about is that this is who you actually use and would refer a friend to. We aren’t interested in negative comments about a beauty pro. If your experience changes with a referral you once made, you simply delete them. This is a forum for uplifting and sharing, not airing complaints. There are plenty of other sites for that.
Once a referral is made for a beauty pro, the Primpii team will reach out to the pro to tell them about the app and how they can use it to grow their business. They’ll be provided with a secure code that allows them to update their page with a lookbook and some content about their services. Users are very visual, so the beauty pros with pictures get way more clicks.
The code will also unlock the ability for the beauty pro to send open-seat notifications and deals to the user base. We are also working on integration with current booking tools for our next update. The thing they are all missing is the recommendation by a friend. Many have a review section, but if I don’t know you, it’s no better than the reviews I can find on the web. There are some other enhancements we plan to add based upon user feedback.
EBONY: What’s in it for the beauty pro? What prevents them from launching their own apps?
TR: Primpii allows a direct marketing channel to the most fertile source of new customers: their client’s friends. It does this in two ways, via deals that can only be seen by their clients and their friends using the app, and by the open-seat notifications that are pushed real-time to notify users of last minute openings, saving the beauty pro or the scheduler hours of calling a wait list.
Primpii is the only app with real-time open seat notification capability. There are apps out there for small businesses, which can be customized for beauty pros, but they have very limited functionality. I don’t think most beauty pros have the time, expertise or resources to develop an app this sophisticated. Also, using Primpii allows them access to users that are not currently their clients.
EBONY: From concept to deployment, how long did it take to bring your idea to fruition?
TR: It took about 11 months from rough scribbles to identifying tech resources for design, programming, testing, registering the intellectual property, etcetera. I approached my now CTO, a high-level tech professional, for information about finding a tech pro to help me bring this idea to life. He said he loved the idea and wanted to work on it himself, so I went to work developing the business entity and operating agreement to protect both of our interests in this endeavor.
I launched it with my own money. My startup costs appear low because I made my tech partner an equity partner in order to garner his sweat equity. If you monetize his work and mine along with the out-of-pocket legal, design and operational costs, the dollar amount would be about $50,000, which is conservative.
EBONY: What was your customer acquisition strategy and what is your growth projection?
TR: We launched a contest to get users to put in their referrals and get their friends to do the same. We are also hosting local events at the businesses of beauty pros who are on the app, utilizing our personal networks to share the app with their friends and teach others how to use it. We’re using social media and incentives that beauty pros can give to clients who help build their user base.
By this time next year, we want to have at least 1,000 users and 2,000 to 3,000 beauty pros. I want a vibrant ecosystem for discovery (users) and marketing (beauty pros) vs. just a bunch of downloads and abandoned apps.
Lynne d Johnson has been writing about music since the early 1990s, tech since the late ’90s, and the intersection of music and technology since the early 2000s. She currently writes, teaches and consults companies on how to better engage with their audiences. Follow her on Twitter @lynneluvah.