Smart and stylish tech platform for beauty and wellness business owners
Pen-and-paper has historically been a standard of operation for the beauty industry, especially for small businesses which make up a very large portion of the industry. This was a problem which Danielle Cohen-Shohet '12 identified as a student at Princeton working a side hustle as a make-up artist. Experiencing the challenges that owners of small beauty businesses face first-hand, she was set on addressing the problem. Cohen-Shohet envisioned a simple, automated technology platform that facilitates logistical operations for small salons, spas and studios. With this vision, she taught herself to code and started to work on making her vision come to life.
With small seed funding from Princeton’s Alumni Entrepreneurs Fund she developed enough of an idea to win inclusion in Techstars’ NYC 2015 cohort. On completion of Techstars, she raised a seed round of funding and launched the first iteration of her GlossGenius platform, an all-in-one business management solution for independent beauty professionals. Over the next few years she put her head down and worked on developing a robust platform that is easy to use. In 2021 she started to scale the business and decided to raise more funds. She closed on more than $16 million in May 2021 with Bessemer Venture Partners leading the round, followed by $25 million in September 2022, again led by Bessemer.
Recently, she made an appearance as a guest speaker at a Princeton Entrepreneurship Club TigerTables event. Greeted by enthusiastic students, Cohen-Shohet shared her time in the Orange Bubble and her GlossGenius journey. She emphasized how the skills and relationships fostered at Princeton had a profound impact in decisions that led to her success today. Moving forward, Cohen-Shohet plans to continue deepening relationships with GlossGenius’ customers and maintaining the company’s rapid growth.
In addition to Danielle Cohen-Shohet and her sister Leah Cohen-Shohet '12, there are several other Princeton alumni involved in the company. They have also employed many student interns. We recently caught up with Evelyn Economy '13 who shared insights from her experience serving as Chief of Staff of GlossGenius during the company’s pivotal growth phase. Chief of Staff is a generalist role that works across the business. She explained that to be successful she has tapped into her broad toolbox of skills to build a framework around a problem, and then to come up with solutions. A lot of her time is spent asking questions. From the information she gathers, she then makes hypotheses. And then she works to confirm or invalidate them.This structure leads to solving problems in a way that meets the needs of their customers.
When asked about the mission of GlossGenius, Economy said that they aim to “help small businesses run big operations.” Their model supports the most vulnerable segment in the fragmented beauty industry, small business owners from diverse backgrounds. Not surprisingly, women owners make up 70% of its customer base, with the significant portion of them being from underrepresented backgrounds. Economy explained that GlossGenius’ application enables small beauty business owners to digitize their logistics while still maintaining their unique brand.
Some of the things that the GlossGenius platform enables are simple digital appointment scheduling and simple and affordable online payments. Importantly for their customers, they have the lowest fee rates imposed on beauty business owners for digital payments. By reducing the logistical hassles of running a business, GlossGenius allows owners to focus on the services they offer. Because visuals are an important part of the beauty industry, GlossGenius also comes with customizable aesthetic interfaces.
Economy talked about the large impact that the pandemic had on small businesses, which expedited GlossGenius’ growth. Nationwide lockdowns and protocols highlighted the logistical challenges faced by individual business owners. Appointments had to be made in advance, payments had to be contactless, and health precautions were strictly observed. GlossGenius expanded their offerings in order to help them navigate the transitions required to be successful during the pandemic. She also pointed out that a swift and timely response was key to the company’s effective response during the pandemic. Within one week of the first general shutdown, GlossGenius launched an integrated gift card feature. And they quickly followed with consolidated resources for government-sponsored loans or grants to support small businesses. As salons were given the green light to re-open, GlossGenius helped users navigate the changing guidelines on PPE, and they advised them on ways to recover from financial setbacks through price increases and branding.
Economy speaks fondly of her time at Princeton.“Speaking for myself, I have always loved Princeton and I see it as the place that gave me the most important tools I need to succeed—how to think critically and to solve problems.”
This story includes reporting from Jenny Wang '22.