Alli Webb was a stay-at-home mom in Santa Monica looking for a way to get out of the house when she stumbled upon a multi-million dollar business idea. Little did she know that her small side hustle giving $40 blowouts would grow into the wildly successful Drybar franchise.
Humble Beginnings: Styling Hair to Escape Toddler Chaos
In 2009, Alli was living with her husband Cameron and their two young children, ages 2 and 4. As a full-time creative director, Cameron worked long hours while Alli cared for the kids at home.
“The mobile blowout business, Straight At Home, was really a means to get me out of the house,” explains Alli, now 48. “My kids, at the time, were [about] 2 and 4 …. And I was just looking for something for myself.”
Alli began traveling to clients’ homes in wealthy LA enclaves, charging just $40 to wash, dry, and style their hair – less than half what salons charged. Her exceptional service and convenience quickly earned a loyal customer base begging for more.
Lightbulb Moment: “Maybe I Should Turn This Into a Brick-and-Mortar Shop”
When clients kept asking if they could come to her instead, Alli had an epiphany. She envisioned a salon dedicated solely to blowouts – no cuts or colors, allowingfor fast appointments and high turnover.
Alli excitedly pitched the idea to her brother Michael Landau, a former Yahoo marketing executive. Though skeptical at first, Michaelsoon recognized the massive market potential.
Wealthy working women with limited time loved Alli’s convenient, affordable blowout service and came back weekly. They were the perfect target to scale up.
Betting It All: Raising $300K to Fund the First Shop
Convinced this could be big, Michael invested $250,000 of his own money. Alli and Cameron put in their $50,000 life savings despite having two kids and Cameron’s steady job.
“No risk, no reward,” Alli explains. “I’ve always been a put-it-all-on-the-line type of gal.” She was confident that even if the one shop failed, they could recover.
In 2010, they opened the first Drybar in Brentwood, CA – and instantly knew they had a hit.
Overnight Success: Booked Solid after Just One Press Article
A popular LA newsletter ran an article on Drybar’s opening day. Almost instantly, Alli and Michael watched in shock as appointments flooded in, booking them solid.
“We opened up to a fully booked shop. If you know the hair industry, that doesn’t happen,” says Alli. They exchanged stunned looks, realizing they’d created something special.
Rapid Growth: 10-15 New Locations Per Year
Within two years they’d opened 10-15 more locations across California as demand exploded. “It was so crazy and intoxicating and amazing,” Alli remembers. “I knew my life was going to change forever.”
The pace was breakneck. While thrilled, Michael acknowledged he was in over his head running day-to-day operationsfor a massive chain.
Professional Help: Bringing in an Experienced CEO
In 2013, Drybar hired an experienced CEO, John Heffner. He slammed the brakes on expansion, seeing neglected areas like training manuals and operational processes.
“The wheels are certainly going to come off if we keep going at this pace with no real guidance,” John warned. It was time to shift from rapid growth to building a sustainable business.
Perfect Timing: Cashing Out Just Before a Pandemic
Over the next few years Drybar focused on opening stores strategically while establishing organizational infrastructure. By 2019 the franchise had over 100 locations and a popular product line.
That year Alli sold Drybar’s products division to Helen of Troy for $255 million. In 2021 she sold the franchising rights to WellBiz Brands for an undisclosed amount. The deals set Alli up financially just before Covid-19 hit.
Alli’s Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Now a successful serial entrepreneur, Alli loves mentoring younger entrepreneurs. She shares hard-won advice:
Start small to test ideas: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Prove your concept with just one store before dreaming about 20, Alli suggests.
Fill an underserved need: Find gaps in the market, do something people really want but can’t easily get. Alli solved real problems for time-strapped professional women.
Do what you genuinely love: Building a business is brutally hard work. You won’t last unless you adore what you do – Alli loved styling hair.
Just get started: Take the leap and launch your first version, even if it’s imperfect. You can tweak as you go. Alli started in clients’ homes with minimal equipment.
The Accidental Entrepreneur
Alli Webb never expected to build a hair empire. She was just a mom in Santa Monica looking for a flexible side hustle. But by boldly testing an idea she loved, Alli organically grew Drybar into a household name.
Her story shows that with passion, grit and perfect timing, massive success can stem from humble beginnings. All it takes is spotting a need, creating a solution, and never being afraid to take risks.
And if you guess right, have the skills to back it up, and catch a few lucky breaks, you might just end up transforming an industry!
Article Source: CNBC Make It