How does a Hollywood actress become a bona fide beauty entrepreneur? If you’re anything like Cara Santana, you draw inspiration from an on-set experience, notice a gaping void in the marketplace, enlist a close from friend from within the beauty industry, put together a plan with him, and NEVER look back.
Cara and her friend, Joey Maalouf (who is a hair and makeup professional), teamed up to launch The Glam App, which is the beauty industry’s answer to the Uber-like model. Users can consult it when they need an on-demand, at-home service, and freelance beauty pros can leverage the technology to build up their client base. It may sound simple, but building a business never is, yet Cara and Joey managed to create a thriving technology (and maintain a great friendship while doing so!).
What’s their secret? We chatted with the entrepreneurial duo to learn more.
HelloGiggles: This is probably the question you get all the time, but what made you decide to launch The Glam App?
Cara Santana: I was on location in Shreveport, Louisiana shooting a television show. I had long, ombré colored hair and they needed to dye it, put in extensions, change my nails (because I had acrylics), change my eyelash extensions…and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Shreveport, Louisiana, but I wouldn’t particularly say it’s the most glam place I’ve ever been. I didn’t have a car, I didn’t know the area, and I said “gosh, I wish there was a way we could find accredited stylists to come to me. It’s like the Uber of beauty, and I should create it.” I didn’t know enough about the freelance beauty industry, and I knew in order to make it as successful as possible, we needed to make it equally advantageous for consumers and providers. Joey was doing my hair and makeup and was also a personal friend. I asked him what he thought.
Joey Maalouf: I said, “well, let me sleep on it.” And I woke up in the middle of the night and I just had so many ideas come to mind. I couldn’t wait for it to be a proper time in the morning so I could call her. I got on the phone and I said “what about also turning this into a virtual app for freelancers? We could help them set their hours and build their clientele, manage their schedules and appointments.” We met for coffee to talk about it and the rest is history.
HG: What was that process of going from “we have this idea” to actually creating it and getting it in people’s hands like? How long did that take?
CS: We came up with the idea in October  and we launched our first city in February of 2015.
JM: You know, I wouldn’t say any of it was easy, but luckily for us we were both on the same page. We knew what we wanted. We’re both very decisive and we both work very fast. That combination helped us launch as quickly as we did.
CS: The thing about Joey and I is, my strengths are not necessarily his, and my weaknesses are his strengths. What I didn’t know how to do, he innately did and vice versa. We were able to really work well together – it was a really interesting process. Neither of us have degrees in engineering or technology or even business. We learned as we went.
HG: What advice would you give someone who wants to work on the tech side of beauty?
CS: One thing I learned most specifically about incorporating beauty and technology and coming up with this on-demand platform, is that in order for it to work [the key is] really understanding the needs of beauty professionals in today’s landscape. Similarly, how can we take the clientele that is so used to in-salon services and convert them and their behavior to the in-home, on-demand service landscape? Anytime you’re changing behavior there is a systemic transition to doing that – that’s what I learned: We had to create something that served the beauty professionals and the clientele.
HG: Once you got the business off the ground, what surprised you the most about the day-to-day of running a startup?
JM: I feel like that happens all day every day. I feel like I wake up in the morning and I’m like, “what’s in store for today?”
CS: I agree! I’m an actress by trade, Joey is a hair and makeup artist. I had this idea and Joey and I created something that we thought was a need and a void, but I don’t think either of one of us had the forward-thinking to go “this is what it’s going to take to build the business and keep it going.” I was very naive about what it would take to run the business.
JM: I also think that’s a blessing in disguise. The advice that I would give someone who wants to break into this industry is, don’t think ahead. You’re going to constantly be dealing with new things that you’re going to have to figure out. The unknown is kind of what’s exciting about it.
HG: Do you think coming from the creative world gives you a valuable perspective on how to run a business?
JM: I do, but I don’t think you can run a business on only being creative.
CS: I agree. It gives us the innovation and creativity. It’s no secret that there are other apps in this space. The thing that consistently comes back from our quote-unquote competitors is that we’ve really found a way to be creative. I think that’s a testament to Joey and what he brings to the table. Anyone can raise money and make a business plan, but if you can’t tap into the innovation to excite the people you’re working with, then all you have is an app and some money.
HG: What’s your favorite thing about living the startup life?
CS: It wouldn’t be lack of sleep. It wouldn’t be lack of social life.
JM: My favorite thing is being able to work with people I want to work with. I love working with Cara and I feel like our relationship has grown and our partnership is really strong and I love the team we have. Just seeing that aspect grow is my favorite part.
CS: That’s sweet. I think for me I’ve always been a curious person. It’s being able to investigate and be curious and learn and all of the things that really excite me about life – I get to do those things in the startup. It’s a very small team and there’s a sense of pride and ownership and camaraderie. We’re all doing this together…We didn’t want a corporate sort of approach, we wanted to really live the startup entrepreneurial life. That’s the best part about it.