Leisa: Hello, I’m Leisa Holland Nelson and welcome to another edition of Women Mean Business, where we’re going to bring you up close and personal with extraordinary women doing extraordinary things. I’m excited to be coming to you live today from the Circular Summit brought on by Circular Board here in Houston at Hotel Zsa Zsa with my very special guests Janet Gurwitch and Alli Webb; welcome to Women Mean Business.
Janet: Thank you Leisa.
Leisa: Janet is a Principal in Castanea Partners and Alli is the Founder of Drybar which if you’re a woman watching, everybody knows what that is. So guys, I want you to start – Alli, tell us abour Drybar.
Alli: Well, Drybar is a place where you get just a blowout; no cuts, no color, all we do are blowouts and it’s set in a bar environment. So you’re sitting at a bar, watching a chic flick on the movie, you can charge your phone and you just are having this great experience while someone else is blow drying your hair and then when you’re done you kind of feel like a new woman and have all this confidence and can conquer the world.
Leisa: Wow, that’s a great thing. I know that Castanea is an investor in Drybar, tell us about how you came to the investment and what the investment and what the investment looks like.
Janet: I heard about Drybar one weekend in the Hamptons and I must say just as a customer it seemed to make total sense to me. They have their own app and I travel all over the country and I can make an appointment in San Francisco for next week or New York the following week and it just made so much sense. So I was eager to meet Alli, her partner Michael Landau – her brother – and her husband Cameron Webb and see what it was all about.
Leisa: So you guys connected and what was that like for you Alli?
Alli: Well at the time we were just starting to talk to different private equity companies and we were really – we hadn’t found the right partners and we’d met a lot of people and they didn’t have everything we were looking for. And when we met Castanea, more specifically Janet, they really got it. Janet really understood the business and had so much passion around it and I knew she would be a great partner and she also had such great experience with what she had done with Laura Mercier that I knew that she could really help me build the product line, so it was just a perfect fit with Castanea.
Leisa: I know as the founder of Laura Mercier you are the luxury product queen in my book and I know that you have product ideas right away for her, why don’t you tell us about those?
Janet: Well it’s interesting, Alli had her own product ideas but originally a large company had come to them and said they wanted to license the name Drybar and pay them a percentage and they were going to do the products she wanted to create and I said no, no, no. And that’s where I think she fell for me and I fell for her because I knew she could do her own product line, she knew exactly what she wanted. We wanted it to be true to Drybar; to only give you products that are for your hair to be blown dry and it just made total sense and we both are for authentic branding; that’s what she did. Her husband is so clever being totally true to the bar concept, if you look at all of our products they’re named in the nomenclature of the bar and they’re very efficacious, they’re great products. We sell them in our own shops, we sell them to Nordstrom, Sephora and now Ulta.
Leisa: That’s very exciting. So we were talking earlier about the different types of investment; will you explain to us, because I know a lot of our listeners and viewers probably have no idea the difference between investment banks, private equity, venture capital, is it the same or is it different?
Janet: Great question and I think most entrepreneurs have great ideas but they don’t know exactly how to get funding and who to go to and it depends on your size. By the time Drybar came to us they were doing about $11 million and had shown they had a real traction; I mean it was working, all they really needed was capital and so we believed certainly it could be in the top 10 cities in the United States plus the product line. So we traditionally at Castanea like companies doing $25 million to say $60 million in revenues; not so focused on ______ yet because we think we can help you maybe get there. But in Drybar’s situation we just believed in them and we thought it was a brilliant, disruptive concept and loved Alli as the spokesperson so that worked for us. Some people go to venture capital which is very early on when you can’t get to private equity but people who probably take a bigger piece of your business and it’s venture; they’re taking a higher risk so they pay more.
And then seed money; people who just believe in Leisa Holland Nelson has an idea and we thank God she’s a smart girl and put some money – and probably less money but you might have more people to get you started. So that’s sort of seed money and then venture and then private equity.
Leisa: Okay ladies, I’m going to let you both answer this; what advice would you give the next generation or the next person that has the opportunity to work with someone like Janet or what are you looking for next as far as an opportunity goes to invest in someone?
Janet: Well for us at Castanea we always like consumer products that are brilliantly branded and that’s a big thing to say and definitely fills a niche. So is there a reason to be, what is your point of difference and Alli had definitely done that with Drybar and brilliantly branded; I really think Cameron, her husband, could – it’s a Harvard case study how he’s built this.
Leisa: It is brilliantly branded.
Janet: It’s so brilliant and he had done Jack In The Box before, he’s done a lot of great things but anyway, so that’s what we look for.
Leisa: Okay, and…
Alli: Well I think as advice to other women out there who are thinking of starting their own business I talk about this all the time that we didn’t invent blowouts, we just created a much better experience for blowouts and the whole experience is what really matters. And I think there’s a lot of businesses out there or things out there that we all love that they wish were a little better or a little different and I think there’s so many opportunities of things that already exist that you could be doing better; that you could make better and make people really love. And I think that’s what we’ve done really with Drybar; I think there’s a lot of opportunity out there and you just kind of have go for it and speak up and try.
Leisa: Thank you, thank you both for being here today. There you have it, two extraordinary women doing extraordinary things. I’m Leisa Holland Nelson, President and Co-founder of ContentActive, Houston’s leading web and mobile technology company. You can find me at ContactActive.com or follow me on Twitter @LHNelson. We’ll be back again next week with another edition of Women Mean Business.
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