Written by Andrew Seale
Growing up in Hairafter, the family-run salon and Toronto mainstay, Justin Colombo had no shortage of clients asking if someone from the shop could swing by the client’s house for a quick trim or blowout on a Sunday when the shop was closed.
Then it clicked one day: why not build an on-demand app for beauty services, a system where clients could get quality beauty services right in the home, office or hotel room, whenever they needed. With support from his family, he spun his app Stylu, out of the salon in September 2016.
“I was always interested in technology,” says the beauty industry expert and hair stylist. The problem was, he didn’t know the first thing about building a tech company. “I had very little education in it.”
But with a team of five backing him, he started to gain his footing in the Toronto tech world.
“I picked up on it along the way and learned throughout the whole process of how technology works and how to grow a tech businesses,” says Colombo.
Today the app has 1,500 users and has built a stable of 50, properly-vetted hair stylists and makeup artists with years of experience in the industry.
Like most on-demand apps, Stylu is fairly straightforward. You download the app from the iOS store or book through the Stylu website through your account.
“You choose the service, date, time and location where you’d like to have the appointment – whether it’s a home, office, hotel, wherever you’re going to be, we come directly to you,” says Colombo. While some salons already offer the service, Colombo has set his sights on providing a down-to-earth, quality, affordable service from professional beauty experts.
He’s spent the past year growing it in Toronto, with plans to expand to other Canadian cities like Vancouver and Montreal before piloting it south of the border.
“Stylu could be successful in any major city that’s beauty aware and into fashion trends,” he says. “(But) why not start in Toronto? It’s the biggest city in Canada, there’s lots of opportunity for this type of business concept and it’s a great city to start something.”
Along with growing his network in the beauty industry, Colombo has started making the rounds in the Toronto startup scene.
“I had no idea (there was) such a wide range of networks in the tech industry,” says Colombo. “I’ve met a lot of people so far, a lot of people have helped and guided me through how to run a tech startup – and I’m hoping to meet more people along the way.”