With the internet, you can get all sorts of things delivered to your home.
Groceries. Carry-out. Alcohol.
And now, haircuts.
Beau, a small Chicago startup, sends barbers to men’s homes. The price? $28.
University of Illinois grads Kevin Yun and Manu Edakara launched Beau in early July because they couldn’t find anything like it in Chicago; there were various on-demand beauty services for women, but none offering haircuts for men.
It takes less than a minute to request a Beau stylist online. The payment, including tip, is processed through the platform, and clients don’t have to leave home. Customers can book appointments for any time between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., seven days a week.
To get a salon cut, on the other hand, they’d have to look up the closest facility, schedule an appointment, drive there, possibly wait for a barber to finish with another client and check out at the end.
“What we want to do is just take out all that inconvenience,” said Yun. “We don’t see the point of having brick-and-mortars anymore.”
Traditional shops must pass along expenses like rent to customers; Beau stylists can charge less because they have no such expenses, Yun said.
It’s the ease that won over Ovi Hentea, who used the service after hearing about it from a coworker.
“In terms of convenience, there’s no beating it,” Hentea said. “I needed a haircut and wasn’t able to land an appointment with my barber because of the work hours.”
Hentea said he was given the stylist’s name, contact information and picture before the appointment. While getting his hair trimmed, Hentea chatted with the stylist, who taught at a beauty school.
The service is less expensive than the average men’s haircut in Chicago, which costs $32, according to data from payment management company Square, Yun said.
Beau was a few bucks cheaper than Hentea’s normal salon, which requires him to travel and potentially take time off work, but he said the cut itself was comparable to others he’s received.
Hentea did hit a glitch when scheduling an appointment on the mobile website; the pop-up calendar would show only part of the month. He sent a screenshot to Beau support and the problem was fixed within an hour, he said.
Although Beau has satisfied clients, there aren’t many people signed up. Yun said he’s working to attract more users through custom distribution, online marketing and promotions at larger apartment and condominium buildings.
The platform recently had about 10 committed stylists, dubbed “Beau Pros,” Yun said. There used to be about 40 stylists, but that number shrank when Beau started seeking stylists with more years of experience.
Beau Pros must have at least one year of experience out of school, formal training and an up-to-date cosmetology license or barber’s license. The screening process involves a 15- to 20-minute guide, a five-minute video, a short quiz, a phone interview and background checks.
Stylists get paid 90 percent commission — $25.20 for each haircut — plus the entire tip.
Beau gives them a T-shirt and a tarp to use, but each stylist must supply their own hand towel, a portable handheld vacuum for cleanup, and a cape to wrap around the client.
Customers get an email confirmation with instructions on how to prep their home for an appointment. For example, they may be advised to set up a chair and ensure access to a wall outlet, Yun said.
Beau serves the Loop, West Loop, Streeterville, Gold Coast, River North and Lincoln Park, according to Yun, and the limited scope cuts down travel time for stylists.
When Beau underwent a soft launch about a year ago, it also provided services for women — including blowouts, updos, makeup and haircuts. The decision to provide just men’s haircuts is intended to focus on providing one high-quality service, Yun said; they want consumers to see them as a tier above chain operations such as Great Clips or Supercuts.
But women, don’t worry. You can also order beauty services — and even massages — through the Chicago-based Lisa App. The app shows a professional’s pricing, photos and reviews, then lets users request appointments for at home or in a salon.
With Uber in the news recently for drivers committing crimes, Yun acknowledged the concers associated with on-demand services.
He said Beau Pros are independent contractors, so they’re not legally tied to Beau if they do cause a problem, and the background checks help find any red flags. And those issues can cut both ways; if stylists feel uncomfortable at a client’s home, Yun said, they’re free to leave and contact the company.
“As far as those problems go, it’s definitely something we’re aware of and we’re making sure to take the right approach of protecting both sides,” Yun said.
Right now, appointments can be made only through getbeau.com. An Android app is anticipated within the next month and a half, though, and an iOS app is several months away, according to Yun.
“Despite all my concerns upfront about what was going to happen, it turned out to be as smooth as you’d expect [from an on-demand service],” said Hentea, who initially worried that his stylist wouldn’t show up on time or be able to find parking at the building. “I just had to sit down for 40 minutes and get my haircut at home.”