Sunday Sitdown: App founder on bringing styling, fitness to you
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There are those who prefer to — and can afford to — bring styling and fitness professionals to their homes. Those are the people Susanna Quinn is aiming to reach with an app called Veluxe that’s available in Chicago starting Sept. 18. The Veluxe app — free to download on iTunes and within the next three months for Android users, according to Quinn — can bring a hairstylist to your home ($60 for a blow dry and styling, $65 for man’s haircut, $95 for an up-do) or a makeup artist ($95), manicurist ($95) or massage therapist ($180 for 90 minutes). You can use it to get a yoga teacher ($95) or personal trainer ($95) to visit. Quinn comes from a political family. Her late father, Michael Monroney, was an aide to U.S. Sen. Adlai Stevenson III of Illinois and Vice President Hubert Humphrey, as well as a Washington Post reporter. Her grandfather Almer Stillwell “Mike” Monroney represented Oklahoma in the U.S. Senate. And her husband Jack Quinn was White House counsel to President Bill Clinton. She spoke with Sandra Guy of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Question: How did you become a mobile-app startup founder?
Answer: I built a real estate business in Washington, D.C., to support myself and my daughter when I was a single mother. I loved being an entrepreneur. I started bringing service providers to my own home to do my hair and makeup, yoga, massage and personal training. I realized I paid less at home and the providers made more than if they had stayed in their workplace.
When I started building an app, I thought all I had to do was come up with text and images and tell developers what I wanted the app to do. But there are 25,000 decisions that go into developing a workable product.
Q: How does it work?
A: After you download the app, you can schedule a service provider in four clicks. You can also schedule a service as a gift for someone else.
We have more than 50 service providers in our first market in Washington and 12 each in Philadelphia and Chicago. We have also just launched in Baltimore and are planning fall launches in New York and Los Angeles.
Our clientele is a mix of professionals, stay-at-home moms, politicos and some high-profile names.
Our providers make more money in less time, with the freedom to schedule when and how much they work. They put their availability into the app, and clients can book appointments on their phones.
While a typical hairdresser makes $13 an hour, on average, our payout is double that.
And clients don’t have to spend time to drive to the salon or gym.
Q: What’s next?
A: We’ll be incorporating GPS to determine how long it will take a provider to get from one appointment to the next to make scheduling more efficient.
Eventually, I think we have a great platform to sell and potentially develop products related to our services.
We have raised almost $1 million from my own investment and from friends, family and angel investors and are opening another round of funding.
Q: What makes for success?
A: Being able to drive through the inevitable setbacks. Like many people, I’ve had a lot of loss in my life. I took a year off from college in 1992 to take care of my mother, who had cancer. Three months after my mother died, my childhood best friend was murdered in Washington.
I took time off again to take care of my grandmother in 1999. Two years later, I went through a horrible divorce with my first husband. My sister died in 2010. Four months later, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and moved in with our family. I cared for him. That experience gave me three months to say goodbye to him — an amazing gift. My dad had raised me after my parents divorced. Being raised by a single parent gives you self-reliance and a certain amount of courage. You can have the most terrible things happen and a lot of loss, but you learn you’re going to wake up the next morning, the sun will rise, and you have the strength and resilience to do the things you want to do.
I now have an amazing husband, great kids (daughter Jocelyn, 16, and son Storm, 4) and the opportunity to build this company.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I love to cook dinner and sit down with my family. I love cooking. And I laugh more with my family than I do at any other time.