Alli Webb has always had blowouts on the brain. Growing up with a head of unruly curls, some of her earliest memories include begging her mother to blowdry her hair straight and smooth. In the last four years, Webb has turned a passion for hair into Drybar, a multi-million dollar salon empire that will return to Webb’s Long Island roots next month with its first Long Island location in Roslyn.
The core of Drybar’s business model is streamlined: Clients book appointments online to have their hair professionally washed and blown into a stylish look. No haircuts or coloring techniques are offered. Webb, a Huntington native, originally tested the idea as a side business by offering at-home blowouts on a referral basis while she spent her days working at a Los Angeles based marketing firm. As demand for her services
increased, Webb knew she had something big. “I always in my heart-of-hearts felt like Drybar was a desperately needed service that did not exist,” Webb said. “I knew so many woman who shared my frustration with the two bad choices we were faced with: Overpaying at a cut-and-color salon or enduring a discount chain and variable pricing.”
Webb turned to her brother, Michael Landau, who spent over a decade growing brands like Yahoo! and Starwood Hotels & Resorts. His loan, along with Webb and her husband’s life savings, helped open the first shop in Brentwood, CA, in February 2010. Days before the grand opening, a style and entertainment website email blast mentioned Drybar, resulting in an opening day that booked solid within minutes.
“Starting any kind of business is a little scary, overwhelming and chock-full of risk, so, yes, I was nervous,” Webb said. “But on the first day at our first shop when we started booking appointments, we saw how much of a demand there really was out there.” From there Webb and Landau developed a business plan to raise additional money from family and friends to expand the business, enabling them to open a second salon in Studio City seven months later. Then in 2011 Drybar raised another $21 million from private-equity firm Castanea Partners to fund even more growth. Currently, the company has 35 locations in 8 states (7 are franchised), employs over 2,000 people and took in over $40 million in revenue last year.
The key, Webb said, is consistency and unparalleled customer service. The salons themselves are modern, cheerfully appointed spaces decorated in the same shades of buttery yellow, gray and white. A receptionist “bartender” offers drinks to each customer before seating her at the “bar” to select the desired style, all named after cocktails and priced at $40. While their hair is styled, customers enjoy refreshments and a movie playing on the wall. It’s not unusual for a store to complete between 60 and 100 blowouts per day. Webb prides herself on the exorbitant effort put into
training a stable of stylists and countless hours perfecting every detail from the branding to the new line of products launched last year. Fans of the brand can buy its iconic yellow hair dryer, nicknamed Buttercup, online, at the salons, on QVC or in Sephora shops. Customers can also book an appointment using an app. It was that dedication to a specific aesthetic that drove Webb to the Roslyn location alongside other powerhouse, female-focused brands like Lululemon Athletica, SoulCycle and Truth + Beauty.
But the real magic is what every Drybar turns out. “It sounds silly, but you watch women come into Drybar and their hair is in a bun—they’re all business,” Webb said. “But when they leave, you barely recognize them because they’re happy, confident and have this spring in their step. Having great hair gives them more confidence, and that’s such a powerful thing.”
Despite receiving offers from bigger companies looking to acquire her brand, Webb says she’s having too much fun and plans to build the business even further. For now, she said it best: “When you like your hair, you feel like you can conquer the world.” It looks like Webb is well on her way.