This month we caught up with Jihan and Jennifer of Swivel Beauty (@swivelbeauty). Praise hands raised for the app that connects customers with salons that understand my hair and with in-home styling services. As a new mom, being able to have my hair done in the comfort of my apartment feels like luxurious selfcare mixed with serious convenience. If you haven't yet checked out Swivel Beauty, click to learn more and download the app. Read on for Jihan and Jennifer dishing about growing their business, raising $$ and how they get all worked up!
What is the biggest challenge you are facing in your business right now?
As we enter a new year, we’re focused on expansion. We have thousands of women asking us to bring Swivel to their city, so we’re focused on expanding quickly in a strategic way. We want to help as many women as possible have their best hair days, so right now we’re working on finding the right pace for opening new markets.
You’ve done a little fundraising (congrats), can you talk a bit about the process your ran to secure funds?
It’s definitely a process! We’ve been very lucky to find investors who truly believe in what we’re building and the market we’re serving. We were selected to take part in Sephora’s Accelerate program, an incubator for beauty startups, in 2017. At the end of the program, there was a “demo day,” where we presented Swivel to a room of Sephora executives and potential investors. This allowed us to connect with many investors at once which opened up a lot of doors for us. Some of these connections led to other introductions, which led us to our current investors. The process is really about selling your vision at a high level. For anyone pitching, I recommend reading Pitch Anything, by Oren Klaff. It’s a great resource to get you into the mindset of how to sell your dream in a way that’s truly compelling and easy for anyone to understand.
Where do you reside and what is your favorite local spot close to home?
We’re based in New York City, and we love to wind down after a long day or celebrate a win with a glass of wine. Wine solves everything! And there’s a cute little wine & cheese shop called Beecher’s Cellar in Flatiron that we love. It’s right near our office and a quick place to grab a drink after work.
It's breakfast time on a weekday, where are you and what are you eating?
Jihan: We’re typically grab-and-go breakfast people if we don’t eat at home. That means usually picking up something at Starbucks or a local pastry shop. I have to eat breakfast every day even if we have a busy morning, so while Jenny may skip it and move on to an early lunch, I always have to have something for breakfast even if it’s small.
It's dinner time on a weekday, where are you and what are eating?
Jihan: Dinner is a moving target. Every week is different in terms of what time and where. Most weeks, we’re usually out one or two nights at least for a dinner meeting or networking event. Building relationships is so important when you’re starting a company, whether that’s meeting with potential partners, investors, or other founders. But those meetings can add up (both in terms of money and calories!), so we try to balance by having home-cooked meals on the other nights.
Describe your workwear style.
Jihan: We’re very casual at work. For in-office days when we have few or no meetings, I’m usually in jeans and a sweater. If we have meetings, I’ll add a blazer and booties or heels. Zara is where I shop for most of my work clothes. I’m also loving Aritzia lately. For staples, I tend to shop at Madewell and Asos. I prioritize clothes that allow me to look my best but also feel comfortable—the goal is always some combo of casual and chic. I also keep a black blazer and one pair of black heels in the office at all times in case a last-minute meeting pops up, so I’m never caught off guard or without something to wear. Since we’re in New York, we’re either walking or taking the train most places, so you’ll usually find me commuting in flats then switching to heels when I’m near my destination.
Jenny: I’ve been copying Jihan’s style since middle school when we were no longer required to wear uniforms (we’ve known each other since 4th grade!), so I also tend to do jeans and blazers. I do love a good work dress in the warm weather months though. It’s a great way to look professional without having to match different pieces, which usually takes me forever.
Favorite workwear item.
Jihan: A Zara blazer. I have the same one in 3-4 different colors. A blazer can easily level up any outfit.
Jenny: I love a good pair of black jeans that can be dressed up or down. They’re comfortable with a hoodie on casual days, and can pass for slacks when worn with heels and a nice top.
You're about to give a big presentation/have a big meeting, what are you wearing:
Jihan: All black everything: A black Zara blazer with black cropped, pleated Zara pants and black heels. Then, depending on the meeting and the weather, I rotate the blouse I wear. It’s a simple, polished look. On the day of a big meeting, the last thing I want to think about is if I should have worn something else or if I’m underdressed. With this outfit, I never worry about any of that. I feel confident so I can focus on what’s important.
Jenny: I’ve always been drawn to bold colors and prints. Of course it’s a delicate balance to avoid any outfit that distracts from what I’m saying, but I always feel like a pop of color helps bring out the bold, confident side of my personality.
How do you prepare for said big presentation or meeting?
Jihan: I’m a big fan of being very, very prepared. I’m not someone who can “wing it.” So that means practicing what I’m going to say several times. First, I’ll type out a loose script and then prepare answers to potential questions. Usually we have an idea of what someone’s questions might be after a particular presentation, so we can plan ahead of time for any potential curveballs. For formal pitches with a deck, we do dry-runs for both time and presentation. We’ll run through it like the real thing, standing at the front of a room and clicking through the slides. For demo day pitches, I have recorded myself doing the best version and listened to it over and over (a tip I got from a presentation coach). When I’m this prepared, I know I’ve brought the best version of myself to the meeting so, no matter the outcome, I can walk away with no regrets.
Jenny: Same, though I have to be very conscious of not practicing so much that I sound like a robot reciting memorized lines. Building off of Jihan’s answer, I’ll also add that we take extra time to prep for each individual meeting – doing research on who we’re meeting with and what they care about – so that we can make sure to address what we know is important to them.
What constitutes a good day at work?
Jihan: I’m forever chasing a long to-do list, so I try not to measure my days by how many tasks I’ve crossed off, but instead by making sure I’m crossing off the right things that truly move the business forward, whether that’s sending out an email requesting a new partnership or talking to one of our users. Not everyday is going to be a great day (there are the days where you get crushing no’s or things move slower than you’d like), so I try to maintain a big-picture outlook and I never lose sight of what we’re building and the women we’re helping every single day.
Jenny: Generally speaking, any day I feel like I’ve done as much as I could reasonably do to make the business a little bigger and better is a good day (though when there’s so much to do, it’s hard to ever feel like you’ve done enough!). Team is also huge for us, so I love the days that we all come together on a productive brainstorm, then collectively grind on our respective areas of the business.
How do you unwind and turn work off?
Jihan: Exercise! A good run is the only way I can turn my brain off. I get on the treadmill, put on an episode of Law & Order or Game of Thrones, set my phone to “Do Not Disturb” and tune out for an hour. I always feel great after.
Jenny: I always end my day with the NYT crossword. It’s my favorite way to focus on something that takes my mind off everything else.
Regardless of whether your work is your passion or your path to the weekend, what is your favorite thing to allocate time to outside of “the office?”
Jihan: In order to hit reset outside of the office, I need a mix of both alone time and social time. Ideally that includes running, reading, or journaling on my own in the morning, then finding time to meet friends for a drink or try a new restaurant with my husband in the evening.
Jenny: My friends, family, and dog are everything to me, so I try to spend as much time with them as possible, whether on the couch or out in the city somewhere.