You think the blowout is waning in popularity? Alli Webb might beg to differ. On Wednesday, the founder of Drybar, a high-profile chain of salons devoted solely to blow-drying women's hair into glossy perfection, opened her 12th Southern California location. Today, she's presiding over the debut of the chain's first Chicago outpost, its 35th location overall. Not bad for a former haircutter who only a few years ago was broke and driving around Los Angeles, blow-dryer in hand.
Since launching in 2010, Drybar's business model (to say nothing of its aesthetics) have spawned numerous imitators—sometimes just blocks away. There are the sleek white leather chairs, the buttercup yellow accents, the plate of cookies, the champagne.
These days, Webb lives in Tustin and Drybar is a multi-million dollar business (Forbes clocked it at $20 million a year ago) headquartered in Irvine. On the morning that the newest L.A. salon opened—it's located on West 3rd Street near La Cienega in the heart of the café corridor and business was already booming—we sat down to chat with the blowout queen. And yes, her blonde locks were shiny, bouncy, and falling in idyllic waves around her face.
1. How do you choose your locations?
We look for accessibility and great co-tenants like nail salons and boutiques. We also look for parking, which isn't so good around here, but we figured the women in this neighborhood are pretty good about navigating the traffic.
2. How often to do you get your own hair blown out? And do you ever do it yourself?
A lot! I blew out my own hair yesterday, but it depends on where I am. Usually about two to three times a week. I live in Orange County, so I go to the Drybar in Fashion Island [in Costa Mesa] a lot.
3. When did you realize you had struck gold with this idea?
That first day, we knew we were onto something. We opened our first Drybar in Brentwood in an area that was kind of sleepy back then. It was well received right away, but one day Ron Herman, who had a store nearby, came over and said, "You've changed our business!"
4. How long do your stylists train before they start helping customers?
They get lots of training. About a couple weeks. We don't have a bona fide school, which is on my list of things I want. I always say, we take good stylists and make them great.
5. What have your learned in your four years of running this business?
I really try to listen to our clients. We didn't invent blowouts, but we created a much better space and we did it at the right price point. You used to call the salon directly to make an appointment but now we have a call center, because it was too loud and too crazy to have phones ringing in the shop. We really believe in over-the-top customer service.