How the Drybar founder turned hot air into big bucks.
Written By PUNCH HUTTON
In a new series, VIOLET GREY profiles female beauty entrepreneurs who are considered industry game changers for their individual approach to business. Each one entered the conversation in her own manner and maintained a steady, if not unparalleled, trajectory with her indomitable spirit.
“As a kid with super curly hair, I would have killed for a place like Drybar,” says Alli Webb, who launched her business from a cheery yellow storefront in Brentwood, California, in 2010. Drybar’s motto—“No Cuts. No Color. Just blowouts!”—says it all.
A beauty school graduate and former assistant to celebrity hairstylist John Sahag in NYC, Webb adhered to the philosophy of “Do one thing, and do it well.” In the process, she parlayed her passion for hair into big business. She confesses, “None of us understood the opportunity that was in front of us, but when we opened our first store, we saw a transformation.”
The “us” refers to her husband, Cameron Webb; her brother, Michael Landau; and her sister-in-law, Sarah Landau, all of whom are credited as Drybar cofounders. With six stylists on the floor opening day, Webb says, “We severely underestimated the demand.” The rest is history. Webb went on to be touted as one of Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40, which recognizes young businesswomen, and was cited by Fast Company as one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business.”
Drybar is the penultimate in quick-fix beauty. Any woman can attest to the benefits of a good blow-dry—it affects everything. Feeling beautiful increases confidence, and a woman with confidence is a formidable force. Drybar, which has 78 locations across the country and turns out more than 1 million blowouts a year with a staff of more than 3,000 stylists, is now a $70 million company. And growing. More than a few people have kicked themselves for not coming up with the idea sooner. It is doubtful, however, that anyone could have executed better or at a more prescient time than Webb.
Working women, sassy and stylish stay-at-home moms, girls in the throes of pre-date prep, and bridal parties fill the seats of the yellow, gray, and white Regency-style interiors. Everyone is friendly. There are charging stations for assorted tech accessories. Films such as Working Girl, Sixteen Candles, You’ve Got Mail, and any number of cult favorite romantic comedies play on a wide screen. Bowls filled with cookies—gingersnaps, chocolate chip, and oatmeal—are perched at reception. And you can sip ice water with lemon, coffee, Chardonnay, or Champagne during your treatment. It’s an upscale salon that doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s more fun than fancy, and it always smells divine.
The unmistakable scent of Drybar is a hybrid of products wafting through the air. Among others, The Hot Toddy, a heat protector and frizz fighter; Texas Tea (my favorite!), a volumizing range; and the top-selling Detox Dry Shampoo. These are not flowery or perfume-y, but sort of bakery sweet. When you next walk into a Drybar, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The success of Drybar makes perfect sense. With an affordable blowout ($45), skilled stylists, an easy online booking situation (should you prefer to do it that way), good products available for sale (especially the light-but-super-powerful yellow hair dryer called Buttercup, which you’ll recognize from the company logo, and the flatiron—both fab for travel), and a high likelihood that if there isn’t a salon near you, there will be soon, Alli Webb holds the highest place at the top of the blow-dry space. Better make your appointment now: Life feels better when you look good.
What is the atmosphere of your bedroom?
It's light and airy, with many shades of pale pink. I grew up near the ocean and I am a Pisces, so I have a fierce love of water! We have a wall of photos of beautiful beaches and oceans that I find so peaceful and relaxing.
Please describe your bed and your favorite thing about it.
My husband and I actually just bought a new bed when we moved into our current house. It's one of those Sleep Number beds, and it's awesome!
What time do you wake up?
When the kids are in school, I wake up around 6:30 a.m. But I naturally wake up around 8:30. I am definitely not a morning person.
How many hours of sleep do you require?
Around six or seven—I love when I can get eight, though!
Any bedside beauty essentials?
I take a lot of vitamins at night—my nightstand is filled to the brim.
Do you drink coffee or tea, eat breakfast?
Just Bulletproof coffee.
Do you work out in the a.m.?
Yes! Most days I do Tracy Anderson Method. I live within walking distance to one of her studios. It's a dream!
What is your morning skincare regimen?
After I work out, I usually do a light exfoliant in the shower.
What makeup and products do you use on a daily basis?
Eye cream, serum, and SPF of some kind plus illuminating moisturizer. I love to layer.
What’s your hair situation in the a.m.?
Ha! Well, it depends on the day. I try to go three to four days between blowouts and just reblow or recurl certain areas as needed.
What’s the first thing you read each morning?
Ugh, my phone: email, texts, Instagram, The Skimm—but not always in that order.
What business do you conduct before 10:00 a.m.?
Usually calls that I can do while getting ready for the day.
What time do you head to your office?
Usually around 10-ish, depending what events, meetings, etc., I have planned that day.
Tata Harper $68