In 2011, Melody McCloskey launched Styleseat, an app that has been a dream for anyone looking to book a beauty appointment. Styleseat is the largest destination of beauty and wellness services. It all started with an idea, and today the company looks forward to making $1.7 billion in the next year.
Before graduating from the University of California-Davis, a counselor encouraged her to go into Public Relations. She took a chance on the advice and landed in tech public relations. McCloskey quickly realized it wasn’t a great fit, but learned that she wanted to be an entrepreneur. Her drive for creating her own business began.
A native of the East Bay, which is right outside San Francisco, McCloskey was obsessed with the idea of offering a service to both beauty professionals and those looking for one. It all started back in the early 2000s, when she would meet up with like minded friends and talk about acquisitions, fundraisers, retentions and hiring developers. “I was really obsessed with every move that I made, whether it was a career move or event that I went to,” McCloskey said.
Her early steps to creating Styleseat started with networking and learning as much as she could. McCloskey explained that it helped, “Meeting as many people as I possibly could.” She said, “I wanted to learn. I wanted to meet people.” She attended any relevant conferences that she could and meet ups to network, which created her own community of professionals she could learn from.
So what would be the next step? She had an education. She had a network. She had a great idea. But like many entrepreneurs, she battled fear and her confidence to execute the idea. “I was overwhelmed with these thoughts, constantly. I thought, well, I can’t actually do it. I’m not smart enough. I’m not an engineer. I didn’t go to an equity school. I don’t know 100% of what’s needed to start this company. I never started a company before,” were the thoughts that ran across her mind. “Every time I would dream about it, I would also have 100 reasons why I shouldn’t do it,” she explained. This type of thinking stopped her for a long time, two years before she even went for it. What changed? McCloskey said it was the thought of someone else launching the app that pushed her into high gear. “That would upset me more than if I started this company and failed,” McCloskey expressed.
To get Styleseat off the ground, McCloskey began the journey to raising her first rounds of funds, which totaled $700k. She started at an open Angel forum where Travis Kalanick, co-founder of Uber, also pitched. Kalanick later offered to get her name out to investors. Her advice to entrepreneurs on starting the fundraising process, “I should have fundraised faster. I waited too long because I was fearful.” McCloskey explained getting hung up on metrics and increasing numbers. She could have started her fundraising process six months sooner if she didn’t have doubts, so instead, she bootstrapped it. She added, “When you start the process [pitching], you start the process. You have to get as many meetings in the first two weeks as you possibly can. The appearance of a deal is more important than the substance of a deal.” The secret is to have people talking and to get them interested. Once she received her first funding, she was able to hire a couple of people for her team. Styleseat now has 60 employees and has raised $40 million. “It is hard. Every time you go through it, it’s the hardest experience,” she said on pitching to venture capitalists.
As McCloskey continues to grow her team, she keeps her eyes out for self-starters who are tenacious and data driven. As a CEO, she says her best qualities are “speed and good decision making. Somewhere in between is the right choice.”