Beauty Boss: How Drybar's Alli Webb Built Her Blowout Empire
In our series, Beauty Boss, we’re highlighting individuals who are owning the beauty space and turning it upside down in new, innovative ways. You’ll be able to get an exclusive look at their very personal journeys to success, as well as hear their advice to anyone wanting to follow in their footsteps.
What Alli Webb has accomplished in just a few short years makes her an inspiration not just in the beauty world, but in the business world. Truly identifying a gap in the marketplace and filling that need with an affordable service, she changed the beauty industry and people's lives—and made herself a well-deserved multimillionaire along the way. Whenever a woman achieves astronomical success, we are eager to tap into her brain to learn more about her secrets to success. We want to know what makes her tick, how she operates, what challenges she's faced on her career path and how she overcame them, and more. Because if we can learn just one thing from women like Webb, we'll be better off. To that end, we spoke to the mega-successful Drybar founder and got far more valuable advice than just one lesson. So keep scrolling to get inspired!
What has the path to where you are now been like for you?
AW: "It took me a long time to find my way. I struggled a lot after high school trying to figure out what to do with my life. However, from the time I was a little girl, I was always so passionate about hair. Once I finally made the decision to go to beauty school, I knew it was what I was meant to do. I could have never imagined Drybar was in my future, but now, in retrospect, it makes a lot of sense. I feel so incredibly lucky!"
Was there one lightbulb eureka moment when you thought, "I'm going to create a single-service blowout bar with a flat fee," or did the concept develop in bits and pieces?
AW: "Actually there kind of was, but it was when I decided to start my mobile blowout business, Straight-at-Home. It was really on a whim that I decided to start that business where I only wanted to offer blowouts—at an affordable price for all my mummy friends (I was a stay-at-home mum at the time). While I was operating Straight-at-Home, I realised there was a pretty big hole in the market for a place like Drybar and knew we had to create it!"
The interior of Drybar in Brentwood
Did you ever have any inkling that Drybar would be as big as it became?
AW: "NO! It was initially only meant to be my one little shop in Brentwood. We never knew it would take off the way it has—it’s been such an amazing and humbling journey."
What has been the biggest surprise along the way?
AW: "As we have grown, I think one of the biggest surprises to me is how hard it is to keep track of everything. There are so many different moving parts to this business, and it takes a lot of really smart, passionate people to maintain the level of service and quality we insist on giving our clients."
What challenges did you encounter?
AW: "So many challenges. Getting the very first landlord in Brentwood to understand this new concept and actually lease us space for our first shop was a major challenge. We also had to personally guarantee that lease because at that point, there was a lot of scepticism about Drybar. (Fortunately, we’ve never had to do that again!)"
Alli Webb with a team of Drybar employees
What do you wish you'd known when you were JUST starting out with the business idea?
AW: "How important it is to hire really great people before you need them. It’s so imperative to higher ahead of the curve. By the time you actually need a key hire, you’re probably about six months away from being able to find and hire them!"
What are some of the best lessons you've learned—either business-wise or personally—throughout this journey?
AW: "There have been a lot of learnings—I'm still learning. However, I think one of the best lessons I have learned is to take a step back and look at the big picture. My nature is to react and respond super fast, but I've learned how useful it can be to think things/situations through before responding."
What strong women have influenced you in your career?
AW: "There are a lot of women that continue to inspire me. I love seeing so many successful woman run businesses—it’s so empowering and inspirational. Women like Jenna Lyons, Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler, Jennifer Fleiss and Jenn Hyman, and Leandra Medine are some of my personal faves to watch and learn from. And my mother was really my best and first teacher. She instilled in me the importance of customer service and how to treat people."
What's the best career advice you've ever learned?
AW: "Be open to feedback, positive OR negative. It's a gift!"
If you could rewind five years, 10 years, and 15 years, what would you tell yourself at each of those ages?
AW: "I think I would tell myself to have more confidence in myself and not be afraid to have a voice. That's a lesson I learned in my mid 30s that would have served me well in my 20s!"
What's the toughest part about running your business?
AW: "Running your own business is incredibly rewarding, but it also comes with a lot of stress and worrying as you never have the luxury of shutting it off! Drybar is open seven days a week, so we are rarely closed. And with 42 stores and almost 3000 employees, there are almost always new, impossible-to-anticipate issues that pop up every single day. I think you have or quickly develop a very thick skin to be a business owner."
What's your favourite part?
AW: "I love the freedom and being able to make things happen quickly. I like being the boss."
The interior of Drybar in Encino
What's one thing that would surprise people the most about your job?
AW: "If you have owned your own business, you get it. If not, I think most people don't realise the 24/7 nature and constantly being pulled in a million directions. All the said, I wouldn't trade it for the world."
What has been the biggest wild card/learning curve for you?
AW: "Raising money and dealing with all the financial aspects of the business. It’s way more complex than I could have ever imagined. Fortunately, my brother [Michael Landau] is my business partner, and he mostly deals with that aspect of the business!"
What was your first beauty memory?
AW: "As early as I can remember, I was always obsessed with Christie Brinkley's hair. I longed for her bouncy hair!"
Who inspires you in the beauty industry?
AW: "Ah, so many women inspire me. I think beauty comes in many shapes in sizes. I love Josie Maran and have loved becoming friends with her over the years. Also Deborah Lippmann, whose energy and enthusiasm are so contagious! And, of course, Janet Gurwitch, who was the founder of Laurie Mercier cosmetics. She is a Drybar investor and board member and has inspired me in so many, countless ways."
Drybar Drybar The 3-Day Bender 1.25" Digital Curling Iron ($135)