When you're running a business, it's vital to be able to embrace change and be flexible. Sometimes you need to pivot in order to get to the next stage. One such business is Ruuby, a beauty-tech startup that has been live for three years. Offering at-home beauty services across London, they currently work with over 300 freelance beauticians. Services include blowdries, manicures, massages, facials and vitamin drips. We chatted to founder Venetia Archer about how the business has changed over the years.
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How has your business model changed since the first days?
Hugely. Sometimes I look at my old emails or files, and I’m reminded of the Ruuby vision 1.0. Originally, the business was developed to offer a curated list of salon appointments via a mobile app. While we remain a tech-enabled beauty bookings platform, we now focus solely on at-home beauty services. When we launched, this was a simple add on. In fact... we only ever included it because we needed a 9th category to fit on our app grid!
What prompted changes to your business model?
Two things. The technical complexity involved in the development of an all-encompassing solution for salon appointment availability was huge. It required individual buy in at the salon level, as well as a wider push for a software shift - quite a challenge to implement on our start-up budget. We’d have had to develop a product leagues above what we had, and well-funded competition in the market made it harder. As we (surprisingly happily) fought this uphill battle, our at-home bookings numbers just kept on rising. We reflected, and recognised that commercial model was much more appealing, and the technical solution was an exciting one that we were prepared for.
How did you put these changes into practice?
We made the changes slowly. We had built up a strong client base who were loyal to the salon bookings system we had and we didn’t want to lose them - we needed to bring them with us. We stopped recruiting salons and started to actively seek out freelance beauticians. The impact on the marketing was positive. Our tag line was clearer, and our focus more precise.
The real challenge lay with the technology. In the initial period we had to be creative in trying to make our limited tech solution work... and we had a few beauticians point out the very obvious fact that it was hard to update their availability from a desktop, when the very nature of their work was mobile.
But, we got through that, and a few months ( and a few double bookings) later, we launched RuubyPA, our freelancer scheduling app. This has since iterated into a product that we’re really proud of.
What were the challenges?
Managing the two business streams at the same time, and figuring out when to make the big jump. It was hard to say no to new business - during our pivot our name was getting recognised, and as a result we had some great deals on the table to which we had to pass on.
There was also much to learn: what sort of product did the beauticians want, and were our clients ready for it. How were we going to get new clients? Additionally, the whole legal framework of the business changed, and a lot of new questions needed to be answered.
What have been the benefits?
We are so much more streamlined in what we do. We have more control over the whole bookings process - we know our beauticians and work closely with them from start to finish. The benefits are mutual, and as a result communication and trust is strong, which feeds back into the product.
Any other tips for businesses considering the pivot?
As an entrepreneur, it can be hard to close the door on a business you’ve spent so much time and energy working on. But, there is a freedom that comes with having a platform that is dynamic and young enough to change with the market, or in response to external factors. My advice is to do it slowly. Test it out without isolating your existing clients and ensure you are as dogged and educated on the new concept as you were on the original.
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