In the United States, men spend over $16 billion at barbershops each year . For most men, haircuts are a quintessential element of individual style. Beyond being well groomed, hairstyles are an aesthetic signature. Whether the cut is classic and conservative or edgy and experimental, every look expresses an attitude and taste level unique to each person. Like timeless pieces of art, hairstyles are also time capsules, personifying different eras and movements throughout history. As a result, haircuts have long made definitive statements of pride, cultural affiliation, and masculinity.
Taking consistent trips to the barbershop is more than a bi-weekly ritual; it’s a cultural tradition. Beyond refreshing your fade or cleaning up facial hair, barbershops serve as magnetic hubs for collective conversation, occasional counseling, neighborhood news and discovering the latest trends in sports and entertainment. However, even with an evident demand, the process for getting a haircut has been a trying and notoriously inefficient one. For men without loyalty to a specific barber or barbershop, finding a good match within reasonable distance at an affordable cost can prove challenging. It takes hours researching and waiting for an experience that primarily takes less than an hour to complete. To solve this problem, two young entrepreneurs developed a smartmobile app designed to streamline the process, while providing men with the tips and resources needed to connect with the best barbers, wherever they are in the country.
Founded by 31-year-old Songe LaRon and 30-year-old Dave Salvant, SQUIRE is an app that allows users to discover barbers, book appointments and pay for a haircut directly from your mobile device. Users can locate barbershops in their area, browse customer reviews, pay and tip — all in a few simple taps. Customers are charged a 7% convenience fee for the service, which is added to their total upon payout. By using SQUIRE, customers simply show up, get their haircut, and then leave the shop without waiting in line or pulling out their wallet. Users have the option to reschedule, and the app also includes a tip later feature, allowing patrons to decide on a proper gratuity amount after their appointment is finished. Barbers who register to join SQUIRE pay a $99 monthly subscription fee, with the additional option to sell their own products directly through the mobile service by way of in-app purchases.
Since launching just under a year ago, Salvant and LaRon have focused their efforts on using New York as the flagship for seeing the app, before expanding into other major metropolitan cities across the country such as Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Since January 1st, SQUIRE exceeds $5,000 per week in sales, seeing 46% week-to-week growth. Seeing a 40% penetration rate in New York City, select barbershops have replaced their existing scheduling software with SQUIRE. Currently, there are 50 barbershops on the waitlist, and the technology has been enhanced to support larger, more robust barbershops by adding an administration panel that syncs with Google Calendar and payment processing system Stripe. This allows the app to service a broader scale, from mom and pop shops to high-end locations.
Prior to starting a company together, both LaRon and Salvant were experienced entrepreneurs who bypassed promising corporate careers to launch SQUIRE. A graduate of UCLA and Yale Law School, LaRon saw success as a Corporate Attorney, working at Skadden Arps where he advised Fortune 100 Companies on mergers and acquisitions. After graduating from the University of Albany, Salvant specialized in Annuity Sales at AXA, helping increase revenue from $40 million to $110 million in his time there. The boom of convenience-driven service apps like Uber and Lyft inspired them to team up and pursue their mission of making it simple for men to get their haircut without hassle. “Millions of men need haircuts daily and are looking to find the right barbershop, but the process is usually unnecessarily hard and time consuming,” Salvant told Forbes. “SQUIRE lets you locate a barber, schedule your appointment and pay from anywhere you are, now making the process quick and convenient.”
Though the concept seems timely and necessary, there are a few obstacles facing both founders as they seek to carve out a line for SQUIRE. Loyalty is a key cultural component of the barbershop experience, with customers forming lifelong relationships with their barbers,. While SQUIRE makes it easier to discover, schedule and pay, it also opens up the risk of barbers losing clients to other shops with better reviews or closer proximity. For barbers accustomed to tradition, the desire to transition operations to a new mobile service may prove hard to adopt. As advertisers pour bigger budgets into mobile experiences, it’s also unclear how brands take advantage of the SQUIRE platform beyond product placement and e-commerce.
In regards to the marketplace, SQUIRE does not have a clear competitor, yet that makes the push for scale an uphill climb without substantial capital for marketing in target cities or specifically catering to high-profile barbershops to drive awareness. Grassroots strategies are effective for establishing a solid word of mouth presence, but it limits the speed of growth. Despite the potential challenges, Salvant and LaRon are excited for the future. “We’ve raised an initial round of funding, have a great team of advisors and a lot of positive momentum right now,” LaRon stated. “Soon, SQUIRE will be in more major markets and serve men everywhere – we’re confident our app is the solution every man who understands the struggles of getting a haircut is looking for.”
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credit – forbes.com