First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sonali Chaturvedi: We are faring as well as anyone can through these extraordinarily strange times. If you had to find a silver lining through some of the darker grays that have been cast over the world these days, our family has actually grown closer this year. We find ourselves meeting regularly for family video chats- something that was not really part of our life prior to the virus. Additionally, each ‘vacation’ we take now involves going to a family member’s home with the limited options that are available at the current time, so we are incredibly lucky to spend even more time with our family this year than has been the case in years’ past. During the lockdown period, when human interaction was significantly limited, the importance of family and sharing your experiences with each other came to the fore.
Tell us about you, your career, how you Glam Set Go.
Sonali Chaturvedi: My sister and I recently decided to deviate from our career paths to start a new beauty venture – helping a person find beauty amid the fast pace and often grueling environment that is present in so many of our lives these days. Interestingly, we have been quite career-oriented since both of us graduated from the University of Virginia, with our focus in the US energy industry through different avenues (public and private). We found ourselves becoming overwhelmed and exhausted each day from work, leaving little time to care for ourselves. And even if we did have time, truth be told, we didn’t know how to approach the daunting task of contouring and baking with makeup and drying and styling our hair.
Knowing how important it is to put your best foot forward, particularly at work, we realized that we wanted easy access to hair and makeup services that don’t take up a significant portion of your day. While we could go to a hair salon and get our hair and makeup done, it was prohibitively expensive and nearly an hour plus out of our day. Thus, we came up with the idea for a mobile beauty salon that could show up at your door with a primary focus on providing hair and makeup services and finding the right balance between quality and time.
How does Glam Set Go innovate?
Sonali Chaturvedi: When we came up with the concept of a mobile beauty salon, we approached it from the angle of the working woman because that is what we understood from our personal experience. However, what we realize as we move forward in this venture is that our services are really for all the people who are inundated with the stresses of life: working women and men, stay at home dads and moms, etc. Our company’s primary innovation is our ability to come to our clients and provide services right in their driveway with our glamtruck, on their porch, or even within our clients’ homes, if they prefer. And while that accessibility allows us to stand apart from some of our brick and mortar competitors, we also focus on ensuring that we are able to provide our services in the most time efficient manner without sacrificing quality or safety.
Time is precious, and we are cognizant of that. We would rather find a way for our clients to spend more of their free time with family and friends, then sitting in a chair for hours in some shop staring at themselves in a mirror waiting for some sort of transformation to occur. Bringing our services to our clients’ homes, porches, and driveways reduce some of those lost hours of the day. We are currently offering services for groups – we tend to find our client portfolio leaning toward bridal parties at the present moment – but to hope to provide our suite of services to individuals as we expand our glamtruck fleet in 2021.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Sonali Chaturvedi: There is no doubt how challenging 2020 has been for the services industry – particularly for small businesses. To try and launch a new business under normal circumstances often feels like an uphill battle, but with the pandemic, that hill felt more like a mountain. It was certainly discouraging at first, but my sister and I sat down and brainstormed ways that we can potentially move forward with our ultimate goal – easily accessible hair and makeup services for a person who likely needs 27 hours to get through a normal day. We quickly realized that the glamtruck can prove to be a vital asset during the pandemic because it allows people to receive these services without feeling unnecessary pressure for excess exposure to the virus is going to one of our brick and mortar competitors. The ‘private’ nature of our services does not only serve as a luxury but now as a safety measure for the virus. One of our shifts in strategy has been to ensure that safety-related to the virus is one of our primary goals for our clients – alongside quality and time efficiency. We have incorporated temperatures checks and COVID symptom checks for our hair stylists and makeup artist prior to coming in contact with our clients, and masks and face shields are an important part of the uniform.
Also, our hair stylists and makeup artists sign checklists that they have adhered to COVID policies and cleaning guidelines for each service provided to ensure our customers’ safety. As a safety measure for our stylists and artists, we have our customers sign a form as well, indicate that they do not have any COVID-related symptoms, and we check the customers’ temperature before they enter the GlamTruck for services. We have made another shift in our initial target audience – shifting from individual people to larger groups for the time being. While that may seem a bit odd during the pandemic, our research has shown that groups – such as bridal parties- have been finding it increasingly difficult to get these services for not only themselves but also for their friends and family celebrate a special occasion. It has proven to be extremely helpful in reaching a broader market base in a shorter period. However, we are looking forward to reaching out to our clients individually in 2021 when our glamtruck fleet is set to increase.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Sonali Chaturvedi: The pivot from corporate America and government work to the services industry has been challenging, to say the least. Not only is it a completely different line of work that we are used to, but it is also a shift from the mainly male-oriented US energy industry that we have become so accustomed to a seemingly female-dominated glam world. We find this latter aspect refreshing, but it certainly can be an adjustment. While we are lucky to have previous experience from owning a small business, there are many lessons learned and adjustments made along the way to our launch. We expect that to continue in perpetuity. In part, we have been humbled by the impacts of the coronavirus on society, which has clearly brought safety to the forefront.
Additionally, in our hiring process, we not only were looking for the best makeup artists and hair stylists based on skills alone but also we have taken a holistic approach in hiring our employees to ensure that we would be proud to have our clients interact with these individuals. This includes a person who is sharp and can risk managing a situation in real-time – characteristics that are key to keep everyone safe during these times of uncertainty. We want to make sure our clients feel their most comfortable – physically and emotionally – with our employees who are performing these services. Additionally, as is the case with any business, my sister and I stay on top of the day-to-day and nitty-gritty in order to address any issues that arise immediately. This is particularly important as we continue to adapt to new regulations and protocols with the virus. While this can cut into our beauty rest at times, we must make sure that the company and our services are ALWAYS conveying what we believe in: everyone is beautiful and deserves a chance to have that beauty highlighted in the safest way possible.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and your company in the future?
Sonali Chaturvedi: Stress and anxiety are a part of any startup business. We have certainly put a lot of resources and efforts into this project because we truly believe it is something that people need now more than ever. It shouldn’t be any surprise that we tend to turn to each other, our family, significant others, and our friends for support during times where the only path forward feels like it’s blocked by a brick wall. We also try and take time to exercise to drain some of that excess stress so that we can be on top of our game mentally and physically. It is certainly difficult to get motivated to exercise by yourself at home, so we do group workout events with our friends and family to try, making it more enjoyable. At the end of the day, we fully admit that a glass of wine is also almost always involved in mitigating some anxiety that can accumulate during the day.
Most importantly, we have started to take time out in the day for ourselves. It may seem superficial on paper, but there really is such an amazing feeling that can manifest when you add a little glam to your life. In this work from the home era, if it’s blowing out your hair or adding a little highlighter to your cheeks, there is a sense of confidence that develops, which is so important mentally when stress starts to mount. We hope that we can provide our clients with services to feel that boost in confidence.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sonali Chaturvedi: We have two sets of competitors that we are constantly monitoring at the current time. The first group is brick and mortar salons. The clear-cut advantage is our mobility relative to this group of competitors, especially during this time. The second group that we view as competitors is a Priv or Glamsquad model, where people can source a hair stylist or a makeup artist to their home, almost like an Uber. While we clearly do this as well, we have the added asset of our glamtrucks. This becomes incredibly important when people don’t want an unknown individual inside their home. And we fully recognize that some homes are not equipped like a salon. So, we bring our salon with us, offering our salon as an option to anyone who wants the hair and makeup services to come to them but may not want, or it may not be feasible to conduct the services at home.
This will become particularly important in winter when porch services will become more difficult with the weather. We also think that this provides the opportunity for glam anywhere. If you are at the office and need to get ready for a client meeting, we can be in your parking lot with our glamtruck prepared without getting these services done in your office or a conference room. It truly does allow for a level of privacy and safety with the virus that we think our competitors could struggle with.
Your final thoughts?
Sonali Chaturvedi: As a final thought, we understand how difficult things have been for families in the Loudon County/Washington DC area (where we currently service) and across the country. We are undergoing those very same stressors and pressures at the moment, and we truly believe that Glam Set Go will help restore some normalcy for our clients. There doesn’t need to be additional stress associated with getting a haircut or styled or getting makeup done for your normal day or a special occasion. And we hope that we have removed a significant portion of that additional stress with our glamtrucks and our highly skilled employees.
I told my sister last week that every commercial on tv always ends with “we are there for you,” and I still don’t quite understand how a cell phone company, car company, or bank is really there for me this point. Everything is still markedly difficult and particularly inconvenient these days. We don’t want to just be there for our clients. We want to help restore normalcy and convenience to their lives. We will remain focused on doing that for our clients.
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