Why The Start-Up Series is perfect for entrepreneurs with no investment experience

Co-founder of July winner Blow Dry Pass, Matthew Sockalingum reflects on the “very easy” application process and how £150,000 is driving his launch

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Founders: Matthew Sockalingum and Simon Lee
Company: Blow Dry Pass
Description: A subscription service offering unlimited blow dries at a range of convenient locations
Website: www.blowdrypass.com

The beauty of convenience: Building Blow Dry Pass

Thanks to ever-improving technology and a growing hunger for convenience among busy consumers, recent years have seen UK lifestyles shift in favour of an on-demand, on-the-go culture.

From mobile TV catch-up apps to 24/7 food delivery, we’re no longer slaves to schedules and locations – in fact, we’re getting quite used to accessing our favourite services whenever and wherever we need them.

Hairdressing, however, has lagged behind in this revolution. While disruptive businesses are offering on-demand appointments in customers’ own homes, there still remains a crowd of blow dry aficionados who are too busy even for this.

Enter Blow Dry Pass, a subscription service which aims to be wherever its customers are, from 6am until 10pm. Planning to offer blow dries at train stations, hotels, gyms, clothes shops and department stores, this start-up is “all about convenience”, according to co-founder Matthew Sockalingum:

“We’re focusing on offering the Blow Dry Pass service in the most convenient places for our customers’ timetable.”

This unique focus seemed a winner to investment promoters Worth Capital, and in July 2017 Blow Dry Pass won The Start-Up Series – Startups.co.uk and Worth Capital’s monthly SEIS funding competition, awarding two innovative start-ups per month up to £150,000 equity seed funding each.

Sockalingum and his co-founder Simon Lee were inspired to create Blow Dry Pass by a scheme that former hairdresser and barber Sockalingum had tried in his salons, which he ran over 10 years.

In need of new customers, he launched a subscription service offering unlimited blow dries to customers and enabling them to give two of these blow dries away to friends. These friends were then easily converted into paying customers:

“We were probably one of the first salons in the UK to do a subscription, which was quite innovative in itself.” Revelling in the success of the scheme, Sockalingum decided to take it even further – and conceptualised Blow Dry Pass, which would offer unlimited blow dries for a monthly subscription of £99.

“Effortless”: Why The Start-Up Series is ideal for businesses new to investment

The co-founders knew they would need funding to launch the business – but when it came to raising finance, they didn’t know where to start. Fortunately, Lee spotted The Start-Up Series in an email newsletter.

Sockalingum tells us: “Blow Dry Pass is the first business that I’ve personally tried to raise for, which is new. We were looking for funding, but we didn’t really have an entry to get close to anyone.

“We didn’t really know how to pitch, we didn’t really know what people were looking for. We had a great idea, great concept, but we didn’t really know what it was worth.”

However, The Start-Up Series seemed perfect for the first-time raisers, with its simple application process and intimidation-free approach: “The requirements to enter were something that we could achieve quite easily”.

Sockalingum asserts that the initial stages of the application process, which include submitting a business plan or a video, were “very easy”: “I wouldn’t say effortless, but it really wasn’t time-consuming.

“You just tell someone your idea. There’s no face-to-face pitching or stuff like that. So it’s good, really good – a great platform.”

Following the initial stages, Sockalingum and Lee were invited to meet with Worth Capital to discuss Blow Dry Pass in depth.

The former describes this meeting as “very effortless, very comfortable, very open – open would be the best word. It was all ears, good support, and it wasn’t formal at all; it was very relaxed”.

What winning The Start-Up Series means for Blow Dry Pass

Soon after, the duo found out that they had impressed enough to win the July competition. And the business guidance and advice they have received from Worth Capital since has been as crucial as the funding:

“Winning money’s great, of course; but the team, the support and the knowledge that we get with it is – I know it sounds cheesy – but it is what we really won. The relationship we get from Matthew [Cushen, co-founder of Worth Capital] and Hayley [Etherington, business operations director], that’s what I feel like we’ve won.”

Now, as the business prepares to launch, convenience and flexibility remain its two tenets – and as well as its locations, this is reflected also in its staffing technology. Through an app and dashboard, hairdressers will be able to plan their shifts and book time off:

“Staff belong to an area rather than one location. If they book sickness it will trigger everyone else who works in that area, if they want to take that shift on.”

The staff will work across different counters, with different team members and managers, but ultimately, they’ll work with different customers each day – “this reduces complacency by a lot”.

Currently, the start-up is “agreeing terms with partners” and using the £150,000 investment to fit out counters at the locations it has secured and develop its branding and marketing.

These, to Blow Dry Pass, are the first steps towards a nation that can be groomed and beautified on its own terms – but it won’t stop in the UK. Sockalingum shares his ultimate vision: “We want to be available in every major city in the world.”

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