- October 20, 2021
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PHL Inno’s weekly “Startup Spotlight” feature highlights founders and new businesses cropping up in the region.
The startup: Shortcut is an on-demand hair service platform that connects stylists with people who want to get haircuts in their home.
Home base: Philadelphia. The startup relocated from New York in September 2020.
Founders: Will Newton, a Chestnut Hill native who attended Germantown Academy, and Denver-based John Meurer.
Newton previously lived in New York, where he started Shortcut and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on subpar office space. Moving back to Philadelphia was a “smart business choice,” as well as a smart choice for his family, he said.
The product: Shortcut is a technology platform where people can schedule in-home hair appointments. Customers can chat with stylists, share photos and schedule appointments or consultations through Shortcut’s app. Services are available from 8 a.m. to midnight.
Shortcut began working with independent hairstylists and barbers, but it has since shifted its business to working directly with salons. Newton likens the model to DoorDash, where salons can white-label Shortcut and use its technology under their own name. Shortcut charges salons $129 per month for each stylist on the platform and nets 5% of each transaction.
Stylists would often have to branch off from salons to make money independently, and Shortcut offers a way for stylists to still work in a salon while having a kind of independence, Newton said.
“Why not meet the two parties in the middle and add in-home as a way for salons to put more money in their pocket as a business and alleviate that attrition that happens in a salon all the time?” he said.
Funding: Shortcut has raised nearly $1 million. Newton has been careful not to raise too much too early, and he has primarily sought angel investors and family investment. Ted Chung, Snoop Dogg’s longtime business partner and founder of multicultural marketing firm Cashmere Agency, has also invested. Chung is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
The goal: Newton aims to have Shortcut in 100 salon groups by the end of 2021 and to expand to 500 U.S. and Canadian salons by the end of 2022.
More than 30 salon groups across the United States are now working with Shortcut, including Adolf Biecker Spa/Salon which has locations in Blue Bell, Strafford and Rittenhouse Square. The startup currently operates in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Canada, and it’s targeting multi-location salon groups in large metros, Newton said.
Business grew over 300% since the 2020 lockdown, with about 17,000 in-home services completed in the last year. The Covid-19 pandemic left people desperate for haircuts when salons were closed, Newton said, which opened doors for Shortcut.
“When a lot of salons were closed, it forced people — not necessarily using Shortcut — but to get haircuts in their home and become more acclimated to the whole experience,” he said. “And so we were kind of right place, right time, and that’s led to continued growth over this time.”
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