On this episode of the Startup of the Year Podcast, we hear from Courtney Caldwell and Dr. Tye Caldwell, the co-founders of ShearShare, which is the first on-demand salon and barbershop space rental app, which is also of the Startup of the Year Alumni company and Established Ventures portfolio company.
During the episode, we hear some interesting insights from two Black startup entrepreneurs as they navigate the COVID-19 landscape and provide their thoughts about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Courtney Caldwell was named a 2019 Inc Female Founder 100 and she was the 33rd Black Female to Raise $1m. Tye Caldwell is recognized as a tech visionary and industry pioneer, whose mission is to help beauty and barbering professionals around the world maximize their earnings potential.
ShearShare is the first mobile app that connects barbers and cosmetologists to available salon space to rent by the day. It's sort of like "HairBnB", but the Caldwells shared that the app provides additional resources to the practitioners on the platform as well.
"We saw that there was a shift in the industry... independent and commission-based beauty professionals realized that they wanted more flexibility in when and where they worked." Tye explains how they started to see a change in the industry in 2012, and began thinking about how to better accommodate beauty professionals.
"We hadn't heard the word 'startup' before... I saw a path to retirement while working at Oracle!" Courtney says her life was quite fulfilled before jumping into the world of tech startups! But as Tye observed a gap that existed in the industry for beauty professionals, he knew that it needed to be solved with technology.
So, Courtney says that they chatted with a connection on LinkedIn to find out what this startup business was all about. Was this, in fact, an idea that required an app? "There seems to be an app for everything else right now," Courtney reflects, so they needed some guidance. As luck would have it, this acquaintance connected the two to an engineering firm to start designs on this product.
Startup of the Year became the very first stage where ShearShare was pitched!
"I even go back sometimes, and watch the pitch - Wow! We started there! We had no idea what's included in a pitch, no idea what kind of slide deck to show to investors, had never spoken with investors before, so we really appreciate your support early on!"
Frank Gruber remembers how their pitch at Startup of the Year 2016 "knocked the socks off" of finals judge Jeff Clavier!
Among the prizes offered to ShearShare for their win was a first-choice draft of their pick from 5 different accelerators. ShearShare chose to go into the 500 Startups accelerator, and Courtney says this absolutely changed the trajectory of their business.
Listen to the podcast for more on how they've adapted and looked to their network to step up during both a pandemic and the constant effort to recognize racial equality and remove barriers to entry.
The event is also one of the virtual events that lead up to the 8th Annual Startup of the Year Competition & Summit which will be online this year and take place November 16-18. The Summit will help startups elevate their brand and grow networks. The Top 100 Semi Finalists will compete for up to $20K in potential investments from Established Ventures, the championship title, and more! Startups should apply today at startupofyear.com/application
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