Originally Published by VanityFair, March 2017
Why didn’t anyone tell me about Paris?,” gushed native-Californian and Drybar founder Alli Webb, who turned 40 and was introduced to the City of Love for first time last year. “Everything is so beautiful. Everyone is so beautiful. The streets, the fashion, the buildings. I wanted to pack up and move there immediately!,” she recently told Vanity Fair. This sort of impulsive enthusiasm has served this hairstylist well, especially in her ever-booming business endeavors.
This February marked the seventh anniversary of Drybar, the original “blowout only” destination that began in an unassuming space in the affluent district of Brentwood, Los Angeles. The salon’s decor, brightly lit with yellow and white accents and a chic gray backdrop—a design-aesthetic formula that Webb has adhered to throughout the rest of her 72 shops (and counting)—speaks volumes about Webb as a person (and not just of her hair). The petite blonde tour de force is known for her sunny disposition. She recognized a void in the beauty industry and ignored tales of failed start-ups in order to create an entirely new category of single-service establishments.
Webb enlisted her brother Michael Landau and his wife, Sarah, as well as her husband Cameron Webb in bringing her vision to life. “There was no official business plan. At some point my brother put together a spreadsheet, figured out our costs and how we would pay our employees.” Webb had no clue that this small idea would immediately take off and become one of the most successful beauty launches in the past decade. “It was crazy,” Webb said. “We were booked from day one, and it’s never stopped.”
Webb is a trained hairstylist who learned the trade while working for John Sahag in New York, then eventually returned to the West Coast. In 2009 she had become antsy after five years as a stay-at-home mom and developed a mobile blow-dry service, Straight at Home, which became an instant hit among readers of the mommy blog where she advertised. It was then that Webb quickly discovered a need all women had for an affordable blowout. When the demand for her services eventually outweighed her ability to meet it, she looked into setting up a brick-and-mortar shop, and she’s now making history. “It’s funny, because I just wanted to open one little salon, so that I was able to pick up my kids from school and make a living,” Webb reminisced.
Like any business, there were bumps along the way. “I probably shouldn’t put this on the record, but because I called my mobile service Straight at Home, we were originally going to call our business Straight Bar,” laughed Webb. “We realized, for obvious reasons, why it wasn’t going to work. Also, we were worried that women might think all we did was straighten hair. It would have been a disaster on so many levels.”
“Then there was the time I signed a contract for a towel service without having a lawyer look at the fine print.” Webb sighed. “It’s funny to think about it now, but at the time it was a really big deal.” Her advice for budding entrepreneurs: “Make sure everything you sign first gets looked at by a lawyer. No way you’re going to understand the mumbo jumbo thrown into the fine print. Also, be sure to have someone on your team who’s great with numbers, and someone who can tackle the branding.
Drybar is on track to open another 20 locations before the end of the year. They recently opened up shop right on Collins Avenue in South Beach, and they aim to quickly follow suit with another Miami launch in Brickell come April. By the time New Year’s Eve rolls around, we can expect to see salons nationwide from Honolulu to Austin, and another New York salon in the city’s historic South Street Seaport district come July. But Webb has her sights set beyond the East River—and across the Atlantic. She hinted that there’s a possibility of a Drybar salon in Paris, but, in the meantime, Webb’s ever expanding product line will be launching in Sephora France this May, along with Sephora Mexico and Australia.
Webb’s spring lineup is designed for girls on the go, including the Tiny Tress Press, a portable hair-detailing iron in bright-yellow casing (obviously); Double Standard, a cleansing-and-conditioning foam-in-one (waaah?!); and Whiskey Fix styling paste, ‘cause you gotta keep the piece—ha! All can be found at Drybars nationwide and online, plus, at Sephora, Ulta, and Nordstrom.
When asked how the immense growth and quick success of her business has impacted her family life, Webb explained. “I feel very happy and lucky. I love my life, and I love being a mom. The kids are a challenge sometimes. What stays with me, going from being a stay-at-home mom to a mom who works and travels—that’s been a big adjustment. But I love my kids seeing how hard we work, and that that is the key to success.”