Black males in tech, or the lack thereof, have been a trending topic lately. While many Black men have the degrees, companies simply aren’t hiring them. Instead of waiting for doors of opportunity to open, George Powell decided to build his own company from the ground up, with the assistance of his co-founder Johnny Wright, and the stars are rewarding him for his ingenuity. Having grown up around beauty and barber shops and tapping into technology while in the military gave Powell the tools he needed to launch Easy Beauty; an innovative, self-service mobile application that’s bridging the gap between brands, professionals and clients. Rolling out spoke with Powell to learn more about the app set to change the beauty industry.
How did you transition to the beauty tech business?
It was fate. When I was growing up I had uncles and aunts [who] were barbers and stylists, so I was always around the shop. My interest in technology started in the military. I started my corporate America career in tech but wanted do something on my own. I was always helping companies improve on their processes but I got frustrated because I was always got the responsibility but never the title. I wanted to create something that would change the industry and the beauty industry was the first thing that came to mind.
How long was the process of Easy Beauty being an idea to a full site?
It took five years total; from the thought to digging into the research, then design and launching. I did a year and a half worth of research before jumping off the ledge. We went into beta the fourth year and launched in 2016.
Are your prices competitive?
Yes, for the most part, if not cheaper. Plus we have the convenience factor. Our convenience allows a professional to buy the products at any time. With the industry being so mobile a lot of stylists are bicoastal, so it’s hard to keep track of the brands they use because every city doesn’t sell the same brands or have the same professional stores. Easy Beauty made it convenient for our brands because now they can stay directly in touch with their users and the people who buy their products. On the flip side, stylists get that convenience too. We ship in two days, with free shipping over $99.
How many people are currently using the app?
We have about 3K on the app and that’s just been from word of mouth. We haven’t really done any marketing and are just starting to do PR to reach a larger audience.
Talk about the payment processing and client management portion of the site.
The client management portal is going to launch in the first quarter of next year and will basically make the app a virtual assistant. It will handle your bookings, order your products, and you’ll be able to refer products to your clients for purchase. Right now we are launching the retail feature and within the next week regular consumers can buy the same products that their stylists and professionals are using. That’s been the gap. Now your stylist can give you a referral code and when you buy the products from the app, they get direct commission for it.
The retail portion will be launching in a few weeks and will tie into the management / booking system. You’ll have a profile where you can book sessions with your professionals and they can recommend products onto your profile. This is good for people [who] get multiple professional services from different places because now under one app all of their beauty professionals can recommend the products that they use on them and they can buy them directly from their profile.
So professionals get a commission just for referring products to their clients?
That’s right. They don’t have to buy the products or keep them on the shelves because it’s not the way that the industry is going. Why not reward them because they are the ambassadors for a lot of these products. We don’t want the typical buy and sell relationship. We really want to add value to the professional and the industry. We’re a community and give our brands plenty of exposure. The app is really a service to bring the brands and clients together, whether it’s in the app or through placements that we have available.
It seems like everything is coming together. What were some of the stumbling blocks you faced before getting to this point?
We were a little ahead of our time. When I came up with this idea and started pitching it to brands five years ago, everyone was against it. The only ones [who] really wanted it were the professionals. My biggest hurdle was getting the brands to see the value because they were used to the door to door sales rep model, but now I think the industry has finally caught up to us somewhat.
What are some of the things Easy Beauty has going on right now?
We are preparing to launch the retail feature. We added the activations-marketing arm of the company where we provide different outlets for our brands. The brands needed a better return on their investment versus buying billboards. We’re getting activations where we put them into an event, whether it’s behind the scenes, or at glam suites like what we’re doing at the upcoming All-Star game. We’re really creating an outlet for our brands to save money and at the same time get their brand more recognition. It’s a win-win situation: They win, we win and people [who] don’t know about the brands win.