Agility is a key-skill in today’s business world

Interview with Bogdan Clipici, Stailer’s co-founder & Chief Sales Officer.

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Stailer is a Romanian online platform through which appointments at the salon have become extremely simple, with just a few clicks. Stailer, a 100% Romanian startup, established in Cluj-Napoca, it is dedicated to both beauty salons throughout the country (B2B) and customers (B2C).

The Stailer application is available in all cities and counties in the country and provides users with thousands of partner salons where they can make an appointment with just a few clicks, for services such as hairstyling, haircuts, dyeing, make-up, manicure, cosmetics or massage, depending on their agenda. With a few clicks, search for the salon in your city, on the date and in the desired time interval, filter the salons according to the area, prices or recommendations of other users. Additionally, to help users who need a little inspiration, the app also offers a photo catalog uploaded by stylists and other beauty professionals.

The idea emerged during the pandemic, with Stailer being established in November 2020, a platform valued at 15 million euros. Less than 2 years after its launch, Stailer, has recently decided to change its business objectives, to try a change now, in unpredictable times, and also to expand to new markets, such as Hungary and Turkey.

We talked to Bogdan Clipici, Stailer’s co-founder & Chief Sales Officer about what this risk means, what they expect in the future, what this courage has brought for business, what is happening at the moment with startups and what he foresees for this industry on long-term.

 

 

Bogdan, you’re one of the Stailer’s founders, a successful Romanian startup that seems to have a great business recipe – in less than 2 years you grew very fast. What are the results until now with Stailer? Did you fulfill your business objectives sooner?

In 2021, we set out to reach 1,000 partner salons by the end of the year. We succeeded and, in my opinion, it was a real success achieved even sooner than expected at the beginning.

I remember when we set out to reach 1,000 appointments per day through Stailer. It was an intense period, with a lot of work to reach this goal, but we succeeded, which is the most important aspect to take into consideration.

I guess determination, a good strategy plan, together with entrepreneurial flair and ambition can take you to the goals you want to achieve. It’s not like a map to follow, I believe it depends on what business you have, at what moment you decide to develop and what people are with you along the way.

What are your plans with Stailer now?

We are preparing for a new round of financing that will allow us to scale up internationally. We have also recently changed the business model. If until now Stailer charged 1 euro for each additional appointment, now the new commission model has changed as follows: 35% commission for new marketplace bookings only, related to men services, and 25% related to women services. Thus, when the client re-schedules, there will be no cost for the salon, basically they will purchase the client at the first appointment. It is a minimal investment on the part of stylists, a first step, which will help them significantly increase their income, profit and brand.

Why did you feel the need to change your strategy and your business plan? Is something happening with the industry?

From the beginning, our plan was to adjust the strategy according to the needs of our partner salons and of the users too. We are solving a big problem in the market, so the added value is significant. We managed to bring an accelerated increase of income for our partner salons, despite the crisis of 2020. In addition to this, we are constantly thinking of new ways of improving the business model, taking into account the context of the global economic situation, inflation and an inevitable recession. Agility is a key-skill in today’s business world.

Do you consider changing the business plan as a risk taken in today’s economic and geopolitical context? Or is this kind of decision a must for an entrepreneur?

As a start-up, we must be flexible, so that we can continue to innovate. Adaptability was probably the ability that allowed us to scale-up at a high velocity to over 1,000 partner salons, reach over 70k recurring users and attract investments of 2 million euros. All these achievements in just 18 months.

I believe there is always a risk, in any kind of decisions you make, but we are optimistic that we are managing this start-up well and we’re going to develop it more and more and do great things for the beauty industry, in Romania and abroad.

In my opinion, an entrepreneur should take into consideration changing the business plan or even some objective, because the market is changing, you need to be there, in the context, to be flexible and to make some smart moves, at the right moment.

How do you feel these unpredictable moments will affect the startups industry? And more specifically, the beauty industry, in which you are?

Founders of tech start-ups who plan to attract investments must be ready to demonstrate higher growth rates and that they offer solutions to real problems in business and society. At this stage, a new economic cycle is starting and everything we have seen as big tech also started at such a time, in a previous cycle. So it’s a good time to start, it’s a good time to invest, but you have to change the mindset a little bit with a focus on pragmatism, on the numbers. It is also an opportunity for the local ecosystem to emerge from this period of affirmation. I think that the ecosystem in Romania, in South-Eastern Europe, can start to prove itself, to focus on numbers, on real achievements. I think we managed to learn and sell in international markets.

What qualities do you think an entrepreneur needs to have in insecure situations like  this one? Maybe a golden rule?

If you want to be the best of the best, top 1%, there is no generally valid rule or written somewhere in the books. You have to discover by experimenting. Specifically for the next 6-18 months, the founders have to predict, prepare, and persevere. During insecure situations, an entrepreneur must be antifragile.

Which are your plans with Stailer for the next months and years? Are you aiming at developing the platform all over the country or is international expansion your priority?

At a national level, we reached our development goals – we dominate the market, and we think it is an opportune moment to scale the business internationally. We have the necessary resources both in terms of capital and a level of product maturity that allows us to take the next step.

The Hungarian market is similar to the Romanian one in terms of consumer behavior, regarding beauty services. Moreover, the lack of a relevant player in this market was another important element for which we chose Hungary as the first country to expand.

On the other hand, we also chose Turkey because it is an emerging market with fantastic potential. For example, in Istanbul there are over 18 million inhabitants and 23,000 beauty salons. By comparison, there are only 1,000 in Bucharest. To our surprise, even in Turkey there is still no big player dominating the market, which will allow us to quickly penetrate it, through the accelerated growth of the number of salons and the volume of online appointments, made through Stailer.

You have started Stailer in a moment of crisis, in 2020. We are now in another type of crisis caused by the war at the Romanian border. Could this be an opportunity for some business people? When do you think is a perfect moment for developing a startup?

Regardless of the economic period we are going through, there will always be opportunities. As long as you have a strong team and a validated product, you will be able to access venture capital. This will bring you leverage to recruit even better people, with whom you will have better results, so you will attract more investments. It is a loop, whoever manages to attract the most money from the market will dominate the market.

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