Drybar’s Alli Webb Explains How She Turned Her Passion into an Empire

Maria Shriver sat down with Drybar founder Alli Webb on Thursday, October 13, for an energetic conversation about how she built her blow dry empire and writing her new book The Drybar Guide to Good Hair for All. Their discussion was part of Shriver’s conversation series, Architects of Change Live, in which Shriver talks to inspiring individuals who challenge what is, imagine what can be and move humanity forward.

With the idea of re-inventing the salon experience, Alli Webb opened the first Drybar location in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood in 2010. Webb started with eight chairs in her first salon. Now, she has grown the business to almost 70 locations in the U.S. and Canada and is on track to do $100 million in revenue in 2016. In addition to her company’s success, Webb just published her first book, The Drybar Guide to Good Hair for All, in which she gives practical tips for achieving the Drybar blowout at home.

In her conversation with Shriver, Webb discussed how she built her enterprise, the challenges and opportunities of being an entrepreneur and why hair is so important to her.

Use Insecurity to Find Your Passion

Webb said that she often felt lost and that her family worried about what she would do that would be of consequence.

“I often try to say to people, usually your purpose or your passion is sitting right in front of your face,” Shriver explained. “And I think what you said here is so important that you always struggled with your hair … And you took what was yours and what you were interested in and you turned it into a business.”

“It’s so true,” Webb said. “I mean, I say it all the time too, that it’s amazing that the thing you’re most passionate about gets overlooked. And we all, like, grow up and get jobs and do things that we’re supposed to do, but we’re missing the thing that really makes us excited to get out of bed in the morning.”

Reinventing the Blow Dry Experience

“I wanted it to feel different and special, and because I’m a longtime hair stylist, I understand how hair stylists think and feel,” Webb said. “But I’m also the pickiest client you’ll ever meet. That’s how this business was built.”

Webb said she differentiated from the traditional salon set-up by adding a bar and swapping mirrors for flat screen TVs that play chick flicks.

“We didn’t invent blowouts, but we created this much better experience around that to make it more enjoyable,” she said.

Lessons Learned

Shriver was one of Webb’s first clients at the original Drybar location, back when Webb was still giving blowouts.

“I was really intimidated,” Webb said of styling Shriver. “Then I saw her hair and I was like ‘Oh my God, I’m really intimidated now.’ But like clockwork … everything I wanted [you] to experience, [you] experienced.”

During that first appointment, Webb told Shriver that she had overspent and made a lot of mistakes putting the location together.

“It was very scary because we didn’t even know if this concept was going to work,” she confessed. “It was like, holding our breath. But then that first day, we opened, and there were lines around the block. Then we were like ‘Okay, we think this is going to work and it’s going to be great.'”

The Importance of Giving Back

Webb is not only giving the gift of good hair to women all over the country. She is also giving back to causes close to her heart, including partnering with City of Hope to support the fight against breast cancer, the disease to which she lost her mother.

“I think over the last couple of years since we’ve been so successful, you automatically start to feel like, ‘Okay, everybody’s been really good to us. We have to be good back.’ And I want to give back,” Webb said.

Webb and Drybar also work with Baby2Baby to help low-income children and families.

Be Good at One Thing

“When I first went in there, I was like ‘Why don’t you have manicures in here? Why don’t you do color in here? Because I can get it all done at the same time.’ And you were like, ‘I’m just focused on one thing,'” Shriver said to Webb.

Webb explained that it was important that she focused on one vision.

“I think you can be really good at one thing, and I think it’s hard to be really good at a lot of things in that kind of space,” Webb said.

The entrepreneur hopes to continue her blowout success by growing internationally, expanding Drybar locations and their product line.

Watch Maria Shriver and Alli Webb’s full Architects of Change Live conversation here:

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Kelsey Ducklow is the Social Media Manager at Shriver Media. She'd love to hear your ideas and feedback for the Architects of Change digital community! Connect with her here.

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