I had the pleasure of meeting the founders of LeSalon, an app that allows you to book manicures and pedicures at home or your office. Currently the service is available in London with plans for more locations in the future.
Founders Natasha Pilbrow and Jean-Michel Chalayer created LeSalon to allow freelance nail technicians, and working mothers in particular, to work flexibly while earning a good living, without the contrainst of working in a traditional salon.
The convenience element of LeSalon is to have a high quality manicure or pedicure (including Shellac) in the comfort of your home or even during your lunch break in the office.
I was treated to a lovely pedicure at the LeSalon London offices in Barbican (I live outside of their current “catchment area”).
About the Founders
Natasha Pilbrow is a mother of two who was formerly a successful film lawyer. Natasha knows from personal experience how difficult it is to fit a beauty regime into a busy schedule.
Jean-Michel Chalayer has a background as a strategy consultant and his main interests are technology, strategy and product development.
I asked Natasha a few questions about LeSalon.
Paola: How did you come up with the LeSalon concept?
Natasha: When I worked as a lawyer I worked long hours and it was hard for me to get to anywhere for beauty treatments so I was always on the lookout for that elusive mobile professional who came with a personal recommendation. When I got given the name of new girls, whom I then subsequently booked, I talked with them about their experiences and how they found it. I recognised that it is actually very hard from their point of view as freelancers, as women in an industry trying to build a client base. There are a lot of obstacles in their way, in terms of concerns about safety, how they advertise, what’s an appropriate forum, do they want to be on Gumtree, would that bring the right kind of customer.
It’s very expensive for them the products themselves are really cost-prohibitive. If you are talking about a significant set of quality products it’s easily over £1,000. That’s a big hurdle to come up with £1,000 and none of the big brands really offer an incentive programme for them to buy in. They market to the big spas and the price of products comes down on the volume that you purchase so if you are a freelancer you’re never going to be someone that hits those kinds of margins.
So the more I heard about it from their point of view, from my personal experience having two small children, I was becoming really motivated by this concept of how do you work and do something you believe in, feel passionate about and don’t feel you are compromising.
Paola: Do you have plans to create a membership scheme?
Natasha: Ultimately we would hope to expand our services and do it so there is a membership. The reason we launched with one service is because we want to really have the trust factor, the confidence that we do things really well, so Iwed rather do one thing really well and then build it up from there.
Paola: So is the main factor in setting up LeSalon the idea to give work opportunities to working mothers?
Natasha: It is for working mothers but also for all women who want to work flexibly. If you give a lot to them in terms of the opportunity to hone their skills, increase their confidence and earn decent money, you will attract an amazing calibre of professionals who are loyal and motivated, and will ultimately provide a much better service.
Mothers are massively loyal and committed because they are often restricted in terms of when they can work and also what we offer as a company and as a brand probably resonates more for them.
The whole at home service is quite daunting, but you meet the team, meet the girls, create a sense of community. We’ve got a facebook community page where they all update their pictures and ask questions. That’s one of the things we want to do, do some video blogs with our technicians.
I loved nail technician’s Emma nail colour, which she had on her hands, so I picked the same for my pedicure.
After filing and treating the cuticles, she applied the nail polish swiftly and, because I was interviewing Natasha at the same time, I didn’t even realise how fast she worked until she told me the pedicure was done. Emma was very efficient and has a great manner – she is one of the founder nail technicians for LeSalon and is responsible for the outreach strategy for the brand.
I thought the concept behind LeSalon of giving working mothers more opportunities to earn as self-employed technicians to be clever and well timed. Working in traditional salons means working long hours and the rate of pay can be quite low. Self-employed nail technicians can take years to build a solid client base, so using an agency like LeSalon makes sense.
Main picture credits: LeSalon
Pedicure picture: Paola Bassanese