Empowering Beauty and Wellness Professionals to Be IndependentBy Ana Ramos | Thu, 07/28/2022 - 09:00
Who does not want to be their own boss? Who does not want to be in control of their own time? Who would not want to earn more? Latin America is full of solo entrepreneurs. Some of them by choice and some of them as their only hope to earn an income because of the lack of opportunities for them. The region is a breeding ground for entrepreneurs but not just the tech entrepreneur who raises money from a VC at million-dollar valuations. I am talking about entrepreneurs like Isaac, who provides moving services and promotes his business on SegundaMano (Latin America’s Craigslist), or Jessica, who provides at-home massages and pays her boyfriend to manage her agenda. Those are the real Latin American entrepreneurs (145 million people in 2019 to be precise, according to Statista).
Besides having the right macroeconomic characteristics to breed low-skilled entrepreneurs (low level of education, low level of capital and lack of formal employment opportunities), Latin America’s increasing internet penetration (75 percent in South America, 70 percent in Mexico and Central America and 66 percent in the Caribbean. Statista, 2022) has provided digital tools that make it easier for solo entrepreneurs to start their journey, especially to promote their services online. The internet era has shown that there is opportunity in disintermediating industries. In matching up the people who matter in an ecosystem and cutting out the middlemen who provide little value (yet often take the highest cut of all). COVID-19 provided even greater fuel for this disintermediation in services industries when brick and mortar businesses were forced to close temporarily and all those service providers working for those businesses had to move online to monetize their skills.
In the specific case of the beauty and wellness services industry, there have traditionally been many middlemen who essentially do nothing but aggregate professionals and provide a location for business to be done. Salons and spas can take up to a (frankly abusive) 70 percent cut of a professional’s earnings, even though they cut no hair, paint zero nails and massage no shoulders. Additionally, they usually provide very poor working conditions for professionals and expect them to wait around idle for hours when it’s their responsibility to bring in customers. They’re also notorious for not providing the best customer experience by making customers wait even when they have an “appointment” or have buggy websites for customers to book online (although the majority use WhatsApp to book appointments).
When professionals have their own products and the salon or spa location can be replaced by using the customer's home, the benefits can be enormous for both professionals and their clients. Professionals earn better and are the owners of their own time. Considering that 95 percent of beauty and wellness professionals are women, flexible working hours are key to managing their personal life without sacrificing their professional life when they become mothers. The benefit for customers is that they can forget about the logistical issues like sitting in traffic or finding somewhere to park (a problem that is particularly painful in Latin American cities) while also getting access to a wider range of scheduling times (professionals can offer wider booking times than the traditional opening times of brick-and-mortar salons and spas).
However, not everything is sunshine and rainbows. The path to entrepreneurship for low-skilled workers is more difficult than that of high-skilled workers (consultants, programmers) because the former usually lack the capital or tools to go solo. Platforms, such as Upwork or Etsy, have been adopted in Latin America by high-skilled workers to find new customers, manage work and receive payments. However, for low-skilled workers (who have to perform their services mostly face-to-face) the old school SegundaMano (in Mexico) or MercadoLibre are the platforms that are used, but these platforms are designed for selling products, not services.
We started Glitzi because of the need of millions of working Latin women to continue to look good and feel great without sacrificing anything in their busy schedules. Receiving a manicurist to do your nails in the comfort of your home at 8 p.m. on a Thursday when all salons were closed was the experience we aimed to provide with Glitzi. However, soon we realized that we were providing higher value to the beauty and wellness professionals, reflected by the 40x return for each professional that we onboard to our platform. Those solo entrepreneurs who have an at-home services microbusiness but lack the infrastructure to make them thrive are very underserved. At Glitzi, we have developed a special interest in them and we are looking to serve them by providing everything they need to develop their solo services microbusinesses; technology to manage bookings and customers and to receive online payments. It is a platform where they can have an online presence and acquire new customers and gain access to capital so they can start or develop their solo business by investing in products, tools or training.
Our vision is to become the platform that provides the infrastructure needed to empower beauty and wellness professionals in Latin America to be independent. We want every professional in the region to be able to take that leap of faith to start and develop their own at-home services microbusinesses if they want to. We envision a world where professionals work in salons and spas because they want to or because it is convenient for them, not because they have no other option or because they lack the infrastructure to achieve their dreams of being their own boss.
Are we expecting all traditional salons or spas to die? No. However, we believe that providing options and another opportunity path to beauty and wellness professionals can translate into better working conditions in traditional salons and spas for them. By giving professionals the option to be more independent, they have more bargaining power when negotiating to work for someone else in a salon or spa. Better working conditions for professionals translate into a better experience for customers in the US$34 billion beauty and wellness services market in Latin America.