Like many entrepreneurs, Smoot Carter was inspired by Uber.
First, the effect was literal. Soon after seeing Travis Kalanick, CEO of the on-demand car service app, speak at a conference in 2013, Carter signed up as a driver and ended up giving over 4,000 rides. A year later, after he’d earned a master’s degree in religion at Yale, Carter wanted to try his own hand at creating an on-demand app.
The “Uber Of Beauty”
In February 2014, Carter founded GoodLook Holdings in Dallas, Texas, with his friend, Kyle Cooke.
“I wanted to focus on creating a portfolio of the highest-growth on-demand opportunities that improve people’s lives—that get you products and services more efficiently and help improve your day,” Carter says.
He was tapping into a sizable market. As of October 2015, more than 22.4 million consumers were spending $57.6 billion a year on on-demand services, according to the National Technology Readiness Survey.
Carter and Cooke decided to start with beauty services. They’d noticed the wild popularity of Drybar, a salon chain providing “blowouts,” and thought they could offer similar services on demand.
After raising $1.42 million, they launched Blownaway, a mobile app for booking on-demand hair styling and makeup services, in July 2014.
Improving The App With Gigster
Like many fledgling startups, Carter didn’t have enough resources to hire an in-house team of developers. So he outsourced, initially hiring contractors from a company based abroad. Carter found it difficult to communicate with them, and he says the code they produced was overly complex and full of bugs.
That’s when he turned to Gigster. His product manager and team of engineers cleaned up the code on Blownaway’s iOS app, built an Android version, and improved the administrative back end, resulting in fewer bugs.
They also added new features, such as tipping, push notifications, and the ability for customers to pick specific stylists.
They also added a new platform aimed at Blownaway’s new business target: groups and events, such as corporations, weddings and conventions.
“We learned over time that a captive audience is what we need to focus on, not one-off bookings,” Carter says.
Expanding As A One-Man Band
As a one-man operation, without having any developers in-house, Blownaway has been able to expand to six cities and facilitate 10,000 appointments with hundreds of stylists. The improved app has had fewer dropped appointments and disconnects.
Blownaway has already launched partnerships with corporations such as AT&T. Now Carter is planning to expand to other services, such as manicures, massages and pilates.
Gigster’s platform allowed Carter to track the progress of developers as they hit milestones, which helped the project stay on budget.
And Gigster’s product manager has also helped Carter plan for the future: “He helped us evaluate decisions on what we’re going to do next and allocate capital,” Carter says.
“It’s like having a super-elite advisor helping us out. And with us not being a San Francisco-based company, working with him gives us that Silicon Valley access.”
A Portfolio Of On-Demand Apps
Carter decided to stick with Gigster as he built out GoodLook Holdings’ portfolio of on-demand apps. Rather than starting from scratch each time, he’s been able to adapt the same underlying technology for scheduling and delivery of a variety of products and services.
“Project by project, we’re coming up with new applications for the technology,” Carter says. “That’s very cost-efficient for us.”
Since November 2015, he has worked with Gigster on at least seven projects. He can manage all of them from one easy-to-use online platform.
One of these ventures was a branded on-demand app for SWEGS, a healthy “fast casual” restaurant chain based in Louisiana. Carter had Gigster develop the app, the delivery platform, the administrative back end and the automated delivery website within four months.
“Gigster was very quick and helped us achieve our goals in getting the product to market,” Carter says. With Gigster’s help, he’s planning to create more branded apps for restaurants.
“I was so enthralled by Uber that I wanted to do something like them,” Carter says. Now he’s well on his way to making his mark in the on-demand economy.
If you’re looking for help expanding your vision, Gigster can help.