Age of Non-contact; No Salon Visit Required
Wig platform “Upgrade” connects hair stylists and clients online
As the Covid-19 pandemic prolongs, many beauty supply retail stores are suspending wig try-on for hygienic reasons. It is to minimize the spread of virus by limiting physical contact, but for clients, it is making them hard to check the fits and looks before an expensive purchase. Today, you would witness many hesitant walks in a wig section. There are websites offering online purchase of wigs, but many customers prefer to touch and inspect wigs in person and try out styles on themselves at a brick-and-mortar store. However, the try-on opportunities are disappearing at retail floors due to the concerns about viral infection, and the inconvenience is growing. Here, an online wig purchase platform Upgrade Boutique came into play.
Harvard Business School graduate Winters founded Upgrade in 2019 based on her childhood experience. Winters explains her story behind the startup as “I’ve used a lot of time and money for hairstyling. I was tired of struggling to find what looks good on me, and I came up with the platform and followed through.” She grew up in a low-income household, and she has often visited a professional stylist in New York City. To get the styles she liked, she spent considerable amount of time and money. Despite the expenditure, she never felt the result was satisfactory. While studying at Harvard, she focused on finding ways around a hair startup.
Most online wig shopping malls offer ready-made, pre-styled wigs, but Upgrade offers a customized wig with a choice of length, texture, color, and so on, in addition to the ready-made ones. In addition, customers can hire a professional hairstylist for style consultation at the same time. When you purchase a wig from Upgrade, you will first select a wig type from the followings: full lace (high ponytail and up-dos), lace closure (low maintenance glueless application), U-part (blends with your leave out), and lace frontal (extra parting versatility); select a texture: body wave, 613 body wave, kinky curly, exotic wave, deep wave, and straight; select a length: 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, and 30; and select a cap size. And you can add customizing at the end.
You can upload a photo of color or style that you desire and pay a certain fee to a hair stylist for consultation. It takes about 7-10 days for your wig to be delivered at home. The stylists listed at Upgrade typically charge $120 to $300 for styling. It is not a small fee. While providing customers of convenient way to shop and customize a wig, the customized wig platform also provides opportunities for stylists. Upgrade also offers micro-loans to support their business.
It recently opened a brick-and-mortar store in Houston. You can bring your wigs purchased online to the store and have a stylist install them. For next a few years, Upgrade plans to open branches in New York, Los Angeles, and other major cities. Her vision is to provide customers to purchase wigs more conveniently and at the same time provide stylists of resources for their work.
The industry is responding positively to Upgrade’s new way of business. Mary J. Blige wore Upgrade wigs at Super Bowl LVI. Also, in early May, seed leaders Artemis Fund, Mercury Fund, Logitech President and CEO Bracen P. Darrell and ANIM have announced seed funding to be expanded to $1 million. Nonetheless, the customer feedback has been lukewarm. If you take a look at the reviews, some customers loved receiving a perfect wig while others complained of delayed shipment and delivery, disagreement with stylists, and so on.
It seems to be a long way to dominate the hair market, but the CEO is listening to customers’ feedback and working to fix issues, keeping the future bright. Founder Winters said, “all women have rights to be beautiful, and it shouldn’t be hard to make it happen. I will continue to work hard to make women happy and satisfied.”
As the non-contact age prolongs due to the coronavirus, many entrepreneurs are finding a niche market. New challenges and attempts are constantly made. Beauty supplies are one of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic. As the nail shops and salons closed the doors, many customers who opt in for self-styling visited beauty supply retail stores to purchase goods and materials. The beauty supply stores should not settle there. Younger generations are not only sensitive to trends and focusing on saving money but also looking for high quality goods even at a higher cost. Beauty supplies should take a note and make an effort to advance.