Bespoke barbers in the big city: Get Smooth

Maya Kumar's new start-up Get Smooth brings bespoke barbers to the big city. Here's her start-up journey.

Maya Kumar’s husband Rich showed up for their wedding without a haircut, but not without trying. According to Kumar, the couple lived near two barbershops yet her husband struggled to find a time when the queues weren’t long or the shops weren’t closed. That’s when the proverbial penny dropped, and she decided to found Get Smooth.

Get Smooth brings barbershop services directly to customers’ home, office or hotel anywhere in London between 7am and 10.30pm every day. Since its launch in November 2015, Get Smooth has received over 4,000 customer bookings, despite not having an app, and its business partners include major brands like Uber, Paypal, Deliveroo and Spotify.

Here’s how it all began.

What does your business do?

Get Smooth delivers bespoke barbering services and personal grooming advice directly to your home, office or anywhere in between, from 7.30 am to 10.30 pm every day. Customers benefit from a unique, convenient, more comfortable, less awkward and high quality experience, while barbers have more control, variety, professional development opportunities and higher earning potential.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I was seeing people moving into the tech world, who found success in industries they weren’t even familiar with. They were the ones innovating their own careers to adapt to what people want from tech in their everyday lives. The rise of the on demand sector interested me greatly as I myself seek for greater convenience to enjoy beauty services, but I realised that no one was doing this for men in the UK. The idea was officially sealed to be focused on male grooming when my husband, Rich, turned up to our wedding without a haircut. Despite us living above two barber shops he struggled to find the time. And when he did go he’d be faced with a queue or a closed shop. The penny dropped that there was a gap in the market for a needs-based service for men that could help them think ahead and style with ease.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Men have never been more aware of how they look. In fact, a third of all men admit to spending at least 30 minutes or more a day on their appearance. They search online for grooming advice 10 per cent more than women do and we’ve seen the male grooming industry in the UK grow by 5 per cent in 2015 alone. In addition, the men’s grooming market is set to grow to £1 billion in the UK by 2018 and almost $50 billion globally. These data points, amongst others, pointed to the fact that men would cherish a mobile app that gave them the access to grooming services as often as they wanted and that fitted into their schedule with little effort on their side. Our growth to date (20 per cent compound monthly growth) even before a bespoke app was in place, proves this.

How did you raise funding, and why?

Fundraising at this stage can be quite an opaque process. You’re commonly faced with the chicken-versus-egg scenario, where you need to show growth to gain funding but you need funding to show growth. I needed to network, speak to as many people I know personally and who they know as well, so the net widens. I also reach out and apply to various seed funds and angel groups to find investors. Presently, funds from networking through direct introductions or referrals has worked well as has angel pitches where you get a chance to stand up and demonstrate your passion and belief to convince the investors why this investment opportunity should not be missed.

Get Smooth is currently crowdfunding on Crowdcube.  

Describe your business model in brief.

Get Smooth offers customers both on demand and recurring membership models, taking a 25 per cent fee for each booking (75 per cent going to the barber). We also run pop-ups and activations with different brands and companies (including YouTube, Spotify, Deliveroo, Uber), where where we offer bespoke corporate packages that employers can offer as a perk. We have been experimenting with product sales – a significant source of revenue for brick and mortar barbershops and salons – which is an obvious extension of the service. This will be rolled out over the next 12 months.

What was your first big milestone and when did you cross it?

The partnerships that we garnered just four to five months in with worthy brands like Diesel and GQ were really reassuring. These brands were excited about our idea and happy to endorse Get Smooth. I think also the loyal customer database we’ve built with no technology is really exciting.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

1. Don’t do it all alone– don’t think you can do it all yourself, get good people on board to help you with the challenging parts.
2. Plan, plan, plan– whether that be team tasks, priorities, marketing/PR and the rest. It will fall apart quickly without planning in place.
3. Innovate– think about your market fit and innovate all the time. Look at Google, they never stand still. They didn’t need to build a car or a robot but they’ve done it because it’s in their nature to keep moving ideas on.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

A more refined and learned entrepreneur who has the winnings but also scars from the venture. I want to be able to share my experiences and advise others embarking on the same journey. I am keen to empower other women to take the leap I have taken and to look at this on a scale beyond the group of women in the UK or Europe and look at localised projects globally where women are trying to be pioneers and better themselves as leaders of business in their respective towns and countries.

If you weren’t an entrepreneur, you would be…

Bored and uninspired…!

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.