meet coco: chicago beauty and technology entrepreneur

 

Coco Meers, PrettyQuick, peoplewithpanache.com

“Swing for the fences in terms of fundraising and goal setting—be very aggressive,” Coco says. “If your goal is to make money, you should not be raising venture capital unless you can see the path to being a billion dollar business.”

You are important.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of self-care. Not just that you should do it—re: every self help book and inspirational quote ever—but what it actually means. For me, it has two parts.

Part one is reflection. People spend a lot of time getting to know each other, and not enough time getting to know themselves. How can you care about what others need if your own needs aren’t being met? Answer: You can’t. It’s like the airplane mask thing; you have to put yours on first. Reflection helps you dial in to what’s going on with you right now, your wants and needs, what kinks need to be worked out, what path you’re on. Without this kind of knowledge, it actually becomes harder to form healthy relationships with other people.

The tough part? You guessed it: time. Spare me the saga; we’re all busy. So, I practice taking mini moments to self reflect many times throughout the day… on the bus, walking to the grocery store, in the shower, basically any time I’m in a bathroom. I savor those moments—that’s usually when the aha happens! I stop thinking about everyone else for just a few minutes of my day and, instead, think about how I’ve been feeling and behaving, what I’m doing and if it aligns with my beliefs and aspirations—then what can I do to change it if not. This daily practice keeps me focused and centered on my way forward.

Part two is relaxation. At the end of a long week, I sometimes need to relax and recharge, spend a little time doing something just for me: no thinking required. Afterward, I have renewed energy and vitality, I’m more fun to be around, and I’m ready to take on the world! I love evening yoga class (instead of my grueling 6am classes I normally stumble out of bed at the crack of dawn for), reading this month’s book club pick, watching Castle on TV or getting a mani/pedi.

PrettyQuick, People with Panache

The PrettyQuick app! All those pink dots are salons, but don’t worry, there are more when you zoom in. Happy salon hunting!

In fact, last Friday I got my first pedicure in 3 months—complete with a free glass of red wine. I love pedicures because you physically can’t do anything else—your feet are literally trapped. If you find that as relaxing as I do, or if you don’t but still find yourself in need of personal grooming services, I’m delighted to introduce you to my favorite beauty app ever: PrettyQuick—the first truly wonderful and actually convenient app for all things beauty. Founded by entrepreneur and savvy business woman Coco Meers, PrettyQuick allows you to see what salons in your area have available appointments at any time—from nails to blowouts to hair cuts to massage, facials and tans—and you can book the appointment, pay and tip all through the app. AND the beauty of it—pun intended—is that it’s actually the same price or cheaper than a regular appointment. Love.

People with Panache: Coco, you always knew you wanted to be an entrepreneur. Why this particular endeavour?

Coco Meers: I started a business that’s all about making it easier for women to take care of themselves. That’s the whole point of PrettyQuick. I was ultimately driven and passionate about creating this solution because I wanted to use it myself, and I thought it would be nice for other women.

PWP: I really appreciate that. Sometimes it’s hard to find that balance in our lives—even though we all know how important it is to take time for ourselves—so any little thing that makes it easier is life changing! How did the idea for the app come about?

CM: My story is the same as everyone else: time is strapped. I know I’m not alone there—I really do LOVE what I’m doing, and I jam pack my days. I have a baby girl, my sister lives here, I love my husband, we love to travel, I like to see all my friends, I really do love work, and I work really hard.

Coco and Danielle, People with Panache

Coco with her head of sales Danielle Drabkin. “The mission of by women for women is still so core to what we do,” Coco says. “I am very driven to change the gender dynamic. The biggest thing I think for women in tech is it’s hard when there are not enough female developers when you are solving a problem where the solution focuses on women. Even if male developers are interested in the problem space intellectually, it’s hard to get them interested in building the solution. So I think my advice on that is learn, know your audience, and learn how to talk to male developers and engineers about the problem space and not necessarily about the consumer problem.”

I was traveling one day in my last job before going to business school (Ed. Note: at University of Chicago, coincidentally with Liz Tilatti of ZipFit Denim!) at L’Oreal in Paris, and I had a flight delay, which happens in life sometimes. So I suddenly had extra time I don’t usually have, and thought: what do I want to do? In that moment, ALL I wanted to do was get my eyebrows waxed. You know when it’s been too long and you need a shape, and I needed a tint, desperately, and I wanted to do that with the 45 spare minutes that I had. And I realized I could do everything else on my phone. I could book a restaurant, get a car, book a hotel room for that night—there was an app for literally everything, but there was absolutely no way for me to know what aestheticians were close by, recommended and available at that point to wax my eyebrows.

PWP: I mean, I’m sure we’ve all experienced a similar situation. Or even if you move and you don’t know what salons are in the area. It seems like such a simple and common problem. How has it taken so long for an app like this to exist?

CM: Ideas are a dime a dozen, many people have had that idea. It’s not lost on anyone that this is a $70 billion industry with no marketplace, no place where supply and demand meet. There are entrepreneurs and hotel day spas and hair salons and they’re all different types of businesses and they all have different types of management and software and none of those speak to each other. They’re not all on one platform, and you, as an individual user, absolutely can not go to one place and have all of that information. So it’s a massive problem space.

PWP: So, naturally, you wanted to come up with a solution! What happened next?

CM: I thought this was a no brainer, so I went to business school and put together a team of really smart people to try to figure out how to solve this. We launched the first version of PrettyQuick in 2011—which totally failed—and then launched the real version two years later in 2013. We went to the fundraising community, but raising money around a concept where the target market was female and by and large the capital sources were controlled by men, there was fundamentally a mismatch. But, we got some great advisors and investors behind us and made some really good progress.

Coco Meers, peoplewithpanache.com

Coco’s daughter Poppy is turning 1 year old tomorrow on March 9! Happy Birthday, Poppy!

PWP: And you were very recently acquired by Groupon—congrats! That’s huge! How has that changed the business, and how will it help you grow?

CM: Groupon has so much to gain by our success and vice versa. Groupon has built the leading deals business in the world. With that comes a lot of small business customers and a lot of users like you and me, and so Groupon is very interested in offering more and different values. Groupon has evolved a lot. Their problem is they have users who don’t use it habitually. PrettyQuick has technology that people use all the time, every time they need a manicure, every time they need to book something. You’re not only booking a manicure that’s a good value, it’s also really convenient. So long story short, Groupon sought us out to expand some of its thinking, operations, booking and consumer facing technology.

PWP: What’s next for you? You seem like the type of person who would have a million great ideas.

CM: Ultimately, I want to invest in great entrepreneurs. I want to stay focused and invest in women too. I want to advise great companies, and I hopefully want to start more. It’s so much fun and so creative to start something from scratch and put together all the little pieces and make a bunch of mistakes. You never know what to expect from your day and there are these awesome moments and these really bad moments, and you’re doing different stuff all the time. It’s extremely rewarding to me to have that much variability in a day, that much to gain and that much to lose. You’re really putting everything on the line.

And it seems like it’s paying off! The app is currently only in Chicago (use code pwp15 for $15 off!), so if you live elsewhere, THANKS FOR READING, and be on the lookout! I know they eventually aim to expand to… everywhere. And, for the record and totally unsolicited by Coco, I used the app last week and it was a seamless process. It actually felt a little weird just walking out of the salon without handing anyone money. But I loved it!

[Photos courtesy of Coco Meers and PrettyQuick.]

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