Songe LaRon and Dave Salvant left their desks behind to create booking software for the nation’s 109,000 barbershops. Today, their fast-growing startup, Squire Technologies, is valued at some 60 times this year’s estimated sales and is featured on this year’s Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups.
Neither LaRon, a 37-year-old corporate lawyer, nor Salvant, who is 36 and worked in finance, had worked in a barbershop before — or run a small business of any sort. So, in 2016, they made a gutsy move: They spent $20,000 of the $60,000 of cash they had on hand to buy out the lease on an ailing barbershop in Manhattan’s Chelsea Market. “That gave us a test kitchen to develop the software,” recalls Salvant, the company’s president. “This was a huge gamble.”
They didn’t cut hair (which requires a license in New York State), but they did pretty much everything else: Ran the front desk, swept hair off the floor, ordered supplies, talked to customers. It was a crash course in how barbershops really operate. From the outside, a barbershop looks simple: Book an appointment, get a cut, pay with cash or a credit card. But behind the scenes are the complexities of a business in which barbers may rent chairs from the shop or receive different cuts of revenue, tips may be in cash or credit, and each barber may set their own schedule and their own prices.
LaRon and Salvant realized they had to rework Squire from a glorified appointment app to something that could handle all the nitty-gritty headaches of running a very particular type of small business.