Beauty made easy

Duncan McEwin and  Sharon Liu. Photo by: Leah Lucas

Duncan McEwin and Sharon Liu. Photo by: Leah Lucas

In summary: 
  • Business/law students Sharon Liu and Duncan McEwin are the brains behind BeautyListed – an online community featuring independent reviews of beauty salons
  • The start-up, which has already seen 800 salons sign up, found its feet after Liu and McEwin enrolled in UTS accelerator Hatchery+

When business/law student Sharon Liu wanted to find a salon that specialised in Asian hair, she realised there was no online community with independent reviews like in the restaurant and entertainment industries. While fellow student Duncan McEwin is the first to admit he doesn’t share Liu’s passion for balayage and shellac, he immediately recognised the opportunity. The two have just taken their start-up BeautyListed to the next level in UTS accelerator Hatchery+.

Sharon Liu

Sharon Liu. Photo by: Leah Lucas Sharon Liu. Photo by: Leah Lucas

I’ve always been interested in start-ups and entrepreneurial stuff and I knew Duncan was too. One day after class we discussed potential business ideas. We were talking about industries that haven’t been touched by technology and I said that the beauty industry was one of them. I knew because I’d spent hours and hours online trawling for reviews of salons that specialised in straight Asian hair.

Even though beauty isn’t one of Duncan’s passions, he recognised the opportunity; he also saw that it’s a huge deal for dudes these days. And it’s not like he’s a grub. He grooms himself well. I think he actually has a bit of an interest in male grooming. But I don’t think he’s going to be sporting a man bun any time soon!

Duncan is really good at the technical side of things - he’s much better at talking to our technical developer who’s based in Romania, and he’s much nicer too. Once, I jumped on Google Chat to talk to our developer. He thought I was Duncan and expressed some concern. “Are you happy with my service?” he asked. It turned out I wasn’t using enough emojis!  I guess I’m more direct. I do most of the talking to clients - I talk a lot. I also nag Duncan to get things done. Duncan says, “Why do you have to be so annoying all the time?” He also tells me to calm down a lot. Sometimes I’m a bit too hasty.

Duncan, on the other hand, is very chilled out about everything. Sometimes I think he needs to be less chilled out. But that’s why our business partnership works. We balance each other out.

Salons have been overwhelmingly positive about BeautyListed – we’ve had 800 sign up. Getting into Hatchery+ was really great for us. We found out about it through a friend and got in when another team dropped out. The mentors helped us to solidify our plans and focus. What we’re working on now is getting more users on board to give reviews.

I’ve just finished studying and have accepted a graduate position in a law firm next year. In the meantime I’ll be working as hard as I can on BeautyListed. I like law and I’m interested in practicing it but I also want to have something that’s my own. I think the idea of creating a solution to a problem is the most satisfying thing. BeautyListed allows me to be a bit creative as well, so it’s not all law books.

Duncan McEwin

Duncan McEwin. Photo by: Leah Lucas Duncan McEwin. Photo by: Leah Lucas

I don’t know why Sharon said I’m interested in male beauty; I’ve gotten my haircut at the same place for the last six years – $18, same haircut. What interested me about a start-up for the beauty industry was the feasibility of it. When we looked at it we saw that the industry really hadn’t been touched by technology, as Sharon said. For the most part their booking systems haven’t changed for the last 30 to 40 years.

We saw that while the restaurant industry had Urbanspoon (now Zomato), there’s nothing for salons. I also liked the idea of having creative control. Having worked in a law firm, and felt like a little cog in the wheel, I wanted to do something that I had ownership over and where I could see direct impact.

Hatchery+ really helped us to focus – we’d been tinkering on things here and there but with no real momentum or plan. It sounds like such a cliché when people talk about the energy in the room pushing them forward but it really was the case. It wasn’t so much like there was an energy, as seeing everyone else working through the same sort of issues. That really spurs you on. We achieved so much in the three months, too. We set up our business plan and nailed down our value proposition. Our mentor, Andy Wright, from For The People really helped us move things along.

Even though Sharon and I are very different personalities, we have a similar approach to the business. While other teams had some pretty fundamental disagreements on their direction, we’ve seen eye-to-eye right throughout. 

By next year we hope to have a lot more users on-board contributing to the site. Being lawyers we’re fairly cautious about making wild projections about revenue. Having said that, we’re pretty optimistic about the possibilities.