MAKING AN IMPORTANT PRESENTATION, chairing a board meeting or got a hot dinner date? But not enough time to head to a salon for a blow dry? Susanna Quinn, who knows from busy, has got an app for that. (And also to schedule personal training sessions, massage, makeup and yoga appointments). The native Washingtonian who’s married to former White House counsel Jack Quinn, cofounder and chairman of QGA Public Affairs, has an active social life, plus she’s the mother of a high-school-age daughter, a three-year-old son and stepmother to Quinn’s four children. She came up with the idea for her company, Veluxe, about a year ago and launched this past January. MyLittleBird recently chatted with her about the business of bringing fitness and beauty services to your living room with just four clicks on a smart phone.
MLB: How did you decide to call the company Veluxe? Does it stand for anything? Very luxurious, maybe?
SQ: Initially, I wanted to name it Velox, which means speed in Latin. (I took a lot of Latin in school and I’m a fanatic about it.) Unfortunately, that domain was taken, so while I was searching for another, I came across Veluxe and liked it even better, so I bought the name.
MLB: Who’s your target audience?
SQ: Busy women — lawyers, lobbyists, high-profile administration staff, stay-at-home moms. One of our clients is a cabinet secretary; another a former cabinet secretary. We’ve got several younger women who like to train before they head to work. They share the session and split the cost.
MLB: How much do Veluxe services cost?
SQ: A blow dry is $65; makeup, personal training and yoga are $95; massage is $120. Our prices are competitive, especially when you consider that all services include tax and tips.
MLB: Why did you decide to do an app?
SQ: The technology’s here. Uber made it possible for on-demand transportation; now people can have their own fitness and beauty entourage at a market price. Our economic model cuts out the middleman and makes it easier for providers to make more money.
MLB: Did you have any prior business experience?
SQ: I worked in real estate at W. C and A. N. Miller and then at Pardoe, which became Coldwell Banker during the late ’90s and in the early 2000s. I sold more than $10 million in real estate during one year. It was a consumer-oriented business and I was good at it. (It also helped that I was good in math.)
MLB: People in the D.C. area have crazy schedules. When are the services available? From when to when? How far do you have to book in advance?
SQ: They’re available every day 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., with advance notice of three hours. Earlier appointments can be arranged, too, for clients who need their makeup and hair done for early-morning meetings.
MLB: Services only are as good as the person doing it. How do you vet your people? The idea of strangers coming into your home could be a little scary.
SQ: We have “curators” for makeup, hair and fitness who recruit and assess potential providers. A phone interview is followed up by a technical interview — a test workout or blow dry, for example. We also do an extremely detailed background report. (My husband is on the board of Academi, a security company.) We have about 50 providers and we’ve gotten no negative feedback.
MLB: How many customers do you have?
SQ: I’d rather not give you numbers but I can tell you the ones we have use services about five times a month.
MLB: What’s the next step in your business plan?
SQ: Expanding to other cities. We’ve got three in mind, but I can’t talk about it yet.
MLB: Reading anything good now?
MLB: You’re a native Washingtonian. Have a favorite spot in the city?
SQ: The Washington National Cathedral. I grew up close by, went to school at NCS; my grandparents are buried in the crypt at the cathedral and my parents are buried in the victory garden at St. Albans, so it feels very much like home to me. The Bishop’s Garden in the shadow of the cathedral is the most beautiful spot in Washington to me.
MLB: Do you have a go-to designer?
SQ: J. Crew T-shirts, Vince sweaters and Splendid leggings are my daytime uniform. For business or dressier occasions, I love The Row blazers and Carolina Herrera’s new line CH – elegant, sophisticated and a great price point.
MLB: How about sharing a makeup trick?
SQ: I use La Roche Posey Anthelios 50 tinted sunscreen every day. It gives me a finished but natural look and protects my skin from the sun all year round.