Just like Rent the Runway’s co-founders, there are a ton of women who have leapt into the uncharted, often-insane world of entrepreneurship. We’re inviting these risk-takers to be part of a community we’re calling The Real Runway: a collection of voices to motivate and inspire your own runway, whatever that may be.
It all started with… a rushed eyebrow wax.
Coco Meers was a top marketer for L’Oreal working out of New York and Paris. As such, she spent a lot of time in airports. During a flight delay on a work trip, Coco was frustrated when she couldn’t use her downtime for an eyebrow wax. This sparked the idea for PrettyQuick, a beauty concierge app that makes finding and booking beauty appointments easy for women on-the-go. Since 2012, the Chicago-based service has expanded to five more cities and this year, was acquired by Groupon. Find out how this business woman discovered her true entrepreneurial spirit.
Jumpsuit (top image), Cedric Charlier
Can you take us back to your “Aha!” moment?
There are these seemingly meaningless moments that unexpectedly change your life. Mine happened to be when I was stuck in the airport that day. I knew I wasn’t the only woman who’d had a moment like that. Women have increasingly more on their plate and it’s that much harder to take care of ourselves. At the time, marketplaces like restaurants, hotels and fitness were being disrupted by technology, and it just didn’t make sense to me that the beauty industry — a $50 billion industry — was lagging behind. There was a huge open market, but no unifying platform. I was up for the challenge.
What was it like transitioning from your more traditional marketing career?
It’s a choice at the outset, of course. The reason that I decided to make the leap and try to build something on my own was because I had this daily frustration of trying to knock everything off my to-do list. And I had an idea of how to make things better. The startup community in Chicago was also a big motivation. I consulted for a number of startups and was really inspired by these founders who sacrificed everything to build something that they believed in. They were so fired up about their life and they loved what they did. I wanted to leap just like they had.
I wanted to design my life as opposed to being handed something to work on.
Bag, Kotur; Jumpsuit, Cedric Charlier
Have you had to learn how to respond to hearing “No?”
You just don’t take no for an answer. What we’re doing makes sense — the solution that we’re building follows the most basic laws of microeconomics. You have to stay persistent, believe in your value, and hang on until you get your “yes.” I can’t tell you how many merchants who said “no” for days, weeks, and sometimes even months are not only on our platform, but are and super happy and getting tons of customers through us.
What’s it like getting to write your own rules?
There’s nothing more fun than making your own rules. I love having the ability to be creative every single day and work with passionate and talented people. I make sure that everyone I work with feels like they are a driving influence behind this business. I’ve enjoyed having the line between work and life evaporate, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. Some of the pressure is off now that we’ve been acquired by Groupon — and that’s been really great for everybody. But there’s still so much ahead of us. We all still feel that we’re building innovative solutions that don’t yet exist. There’s a really thrilling aspect to all of that.
I’m so passionate and get so excited when things are good. But if you learn to level things out, it saves valuable energy that you need in order to keep going.
How does style factor into your life as a beauty entrepreneur?
My personal life and work have become one, so my style has become one and the same, too. I really love that moment during my morning routine when I get to shop my closet. Putting myself together to express myself authentically makes me feel ready for the day. Whether I’m meeting with an investor or salon owner, speaking at a conference, or in the office with my team, I don’t need to change my style for any of those audiences.
Bracelet, Lele Sadoughi; Skirt, DSQUARED2
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned?
There are always roadblocks and twists and turns. When your business involves real customers and real numbers, you have to adapt. You cannot be afraid of change. If you run into an obstacle, you have to find a different direction. That’s the only way you will make a meaningful impact.
What makes the risk worth it?
There are some really, really dark moments that happen while living the entrepreneur life — everyone is telling you “no,” you basically don’t have any money, everyone who chose to work with you took a pay cut. It’s not like there’s one moment where all of that suddenly goes away and everything is fine. But, there are small victories that lead to bigger victories that lead to even bigger victories. Sometimes it’s two steps forwards and four steps back. But the whole creative process of designing a solution that’s meaningful to you and others — that’s rewarding.