Disrupting Grooming With Barbershop Tech: Squire’s Songe LaRon On Mogul Watch
From Yale Law School to attorney to tech founder, Songe LaRon is disrupting the male grooming industry by enabling people to book and pay for barbershop visits on their cellphone.
LaRon is the co-founder of Squire, a barbershop scheduling and all-inclusive platform for barbers, barbershop owners and people who need haircuts.
By all-inclusive we mean Squire is building an ecosystem for the barbershop industry with its own software, partnering with Instagram to incorporate booking a haircut into people’s profiles, and telling the stories of Squire’s barbershop customers on the content site, Ultra.
Both in their 30s and living in New York City, LaRon and co-founder Dave Salvant set out to enter the entrepreneurial world. They focused on what they could improve in their daily lives and the lives of others.
They wanted a solution for men, not just in the African American community, but globally. Their app is helping men across the world to have a more efficient experience with the fundamental task of grooming.
The barbershop industry is expected to continue growing over the next several years, according to Statista. States like California are preparing for an influx of barber licenses and regulations. The founders of Squire are banking on this growth, and so are their investors who have provided around $3 million in capital to the startup.
These gentlemen set out to ensure they understood the problem they were solving from the inside out. They opened a barbershop and ran it.
“Many shops would be using two or three different (kinds of) software to run their business. They would use one thing for booking, one thing for point-of-sale payment, and something else for marketing and CRM. Technology is not their specialty, their specialty is cutting hair.” — Songe LaRon, co-founder of Squire
Songe LaRon spoke with Moguldom about building an ecosystem for the barbershop industry with Squire software, partnering with Instagram to incorporate booking a haircut into people’s profile, and telling the stories of Squire’s barbershop customers on the content site, Ultra.
Moguldom: Why did you start Squire?
Songe LaRon: I was at a law firm but knew I wanted to try and exit. I wanted something new and entrepreneurial. My co-founder (Dave Salvant) went to business school, and we both brainstormed ideas. One of the things we knew was important was that we wanted to solve something we would use. We wanted to solve a problem and to do something we understood. We came up with the idea of barbershops because the barbershop is kind of the quintessential service most men get on a regular basis. I have been going to barbershops since I was 6. However, they were super inefficient. There were often long wait times, cash-only establishments, having to text back and forth for appointments. It just didn’t make sense there was no technology addressing this area of life that was so important to me and so many others. So, we got the idea of how to use technology in barbershops. We started talking to people from all walks of life, all races, to see if this was only a Black barbershop thing or if this is a universal experience for men. Lo and behold we heard the same story from everyone: “I love getting a haircut, but I hate getting a haircut, you know? I love how it looks, but the process needs improving.” That’s kind of where the genesis of the idea (came from.) It was really like trying to solve something that I would use myself, that would make my life easier.
Moguldom: What do you think makes your product so different and makes barbers want to use it?
Songe LaRon: The origin of the idea was focusing on the customer, but over time I realized there was even more room for improvement and innovation when we look at it from the owner’s or the small-business owner’s perspective — the barber, the barbershop owner. Because of that, we got granular in thinking about how we build things custom to this specific industry. We opened a barbershop and ran a barbershop to learn on a deep level what they’re looking for and how to run a barbershop effectively.
Because of that, we discovered the key is building a full management system for barbershop owners to run their business and not just a booking app. What we created was a complete system that does everything a barbershop would need to run their business and include the consumer booking feature. Before Squire, many shops would be using two or three different software to run their business. They would use one thing for booking, one thing for point-of-sale payment, and something else for marketing and CRM. Technology is not their specialty, their specialty is cutting hair. Using all these different technologies is a pain point that we identified early.
Our whole thing is closing the loop and bringing it all into one ecosystem, kind of like Apple. Apple users love to stay in the Apple ecosystem. You have an iPhone, an iPad ad a laptop, and everything works together. We aim to build an ecosystem for this industry with our software. Everything works together, from the payment system, the appointment booking, payroll integration, marketing — all seamless, all easy to use right out of the box. This has been the main differentiator because nobody else took that approach until we did.
Moguldom: What do you think are some of the notable wins you’ve had so far?
Songe LaRon: Fortunately, there’ve been many wins. We recently expanded internationally. This was a significant move for us. We are now in Canada and have a great presence in Toronto. We’re expanding into Montreal and also London. This has helped to prove the thesis that not only is this something that men in American will use, but it has more global potential. However, that’s recent. As far as the history of the company, when we did the Y Combinator, that was a significant turning point. We graduated from YC summer of ’16, and it helped us grow and take the company to another level.
Moguldom: How much have you raised in capital?
Songe LaRon: We raised a little over $3 million. We hope to be a unicorn. We’re not quite there yet but we’re working our way there.
Moguldom: What are your thoughts on building a good team?
Songe LaRon: My thought is you should hire only when you need to. Hire to help the company grow and get to the next milestone because the more people you hire, the bigger your firm rate and the more overhead you need to budget. We’ve taken the approach of gradually increasing our team, and only when it makes sense as opposed to just hiring. I’ve seen some companies grow too fast regarding their employee rate. I wanted to make sure that we were very kind of circumspect in terms of hiring. Also, I would say building a good team involves hiring the right people. The quality of your people is going to be the quality of your business. I’d rather us take the time and make sure everybody we’re bringing on is awesome.
Moguldom: What does success look like for Squire?
Songe LaRon: Success for Squire looks like being the leading company in the state. Being a household brand on the barbershop side as well as on the consumer side. Being what people think of when people think about men’s grooming and technology. They think of Squire. And ultimately, we want to be a multi-billion dollar technology company.
Moguldom: How do you keep the creativity flowing to make sure that you have the best product or service for your clients?
Songe LaRon: So that boils down to customers and talking to them regularly. Something I try to make sure is part of our company culture, and a part of our DNA is that the customer is the center of our universe. The features we build are based on what our customers tell us and what they want and what would make their lives easier. And if we create something that is not well received, we can scrap it, or we’ll change it to make it better. That’s kind of the origin of how we think of building products and innovating. How can we take what currently exists and, based on our feedback from our customers, make it 10 times better than what they previously had? That’s always our goal.
Moguldom: What do the next five years look like for Squire?
Songe LaRon: Just continue growing. Five years from now we expect to be in a real dominant position in the industry. We plan to have a lot of the market share and continue to be No. 1 in this space. Continuing to expand our product offering. We’ve got innovative stuff in the pipeline we think our customers are going to like. Ultimately, we want to be more known on the consumer side as well. Everything we’ve been doing has been barbershop focused, really focusing on the supply. However, five years from now there’s a lot of exciting things that we could be doing as far as becoming a consumer brand.
Moguldom: Do you see an acquisition or anything like that in your future?
Songe LaRon: You know, never say never. It’s not what we spend much time thinking about now, because we’re still a very early company and we still have so much growth to do. However, I know that there are companies that are interested, but that’s not our priority right now.
Moguldom: What do you think people will say about your leadership in the organization years from now?
Songe LaRon: I hope that they will say that I lead the company successfully and that I empowered the people I work with to be at their best because I believe that’s the key to leadership. It’s not trying to do everything yourself or be a superstar. It’s identifying talented people, bringing them into your organization and then setting them up to win. That’s what I’ve tried to do, and I have a lot to learn but so far that’s what I’ve learned is the key to success. I hope that we’ll look back and say Songe was a great leader because he brought in all the best people and built a successful company.
Moguldom: Is there anything coming up or going on right now that we should share with the readers?
Songe LaRon: We just launched a partnership with Instagram that incorporates Squire booking into people’s Instagram profile. Consumers will start to see this expand more over the months. Additionally, people can follow our content side, Ultra, where we’re telling the stories of our customers.