Hanging with Venetia Archer from Ruuby

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Gen caught up with Venetia Archer from Ruuby. Ruuby is London's first digital beauty concierge, offering five star beauty services to private clients, corporates, hotel groups and luxury concierge services. Calling on our network of over 600 professionally vetted, experienced beauty providers, we deliver consistently high-quality beauty services to our clients. Services can be booked at the home, office, or hotel, and we also cater to large events, weddings and VIPs.

Watch our interview or read the transcript below:

Gen George: Hi Guys, I'm Gen from tamme and Like Minded Bitches, and today I've got Venetia here from New York and originally from London. How you going?

Venetia Archer: I'm good, I'm good. Excited to do our Facebook Live.

Gen George: Finally! So who the hell are you?

Venetia Archer: So, I am Venetia Archer, founder of Ruuby. We are an on-demand beauty bookings platform, currently operational in London. So yeah, I'm a founder, startup founder of Ruuby, and sort of, in the process of building up my business at the moment.

Gen George: Very exciting. And how have you guys gotten started and what is the traction to date?

Venetia Archer: How's the traction been to date?

Gen George: Yeah.

Venetia Archer: So we've been live for three and a half years, and it's definitely, it's taken a long time to essentially build the marketplace. So we offer you know, on demand beauty services, so we've had to build a network of freelancers, we have about 550 nearly 600 on our books. And obviously the respective client base as well. So speaking took a long time to really start to gain momentum. We've done some fundraising, but we haven't ...

Gen George: No.

Venetia Archer: ... We believe that to be a great benefit because we've been able to cultivate incredibly strong relationships with our freelancers, and also with our clientele. So you know, while rapidly gaining market share is obviously something that needs to be done, we've really gained solid traction in London, so that when we do that, which is the plan now, we'll be in a pretty strong place to do so.

Gen George: Fantastic.

Venetia Archer: But you know, traction wise, we've got a solid user-base, we've got a super user-base of our clientele. So they're using Ruuby about three times a month. We've got great traction on a B2B side, so we work with hotels and concierge services, [inaudible 00:02:18] to do corporate wellness, so definitely getting the word out there while we can.

Gen George: Awesome. And how did you go about getting those first couple of clients on, and professionals?

Venetia Archer: It was really actually a question of Instagram. We were very lucky. So, three and a half years ago, you didn't have millions of influencers with millions of followers and clients. It wasn't as broad as it is now. People kindly posted about us for free. It was really very sort of normalized at the time. And we really gained huge amounts of traction that way. I feel like it felt very honest on Instagram, and also we were one of the first platforms out there to do it in London, and so that's how we did it first. Obviously as well the friends and family effect. You know, literally telling everyone and anyone I knew to use Ruuby. And I'll say a little goes a long way in that sense. And I think definitely when starting out a company, having people close to you, building that social network effect, is incredibly valuable. Particularly in a consumer facing platform or a business like Ruuby.

Gen George: Fantastic. And attracting those first hires, when you were so new, you're not really sure where you're heading, what you're doing. As founders, you're sort of working it out, right?

Venetia Archer: Yeah.

Gen George: Still working it out. How did you communicate your vision to these people and convince then to work for you?

Venetia Archer: So, I feel it's a question of describing the big vision. And you know, finding people who understand where you're going and believe in the vision as well. It's not easy. It's most certainly not easy and particularly now that there are so many opportunities to join, potentially later-stage startups, with still huge amount of upside. It's challenging and it requires skills of diplomacy and salesmanship. So definitely engaging with people on that personal level, and on that story is really important, but then at the same time as well, we've used, for example, we have an employee share-option pool so bringing members of the team on and options over the course of their employment I think so they really do feel a part of it and identify that while it might not necessarily be the best paid position, there's definitely going to be ...

Venetia Archer: ...So that was something that worked as well.

Gen George: Awesome. And how you then manage, what's your team culture? How are you managing these people?

Venetia Archer: That's a really good question. And definitely something that I found my day and realizing, hold on, one of my key roles is management, actually. And I think for me, and maybe naively, it just jumped out at me one day. Now we have a team of 10 and so we're putting more management structures in place. Nothing too burdensome or anything like that, but I think for us, we have a very very relaxed culture, it's fun, it's creative, it's very flat. Everyone has a say in what we're doing, but at the same time, I'm incredibly strict about defining our KPIs, you know? And I think that as soon as those are clearly defined, which makes my life ...

Venetia Archer: ... All going in the same direction. So for us regularly checking in on those, weekly. Ensuring that my team is responsible for their own KPIs. It's not me collating them, it's actually the team who are doing that, really again helping with their buy-in, I think that works.

Venetia Archer: But in terms of the culture, I really wanna build something creative and dynamic and so, if people wanna work out of the office, then they can. And if someone has a great idea that's out of their remit, absolutely bring it to the table. I think that's one of the benefits of young companies. Obviously there are lots of pitfalls, companies started by people who are young entrepreneurs ...

Venetia Archer: ... Same time there's a kind of openness to create new norms and new structures which is something that I really believe in.

Gen George: Definitely. It's funny like I'm about to close up on the thirty year olds right? So at what point do we stop saying we're young? Desperately holding on to the young part, right?

Venetia Archer: My God, I used to be like the cool one in the office when I was in my former career, and they'd be like "Oh tell us about SnapChat" and now I still think I am but everyone in the office is I'm the old one, I need to pass that on.

Gen George: It's a tough one. And then how do you keep evolving yourself as a leader? Cause it's not like there's an education on how to handle this, you're working it out, we're all working it out as we go, so how do you make sure you're constantly keeping up with what the business needs as a leader?

Venetia Archer: I think it's incredibly challenging, because obviously you've got day to day, which needs constant overview on checking in and stuff like that. I mean not to the degree of micro-management. There's detail that needs to be constantly reviewed. Which can occasionally detract from broader professional improving at the founder level. So it's definitely something that I've really gone, been very up and down on, depending on what I'm working on. So for example if I'm doing a fund raise, I really find that it's difficult, it's a particularly difficult time, cause you're all in. You know, and it's hard to take the space to work on improving oneself as a leader.

Venetia Archer: But at the same time, there are quieter times and there are moments where you can take a step back, and when that does happen, I ensure that I get as much advice, and surround myself with people who are doing something similar to me, so other founders, other people who've built great things. Also, as well, we've actually just joined an accelerator, so we've joined the Founders Factory Accelerator in London. It's been incredibly beneficial, raising the bar on a number of sides of our business. Just in terms of that forward thinking, that strategy thinking, you know CEO, for me that's kind of I think of like a finishing school for start ups. So whatever external tools are available, make the most of them.

Gen George: Yep. And what are the, as a marketplace obviously, there's the joyous challenge of the chicken and the egg and working out how to scale your market place efficiently. What are the metrics that you guys look at to ensure that you guys are on track?

Venetia Archer: So for us, fundamentally, our biggest, the biggest inhibitor to our growth rate with our 550 therapists, we cannot keep up with the customer demand. So our real metrics are around therapist availability. So numbers on the platform, numbers of active availability and also the geographical spread of that availability. So we've got certain postcodes in London where we get a lot of bookings. And so tracking the supply in those areas is something that's really important to us. The revenue, the gross number of bookings, commissions, cause we've got a sort of tiered commission model, but really the one that we're pushing ahead on are beauty therapist capacity.

Gen George: Yeah. Great and do you do any like here in San Francisco, for example as an Uber driver, if you do 180 drives per week, or pick-ups per week, you actually get a 700 dollar, 700 US dollar cash bonus paid out into your bank account for doing so many jobs. Do you guys play around with incentives?

Venetia Archer: We do. We have a bonus, yeah definitely. We have a bonus scheme in place. It's not 700 dollars a week unfortunately. We have a bonus scheme. And so what we do, we sort of gamify the whole bonus process so, once they do a certain number of bookings, they get and it's highly achievable, so it's every six bookings, so it's the kind of thing, quite often our active therapists are doing six bookings a day, so numbers can keep jumping up. So what we've found is like small, frequent wins, has been most successful in building up their buy-in.

Gen George: Awesome. And as a startup obviously, the tools and the tricks that you use kind of further along are different from where you first started. What are some of the tools that you used day one that helped you get quicker traction or a better understanding of your business versus tools and things that you're using today?

Venetia Archer: God, that's a really good question. To be honest, when we started out we used a huge number of tools, we were so stretched, in terms of analytics ...

Venetia Archer: ... Analysis ourselves. Obviously we use Google Analytics, and that's always gonna be something that you need and that we love. But really it's been now that we really started to use useful tools. One that we use is the reporting dashboard on all the various metrics, and all of our KPIS which we can just log into daily. We also have a board on the wall, Geckoboard, I know a lot of startups use this, again with like key metrics. Obviously it's fun to have it up there so we can all like push to achieve our goals. And I'm actually looking into new loyalty programs as well so Mention Me is obviously something that a lot of people talk about. We built our own, quite specific version. But as we build that loyalty on the customer and therapists side, we're looking at platforms like Mention Me as well.

Gen George: That's great. And the future. Where are you guys heading? What's everyone got to look forward to?

Venetia Archer: I feel like 2019 is going to be our year. We have to build something that is scalable. And really now over the course of 2018, we achieved a few milestones that means I really think we're going to get there. So we made two acquisitions, one more sizeable than the other, but that really kind of pushed us forward in terms of gaining market share and building up clients. So now that we kind of have the London market, now that we understand the London market and we have the tools to really scale here, I think that there are great opportunities to replicate the model internationally. So that's on our to-do list for 2019. [inaudible 00:13:54] also what we've found is through building a strong brand, Ruuby is very much about being an authority in beauty services. Being a tool that time ...

Venetia Archer: ... Of the booking experience, so we'll be looking into that as well. And possibly also bricks and mortar. So we don't believe in having a whole network of salons, everyone always asks me this. No, we're an on-demand, [inaudible 00:14:35] but I think building an experiential amazing beauty concept store might be something quite cool which also introduces people to the brand and to our ethos, so we're looking to open something up in London in 2019.

Gen George: Very cool. And there was a business, I'm not sure if you saw it, Shoes of Prey? Custom designed shoes. They did that approach, they were purely online in Australia, and then when they launched in the US, they actually rolled out some physical stores in the department stores in Australia and the US instead of doing AdWords, they found they could just pay their rent, do a physical store, people would come in, they get used to the idea. Touch it, feel it and then they'd go home and order more shoes on their own. So maybe there's method to the madness.

Venetia Archer: For sure, I think so. You know beauty services are very personal and so we need to show people who we are and educate our customers on the products that we love and the new treatment types, treatment offerings that we're delivering. Face to face time is important there.

Gen George: Yeah, definitely. And there's been a lot of consolidation in the market, or in startups in general, Rover to Dog Buddy [inaudible 00:15:56] what do you think the future holds for your industry in startups?

Venetia Archer: Just in time, and people looking at very closely because no-one really knows, it's complex in that there is a relationship that's built between the freelancer and the client, and so it's people say that it's like the Uber of beauty, and I say it's not actually, because you're delivering a service within someone's home and building relationships. You know with Uber, the driver is almost a commoditized and used ...

Venetia Archer: ... You know, the different businesses are approaching that problem. And really, I think there is great opportunity and it's very much in its infancy, the on-demand model. People are getting more and more used to getting their beauty services done at home so the market is going to grow and I think there'll continue to be consolidation. Absolutely. I think there's probably space for also two or so players in each capital. You know, obviously there are sort of smaller niche boutiquey ones but really in terms on the big game I think there's space for about two. But you never know. Maybe there's going to be ultimate consolidation in five years, ten years and you're gonna have the one, the Amazon of beauty services. Who knows, but we're excited and we wanna be in it for the ride.

Gen George: Ruuby takes over the world? That's awesome.

Venetia Archer: For sure.

Gen George: Mental health in startups isn't really something that's discussed as broadly. How do you ensure that you're on top of your, you know, checking in with yourself as well as making sure your team are having the head space that they need?

Venetia Archer: God that's a really good question. And you're right, you know, running a startup is incredibly, you know financial pressure, team pressure and pressure to deliver, these crazy targets every month. Month and month again, so I think it's really, you know, one it's about kind of accepting this and there is gonna be times of extreme stress and I think by deciding to go on this journey, for me, I love that high risk, high reward rollercoaster, is this a calming life I've chosen for myself?, probably not.

Venetia Archer: But for me, the way that I manage it myself is by ensuring that I can. Because if there are failings, like there's nothing that could have been done and there are going to be those failings, but if I've done my best, best for myself and best for my team, that's all I can do. So really kind of just giving myself a bit of a break. And I feel that I'm much more successful in that than I used to be. Before it used to be don't raise the money or whatever it might be, and you're done, it's over, everything's over and now having almost lost all the money so many times and still being here, it kind of builds a bit more of a sign that things will be OK.

Venetia Archer: On the team side, I think it's very simple. I'm a real fan of just taking people out of the office. Getting everyone out of the office. Having creative times, you know. Going to a yoga class together, you know and just trying to all remember that we're actually, we just want to have fun too. It's important that we deliver but we don't want to do it if it's not going to be fun and educational to some degree.

Gen George: Yeah. You're lucky that you have a consumer product, right? It's something that you can actually do and experience together. Whereas for us, it's like oh we can give you a platform for your marketplace. It's not very exciting.

Venetia Archer: Oh but it is though. The numbers in and how much people are using it and learn about the new people. I think it's fun.

Gen George: You can't all go get your nails done together as a team building experience, right?

Venetia Archer: Yes you can.

Gen George: Well we can use Ruuby, that's for sure. No, I always get jealous of girlfriends that run businesses like Showpo, Jane Lu, she physical clothing brands, right. So she can actually go and experience that. Touch it feel it, and create those experiences with their team so it's pretty cool. But I guess, outside of all things Ruuby, what do you do to, I guess reading books, podcasts, you know, is there certain things that you go to or have mentors that really assist you with guiding the business?

Venetia Archer: Yeah definitely. I love, I mean I love podcasts. I love, I'm sure probably everyone says How I Built This I mean it's great fun [inaudible 00:21:00] I think there's a lot of openness and honesty to it that is lovely to hear. There's all these success, success, success stories, particularly because the startup ethos has to be we are invincible, we are going to do so much, we are going to achieve. There's not so much room to be like oh yeah well we might have done the failing but then we really improved. So I really like that kind of helps me we get a bit of balance. Oh and I love going to events and talks. Meeting other people, other business leaders, you know and kind of hearing their stories so it's just being around like minded people, Like Minded Bitches.

Gen George: Yeah.

Venetia Archer: Who Drink Wine.

Gen George: Yeah heavy on the wine part.

Gen George: Now I ask everyone this. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

Venetia Archer: If I could have a what?

Gen George: A superpower. What would it be?

Venetia Archer: Oh that is such a great question. Time travel, because I would love to travel to the future, so excited to see where we will be in 100, 200, 500 years time.

Gen George: Yeah. No that's a really great one. And if people can support you, where do they need to go? How do they get the App, how do they go to the website?

Venetia Archer: Yes, so. We're currently operational in London, so if you're in London you can download our app on the AppStore, it's called Ruuby with two U's. Or make bookings on our website and then you can also use my code, LoveVenitia.

Gen George: Fantastic, thank you very much, well thank you so much for your time, and enjoy the rest of New York.

Venetia Archer: Thank you so much Gen, really good to talk to you.