Alli Webb created a blow dry empire. Now, she’s getting in the jewelry game
This Women’s History Month, KCM is diving into some present-day stories by highlighting female founders shaking up today’s business world. For our very first Female Founder Friday, we had the honor of speaking with one of the most down-to-earth bosses — Alli Webb. In 2010, Webb founded Drybar, the salon that became famous for offering “just blowouts.” Flash forward 11 years and Webb has built a Drybar empire, with dozens of locations and a line of haircare products with a cult following. She’s also recently entered the massage business with a venture called Squeeze. But Webb’s true passion project these days is her jewelry line, Becket and Quill.
The line just launched a month ago, and Webb and her partner Meredith Quill are in the thick of building up their brand new business. We spoke with Webb about why she decided to get into the jewelry game, what she wishes she’d known when she was just starting out and which female entrepreneurs she admires.
KCM: We all know Alli Webb, founder of the Drybar empire… but Becket and Quill is a total departure from what you’ve done in the past. Why did you decide jewelry was going to be your next venture?
Alli Webb: I get asked to invest in things left and right, and a lot of people will send me things to consider, but nothing had really struck my fancy. A girlfriend sent me the black enamel heart necklace from designer Meredith Quill, and I thought it was so cute. I’d never seen anything like it. I looked at her Instagram page, and I loved everything, so I DM’d her. She started sending me anything I liked, which was really generous and really smart of her, because it gave me a taste for the brand. Then I would post about it, and she would get business. That’s sort of how we started courting each other! And then we became buddies.
I decided I could build a great brand around this, but first I wanted to make a few changes. I wanted to change the name. I wanted to build a really great website. We put some money into PR, and really nice packaging. Meredith was on board with all of it. And now I think we have a nice little business.
What makes Becket and Quill different from other jewelry brands?
When I was first getting interested in Meredith’s jewelry, I couldn’t figure out how she kept the cost of the jewelry so low when it was such high- quality. One day she posted a necklace I loved, and she invited me over to her house to get it. I started asking questions about how she was able to make these really affordable pieces look and feel very high-end. She explained to me her process of using gold fill, which I had no idea was different than gold plated. Gold fill is worlds better than plated because it contains many more layers of gold so it doesn’t turn green, and won’t get damaged as easily. You really can’t tell the difference between gold fill and solid gold, but it’s a fraction of the price.
I think I have a total of 11 piercings between both of my ears (I’m wearing the hoops with floating hearts right now!) and I wear a lot of necklaces and rings. I just love jewelry, and I want quantity, as well as quality, which is what really drew me into this brand. If you look at the disc necklace, it looks like there’s a diamond in the middle, but it’s actually a white sapphire. Nobody would ever know that’s not a diamond, and it’s a fraction of the cost of a diamond necklace. I’m very lucky at this point in my career that if I wanted to, I could afford to buy myself a real diamond necklace. But I don’t want to — I want to get a good deal like everybody else! I want to be able to wear something I love every day for six months, and then switch to something else if I want to without feeling guilty about it.
What do you ultimately see this business growing into?
When I first started Drybar, I really thought it was going to be just my one little shop. I’d pick up my kids from school, and during the day I’d have this nice little livelihood from my store. That was it.
So who knows what will end up happening? We haven’t even been at this a month yet, but it does feel so reminiscent of that time at Drybar when everything was new and exciting, and we were just having fun. I watch like a hawk for new Becket and Quill orders to come in, and I get so excited when they do. It’s incredible, watching the business slowly but surely start to build.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you were getting started in your career?
I wish I’d had more confidence and faith in myself when I was first building Drybar. I had this idea, and I knew that it was a good one, but I had no idea how to run a business. So in those early days I was very timid. I wouldn’t ask questions, or say what I thought, for fear of being judged or looking stupid.
I didn’t go to college. So when things ramped up and we’d raised a bunch of money, we had a private equity partner and I’d have to go to board meetings. I’d think, “Man, these guys are smart. They went to Harvard and Stanford, and I’m a hairstylist.” I felt very intimidated by that. I used to text my brother in board meetings and ask him questions about things I was curious about, and he would respond and tell me my questions were good. It took me a little while to get comfortable owning who I was, and what I brought to the table. Now l am super confident. I’ll be the first to admit when I don’t know something, but that didn’t come until I had a lot of experience and success under my belt. I wish I had known to flex those muscles earlier — to know that in a room full of really smart people, I was smart too.
Is there a woman who inspired you when you were first building your business?
Once we built Drybar and I found myself in this entrepreneurial world, I started noticing more women who were business leaders. Women like Candace Nelson, and Diane Von Furstenberg, and Sarah Blakely. But when I first started Drybar, I wasn’t really aware of many other female business leaders. That’s why I always try to say yes when high school students ask to talk to me about being an entrepreneur, or if colleges ask me to come and speak. Female role models in business weren’t something readily available to me, other than my mom, who kicked ass. My parents ran their own business in South Florida, and I learned a lot from my mom.
Who is a fellow female entrepreneur who inspires you today?
Sarah Gibson Tuttle. She has a salon business called Olive and June, and obviously they had to close because of Covid. So when people stopped going to salons and started doing their nails at home, the company started selling mani kits and pedi kits and doing nail tutorials online. They just launched in Target, and her business is on fire. Talk about a pivoting success story. She’s really taking the nail industry to the next level, which is pretty impressive considering how big it is. It’s been really exciting to watch her business grow.
Written and reported by Emily Pinto.