In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re excited to present a series of profiles on incredible women innovators. At Fahrenheit 212, we believe that the exchange of ideas and inspirations is a crucial piece of the innovation equation. We hope that each profile we share serves to inspire you to not only join us in celebrating the accomplishments of women innovators, but also to inspire your own thinking.
This week, we profile Renee Robbie, Co-Founder of LookBooker.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m one of the co-founders of LookBooker; an online booking app for the hair and beauty industry. We launched the app in late 2015 and are now the largest salon and spa aggregator in New York City; over 500 salons and spas have joined the platform and we’re excited to be connecting these with a growing base of users who want to discover and book their beauty appointments online.
Why do you do what do you do?
My cofounder Giorgia and I came up for the idea for LookBooker from the perspective of consumers who badly needed the service in their own lives: we were working busy corporate jobs, travelling all the time, and the process of discovering and booking beauty services was so annoying that we would go 6 months between haircuts. The idea of solving a real-world problem that we’d experienced ourselves gets us out of bed. On top of that, we’re motivated every day by the small salon and spa businesses that we get to work with and whose businesses we get to help improve. We really believe that the hair and beauty industry needs help graduating into the digital age, and we’re excited to be the ones helping make that happen.
What are the life moments that most influenced who/where you are today?
My parents run a manufacturing business in Australia printing aluminium signage, and when we were growing up and the business was in its early days it was located literally under our house. My siblings and I started working in the business from an incredibly early age; I remember packaging labels when I was six years old. I loved it. It taught me the value of working hard, and also has really helped me think about how when you’re an entrepreneur there is a total blend between work life and personal life, but that that can be really cool and fulfilling.
What is the first thing you do every morning? The last thing at the end of every day?
Check my phone on both ends, sadly.
What do you never leave the house without and why?
My phone and headphones. I’m learning French and am a little bit naively hopeful that I can learn by osmosis, so will try and pop my headphones in a listen to something in French when I have a few minutes and am walking to or waiting somewhere.
What is the last book you read and why?
Purity by Jonathan Franzen - I love reading and only read fiction because it helps me unwind, and this is a great novel with a good twist.
What is your favorite app?
LookBooker, of course.
What is your greatest life hack?
I recently discovered you can spiralize zucchini and that cooked it tastes almost like pasta - I can now happily satisfy my pasta cravings healthily multiple times a week.
What is the funniest thing that happened to you recently?
My cofounder Giorgia recently moved a block away from me in Williamsburg - although we spend 15+ hours a day together we decided it would be hilarious for us to get walkie-talkies to communicate with at night when we were in our apartments. Three nights into our walkie talkie adventures, our channel was hacked by a fellow walkie talkie lover in the neighbourhood who had been listening in on our code chat and was trying to locate us, so we had to shut the whole operation down.
What do you think will be the next big wave in innovation?
I think as more and more women become entrepreneurs there have been big waves in innovation around products and services where women are the primary consumers and spenders, and that this will continue to happen. There are big innovations happening in the space of feminine hygiene products, the wedding industry, on-demand childcare services, etc. Women drive decision making for >80% of household spending and I’m personally excited to start to see more of the big businesses emerging cater to the needs of, and be run by, women.
What product, service, or industry do you think is most ripe for innovation?
Obviously I believe the hair and beauty industry is one of the most ripe for innovation I’ve ever seen. In the US it’s a $53B industry that almost every adult in the country engages with, and yet in 2017 less than 1% of appointments are taken online - compare this to 20% of restaurant reservations, or over 70% of travel reservations and you get an idea of the size of the opportunity at hand, and we’re fortunate that other local-based industries have shown a path of how digital innovation can happen.
What makes a great innovation?
I believe great innovations skip the next obvious step and stretch to the one beyond, or the one beyond that. There’s a great Henry Ford quote (below!) about this that I often think about. Great innovations often solve problems that people didn’t even realise were problems until the solution came along, and then they wonder how they lived without it.
What is your favorite quote?
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” - Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company.
Enjoy a few photos from our conversation with Renee.