Have you ever run out of beauty products right in the middle of applying makeup or styling hair?
Now there's an app for that.
Crafton resident Michael James and Ian Grant II, of Miami, are the founders of WaySlay, which stands for "the way you slay." The app — available on Apple and Android platforms — enables users to search and order products from nearby beauty supply stores and have them delivered in as little as 20 minutes.
WaySlay launched in 2020 in Miami and expanded this year to Pittsburgh. Local shoppers receive free delivery on their first purchase when they enter the promo code STEELCITY at checkout. The app, which offers products in a range of skin tones and hair textures, has been especially popular so far with Black women in their 20s and 30s.
"The easy way to think of it is the Uber Eats for beauty supplies," said James, a Carnegie native.
He came up with the idea several years ago while living in Miami. His girlfriend was getting ready for an event and didn't have what she needed.
"The problem was she wasn't able to get the items in time," he said. "I asked if there was an app to deliver them. It turned out it didn't exist. Basically since then I set out to figure out a way to make this a possibility."
He shared the vision with Grant, whom he met in Miami while playing on a kickball team. He liked the idea and so did his wife.
"You always want to trust your wife's gut," said Grant, WaySlay's CEO.
Each man had skills that complemented the development process. James, WaySlay's chief technology officer, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2008 with a degree in computer science and has helped large corporations modernize their technology. Grant's background is in the quick-serve restaurant industry, including mobile ordering, kiosks and digital menu boards at drive-thru windows.
Unlike the food industry, however, many beauty supply stores haven't incorporated high-tech features into their day-to-day operation.
"I saw this as an opportunity to really help tech-enable these beauty supply stores," Grant said.
WaySlay doesn't stock inventory or make deliveries. The company partners with local beauty supply stores, which add products they want to sell to the app. When an order is placed, the store is notified via the app and bags the products for pickup. A third-party service handles deliveries.
"We've had orders get picked up within three minutes of the order being placed and delivered in 10 minutes," James said, adding that delivery times can vary depending upon the time of day or the store's location.
While some would be hesitant to start a business during a pandemic, WaySlay's founders said COVID-19 has made the demand for their app even stronger. It allows remote workers or students to get what they need without running to the store, and it has boosted sales at stores during mandated shutdowns.
Before WaySlay expanded to Pittsburgh, Yerimah's Sisters Hair & Beauty Supply store in Downtown Pittsburgh tried to make deliveries on its own.
"We were making deliveries for hours after the store closed," said owner Yega Tita Cosia. "WaySlay has been a blessing. We can offer delivery to our customers, and we literally don't have to do anything — just fill the bag."
Yerimah's Sisters started using the app in January and makes sales through it daily, she said. "Wigs have been flying off the shelves on WaySlay."
The other Pittsburgh store with products on the app is Hair City in Monroeville Mall, but more retailers are expected to be added soon.
When shoppers make their first purchase through the app, they receive a phone call from James thanking them for using it and asking for feedback about their experience.
"My customers love that," Cosia said. "He's really put his best foot forward with his merchants and customers."
Since last summer, the app has been downloaded more than 1,200 times, and more than half of orders come from repeat app users, according to the company. WaySlay's founders hope to keep those numbers growing as they add more stores and cities. Within the next year, they plan to expand to Washington D.C., Atlanta and Chicago, followed later by Los Angeles and possibly Houston.
They said WaySlay also empowers stores to improve their technology and shows what shoppers want in their market.
"We want to be able to tell them the trends that we're seeing in the market so they can use those trends to help them grow further," Grant said.
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