Treatwell founder Lopo Champalimaud
Entrepreneur Lopo Champalimaud, founder of the pioneering health and beauty booking app Treatwell, tells us how he created an entirely new market when he launched the business back in 2008...
Tell us a bit about Treatwell, what does the company do?
Treatwell is the leading online booking platform for hair and beauty appointments in Europe. I founded the company, then called Wahanda, in 2008 in London. Today we employ over 500 people across Europe and have over 30,000 salons and spas listed on our platform.
Treatwell aims to make booking hair, beauty and spa appointments simple, effortless, fast and around the clock. Customers book appointments, via our site or app, at a time, location and price that suits them - with reviews from other users to help them make informed choices.
If they’re in need of advice or inspiration they can visit The Treatment Files, packed with tips and trend advice from our editorial director, or check our A-Z guide to beauty – The Treatment Guide. At the same time, salons provide a real-time feed of their availability and can utilise tools provided by Treatwell to push out last-minute availability or discount quiet times to maximise occupancy.
How does the business model work?
Our business model is structured around a commission, charged only on appointments that we send directly to salons and spas, combined with subscription fees.
What inspired you to launch the business?
I started Treatwell in 2008. I had been heading up the lifestyle division at lastminute.com and one night in the office decided to book a massage for the weekend. I tried calling some salons but they were all closed; I sent a few emails and when I finally got a reply, they didn’t have space.
My frustration at not being able to book that massage made me ask why booking beauty services online was so inaccessible. Especially when every other aspect of our lives, from hotels to flights, was so easy to book online.
We set out to transform the industry from a consumer’s perspective, by making it convenient and easy to book appointments, and at the same time help grow the hair and beauty market for salons.
Did you encounter any in particular challenges when getting it off the ground?
We were really the first to tackle the creation of an online hair and beauty marketplace. As a result, each challenge we faced was a new one, with few precedents for us to learn from. This was hugely exhilarating – we felt like we were leading the way and building something incredibly exciting - but it also required the right people.
The biggest challenge we faced was building the right team. Hiring a team with talent and knowledge that could collaborate and disrupt an industry together. It was an investor at the time who pointed out that I didn’t have to be responsible for everything and encouraged me to build the talented team of people we have today.
Did you receive any support when starting up?
I was incredibly lucky at the start to have very supportive friends and investors who believed in me and what we were doing – offering not just funding, but crucially, advice and support. That has continued today with our new owners, Recruit, who offer invaluable advice from their extensive experience, especially with Hot Pepper Beauty in Japan. We couldn’t ask for a better partner in this stage of our growth.
What was your first year in business like?
Brutal and lonely! The hardest thing about building a business is simply sticking with it. There will always be tough days – or even months - but keeping a focus on the big vision, and inspiring those around you to believe in that vision is critical. We’ve been lucky to have an amazing team on board and some fantastic investors along the way. And that feeling when it all finally comes together… It doesn’t get better than that.
At what point did you realise just how much potential the business had?
Always of course! I think a real turning point for me was in 2012 when we acquired a Lithuania-based company, Salonium, that had developed an appointment booking system. When this quickly started to gain traction, we realised there was rapidly accelerating demand for what we were creating.
You’ve raised a fair amount in funding since then – tell us a bit about your funding success, how has it helped you throughout your journey?
Fundraising is time-consuming but essential - the most important thing I learned is that it’s not just about the money. It offers an invaluable opportunity to discuss your business and learn how to improve it. The feedback from successful, and unsuccessful, attempts to obtain funding are extremely useful.
Entrepreneurs spend too much time thinking about the money and not enough about the people who are giving you the money. You need to make sure you are surrounded by the right kind of investors who understand you, your vision and want to be long term supporters. One thing is certain - it will be a long journey.
How has the company grown since?
Our growth has been rapid but most importantly sustainable. We are currently growing at around 100% year on year and are now in 11 countries throughout Europe.
What do you put this growth down to?
Our team, which includes our new owners, Recruit, who have helped us hone our marketplace strategy, enabling us to sustain our fast growth. We have an obsession with data, combined with an ultra-local strategy when it comes to partnering with salons and recruiting customers. It is extremely important to trust the data. And if you find something surprising, to dig a little deeper. Part of our growth is attributable to not being afraid to change direction if we believe it is the right thing for the business.
Finally, looking forward, what are your plans for the future?
The opportunity in Europe is huge and our focus remains on consolidating and growing the European market. We have lots of exciting new product developments in the pipeline – from tools to help our partner salons and spas better maximise their occupancy and build awareness, to slick new features for customers using our app and site.
With over half of our salons using our Connect App, and over 60% of our bookings made via mobile, continuing to update our mobile experience for both consumers and salons is key. In the UK, developing our salon software and launching our POS system will be a major focus.
We are also testing innovative new ways for people to search for their treatments based on styles, trends or even by the name of the specific haircut.