Monday, January 11, 2016

1871 Company LISA Launches New App Today

LISA hopes to improve business for Chicago artists formerly known as cosmetologists
Chicago Business Journal
Lewis Lazare 
11 January 2016

LISA has arrived in Chicago. Launching today, LISA is a beauty business app. Well, LISA is a person too. But for the purposes of this story, LISA is an app that aims to make life more manageable for hundreds of cosmetologists in the Chicago market. Except that in the world where LISA will function, cosmetologists are now known as "artists."

LISA is the brainchild of founder and CEO Robert Richmond, a former live theater actor and producer who left the arts to get into the apartment-finding business via Chicago Apartment Finders in 2007. After rising through the ranks, Richmond left Apartment Finders in 2014 to focus on developing a new app for the beauty industry. Chicago Apartment Finders was subsequently sold to Coldwell Banker.

Richmond's interest in the beauty biz came by way of his wife Lisa Nation, herself a struggling beautician that Richmond wanted to help. Noted the LISA CEO: "Artists need and deserve more control over what they do and how they they do it. Our team has created a platform that enables artists to better manage their business, make more money from their extraordinary skills and gain more freedom and flexibility in their work."

The new beauty service app includes in its database artists who specialize in hair, skin care, nail treatments and massage. Would-be clients can scan LISA's list of beauty artists and organize an appointment with one using a geo-specific locator and other advanced customization features based on artist rating, price, location and availability. Services are scheduled "on-demand" within as soon as an hour of a request or for a future time and date. Payments are automatically charged to a credit card.

A spokeswoman for LISA said upwards of 2,700 beauty artists have pre-registered for inclusion in the app's data bank. But due to the background checks being performed on all artists, only about 150 were in the system by today's launch.

LISA also comes with a built-in safety feature through a partnership with Lifeline Response, a mobile security monitoring system that allows clients or artists to alert authorities if they encounter an uncomfortable situation.

Though it remains to be seen how many potential clients will want to organize a haircut or pedicure in their office or home, LISA founder Richmond thinks his new app could make life more pleasant and more profitable for its artists, while providing a real convenience for clients.

And beauty artists could use the extra cash LISA may generate for them.

Per the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2014, the U.S. beauty industry was composed of more than 1 million professionals who earned a median annual wage of $23,120. In the typical beauty salon structure, beauty artists typically keep only about 45 to 60 percent of the fees salons charge. Because LISA takes only 20 percent of the fee a beauty artist charges a client, the beauty app allows artists to retain more of what they earn.

A spokeswoman for LISA said there are "dozens" of investors in LISA, but the company is not yet ready to release a full list of them or the amount of funding raised. LISA was developed separately from Chicago tech incubator 1871, but shares office space with it.

Now LISA is focused only on the Chicago market. But, if all goes well, it could expand to other markets within the next 18 months. The downloadable LISA app works on both iOS and Android systems.

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