The final round of the Discovery stage of the University of Virginia Entrepreneurship Cup takes place this week (21 February at 4:30 pm)! The top five teams will win $5,000, and three of the 11 finalists are from Darden:

  • Single Baked Sweets – Melissa Stefaniak, EMBA Darden Class of 2019
  • Slay – Jade Palomino and Kelly Bonilla, Darden Class of 2020
  • Trulli – Amanda Joseph and Pat Adams, Darden Class of 2019

We recently caught up with Jade Palomino and Kelly Bonilla to talk more about Slay. Check out our previous interview with Melissa Stefaniak (Single Baked Sweets) and stay tuned for our interview with Trulli. 

What is Slay?

Slay is the most convenient, affordable and flexible beauty membership ever.

Slay makes it seamless for users to discover a curated selection of nearby salons and book appointments through a monthly subscription, all while receiving guaranteed service discounts. Customers pay a monthly fee to Slay in exchange for credits that can be used to book services at partner salons.

Customers simply choose the date, time and venue for their desired service via Slay’s mobile app using their available credits. They get their service without ever having to call the salon or take out their wallets, and, after their appointment, customers leave a tip and a review right on the Slay app. Slay negotiates a unique payout price for each of the 10 services offered on the platform with each partner salon.

How did you come up with the idea?

100 million Americans go to a salon at least once per month. That’s one out of every three Americans. Of these 100 million people, the average expenditure on manicures and pedicures alone (just two of our service offerings!) is a whopping $1,345 per year, which equals over $112 per month regardless of socioeconomic status, geographic location, race or age.

People don’t just spend an inordinate amount of their disposable income on routine beauty services. They also have difficulty finding and booking these appointments online and often resort to booking appointments over the phone and paying for their services in cash because the salon industry remains a low-tech, pen-and-paper trade.

Salons are tired of discount sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. Slay not only takes a smaller cut from salons’ service prices, it also offers a limited number of services – which provides salons with the opportunity to up-sell customers on higher margin services. As a monthly subscription, Slay is not a one-off purchase that brings customers to a salon on limited occasions; rather, it provides customers with the opportunity to regularly revisit and support their favorite salons. Additionally, Slay’s fee policies provide salons with the opportunity to monetize no-shows and late cancellations.

The concept for Slay arose out of our mutual frustration with the old school beauty industry. While working together prior to attending Darden, we often treated ourselves to weekly manicures. We frequently had to forego this weekly treat, not only because of the expense associated with these services, but also because, when making appointments, we had to call countless salons that often lacked availability and responsiveness. We therefore built Slay to improve and modernize the salon-going experience for busy women like ourselves.

Why did you decide to enter the E-Cup?

We really enjoy sharing our vision for Slay with others and it’s incredibly exciting to do this with the UVA community. It’s also inspiring to be amongst a group of entrepreneurs who share our passion for innovation, and we value the feedback we get from both the judges and our peers.

How has Darden helped you develop/refine your business idea?

We chose to attend Darden together because of the targeted, individualized support the school promised to provide us and Darden has not disappointed! We been able to take advantage of the amazing programming offered through the iLab, particularly the Darden Venture Lab, which provides student entrepreneurs with ongoing mentorship, collaboration and educational opportunities throughout the academic year.

Not only have we been able to implement many of our learnings from our core classes directly to our business, but we have also been able to leverage the feedback from our marketing professors to help us finesse things like the verbiage on our landing page and our recent consumer insights survey. Our classmates have also been incredibly supportive by providing assistance with more complex tasks like preparing financial projections.