Interviews

Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista, Founder & CEO, Prettly

"It’s a tough world in entrepreneurship. You will keep failing at things in order to grow and strengthen your business. You will hear a lot of no’s to start with. Learn how to listen, to your customers and data."

Izzy Ashton

Assistant Editor, BITE

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It’s intriguing when the founder of a beauty app reveals that she isn’t really that passionate about beauty. For Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista, the founder and CEO of Prettly, her focus has always been on convenience and ease. So, she designed the app and website to allow you to book beauty treatments at home. She says the idea came to her in “an ah-ha moment” as she was booking a freelance therapist for a manicure at home. She wanted to bring this ease to other women in London.

Growing up in Athens, Papanicolaou-Frangista says, attitudes to beauty were different because people didn’t think twice about calling a beauty therapist round to their house. She was unsure why the same didn’t apply in London especially, she says, when “if you work, if you’re a student, a mum, it’s quite hard to fit those [beauty] things into your schedule”.

From the early days we were focused on the brand and what that would look like because we don’t actually have a physical product.

Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista

Having always had a passion for both technology and the arts, Papanicolaou-Frangista was also “a big fan of convenient and easy solutions to life’s problems.” And when she was both planning a wedding and graduating from her MBA at the London Business School, she was in real need of convenience.

Papanicolaou-Frangista built Prettly’s first website herself using her “affinity towards beautiful design. From the early days we were focused on the brand and what that would look like because we don’t actually have a physical product.” She reveals that the most exciting and proudest moment for her was when the first complete stranger booked an appointment.

Like a lot of young mothers, I also work and I think a lot of women in this position often feel more guilty than they do proud because you always feel you’re underperforming, both at home and at work. It’s been a journey trying to feel more confident about that.

Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista

While maintaining her interest in the arts, Papanicolaou-Frangista is also a passionate reader and is currently making her way through Michelle Obama’s autobiography. She says she’s enjoying it, especially as she is herself a young working mother with two children. Having launched Prettly just a month before her first child was born, she says, “like a lot of young mothers, I also work and I think a lot of women in this position often feel more guilty than they do proud because you always feel you’re underperforming, both at home and at work. So, it’s been a journey trying to feel more confident about that”.

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Creativebrief: Talk a bit about how and why you started your business.
Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista: I was always drawn to the world of start-ups, tech and entrepreneurship; it’s the reason I left my previous job to pursue an MBA. Prettly started from my own pain-point, I am the perfect audience for it. I was wrapping up my MBA, planning my wedding, working for another start-up and coming up with ideas post-MBA. I heard about a freelance beauty professional and when she came to my house for a manicure, I instantly thought that this service had to be accessible to other women like me in this city. Within a week, I had launched a first test version of Prettly that I built myself on Wix, then one thing led to another! The premise of the business is simple: to make the lives of busy women easier by delivering beauty services on the go, to the location of their choice. It’s a business model that people are very familiar with from Uber, Laundrapp and so on. It’s a cash-free, tip-free environment. We want to be able to bring luxury and convenience to your home at an affordable price through our services, all booked seamlessly through an app and on the web. Prettly is open out of hours and our booking system allows you to secure an appointment in less than 20 seconds, so you can set up that manicure for when you get back home or during a quick coffee break at the office. Prettly also empowers beauticians to build their own careers as independent workers, which we’re very proud of.
Creativebrief: What’s the most challenging part of starting/running your own business?
Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista: Working for your own company does have its fair share of agonies, however it is an extremely fulfilling and rewarding experience. The learning curve is steep and the daily challenges we face are a constant force for self-improvement. Ultimately, nothing could be more rewarding than knowing that there are thousands of women out there who have grown to love our brand and use our service on a recurring basis. The challenges are constant but differ in nature and often depend on the specific state and stage of the business at that point in time. A key learning linked to this is that you have to learn to prioritise and to focus on the specific tasks that matter the most in each particular moment. Clutter and lack of prioritisation can prove to be detrimental.

The premise of the business is simple: to make the lives of busy women easier by delivering beauty services on the go, to the location of their choice. It’s a business model that people are very familiar with.

Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista
Creativebrief: What role did marketing play when you were starting up? How did you increase your visibility? (Influencers, word of mouth, advertising)
Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista: Marketing was and will be a key factor contributing to the growth of our business. From early on, we experimented with different marketing channels and tactics to find out what suits us best. We’re still in the process of learning and optimising, but I can say that digital marketing on Google predominantly but also on Facebook and Instagram works for us. Traditional PR and social media are also extremely important parts of our marketing plan. They definitely help build awareness and have contributed to making the brand more visible over the course of time. We have a strong focus on organic social media, with influencers being a big part of that. We pay a lot of attention to the content we post and on how frequently we get relevant information out there into the market. We have actively thought about our brand from day one, who we are, what we stand for, how we position ourselves in the market and how our services are relevant to our audiences. We love engaging with our customers and a lot of the service reviews help us improve our services to meet their needs.
Creativebrief: What brands/businesses/business leaders do you look up to?
Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista: Sara Blakely of Spanx and Jo Malone both come to mind. They both have such inspiring stories of dedication, grit and passion but I am not sure I can pick one person in particular. I tend to cherry-pick traits, behaviour, actions that move me or inspire me from people around me, regardless of their level of success or fame. I have a sponge approach to this matter and will make mental notes of things that I find inspiring, whether it’s business advice, life advice, a reaction to a personal problem or even a cultural or fashion choice. Everyone is an influence and different people excel at different things.

We have actively thought about our brand from day one, who we are, what we stand for, how we position ourselves in the market and how our services are relevant to our audiences.

Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista
Creativebrief: Looking ahead, what do you think is your biggest challenge?
Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista: Every week brings a different challenge, which means you have to evolve with the business and be prepared for different types of problems. Particularly for first-time entrepreneurs, you don’t have the prior experience to deal with these challenges. We are a dual marketplace and have customers on the one hand, and beauty professionals on the other hand so catering to both audiences and ensuring the business serves them in a balanced manner is critical and will remain one of our challenges looking forward.
Creativebrief: What are your ambitions for the year ahead?
Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista: We are very excited about the future and are ready to take the business through a new phase of growth. We have also entered into corporate beauty and wellness, under the umbrella of employee wellbeing, and so managing and growing that side of the business will be one of our key goals in 2019/2020. Watch this space!
Creativebrief: What would your advice be to someone who has an idea for their own business?
Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista: Perseverance; it’s a tough world in entrepreneurship. You will keep failing at things in order to grow and strengthen your business. You will hear a lot of no’s to start with. Learn how to listen, to your customers and data, which are important. Take on board ideas and feedback that are going to shape your business and inform your decisions. Pick people you admire, reach out to them, learn from them and make them part of your story. We brought onboard advisors and mentors to the business and to our teams. It’s amazing how easy it is to reach out to other women running their own businesses. Everyone out there has been helped by others along the way. I’m always pleasantly surprised how open people are to have a meeting and grab a coffee with them even if you don’t have a common contact.

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