COLUMBIA, Mo. — On the opening night of Missouri Startup Weekend 2023, the namesake owner of Chrystal L. Hair & Makeup in Columbia stood in front of hundreds of strangers and delivered a confident pitch describing her idea for a business called All Hair Academy. It’s an online platform that offers salon owners instructional videos, diversity training and coaching that covers all aspects of building a successful beauty business.
Two very busy days later, Chrystal — who prefers to go by her first name and middle initial — was back in front of the crowd to share a fleshed-out business model that she and her new team of partners crafted over the weekend. The presentation won over a panel of five judges, who awarded All Hair Academy first place, which includes a $7,500 prize and the business support Chrystal will need to turn her startup idea into an established company.
“We are all given one life, one opportunity. You have to go for it,” Chrystal said. “The only fear comes from your ego. If you put your ego aside, there’s no fear. I know I’m going to inspire somebody else, just like somebody inspired me. There are not a lot of women and minorities in tech, so for me to go for it this weekend, it was a chance to inspire somebody else.”
Missouri Startup Weekend, formerly called Columbia Startup Weekend, was held March 10-12 at EquipmentShare headquarters. The location was appropriate, because Jabbok and Willy Schlacks won the contest in 2014 for their construction tech business called EquipmentShare, which has grown into a billion-dollar nationwide company. The event was hosted by Scale, a Columbia venture studio that invests in and supports tech startups.
This year’s event began with more than 100 participants. On Friday night, 50 of them gave one-minute pitches for their proposed businesses. A crowd vote narrowed the field to 12 finalists. The 12 finalists formed teams that included participants who didn’t make the cut. They spent the rest of the weekend developing their ideas, and on Sunday afternoon, each team gave a five-minute presentation and answered questions from the judges.
After deliberating, the judges rendered their verdict.
Tying for third and earning $3,000 each were DogWild, a private dog park, and OpenLaw, an artificial-intelligence program that translates legal documents into understandable language. Carbitrage, a platform for investing in classic and exotic cars, placed second and earned a $5,000 prize.
In addition to its first-place cash prize, All Hair Academy gets the following:
“What stood out about Chrystal was her passion and her knowledge of the industry,” said judge Sarah Hill, the CEO of Healium. “She’s spent 14 years in that business and knows it like the back of her hand.”
Chrystal said when she started her salon, she was like many newcomers to the field — she knew a lot more about styling hair than managing money. Now, she’s eager to share that knowledge with her peers.
“I probably didn’t get a grasp on my finances until my fifth year in,” she said. “If I had known about that before, I would have scaled a lot faster. We’re creatives, so we have one side of our brain that fights the side associated with business structure. But in order for your creative side to rise, you have to have that business structure in place. This weekend, we surveyed salon owners, and we got about 30 owners who said, ‘If you build this platform, we will come and pay for it.’ We’re going to start pitching to those people and go from there.”
Scale is an accelerator fund and venture studio that invests monetary and social capital in early stage tech founders who are strengthened by struggle. Scale brings a team of dedicated operators who have the insights and support from building billion-dollar companies to remove unnecessary barriers, so founders can focus on the hard stuff that matters. To date, Scale has invested in and supported 23 companies across a broad array of sectors and geographies. Scale was founded by Jabbok and WIlly Schlacks and is supported by other entrepreneurs who serve as mentors and advisors.