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Maintaining growth while cutting costs is hard. Here’s how one founder is doing it.

How April Dominguez's team is fueling growth through community-driven programs, her advice for underrepresented founders, and adapting to building virtual relationships.

Q&A with April Dominguez, Co-founder and CEO of Handsome App

April Dominguez’s career has spanned a decade from door-to-door sales, operations, technology, and investor strategy. As the Founder and CEO of Handsome App, she is building a community-driven career and education network for the beauty industry.

How have you worked to grow your business during the pandemic?

We have put 100% of our efforts and attention on growing Handsome organically during the pandemic, and we’ve done that by getting back to the basics. The first is by refining our push message strategies. We’ve set goals of push messages daily. We are sending out manual push messages to target and highlight current relevant problems: Hairstylists Relief Grants, How to Apply for the PPP Loan, How to Prepare Your Salon to Reopen, etc.. We launched a new product feature, a Calendar of Education, for beauty professionals to access the thousands of virtual beauty education events that have been taking place during COVID. We’ve adapted our product and stayed limber to cater to the needs of our industry and our users.

Many businesses are cutting budgets during the pandemic, how have you fueled growth while still maintaining your budget?

Handsome has been forced to grow 100% organically during the pandemic. When COVID hit, we cut all of our marketing costs and nearly all of our development costs to extend our runway. So technically, we have not maintained our budget – we decreased it. Which actually allowed us to get more creative on growth strategies. Rather than focusing on any paid growth, we reached out to as many beauty organizations, educators, and leaders as we could. We focused on growth through beauty partnerships in conjunction with launching a new Groups feature in the app. We launched a podcast, Beauty Means Business Radio, to bring a spotlight to the thought leaders and change-makers in the beauty industry. Which is turning into a long term customer acquisition channel. We are focused on growth through building community – which is at the core of Handsome’s purpose.

How have you changed your strategy in light of the current restrictions due to the pandemic (no in-person interactions, stay at home orders)?

Because Handsome is a digital community, we are fortunate that the growth and interactions of our network can continue – and in fact, engagement in our app has grown during the pandemic. However, it has vastly affected our strategy in terms of fundraising. Fundraising is a deeply personal process. Relationship building is important. Now, in-person relationship building can no longer be done. We’re adapting to building virtual relationships with investors, advisors, and other founders. We’re leaning even further into connecting on Twitter, LinkedIn, and etc.

What advice would you give other underrepresented founders who are likely trying to build their businesses with less funding and resources than other companies?

Stay focused and stay committed. Although the mountains are higher and hurdles are more frequent for underrepresented founders, the problems you’re solving need solving. The solutions and world-changing products and services you’re creating are meaningful, they are needed, and they are worth the work. Now is the time to be open and transparent about the struggles you’re facing. So use your voice. Because people are listening now more than ever.

Is there anything else you want to add?

The pandemic can be seen as a challenge or as an opportunity. Whichever way you see it, is true.

 

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