By Diane Mastrull
The Philadelphia Inquirer.
As young lawyers at Pepper Hamilton L.L.P. in Philadelphia, toiling late into the night and on weekends over mergers and acquisitions and contract negotiations, Nirvana Dove and Zakiya Black realized one important thing about their profession:
It is not especially conducive to maintaining a beauty regimen.
“To get to a salon before they close is often difficult,” Black said.
And if they did manage to get weekends off, those hours were mostly spent on errands.
How is a time-starved professional and/or housebound new mother supposed to get pampered, they wondered over breaks fueled by Chinese takeout.
“We started talking about what would make it more convenient for us,” Black said. And then they built a business around it.
Zyn Beauty launched in January 2014 as a mobile hair-and-makeup service that makes house calls and office and hotel visits seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Believed to be the first of its kind in Philadelphia, where such offerings are usually limited to weddings and other special occasions, Zyn’s tagline, “The balance between busy and beautiful,” gets to the essence of what plagued Dove, 33, and Black, 34, in their days as practicing lawyers.
“What we are doing with our business is changing the face of mobile services,” Dove said. “We modeled our business with appointments and pricing structure to make it so our clients can use this service on a regular basis.”
Conventional stylists need not fear Zyn, Dove said, noting that precision haircuts and coloring are not offered. Those services would be difficult to accommodate in a residential kitchen or bathroom, or in a professional office.
“We don’t see ourselves in competition with our clients’ regular stylists,” Dove said. “We’re an option for regular maintenance of your hair.”
Zyn’s menu, found at www.zynbeauty.com includes a wash and blowout ($65), a full face of makeup ($80), a trim ($10), and lashes ($15).
The service area is within 10 miles of Philadelphia City Hall. The charge for travel beyond that is based on the Internal Revenue Service’s standard mileage rate.
It was a strategic, disciplined course from law associates to business owners, starting with development of a business plan, something for which their backgrounds in the law had well-prepared them, and then auditioning professional hair stylists and cosmetologists. There was also belt-tightening.
“We put ourselves on a budget,” Dove said. “For almost two years, we challenged each other to spend $25 a week for lunch and travel. We were allowed one dinner out a week.”
They left Pepper Hamilton in 2008 for corporate in-house counsel jobs to gain more free time to work on Zyn.
Their original business plan was a brick-and-mortar salon that would open early and close late. They looked for a site for a year before they decided to launch with a mobile concept.
After talking about the business concept since 2006 and forming their business partnership in 2007, Dove and Black just wanted to finally open for business, having identified a need.
One of them was in the person of Lindette Hassan, 33, an intellectual-property attorney on maternity leave who had her first child, son Idris, about eight weeks ago.
On a recent Thursday morning, Hassan luxuriated in Zyn services in the comfort of her home. She happens to be an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sister of Dove and Black’s, but insists she’s an objective fan of their business.
“I know a few people in my firm that would love this because we all have kids under 1,” Hassan said as makeup artist Angela-Lynn Ware refreshed the weary new mother’s face with blushes, eye shadow, and mascara. A hair wash and styling followed.
When she’s back to work with the usual busy schedule of client meetings and networking events, Hassan said she could envision herself calling Zyn for some personal sprucing up at her office.
Black and Dove said that was the side of the business they want to build up in 2015. About 80 percent of their business is conducted in homes.
“Even though we’d love to come to offices, I think there’s apprehension” among potential clients, Black said. “It doesn’t seem professional. That’s a perception we’d love to change.”
In the meantime, Dove is going to use a forthcoming period of personal change, she’s due to deliver her first child in February, to research expansion possibilities for Zyn in other metropolitan areas.
Washington is certain to be among them. That’s where she lives now.