by Len Lear
Growing up in Chestnut Hill, Will Newton, now 30, says his most vivid memory of Chestnut Hill is that “I always took the long way home from school, winding around the incredible residential streets of Chestnut Hill. I also spent a lot of time at Chestnut Hill Sports, which is still one of the best sports shops anywhere. George and Tom are the best.”
Newton, who graduated from Germantown Academy in 2007 and from Tulane University in New Orleans in 2011 with a B.A. in Political Economy, started his post-college career in politics, working on Capitol Hill and for President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012.
He then moved to New York to work for a branding consultancy and was there for two years when the would-be entrepreneur had a eureka moment.
“I was working in New York for 12 hours a day, six days a week,” he recalled last week, “and realized that getting a haircut on a consistent basis proved to be one of the biggest challenges in my personal life.
“I knew there had to be a better way, so we launched Shortcut to solve this age-old problem, which allows people to get the best haircut of their life anytime, anywhere. Since launching in 2016, I’m proud to say we’ve delivered over 20,000 haircuts to homes and offices around the country, and now we’re coming to Philly this month.”
You might say that Newton, COO and co-founder of Shortcut, and his partner John Meurer are trying to do for haircuts what Uber has done for car rides and Grubhub has done for home delivery of restaurant meals. We know that technology has dramatically transformed Americans’ expectations for receiving products and services quickly, so Newton’s concept is that local consumers can now get their hair cut in a call, come and cut business model that has professional barbers and hairstylists coming to your home or place of business.
“We launched our beta version [of the company] in late 2014 and officially incorporated on Jan. 1, 2016,” said Newton. “Shortcut was one of the first ideas we had for a name. We wanted something specific yet also versatile if we decided to add additional verticals down the line.”
After launching the nation’s first in-home, on-demand barber service, Newton was contacted by Good Morning America and made an appearance on the national TV show Feb. 27, 2015. On the show, Daymond John, a multi-millionaire entrepreneur and long-time panelist on the highly rated ABC-TV show, “Shark Tank,” praised the Shortcut concept.
“I love it,” he said. “When I get up at 5 a.m., I need to shave my head in a hurry, and this service would help.” (John, who is bald, has a good sense of humor.)
“We did not go anywhere with Daymond John specifically,” said Newton, “but the appearance on Good Morning America definitely gave us the boost we needed to get the company going.”
How does Shortcut find the barbers and get them to sign on?
“It’s half organic, half direct outreach,” Newton said, “on platforms like Instagram where hair professionals have a huge presence. They then apply through our Pros app, where they fill out their profile, submit to a background check and finally complete training with our operations team.”
The hair professionals set their own prices, so they will vary, but Newton insists that in Philadelphia, the average price for a haircut will be $45.
“We will be very focused,” he said, “on getting companies on board in Philadelphia to use Shortcut as a perk for their staff. Currently, we partner with over 200 companies in New York and Los Angeles to deliver our services on a monthly basis to their offices. Employees can take 30 minutes out of their day to have their hair cut at work without taking time away from family and friends.”
According to Newton, being a successful entrepreneur is not about being a genius.
“I’d say being an entrepreneur is about 80% emotional and 20% skill,” he said. “Battling through the no’s from investors and the ups and downs of growing a business takes a lot of personal fortitude.”
Newton said he wanted to take this opportunity to pay a tribute to his mother, Stephanie Lambert, a Chestnut Hill resident for 13 years, and his stepfather, John Rosenberg, a Chestnut Hill resident for over 40 years.
For more information, visit GetShortcut.co