Alejandra Tenorio, La Manicurista: Using Tech to Improve Latin America’s Beauty Industry, Ep 72

Missing appointments at a beauty salon can add unnecessary frustration to a person’s daily routine. On the other hand, low paid beauty workers may work a full day and not take a single peso home at the end of a long day away from their families.

La Manicurista, a Colombian app that provides on demand beauty services, was born to solve these problems. Two years ago, Alejandria Tenorio, Colombian co-founder of La Manicurista, started the project during her MBA at Tulane University with her business partner, María Isabel Mostesdeoca. Since then, La Manicurista has expanded from its headquarters in Cali, into Bogota and Medellin, and has raised $300,000. This year, La Manicurista is looking to add two more Colombian cities to that list, Barranquilla and Cartagena, and raise a second round of $750,000.

In contrast with the United States, where beauty services are considered a luxury, in Colombia and Latin America, these are considered necessities, even being included in Colombia’s official inflation rate tracker. La Manicurista gives its users access to hairdressing, make-up, massage, waxing, and nail services from the comfort of their home or office in less than 45 minutes.

In this episode, I sat down with Alejandra to talk about how the idea for La Manicurista originated, how she raised money for the business, and how the app improves beauty professionals’ lives. We also learn about Cali’s ecosystem, and finally Alejandra gives some advice on how to pick investors.

Growing up in Cali and selling grape juice

Enthusiastic, colorful, happy… these are the words Alejandra uses to describe the city where she was born and grew up. From a young age, she had a knack for doing business which isn’t a surprise, as the daughter of two entrepreneurs. Alejandra recalls having helped her dad out in his grape juice business, revamping and selling the artisanal product at school. This is when she discovered that she loved being entrepreneurial and that she would choose the entrepreneurial life.

From the oil and gas industry to the beauty industry

Before coming back home to Cali, Alejandra had been working in the oil and gas industries in the United States and Latin America for five years– a stark contrast to what she is doing now. Despite the evident differences between the two, Alejandra explains how working with a big corporation in a very male dominant industry gave her the perspective as well as the proper mindset for success, regardless of gender.

Inspiration from around the world

What do Colombia and China have in common? A strong beauty service industry! Alejandra explains how La Manicurista was inspired by a similar app’s business model in China called Helijia. Putting aside capacity and cultural differences that would be found in the UX/UI design, testing out the Chinese model allowed them see if their idea would in fact provide a solution to customers and create value for both ends.

Show notes:

  • [1:36] About La Manicurista.
  • [2:08] Why La Manicurista makes sense in Colombia and LatAm
  • [3:00] Geographies and stats about the business
  • [3:20] What it’s like growing up in Cali, Colombia
  • [5:00] How did you know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
  • [6:54] Cultural differences between Latin American and US
  • [8:30] Studying abroad to jumpstart a career in Latin America
  • [9:14] What was it like working in male dominant industries like oil and gas?
  • [11:22] How the service improves beauty professionals’ work experience?
  • [14:30] How technology improves people’s lives.
  • [14:55] Were you inspired by other industries to make this model?
  • [16:47] Inspiration from Chinese beauty apps
  • [18:57] Marketplace and capacity: How did you think about creating capacity on both sides of a marketplace from a cold start?
  • [20:45] When did you end up raising money?
  • [23:35] What advice would you give to LatAm founders thinking about doing an accelerator abroad?
  • [25:47] If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?
  • [26:53] Blogs, books, podcasts Alejandra recommends
  • [27:37] What’s next for Alejandra and La Manicurista?

Resources mentioned: