Erica Wasser

Surviving a Company Blowout

Bad hires and a leadership walkout might have driven most people to throw in the towel. Not the Glam+Go founder.

It was early 2017. After years of soaring growth and tons of great press, Erika Wasser’s business was teetering on the brink. Her bank account was dwindling, shops were losing money, and customers were upset. One day, her CTO flew off the handle and walked out over a mistake in his paycheck—he saw it as the last straw.

That same day, the COO quit, too. The executive said she recognized all the signs of a failing business and that Wasser should close up shop before going bankrupt.

“It was a rough day,” Wasser recalls, wryly. 

She admits to questioning her own ability as an entrepreneur. “Sometimes there are days where you just don’t want to touch anything else for fear the jinx is you,” she says.

Rather than make a rash decision, she decided to give herself a day to wallow. 

“I really thought about the feedback I got and poked some holes into where it was coming from,” Wasser says.

She had to decide whether those critics were right about the business’s certain doom or whether it could recover. “That was the turning point.” 

Wasser decided to fight for her company.

Business Blows Up 

Back in 2014, Glam+Go was born of lower-stakes frustration. For Wasser, there just wasn’t enough time in the day. The HGTV digital host and comedian’s schedule didn’t allow her to work out and get her hair blown out in the same afternoon. But she wasn’t willing to suffer a bad hair day either. On a whim, she asked her Manhattan gym if she could set up a blowout booth in an unused corner. When they said yes, she bought a cart from Ikea, put out a sign-up sheet for 30-minute time slots, and invited her stylist to offer basic services. Glam+Go pop-up blow-dry bar was born.

Wasser had only planned to run the blow-dry bar for six weeks. But when Good Morning America highlighted it as part of a “future of fashion” segment, the business took off. Gyms from across the region started calling. “It was clear that I had struck a nerve,” Wasser says.

She hired stylists and started opening pop-ups in gyms and hotels around New York. Within eight months, she raised $1 million in venture capital.

That’s when things started to shift. She leased a downtown office, hired for a couple of C-suite positions and began expanding the business to other markets. “Once you raise venture capital, you feel enormous pressure to build a team and grow the business,” Wasser says.

Then the challenges arose: Wasser ended up spending more than half of the venture money on hires who ultimately didn’t work out. “Even when people are bullshitting you, you still have to pay them,” she says.

Leaning In

When things looked dire in 2017, Wasser reexamined her original vision. “I realized I was putting too much effort into building a brand and not enough into building a business,” she says.

Photo by Lightfieldstudios/Getty Images

I realized I was putting too much into building a brand and not enough into building a business.
— Erika Wasser
Founder Glam+Go

So she shut down the office, cut staff, and focused on hiring self-starters who saw Glam+Go’s potential and wanted to be a part of its growth. “Our new goal was to live for 60 days being as lean as possible and see if we could survive,” Wasser says.

It wasn’t easy: Wasser worked 15-hour days to make herself available to support her people from the time the first shop opened in New York to when the last one closed in LA.

She feels her time as a TV host and comedian gave her the skills to win over skeptics—and the thick skin to keep going forward when investors or customers said no. “Doing stand-up, if you bomb at 7, you still have to go on again at 8:15,” she says.

Her lean approach and relentless determination helped get the business on track. Glam+Go soon started turning a profit, and today it has 14 locations in New York, Miami, LA and D.C., with plans to expand into new markets.

Having two seasoned professionals quit on the same day gave her serious doubts, but Wasser saw it as a reason to pivot rather than walk away. “I needed a gut check, and that was it,” she says. 

It turned out to be a thing of beauty.