Work At Home Success Story: Kush Kapila, STERLINGS Mobile Salon & Barber Co


This week’s Work-At-Home Success story comes from Kush Kapila of  STERLINGS Mobile Salon & Barber Co.

Kush Kapila is the Founder and CEO of STERLINGS Mobile Salon & Barber Co. He is also a Product Manager in Healthcare Informatics for ResMed, a medical device company that treats Sleep Disordered Breathing. Kush enjoys mentoring other startups and is currently the co-chair for Vistage on Campus at UCSD and advisor to Executive Oil Services and LabFellows.

1)    How did you get started (basic initial steps)?

Like many busy professionals, I found the process of traveling and waiting for a haircut often frustrating and time consuming. Following a particularly bad episode that entailed waiting 40 minutes in line for a less than satisfactory haircut, I passed a gourmet food truck – another embodiment of the value of mobile services – and the STERLINGS concept was born. After testing the idea with numerous professionals, and being awarded 1st place at the 2011 UCSD Entrepreneur challenge for a consumer product, I was confident that I had discovered an unmet need.

2)    How did you get your first client or customer or job?

  My first client was Sony Online Entertainment (SOE).  I had reached out to my network of contacts on LinkedIn for locations that we could visit and one of them worked at Sony Playstation.  Before we even launched at Sony Playstion word had reached SOE and they were so excited about the idea we decided to start there.

3)    How do you market your business?

We partner with fortune 500 companies to bring our services onsite where the busy professional can then go online and book a cut, color, shave, wax or manicure with their favorite barber or stylist.  Our marketing consists of working with these companies to send out emails to their employees and putting signs up in the lobby to let them know we’ll be onsite  and to book an appointment.

4)    What does your usual day look like?

A typical day for me is broken down on thinking about operations and forward looking strategy.   Our business is a logistically complicated business so we’re always looking at ways to streamline operations and cut costs.  We have a very novel and innovative business and we continue to see how we can improve the business mainly through technology.

5)    What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?

This is my first startup so I’ve made a lot of mistakes but two things have stuck out for me.  The first is I wish I had launched sooner instead of waiting until I made everything perfect and that I really understood the concept of an MVP (Minimal Viable Product).  The second is that Entrepreneurship has the highest of the highs but also has the lowest of the lows.  The key is to stay calm, get comfortable to change and be willing to pivot your business along the way.

6)    Do you have a product/ program/ service you want to promote and what are the details

We have spent the last 3 years refining our business and technology and now have a scalable solution that we are taking nationally.  We’re currently in the expansion phase with locations to launch in Seattle and San Francisco in early 2016.  We realized that the cost of manufacturing of trailers needs to come down and as a result we’ve decided to manufacturing and build STERLINGS trailers in Mexico.  For now in the expansion phase, we would like to sell more trailers, our online booking system, and our consultation service. In addition we just launched our own haircare product line which I think will be a big part of our business.

7) What makes a mobile business like STERLINGS challenging?

Its logistically challenging and your changing people’s behaviors.  The best way to change a person’s behavior is to mimic as much as possible what they are used to.

8) There is a lot of turnover with stylists.  How do you retain your employees?

We brought the “high-tech” culture to this industry. STERLINGS is a fun environment with the stylists at a different location every day, there is technology and our compensation structure aligns with their goals.


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