Stefan Batory of Booksy: “Why feeling beautiful will be easier to achieve when you are in balance”
Find Balance. Feeling beautiful will be easier to achieve when you are in balance. I’ve found being a business owner to be incredibly rewarding, however finding a work-life balance is an ongoing challenge. I find that block scheduling my appointments has helped me achieve a better balance, allowing time for selfcare. Finding balance is not often easy but should be a priority for all of us.
As a part of our series about how technology will be changing the beauty industry over the next five years I had the pleasure of interviewing Stefan Batory.
Stefan Batory is the co-founder and CEO of Booksy. An ardent serial entrepreneur and innovator who has developed and curated companies that are now leaders in his home country of Poland, Stefan developed his latest startup, Booksy, out of personal frustration with trying to schedule appointments over the phone or via text. The company’s mission is to bring peace of mind to scheduling anywhere, anytime. Already on its way to being the first Polish-founded unicorn company, Booksy has relocated its headquarters to the U.S. with the goal of becoming the leading destination marketplace for all appointment-based businesses.
Prior to Booksy, Stefan was founder and CEO of SensiSoft, a software development company with a focus on classified media. During that time, he created and bootstrapped, iTaxi, which disrupted the outdated service industry to transform the way people in Poland hail taxis today.
Stefan is a visionary but also a strongly analytical and dedicated entrepreneur. An accomplished ultra-marathoner who conquered the Gobi Desert, he imbues passion and grit in all aspects of his life.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It’s a bit of a winding path as to how I got to where I am now, co-founder and CEO of Booksy in San Francisco. I grew up in one of the poorest parts of Poland, but I was given a scholarship and went to high school in Iowa. After I graduated, I moved back to Poland and went to Warsaw University of Technology and graduated with a degree in applied mathematics. After university, I co-founded a start-up called SensiSoft, which was an internet company similar to Yahoo.
Not too long after, the dot com bubble burst, our CEO and head of sales and marketing left, and the company was at a crossroads. At this point, we had a team of engineers and no one with management experience. My co-workers nominated me to lead the team, and I spent my days learning how to run a company, lead a team and try to create success when consumer sentiment in Internet companies was at an all-time low.
The company was also saddled with debt. We were committed and dedicated to seeing the company through, so instead of packing up and taking a loss, we decided to not take salaries until we had paid back all our debts. Since I didn’t get paid, I didn’t have money and I literally ate only potatoes — cheap and filling — for a year. I worked all the time, didn’t exercise and ate poorly. Given the stress and inevitable weight gain, I started running. And then I started running marathons, then ultramarathons. Then I found myself training for one of the most strenuous races in the world — the Gobi March. I soon found myself running hundreds of miles every month, which helped me lose the weight, but I had aches and pains I never had before from the strain of so many miles.
I needed to book time with my massage therapist, but I was trying to reach him after my long runs, which typically happened in the middle of the night. Being a CEO, husband, father and runner meant I got creative about when I ran — usually after midnight. He would get back to me mid-morning, when I was in back to back meetings. This phone and text tag went on over several days, and I still wasn’t able to get in to see him. Through all this back and forth, I realized there had to be a better way to book appointments. We do nearly everything else in life online, so why couldn’t we book appointments for things like stylists, massage therapists, nails…any self-care activity? These were all still booked either in person or on the phone, and given that these practitioners work with their hands, it wasn’t an efficient process.
And this is how Booksy was born — out of a real need on my part, but in talking to independent merchants, I saw how this was also a real need for these individuals as well. Our mission is to bring peace of mind to scheduling anywhere, anytime.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The best stories I have aren’t specifically related to me, but are focused on the people our technology impacts. With Booksy, we have a real opportunity to help customers improve their lives.
I recently received an email from a barber who uses Booksy to manage his business. He reached out to tell me that Booksy saved his career. He had worked for the same barbershop for 20 years, who didn’t manage the business well. The barbershop went under, which left 11 barbers without a chair. This gentleman however used Booksy and even with this upheaval, he was able to retain his clientbase and maintain his livelihood — while the other barbers had to start from scratch. With a new home and two young children, he credits Booksy with being able to survive in a very dire situation. He is now opening his own shop and wants to help evangelize the beauty world to use Booksy to build and grow their business.
It’s an unusual thing when someone thinks of us in this situation. It’s fascinating and gives you extraordinary energy to work.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
I had a great pleasure to meet and talk to the founder of Whatsapp, Jan Koum. It was only before the meeting that I checked what the application was (yes, even though millions of people use it, I didn’t know it was). It was a pivotal conversation in the development of Booksy; I understood the network effect and its business potential in building a marketplace. It helped me realize that we have a chance to create a leading global business.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am fortunate to have had many great mentors and cheerleaders in my life. My family have always been my biggest supporters. They moved across the world to help me as we build Booksy into an international powerhouse.
My co-founder Konrad Howard has been a champion; the success of the business is built on our mutual admiration and determination.
And lastly, we wouldn’t be where we are today without supportive and insightful investors. We’ve been fortunate to have smart investors who trust our instincts and have been fantastic mentors as we disrupt a market that was in desperate need of innovation. From our first investors,Michał Rokosz and Tomasz Swieboda, of Inovo Venture Partners to Zach Coelius, who is a true unicorn whisperer here in the U.S., and everyone in between that is backing us as we develop the leading appointment-based marketplace in the world.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The beauty industry today has access to technology that was inconceivable only a short time ago. Can you tell us about the “cutting edge” (pardon the pun) technologies that you are working with or introducing? How do you think that will help people?
Our technology is simple and user friendly. The key to success is a precise understanding of both merchant and customer needs. While the interface is simple, understanding the nuances and building this technology that works for either side of the market (consumer and merchant) is extremely complicated. Also, we are addressing business needs as we help to build and support our merchants in their endeavors; and we help in a more personal way, by giving them more time and freedom for their customers and their personal life.
Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
We don’t see the movement to more access and transparency within the beauty market as a drawback at all. What we do is provide more tools, through technology, to help people better manage and build their business. It’s a net positive: we are giving people their lives back through technology, so they can spend time with their loved ones without it.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the “beauty-tech” industry?
There is such incredible potential for the beauty-tech industry; we are a precipice of something huge and I am so thrilled to be a part of it. Things I am excited about:
- The potential to do a lot of good for small and independent businesses. We can create opportunities for business and revenue growth that will change the living situation for millions of people, just through helping them promote their passion.
- The opportunity to help people feel good. Self-care is in its heyday and right now, we are the connector between helping people feel their best and the proprietors who do just that.
- Expansion of marketplaces, like Booksy, that allow people to access a host of information, from reviews to schedules, and also enable people to find new local services, which supports the local economy.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
My biggest concern right now is how small business owners and independent merchants are going to bounce back after the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of families lost a good portion of their livelihood. Losing so many clients at once was a direct hit to their income, and has had an overall economy as well. It’s really scary, and we at Booksy want to help our merchants get through the worst of it. After all, we consider everyone in our network a part of our family.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share 5 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
I’m not a beauty expert but the artists and business owners who use the Booksy platform are and we learn a great deal from the trends and ideas they have. One of our merchants, Megan Hollinger from Hollibeauty Salon Studio in Chicago, has some really wonderful tips to make people feel beautiful, inside and out.
1. Education is an incredible gift you can give yourself. Read books, attend local classes or webinars and even go on YouTube and Google — just be curious and learn more about what interests you. For me, I thought I wanted to be a school teacher like my dad, but I realized during my senior year of college I had a natural talent for coloring and styling hair. Through education, both professional and self-taught, I was able to achieve my goals.
2. Be inspired — both professionally and personally. It’s often hard to stay motivated and inspired but it’s extremely important to make time for this. For me, one of the ways I stay inspired is by attending beauty shows. The excitement and creativity I glean from other beauty professionals invigorates me to do more and be better for my customers.
3. Find Balance. Feeling beautiful will be easier to achieve when you are in balance. I’ve found being a business owner to be incredibly rewarding, however finding a work-life balance is an ongoing challenge. I find that block scheduling my appointments has helped me achieve a better balance, allowing time for selfcare. Finding balance is not often easy but should be a priority for all of us.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Right now, I would say that we all have to come together as a community and remain resilient in the face of fear.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote comes from Alice Walker, and it is what I live my life by: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
How can our readers follow you online?
Twitter: @ BooksyApp
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.