A new app called Soothe.com launched in Australia this month and we thought it was such a good idea, that we spoke to its founder Merlin Kauffman to find out more.
Merlin created Soothe.com as an on-demand massage app – a bit like Uber for massage, where a massage can be booked with a few clicks and a qualified, vetted professional massage therapist will arrive within 60 minutes to your home, work or hotel room.
The app has already been a big hit in the US and Hollywood A-Listers like Sharron Stone are event talking about it (see video below).
We all have had a great app idea – what makes this one different?
We can almost swing the old saying “everyone’s got a book in them” to “everyone’s got at least one app in them”. But in most cases, that’s where it ends.
So when we got a chance to interview Merlin, we asked why Merlin’s app idea was different and the barriers to success?
Read on to find out the answers…
Tell us a bit about yourself – where did you grow up and how did you get into app building?
I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. Before Soothe, I was involved in all sorts of entrepreneurial endeavors, like co-founding wireless technology company eWireless when I was 17, and successful domain name investment firm, True Magic, when I was 19. I am also a graduate of the Harvard Business School Owner/President Management (OPM) program.
Tell us more about your Mother – you’ve said that she was part of the inspiration behind the app?
My mother is an alternative healer. Growing up, I always recognized the importance of self care. I received massages regularly and even began meditating at a very early age. Seeing her manage her own business and help so many people find peace in their lives was a great inspiration at an early age and ultimately influenced my decision to develop Soothe and introduce even more people to the healing power of massage.
Tell us in your own words how the app works ?
Soothe connects you with the top massage therapists in your area and delivers them to your door in as little as an hour. When a Soothe therapist arrives to a client’s home, office or hotel room, they bring everything they may need for the ultimate spa experience including the massage table, linens, oils and music. Our clients are able to schedule a massage any day of the week, from 8am to midnight. With a network of 10,000 therapists available across 50+ cities, our clients don’t have to worry about driving to the spa and they can find time to relax at a time that works with their schedule.
Soothe’s success lies in the quality of our licensed, vetted massage therapists. We pay our therapists 2.5 times the industry standard and, although many have found success being a Soothe therapist full-time, we offer flexible schedules so that many are able to supplement their income and take appointments at times that work with their individual schedules.
Was it hard to develop Soothe?
The rapid growth from zero to 50+ cities has been amazing, but it’s also presented challenges. While revenue has grown 5x over the past year, the demand curve for Soothe massage services exceeds the supply of massage therapists, in almost all markets. As a result, we have scaled our hiring process very quickly to accommodate our increased growth.
It has also been difficult changing people’s perception. The concept of taking massage — something usually reserved for a spa — into your personal workspace or home has been met with some reticence. We’re one of the first companies to do this and we’ve had to assure new users that it’s totally ok and safe to bring the massage service to you, instead of going to them!
Overall, adjusting people’s mindset to view massage as something that should be as easy as ordering an Uber has taken time, but we see a change in attitude with every new city we enter.
What are your top tips for someone looking to build an app?
Invest in your team. As a founder and CEO, you have to recognize and acknowledge your weaknesses. Once you do, do whatever it takes to find the best people who can get the job done. Bottom line? You cannot do it all.
Do you think you have a good life balance?
As any entrepreneur can attest, there’s so much to do in so little time and having a good work-life balance can be a struggle. Being the CEO of Soothe, however, I am constantly reminded to make self-care a priority. Soothe is about making relaxation more accessible, even if it’s only an hour’s reprieve and, as Soothe’s founder, it’s important that I apply that to my own life as well.
What are the things you do to maintain balance in your life?
Exercise is one of the ways that I’m able to maintain a work-life balance and dodgeball is my favorite way to relieve stress while getting a killer workout. I’m a member of a dodgeball league and I try to play at least twice a week for about two hours whether in tournaments or just pick-up games with my friends. I love the teamwork involved and the sport really forces you to be present.