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Alumna To Pilot Beauty Startup at Harvard

By Maddie Sewani, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: Septemeber 19, 2014, at 7:00 p.m.

Ownly, a peer-to-peer beauty network founded by Danni Xie ’13, will launch a pilot program at Harvard in October. The startup, which aims to connect college women in need of cosmetic services to student artists on campus, was chosen as one of six winners in the Harvard College Innovation Challenge in April.

Xie said Ownly will offer a more affordable and convenient alternative to professional salons. She said the startup will enable students to receive these services from their classmates at a fraction of the standard salon price in the comfort of their own dorms.

Xie said she conceived of the concept while talking to her roommate, who was surprised to learn that Xie spent about $20 to have her eyebrows threaded every other week.

“[My roommate told me] ‘I can do that for you. You don’t need to get them done elsewhere,’” Xie recalled.

Xie realized that there was potential to expand these interactions, which occur frequently between friends, to the rest of campus.

“Roommates, blockmates, and friends do each others’ hair or makeup for formals and date events all the time. Ownly is going to make this happen on a larger scale,” she said.

Xie began working on Ownly with web developer David Ding and Dasol Shin ’15 in February. Shin says the team circulated a campus-wide survey to gauge interest in the idea and found it to be high.

“We realized there was a huge demand for affordable service in dorm rooms,” Shin said.

According to Shin, the team has been working on perfecting the Ownly software in preparation for the launch of a pilot program at Harvard.

At the end of October, Harvard students who register as Ownly members will be able to log onto the website to book appointments for a range of services, including hair styling, nail painting, makeup application, eyebrow waxing, and eyebrow threading. With the platform, they will be able to filter offerings by appointment time, distance, and artist rating.

Artists will also be able to upload galleries with images of their work.

Xie says that in addition to saving time and money for students who require these services, Ownly will offer an opportunity for skilled students to earn money doing what they love.

“Artists can choose their own schedule and be paid to do something they enjoy instead of any other part-time job,” Xie said.

Several hundred students have already signed up to receive email notifications when the service is up and running, Xie said.

Helen-Marie Cummings ’17, who frequents a nail salon in Harvard Square, says she would consider using Ownly to have her nails painted.

“If the quality is the same, it’s worth trying for the cheaper price and the ease of having them come to your door,” Cummings said.

Xie says the team’s goal is to eventually extend Ownly nationwide.

“We envision that this platform will save women money on college campuses across the country,” Xie said.

—Staff writer Maddie Sewani can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @maddiesewani.

This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections:

CORRECTION: September 19, 2014

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated David Ding's relationship to Harvard College. In fact, he is not an alumnus. The article also incorrectly stated the role of Dasol Shin ’15 in the startup. In fact, she will aid with Ownly's launch at Harvard but is not a developer. Finally, the article incorreclty stated how frequently Xie paid to have her eyebrows threaded. In fact, it was every other week.

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