startup

Manicube raises $5 million for in-office 'beauty chores'

April 14, 2014: 3:07 PM ET

Startup has 90 corporate clients in three cities.

Manicube has 90 corporate clients in three cities.

Manicube has 90 corporate clients in three cities.

FORTUNE -- Certain industries are known for their over-the-top employee perks. Workers in the finance and tech sectors, for example, enjoy such benefits as unlimited vacations and free lunches. Now you can add one more perk to the list: "beauty chores."

Manicube, a New York-based startup, offers manicures and pedicures to working women in their offices. This week the company raised $5 million from Bain Capital Ventures and F Cubed, bringing the total raised to $5.85 million.

Manicube is part of a rising class of startups offering software platforms for service industries. Call it the "Uber for X" category. Here are a few examples:

  • Homejoy connects consumers with house cleaners.
  • Handybook and HouseCall connect consumers with plumbers and handymen.
  • Houzz connects consumers with home renovation contractors.
  • Kitchensurfing connects consumers with private chefs.
  • Washio and FlyCleaners connect consumers with laundry services.
  • Dashlocker connects consumers with dry cleaners.
  • Washly connects consumers with car washing services.
  • Swifto and Fettch connect consumers with dog walkers.
  • BlackJet connected consumers with private jets (briefly).
  • Silvercar connects consumers with airport car rental services.
  • And of course, Uber connects them with black car services.

In the beauty and personal care sector, specifically, there's Glamsquad, which offers in-home blowouts. And there's Zeel, which connects consumers with massage therapists.

Manicube is the only one of its kind that's going through corporate clients rather than marketing directly to consumers. Co-founder Katina Mountanos says the company chose to start that way because it's a lean model. The offices can market Manicube's services on its behalf, and it's convenient for the nail technician to see a large group of clients all in one place.

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The company got started after Mountanos and co-founder Liz Whitman noticed that the perks at their Wall Street employers were mostly male-focused: shoe shining, a barbershop, and suit tailoring. The senior-level men at these companies had started these services, but hadn't considered what perks might be attractive to women. Getting one's nails done has become part of a standard list of "beauty chores" carried out each week by many women. The nail salon industry netted $7.5 billion in revenue and is expected to grow to $10 billion in the next five years. Yet it's entirely fragmented, dominated by local mom-and-pop shops with no national player.

So they launched Manicube in 2012 and quickly expanded from New York to Boston, racking up more than 90 corporate clients. The company now provides 5,000 manicures a month and is growing by 100% each month. Half of all of its clients get a manicure every two weeks; many of them get 50 manicures through Manicube each year. (They cost between $12 and $20 each.)

Manicube pitches itself to companies as a way to retain female employees by making their lives easier.

"We want to save these women an hour," Mountanos says. "Knowing that women who work full-time have their household, their children, their spouse, their fitness, and their personal chores to handle, beauty chores can fall to the bottom of the list."

Working women have a number of personal care and beauty routine items that they consider a part of their professional upkeep. In addition to geographic expansion, Manicube plans to experiment beyond manicures and pedicures into other beauty services.

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