SMU alum Courtney Caldwell ’00 and her husband, Tye, are shaking up the century-old salon industry with ShearShare, a mobile B2B platform shaped for the gig economy.

“Contracts for salon space that lock stylists into multi-year terms have been standard in the field,” Courtney explains, “but that’s not how the majority of stylists wants to work today.”

The app matches salon and barbershop owners with hair, skin and nail technicians seeking professional space to rent by the day. ShearShare enables owners with excess capacity to capture income that would otherwise be lost while allowing stylists to cater to their clients in convenient locations.

Life partners as well as business partners, the husband-and-wife team brings energy, passion and expertise to their pioneering enterprise. Courtney graduated cum laude with a B.B.A. in marketing from SMU’s Cox School of Business. Success as an international marketing executive for such companies as Oracle and Qualtrics followed. Tye is among the few to earn a coveted Doctorate in Professional Barbering. He has more than two decades of experience in salon and barbershop operations and is the best-selling author of Mentored by Failure: A 5-Point Guide to Long-term Success in the Beauty & Style Industry.

ShearShare was born out of sheer necessity, according to the couple. In 2012, after expanding his award-winning Salon74 by Tye in Plano, the industry veteran ended up with several new suites to fill. It wasn’t long, though, before an unexpected phone call and a leap of faith changed everything.

When a stylist approached Tye about renting a suite for two days a week, he looked around at the unused space “collecting dust instead of dollars” and decided to give the arrangement a try. It was a great experience for him, the stylist and her clients. Soon, he was brokering similar on-demand deals between other salons and stylists.

After a few years of what Courtney describes as “manual matching,” they started searching for a website or app they could facilitate the requests. Instead, they discovered an untapped opportunity tailor-made for them.

The same determination and can-do spirit Courtney exhibits today propelled her as an SMU student. She sang in a gospel choir, competed in the long jump with the SMU track and field team, served as a resident assistant in Virginia-Snyder Commons and worked several other campus jobs.

She also served as the student representative on the SMU Board of Trustees and held numerous leadership positions with such campus organizations as the Association of Black Students, the Honor Council and the Leadership Consultant Council.

Helping her excel in the classroom were engaging educators who motivated her to shine.

“My favorite professors really believed in me, but they also challenged me,” she recalls. “I worked hard to do my absolute best in their classes. They pushed me to push myself even more.”

Through the years, Courtney has maintained close ties to her alma mater. She so enjoyed her experience as a Hunt Leadership Scholar that she now volunteers to interview final-round applicants. She also serves on the SMU Alumni Board and the 21st Century Council.

She’s also a member of several advisory boards at the University of Texas at Dallas, where she earned an M.B.A.

A proud Mustang by marriage, Tye serves on the SMU Big Data Advisory Board.

The forward-thinking couple even included the University in their wills. Establishing a planned gift at this stage in their lives helps ensure a bright future for SMU, Courtney says.

“My favorite professors really believed in me, but they also challenged me. I worked hard to do my absolute best in their classes. They pushed me to push myself even more.”
– Courtney Caldwell ’00

“We live by what we call our silver rule: We leave people, places and things better off than when we found them.”

“Tye and I like to think that we’re fast learners, but it took us three years to realize we had a startup idea,” Courtney jokes. Out of the gate, they had already amassed tech sector gold – client data that informed what their app needed to look like in order to succeed.

They bootstrapped the beta launch of ShearShare in September 2016 with personal savings and credit cards and became Tech Co’s 2016 Startup of the Year. In 2018, they gained funding after a live grilling by a venture capital panel on The Pitch podcast and, shortly afterward, became the first Google Demo Day winner from Texas.

The company’s #BeautyWithoutBorders hashtag encapsulates the Caldwells’ global aspirations. While ShearShare’s primary markets are Dallas, Los Angeles and New York City, its international reach extends to 400 cities in 11 countries.

After exceeding their seed funding goal, the couple is now focused on expanding the ShearShare team and developing a pilot program to offer a portfolio of B2B resources such as tax preparation and insurance for independent stylists.

While it hasn’t been easy to cut through in the startup ecosystem, their passion for the ShearShare community keeps them going, Courtney says.

“We live by what we call our silver rule: We leave people, places and things better off than when we found them.”

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