Swivel Is Ending a “Soul-Crushing, Hair-Breaking, Money-Wasting Trial-and-Error” Problem


The ultimate goal of a trip to the salon is for your hair to look better when you leave your stylist’s chair, but it’s far from a given.

“As friends, we’d lamented [about] why it’s so hard to find a hairstylist who can work with our hair type,” says Jihan Thompson of her decades long friendship with Jennifer Lambert. “Every time I went to a new city, whether it was for work, school, or a wedding, I felt like my only option was to not get my hair wet. I couldn’t just walk into a salon off the street and get a blowout.”


Lambert and Thompson

Getty ImagesDave Kotinsky

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Two years ago, Thompson and Lambert set out to solve this very plight with Swivel Beauty—an app that matches women of color with well-equipped hairstylists. “None of the blow dry bar advancements considered that basic question of, ‘Do they do my hair?’” says Lambert, who was a Harvard-trained lawyer when she and Thompson, a former magazine editor, dreamt up Swivel. “We quickly realized this could be more than an idea—it could actually be a really lucrative business,” Thompson adds.

Entering the tech space was new territory for both Thompson and Lambert, and the early stages of Swivel were a learning curve. “Neither one of us knew how to code when we started, so that was our biggest initial technical hurdle,” Thompson recalls. “On one hand, it’s been a big challenge, but on the other, it’s been extremely rewarding to see what we’re capable of figuring out on our own,” Lambert adds.

After the women decided to devote their full attention to the app, it picked up immediate steam. In their first year, Thompson and Lambert were chosen to take part in Sephora’s Accelerate program, which sponsors female innovators in the beauty realm (think: mentors, training, and access to engineers). “It was really great early validation that were onto something,” says Thompson. “We were solving a problem that people overlooked but clearly had value.”

It’s been extremely rewarding to see what we’re capable of figuring out on our own.

It’s not just the beauty community that has taken notice of their app—Thompson and Lambert have since garnered a loyal community of Swivel users. “Every time a user books an appointment through our platform is such an affirming moment,” says Thompson. “I think the challenge of startups is building something that people actually want, and it feels really good to know that we’ve done that.”

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Tyler Joe

In addition to helping women find their match-made-in-heaven hairstylist, Thompson and Lambert have been able to put small business owners and trained stylists on the map. Swivel is currently available in New York City and the D.C. area, with plans to expand to Los Angeles and Chicago by the end of 2018. “We hear from women all over the country, every single day asking us to bring Swivel to their city,” Thompson says.

“We both have a real, intimate understanding of the pain that women go through in trying to get their hair done. While it seems like just hair, I think we all know how badass we feel when we look our best,” Thompson laughs. “Being able to translate that into a solution for a lot of women has been really exciting for us.”


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