Viale addresses a campus-wide need for accessible beauty services
The start-up company uses AU’s Center for Innovation to grow their product
Freshmen Saumya Mangalick and Marissa Proto are making waves in the AU community through their start-up beauty company, Viale. They became involved in the American University Center for Innovation after being accepted into the University’s Incubator program.
Viale connects beauty creators and helps them market their services to students and potential clients. Their website provides links to each creator’s individual booking system. They use social media to reach their clients through direct messaging and show before-and-after pictures of customers.
Viale didn’t just start as a pitch to the Incubator program. Mangalick said she began providing beauty services to students by starting an eyebrow threading business out of the freshman dorms.
“I learned how to do threading when I was 12 years old,” she said. “When I got to college, people started asking me where I was getting my brows done.” Mangalick then began threading her friends’ eyebrows, and word quickly spread.
“It is a pretty big time commitment, so I started charging $5 per threading, and I was running it off of Instagram,” she said. “It became so overwhelming that I was unable to keep track of every single person that wanted an appointment.”
She researched online booking systems and then began hearing from customers from all grade levels, including graduate students. According to Mangalick, social networking was the key to her services becoming well-known in the student community.
Customers weren’t the only ones reaching out— Mangalick said that students talented in other aspects of cosmetology started reaching out to her to ask for advice. That’s when Mangalick met Proto, the co-founder of Viale.
“We started talking and realized that this is a bigger issue that affects every single college campus,” Mangalick said. “Beauty services for students are often geographically inaccessible because you have to go off campus somewhere and [are] also exorbitantly expensive.”
The Viale team is composed of co-founders Mangalick and Proto, as well as Sam Doran who is the company’s tech assistant responsible for maintaining the website. The other beauty creators are Aena Iqbal, who specializes in makeup, Sydney Peltz, a hair stylist, and Alice Wang, a nail artist who was professionally trained in China.
The team emphasized the impact that social media has had on marketing their product.
“Instagram and social media has really allowed us to connect to people and create these surprisingly intimate personal connections to people,” Doran said. “Our goal is to build community— connecting people— to make the campus a nicer place.”
They chose a name that reflects their values, Mangalick said. Proto, who is of Italian descent, chose the Italian word “viale” because it means avenue.
“We seek to be the avenue that connects students to other students who are all passionate about self-care, self-love and promoting that in a positive way,” Mangalick said. “Our whole philosophy is that every single person should have the tools they need to take care of themselves and appreciate the beauty that they have.”
Armed with a team of beauty creators ready to service the AU community, Mangalick began looking for the next steps forward.
One of Mangalick’s Kogod professors encouraged her to look into the Incubator program.
“After doing some research about the program, talking to some of the professors that were involved with it, I met with Marissa and together we did the initial application,” she said. “We had to come in for an informal interview, which is when we brought Sam along.”
After the interview, the three students pitched Viale to the leaders of the Incubator and moved onto the final stage— a 10-minute formal business pitch followed by a questioning period.
Viale officially became part of the AU Center for Innovation in January. Through the Incubator, located in Don Meyers, the team is able to hold meetings and workshops in the coworking space, office, and pitch room.
“Professor White and Professor Bellows have worked with us to refine our ideas and introduce us to people in the industry,” Doran said. “[They] give us guidance and also the physical space and validity that goes along with that to build our product.”
Viale will also receive a grant of $1,500 this summer to cover start-up costs. Over the summer, the two co-founders will focus on researching legalities, competition, and the in’s and out’s of the industry, Mangalick said.
Their current system needs to be smoothed out, she said, but they will work to improve it for the fall.
“Our goal for the fall semester is to have a fully integrated platform that has our own booking system, our own payment service, our own gallery showcase and review system,” she said. “We would also be having a mobile app developed so that any student can easily make an appointment for whatever they need.”
Threading client and School of Communications student Jéla Lewter is a two-time customer of Mangalick’s threading service and had a few issues with the booking system and Mangalick’s availability. “I acknowledge that she’s a college student too, and you have to cut them some slack,” she said. “There will be some kinks you have to work out, but overall I was really satisfied with the results and the way my eyebrows turned out.”
She commented that the service was very conversational and that Mangalick provided the option for the threading to be done wherever she felt comfortable.
Even with the current system that they have, Viale has made an impact on the AU community.
“Students are excited to feel good about themselves, and we are helping them do that by offering nearby, inexpensive, high-quality beauty services done by people in their community,” Proto wrote in an email. “People want to work with us for free because they see how spreading self-love makes people feel, and they want to be a part of that force.”
When they return in the fall, the Viale team will tentatively appear at a launch event during Welcome Week. “We [want to] show the returning campus and any new students that we’re here to make their lives easier,” Mangalick said.