Coco Meers, the founder and CEO of Chicago-based digital platform PrettyQuick, knows what it takes to become a leader in the beauty business. Recently acquired by Groupon, PrettyQuick, matches time-starved users with nearby salons and spas that have been vetted by beauty editors. Coco herself is every bit the perfect representation for a beauty company, balancing charm, grace, and warmth with a commanding presence and sense of humor that creates a powerful leadership style. Coco shares her journey and the lessons she learned along the way with Chicago Woman.
Looking back, did your early years prepare you for your current role leading a growing teach company?
I’ve always been highly goal-oriented and independent. I was also always determined, extroverted, and headstrong. As a pre-professional ballet dancer and student of languages, my early years contained exactly NO formal training in the tech space. But I think being a tech founder is as much about creative thinking and persistence, and those are traits I have always possessed.
Were there any defining moments that led you to realize you had the soul of a leader or entrepreneur?
My mom tells a story of when I was two and a half years old, performing in my first ballet recital. The couple of kids adjacent to me on stage forgot their choreography (they were two). I was apparently irate that they were blowing it for the rest of us and went over to physically move their limbs for them. I thought she was joking but then she showed me a video. Thank goodness we’re banning the term bossy!
Can you talk a bit about your family life?
Family is very important to me. My husband Ethan and I welcomed our first daughter, Poppy, last March. Ethan is an incredible partner and values strong women like his own mom and sister. My sister and I are originally from Birmingham, Alabama, and I am so lucky because she decided to move to Chicago a few years back. Our parents come to visit a lot and my in-laws are also nearby, so there is a lot of family time when we want it, which is such a bonus to living in this great city.
PrettyQuick’s acquisition by Groupon is celebrated as a big success in Chicago. What does success mean to you?
Setting a goal—big or small—and working with purpose and grit to achieve it. Success is not just the big stuff, but the series of small feats along the way that add up in the end to something greater than the sum of the parts. I was always focused on the next milestone, and my team helped me take stock of all the small wins we had along the way, which ultimately yielded real success.
What’s the driving passion behind PrettyQuick?
The driving principle has always been that women deserve an easier way to schedule self-care. As we grow the platform and I add the responsibility of motherhood to my plate, that has never felt more critical. The beauty industry is one of the last great industries that just doesn’t have a marketplace where supply and demand meet seamlessly. That is what we’re building, and it still feels purpose-driven. I love that my job is to package solutions that will genuinely make it easier for our users to nurture themselves. The endless capacity of technology to solve problems—from the quotidian to the life-changing—still amazes me every day.
What lessons have you learned that you’d like other women to know?
Being a founder is one of the hardest—if not the hardest—human experience I’ve had. Of course, there were moments of doubt and uncertainty, but I believed so deeply in the fundamentals of our mission that I could move through even the darkest moments confidently, if not easily. Once your confidence in your vision—in yourself— is shaken, momentum grinds to a halt. Don’t give up.
What leadership advice would you like to share?
Finding and investing in great people is the most important task a leader has if she wants to grow something to scale. You can’t do it alone. Think hard about why your team comes to work every day and make sure you’re doing everything you can to retain talent smarter than you are.
What excites you about PrettyQuick’s future?
I am so excited that now, as a part of Groupon Beauty, the business of beauty booking will soar to even greater heights. We are combining the scale and power of Groupon with the functional and industry expertise of PrettyQuick. It’s a win-win match, and my goal is to build a billion-dollar business in short order. I also enjoy participating in other parts of the vibrant Chicago community, through angel investing in other female- founded tech startups and giving back to our amazing cultural institutions, like the Joffrey Ballet.
What is most important to you?
Poppy! And Ethan. And building a billion-dollar solution for women around the world to more easily take care of themselves.
What’s the most important message you hope to pass on to your daughter or other girls and women?
You can be whoever you want to be. Don’t let up.
Coco is a passionate entrepreneur and business leader with a track record of commercializing innovation in beauty. At L’Oreal in New York and Paris, Coco helped billion-dollar brands grow market share in fiercely competitive global markets. While earning her MBA at Chicago Booth, she transferred her passion for helping women look and feel their best to the tech industry by founding PrettyQuick, a digital platform for booking salon and spa appointments. After expanding to 6 markets and thousands of premium beauty providers, PrettyQuick sold to Groupon in June of 2015 to help the tech giant enhance their leadership in beauty services. Coco currently serves as Director of Beauty Booking at Groupon.