Fargo woman launches last-second booking platform for spa and salon appointments
Jess Azure, herself a licensed master esthetician and former massage therapist, recently launched Spadesso. It's an online booking platform designed for finding spa and salon appointments "today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow," she explained.
FARGO — A new online platform designed for booking last minute spa and salon appointments and created by a local industry professional shares a common thread with many other digital age tech start-ups.
Jess Azure, a licensed master esthetician and former massage therapist, recently launched Spadesso , a website made specifically for last-minute appointments. While Spadesso wasn’t founded in a garage , the product of dropping out from Harvard or hatched during a cross-country odyssey , Azure does share a similar story with the likes of Jobs, Gates and Bezos.
The common link, Azure recounted to The Forum, took place while she was participating in the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce leadership program. At an entrepreneur day, she explained the idea for Spadesso to a fellow participant. The conversation started like many other successful business pitches, “Hey, I have this crazy idea,” Azure recalled saying.
Once she received the validation she was searching for — that "this just might be crazy enough to work" moment — Azure began digging deeper. It kicked off a process that’s drawn on decades of experience and has played out over more than two years, resulting in Spadesso’s launch Thursday, April 14.
A data- and experience-driven concept
Azure has a broad range of work experience under her belt. It was that experience that informed her research as she ironed out the details for Spadesso.
After her stint in the salon industry, Azure worked at a hospitality company before becoming a realtor. Still, she always felt drawn to spa and salon work. “Having the early experience in the industry, I knew that I wanted to be involved somehow,” she said. “I never really knew what that meant.”
Spadesso, which Azure said is “near and dear to my heart,” had always been on the back of her mind, but the concept needed refinement. Inspired by the use of data analysis in the hospitality field, Azure realized she needed the same level of scrutiny to make Spadesso a reality.
Azure quickly noticed there were “a lot” of entrenched online scheduling platforms. Knowing that, she needed a way to make Spadesso unique. Once she dug a little deeper, she unearthed several trends which helped her settle on the last-minute scheduling in which Spadesso specializes.
Azure rattled off several of her key findings. For example, 80% of bookings are made on mobile devices, she said. On top of that, half of clients book appointments on the go and 40% of clients sought appointments the very same day. She also discovered that while clients think of making a spa or salon appointment up to 12 times a year, they only do so a third of the time.
Taken all together, Azure realized Spadesso needed to be a mobile-friendly, easy-to-use scheduler focused on “today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow,” she explained.
Drawing from her own experience in the industry, Azure knew that salon and spa professionals had bigger concerns than marketing and scheduling. “Having that experience, I’m able to kind of put myself in their shoes,” she said. “My focus was not on, ‘How am I going to market myself?’ My focus was on, ‘How am I going to provide a really great service?’”
She’s also witnessed first-hand the shifting business model in the industry, with more and more professionals moving to either booth rental or ownership. While it’s “all a very wonderful thing,” Azure remarked, it’s led to a disconnect between providers and the public. For providers who don’t advertise, it’s difficult to reach new clients. It’s another gap Azure hopes Spadesso can bridge.
“Our goal is to be a resource for providers to have a place where they can find actual warm leads for appointments that they have open,” she said. “We’re there for them to help fill the gaps.”
‘The new form of a walk-in’
Azure began exploring the Spadesso concept back in 2020, while the COVID-19 pandemic was ravaging spas and salons across the country.
Once shops began reopening, Azure realized clients would be looking for appointments as quickly as possible. With travel at a lull, she also expected that people would be craving new local experiences. The lightbulb went off later that year when some of her friends mentioned how difficult it was to find an appointment at the last minute.
Unfortunately though, walk-in appointments have become something of a fossil in the industry, to the point where they are nearly “unheard of” nowadays, Azure said. “When we think back a long, long time ago, walk-ins were probably a very normal element of owning a salon or spa,” she remarked. “Things have kind of changed over the years.”
The inability to get a walk-in appointment can be particularly problematic when it comes to massages. Clients tend to have acute needs, meaning they can’t wait two weeks to be seen when they tweak their back.
To that end, Azure hopes Spadesso can bring back the walk-in appointment. “I think that maybe this is the new form of a walk-in, in a way, that last-second option,” she said.
Spadesso is also an ideal choice for people who are new to the area or don’t have a referral. She views it much like an online travel booking site; a place where people can see all their options in one spot. “When you’re thinking about (booking) a flight or a hotel, your first thought is, ‘Where can I go to see what all my options are?’” Azure commented. “That’s what I really love about our site too is that we present those options to you in a very simple, unencumbered way.”
A long road ahead
Spadesso, much like any tech start-up, has “a long journey ahead of us,” Azure said.
For now, the platform is meant to complement rather than overtake a provider’s existing booking system. Still, Azure didn’t rule out the possibility of expanding her “today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow” timeframe.
With the right mix of interest from service providers and customers, she’d also like to roll Spadesso out beyond the Fargo area. A web app is also among her end goals, she said. If the concept is a success, she’d ultimately like to move beyond just haircuts and massages as well, even looking for possibilities in other industries.
Most importantly, though, Azure hopes Spadesso will be front of mind next time a provider has an opening to fill or a client is on the hunt for a last-second appointment. “When I’m thinking appointment, I think Spadesso,” Azure envisioned. “When I’m thinking, ‘I need a resource because I don’t even know where to begin on this marketing journey,’ I think Spadesso.”