We’ve all been there: first-date jitters and no clue what to wear, or a job interview where you need to dress to impress. The struggle is real, but thanks to actress Skyler Samuels, it no longer has to be. The Scream Queens star and recent Stanford University grad just launched a cutting-edge fashion app that’s destined to be a game changer when it comes to getting dressed. Want your very own personal stylist in the palm of your hand? With Tipster, our prayers have finally been answered; we can now consult with an expert when struggling to put an outfit together.
Keep reading to learn how Tipster works and find out what inspired Samuels to produce our dream app in the first place.
WHO WHAT WEAR: Congratulations on your new app! We love the concept of having a personal stylist in our pocket. What inspired the production of this business venture?
SKYLER SAMUELS: Beauty and fashion have been the cornerstone of my life by default, because they’re so intertwined with entertainment and such a big part of your life as an actress. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a girly girl. I love all of it: makeup, clothes, hairstyles… I love playing around with that kind of stuff. I also think I’ve been lucky enough to work in a business with a lot of crazy-talented people who have really guided my journey, as far as assembling my own personal style.
Over the years, I’ve had friends who would ask, “Hey, what do you think I should wear to this event? You did your hair really cute that one time, and I’m thinking of doing it for this thing I’m going to.” I thought to myself, “Yeah, my hair did look cute, but I didn’t do my hair. I also didn’t pick out that dress, so maybe I shouldn’t be the one giving you advice,” and they would say, “You’re so lucky you have all these experts at your disposal!”
So I got to thinking about it, and I felt like that shouldn’t have to be a luxury for just celebrities or performers—that should be something we all have access to when we want it. My co-founder, Andrew, and I got together, and we had sort of been mulling over a similar idea, but then Tipster as a concept came about, where we both felt really passionate about having a place that was dedicated to experts and people who wanted great advice on how to elevate their style and feel confident with their looks.
WWW: Tell us about a scenario in the past where you wish you had an app like this to help guide you.
SS: Well, first of all, there are more scenarios than I can probably count. I think, for instance, I live my life on the go, and I’m not always in town when I’m filming; I’ve been filming out of state the last couple of years. You’re flying back and forth with really short turnarounds to go to these events in Los Angeles or New York. Sometimes I was in such a rush that I didn’t really get to think about the choices I was making with my outfit or hair and makeup; I was always so busy moving through life.
We’re all busy, but no matter how busy we get, we want to feel confident about how we look, because it can be really vulnerable if we don’t feel good about our look or our outfit. It can really sort of shake our experience. In the moments where I’ve been on the go, I would have loved it if I could have reached into my purse and gotten a second opinion on hair and makeup, feeling assured that I was rocking the perfect lip color for the dress I was wearing. It’s just that little boost of confidence that makes you feel like you’ve got this.
WWW: Tell us about the process of executing your business plan. What were some of the challenges that surfaced along the way?
SS: It’s no cakewalk; I’ll tell you that much. It was a really incredible process, learning the ins and outs of putting a business together. It was really the first time I had done something like this. Andrew has launched a few businesses before, so I was lucky to have his guidance throughout the process.
I think for us, one of the biggest challenges is that Tipster is a multifaceted app: You have a portion of the app that caters to users—people asking questions, seeking style advice, and wanting to cultivate inspiration for their own personal style. On the flipside, you have the stylists, makeup artists, and fashion influencers who are looking to monetize their followings from Instagram and other social media sites. They’re also have very specific needs, as far as building their portfolios and having a space dedicated to building their brands.
So you have these two complex pieces, and finding a way they can work together harmoniously—whereby the stylists are getting as much from Tipster as the users—was our biggest challenge. But we were able to do a lot of research; we interviewed a lot of people, and we reached into my Rolodex, where stylists and artists I work with all the time came in and did beta testing with us. It was really great, and we’ve had really good responses. And that’s sort of the magic behind Tipster.
WWW: How exactly does Tipster work, in terms of getting paired with a stylist? How did you go about securing a team of stylists?
SS: To me, selection is key. The first thing we talked about was, “It has to be the user’s choice.” For instance, a lot of people have called this “The Uber of Styling,” and I always say, “Well, sort of, but with the caveat that you get to choose.” With Uber, you just find a driver nearby. With Tipster, you get to choose the stylist you want to talk to.
We have a very specific vetting process, going through and making sure that all of our stylists, artists, and influencers are experts with legitimate portfolios. They either have a presentation or body of work that show they are experts in their field or they have amassed a certain amount of Instagram followers that we can really trust that they’re legitimate.
So we go through the process of making sure everybody is qualified to be a Tipster, and from there, we use specific information that the stylists put in about themselves—their specialties, areas of expertise, styles they identify with—and we pair that with the overlapping interests and preferences that users input when they develop their own profiles. When a user is looking to ask a question, we match them with the stylists who we feel overlap them the most.
So, for instance, when you ask a question, the 10 most relevant stylists pop up based on your preferences. Look through them; if you don’t see anyone you like, hit refresh and we’ll give you 10 more options. It really is a personalized experience that way. If you come to Tipster and you don’t have a burning question in mind—maybe you’re just looking for a little inspo—our feed features lookbooks made by the stylists.
Every stylist, artist, and influencer on Tipster can make lookbooks on their profile, and these lookbooks are little glimpses into things they’ve done, including photo shoots, people they have dressed recently, or just something that’s inspiring them. Lookbooks are constantly being added to the feed, so you can see what people are posting and discover style trends as well.
WWW: Hypothetically, if we were to be paired with a stylist who we want more tips from in the future, do we have the option of consulting with that person again?
SS: Absolutely. So let’s say you have a really great experience talking to someone; you can go to their profile page directly and request a consultation with them.
WWW: How long has it taken to put Tipster into action?
SS: The idea surfaced two years ago, but getting the app up and all the details in place has taken about two years, and we’re still fine-tuning. It’s definitely been a labor of love.
WWW: Who have been some of the most supportive, encouraging people throughout this process?
SS: The people who have encouraged me the most are the people I work with a lot. My stylist, Monty Jackson, is awesome. He’s been super helpful; he has given lots of advice and participated in our beta testing. I have a hairstylist in New York who is my go-to girl. She’s amazing; her name is Mia Santiago, and she’s on the app. I brought her in so many times. She has taken time out of her busy days to sit with our coders to answer questions about user profiles and all these sorts of things.
I called in a lot of favors from my friends, but they wanted in, and they were so enthusiastic about it. I felt really blessed, and I truly wanted to make something for them. They need an even better platform to showcase what they do. No red carpet look, no movie, no anything comes together in a vacuum. Hollywood glam is a team effort, and I wanted them to have a place to showcase their stuff. What’s really cool is that a lot of the features you see on the app for the stylists are based on stylists I know. I asked them, “What do you want? What would help you really build your brand and put you on display to build your clientele?”
WWW: How has your major at Stanford played a role in the launch of this app? Are there any courses you took that you feel have prepared you for this venture?
SS: I’m definitely a big nerd. Going to Stanford was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Graduating two weeks ago was surreal; I can’t believe it’s over! I crossed the finish line and thought, Wow that really was the fastest four years of my life! It went by in the blink of an eye. I graduated with a degree that had a medium communications focus, and it was really about innovative problem-solving. So that was really at the heart of my major, which I loved, because in order to complete my degree, I had to take a lot of different courses in a lot of different fields to figure out problem-solving in different arenas with various demographics. At the end of the day, there’s always going to be a problem, and there’s going to be a needed solution. To me, solutions move the world forward, so I wanted to focus that in my major.
There were definitely two classes that played a role. I took a computer science class that was the hardest class I ever took—I cried every day while doing my homework! But funnily enough, I really gained an appreciation for how incredibly skilled you have to be to be an amazing coder. It’s no easy task; it’s ran art form and a language. You have to know it and breathe it and be able to build a whole world around it. It was mind-blowing. I was also really lucky to take some design courses that were focused around entrepreneurial designs and how to design for a user, and how to use design and innovation as a means for providing solutions for people. That was sort of the inspirational fuel where I was like, “Okay, I can draw upon these experiences and put this together.” They’ve definitely fueled a lot of what Tipster is, so I’m very grateful to have that Stanford expertise in my back pocket.
WWW: Where do you hope to see Tipster five years from now?
SS: It’s so funny; I literally ask that question about once a week! Can you read my mind? How did you know I ask myself that all the time? I really hope that Tipster becomes established in the arena of applications. For most people, Facebook and Instagram are now a daily part of life, and not in a bad way: Facebook is their newsfeed, and Instagram is their photo album. I hope that Tipster is their stylist, their virtual closet. I can only hope that our network of stylists and influencers continue to grow and flourish along with our users. I think the most important thing to me, and what’s at the heart of Tipster, is confidence. I wanted a place where anybody—from the most confident fashionistas to someone who doesn’t get dressed up or wear makeup a lot—can go get advice and feel satisfied and confident about the look they’re going to rock. Advice from an expert makes us feel better; we can trust that advice. When we have that extra boost of confidence, we can absolutely change the trajectory of our day.
What are your thoughts on Tipster? Will you be test-driving the app? Please tell us in the comments below!
Opening Image: Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images