Paris Mielke is a 21-year-old tech CEO and co-founder who grew up in a small rural town in the Pacific Northwest. Her interests have always leaned towards making a positive impact on the quality or longevity of human life through technology. In high school, this manifested as a strong affinity for science, mathematics, and space travel which led her to participate in “nerdier” summer past-times like math and space camps which only served to strengthen her obsession with technology.
Paris studied at the Information Systems Program at Carnegie Mellon University for two years before eventually dropping out with only one class remaining in her degree. She is currently passionate about increasing access to entrepreneurship, progressing longevity research, and AI/ML.
Paris’s current startup venture (https://pairi.app) helps service-based businesses (e.g. instructors, stylists, artists, dentists, consultants, etc.) build a custom booking app in minutes no matter their industry. The goal of the company is to alleviate the time, monetary, and technical barriers to bringing businesses online.
1. What is Pairi?
Pairi is an e-commerce platform that allows service-based businesses to build a custom booking app in minutes. Our customers range from solo business owners to entrepreneurs looking to serve thousands of service providers through an online marketplace. Pairi helps businesses manage everything from online payments and customer relationships to intake forms and accounting.
2. How did you come up with the idea for Pairi and how did you get to where you are today?
A family-friend worked as a lash extension artist at a salon but wanted to be her own boss for the increased flexibility and control. She was hesitant to make the transition to freelancing because of all the management and responsibility needed to run a business on her own. She knew her talent was in-demand, but the idea of running all aspects of a business on her own from accounting to marketing was overwhelming. She was looking for a booking app that would help her manage all of these things on her own while helping her develop and grow her own brand.
The night my friend first told me this I had the “idea moment” for Pairi. I began wondering why most service-based businesses are still offline (93% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). If bringing your business online can help save time and stress with accounting, managing customer relationships, and scheduling, why doesn’t every car mechanic shop, groomer, or photographer have their own booking app? Why isn’t there a single place service-based businesses can go to easily set-up a custom booking app with their own branding, pricing, rules, and policies rather than having to scour the internet and try tens of different apps before finding one, or a combination of several tools to solve their unique business management needs? Businesses that want to sell any kind of product online have companies like Shopify as an all-in-one solution. I see a future where the same can be said about businesses that sell services online.
After working on this problem, I quickly realized why most of the service industry is still offline and why no one has built Pairi yet — selling services online is just more complex than selling products online. This is because every service industry is different and has unique booking management needs. For instance, booking a barber is very different from booking a tattoo artist online. For the barber, you may only have to put down a $10 deposit to secure your appointment. However, the price of a tattoo is determined on a case-by-case basis, the artist has to first approve a design, and collect a consent form before the appointment can take place. Building industry-agnostic tools for service-based businesses that are both intuitive to use and robust is very difficult because of the risk of feature overload when trying to accommodate features for many different industries.
Despite this complexity, we believe that there are a finite number of “components” to selling services online (e.g. subscriptions, gift cards, SMS/email notifications, etc). This similarity has allowed the team at Pairi to build these components into our internal API so that businesses don’t ever have to reinvent-the-wheel and can get their custom booking apps launched in minutes versus months without having to compromise on branding or how they want their online business to run.
3. Should a crowded market deter entrepreneurs or inspire them to enter and how did you navigate yourself against your competitors?
Why allocate resources to worrying about competitors when you can focus on uniquely solving one of an infinite number of important problems in the world? If your goal is to build a world-changing company and your daily worries as a business operator are dominated by closely tracking the new offerings, pricing, and features of your competitors — then you’ve already lost.
4. How did coronavirus impact your company and what lessons would you take from it?
Not too much has changed in our day-to-day due to coronavirus. A minor difference is that we now put more effort into writing things down and recording conversations for other team members to debrief on remotely. There’s also a silver lining to the situation as travel times are reduced to zero, meaning more time in the morning to get situated for the rest of the day.
5. What is the future of Pairi and e-commerce?
Individual creators and skilled professionals will have more control over branding, monetization methods, and how they run their online business overall. Gone will be the days where businesses have to laboriously search for an all-in-one software or daisy-chain many different software tools to help run their online business in the way that best makes sense for their unique business. In the future, businesses will be able to simply explain how they want their online booking app to work to a human or AI and have it ready for them to begin using in minutes. As a first step, Pairi is launching a quiz in August 2020 that will immediately provide businesses with a personalized booking app in minutes that they can then tweak to their liking.
6. What advice would you give to young budding entrepreneurs?
First, entrepreneurship goes through cycles of being hot vs not. If you are becoming an entrepreneur for the sake of being called an entrepreneur, I can tell you confidently that the effort is not worth the status. Start a company because you are obsessed with making some version of the future a reality.
Second, every day you will be doing something new that pushes your boundaries. Learn to embrace feeling stupid and acknowledge that anything you don’t know now, you can learn.
We would like to thank Paris for taking the time to speak with us.