Webb's book, 'The Messy Truth,' came out November 14
Walk through any neighborhood in New York City and it’s hard not to spot the heather gray and canary yellow awning. Blowout hotspot Drybar is a fixture here, and — with over 150 locations and counting — other cities and towns across the U.S., too. It’s a fact that still blows the shop’s founder Alli Webb’s mind.
“A couple of years ago, I was walking through N.Y.C. and I must have passed three different Drybars. And I was like, 'Wow. This was my idea.'"
Webb launched the first Drybar in Brentwood, CA, in 2010, gaining a following that included Hollywood’s biggest stars. An equally popular product and tool line followed. In 2019, the entrepreneur sold the latter to $255 million to Helen of Troy. A year later she closed a deal to sell the franchisor rights for an undisclosed amount.
To the outside world, Webb seemed on top of it. But things aren’t always what they seem. And in a vulnerable new memoir, The Messy Truth, Webb candidly shares what was happening behind the scenes — including how her life fell apart, and how she pieced it back together. Speaking to PEOPLE, Webb opens up about the book, the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur and mother and yes, her secret to the perfect blowout.
PEOPLE: What inspired you to write a memoir?
Webb: Well, it's not a straight memoir, it's like a memoir meets a business book and they had a baby. I view it as a real intertwining of business and personal, which is life, right? We take our shit wherever we go. I think that I felt both compelled to give back all these amazing lessons and things that I've learned along the way about building and growing and scaling and selling Drybar. But my life fell apart several times in the interim of building that business. And I think I have felt especially compelled to share that piece of it too.
There's a ton of business books out there and then there's a ton of, for lack of a better word, self-help books. I think I felt compelled to combine those two things. Like, “Let me show you how I did this, all the things that I learned, all the mistakes that I made. And then also, by the way, my marriage fell apart, I went into a deep depression, my kid went into rehab.”
We added a journaling section because my hope is that it will evoke stuff in you, whether it's business or personal. I think writing that stuff down when you're in the moment is really powerful. We thought about having an accompanying journal with it, but I was like, no, I think in the moment when you've just read this, there's probably going to be shit that's on your mind.
We go through breakups, people die, things happen. It's just real life. And I felt compelled to like bring all that to the light for anybody who might admire Drybar and what we've done. I feel really honored to be able to share that. But let me tell you, it was not easy. On the flip side of the personal side of it was really hard.
PEOPLE: When you look back, who was Alli the businesswoman at Drybar, and who's Alli the businesswoman now?
Webb: I think of Drybar as getting a business degree in college. There was no plan. I remember before we opened the first Drybar, going to sleep at night being like, if we do five blowouts an hour and we have eight chairs, we could potentially do… I was trying to do this math in my head of what it would look like. Little did we know.
And part of writing the book was very cathartic and hard, but what it forced me to do was really think back to all these things that had happened and things that worked and didn't work and how I handled situations back then versus how I might handle them now.
[For Drybar] I went into this ultra business mode where I felt like I had to know everything, and I think I hardened up a little. And then I went through a divorce and one of my sons went to rehab, and I went into a depression and it was very humbling.
So in [recent] years, I've softened so much that I think that has affected the way I am as a leader now. I'm so much more forgiving. I'm so much more open. I think back to when I felt this pressure to have all the answers. Now I'm like, “I don't know the answer, tell me what you think it is,” so much more.
And it's funny because I'm still very close with a lot of people who worked with us in the Drybar era, and they are like, “You're so different. You're just such a softer version of yourself.” I love hearing that, because it's proof of all the work that I've done and all the growth that I've had.
PEOPLE: At the end of each chapter you ask the reader a question. What was the hardest of those questions for you to answer?
Webb: The questions that were like, “What's below the surface? What are you afraid to talk about?” Because it sounds like a pretty easy question at face value, but it's really not if you answer it honestly. There's a million things it could be, and it’s like what's that one thing that if you got really, really quiet and honest with yourself, you'd actually open up and talk about? That's the kind of stuff that I was wanting to evoke from people.
What I've learned in my experience as an avoider is that it doesn't work — it always comes back at some point. When I look back at my life and when I think about how much avoiding I did in my marriage for 16 years, and then just avoiding really hard conversations with executives at Drybar because I didn't want to have them, things would've been so much better if I just would have.
So it shows up in so many different areas in our lives, and I've come to learn that if you can rip the bandaid, have the uncomfortable conversation, whether it's with somebody or yourself, you just grow so much and become such a better person.
PEOPLE: The final section of your book is about embracing your mess. And then in the afterword, there’s a curveball. Where are you now in your process? Still in a state of embrace?
Webb: The afterword was something I didn't see coming that really took me down. But I'm doing a lot better. I will always be embracing it all — I have so many tools in my arsenal that I did not have before to deal with the anxiety that comes up. And it comes.
I think I was always trying to live my life to be happy and to be successful and all the things. And now I'm just holding on and not needing it to be up here, but being okay if it's down here. Really trying to live in this middle ground of not letting the highs affect me too much and the lows take me down too much. Part of that is just embracing that life is a really mixed, messy bag of the good and the bad.
PEOPLE: What are some of the things that you do to recalibrate during those moments?
Webb: To me, writing is important. I don't know if you follow Ed Mylett, he's a motivational speaker, and he's got these seven questions. I try to answer those daily, even if they’re short answers. And if I haven't done it and I'm feeling myself spiral, I'll get into that.
I also tend to be very reactionary, which has not served me well in many areas of my life, but I'm aware of it now. And so that awareness comes from so much of the work I've done. And so now I'm like, “Alli, give yourself a minute.”
I found myself in a bit of a spiral yesterday. I happened to be on a plane so I put my headphones in, and I listened to Insight Timer, which is one of my favorite apps for meditation. And I went to this one and they tell you, “Take a few breaths, everything is okay.” Sometimes we just need somebody to tell us that.
And, I'm a big stretcher. If I stretch in the morning, I feel better in the day. If I'm feeling antsy, I'll take a walk, I'll put on music — that’s a big thing for me. And I regularly talk to a therapist. I do a lot of things. I don't always want to. it's almost like working out. You don't always want to go to the gym, but you make yourself go because of how you’ll feel after.
All of that stuff to me is important to my mental health. And, all the work that I've done is not done. But I know that it's necessary, so I keep doing it.
PEOPLE: Any regrets?
Webb: I don't want there to be. Are there things that I would've done differently? Sure. Obviously the book is full of life lessons and things that I had done very wrong and learned from, but I don't regret that stuff because I learned from it. And I know it sounds like such a cliché, but if we didn't have those mistakes, we would never have learned the lesson.
So I don't think of it as a regret, I really believe that everything happens the way it's supposed to happen. And so I really don't live in regret, which, for all that I've been through, says a lot, I think.
Having — and obviously, the very hardest thing was watching — one of my sons spiral out of control, and go into rehab, be suicidal, there's just nothing more heartbreaking. In that moment, I was like, I wouldn't wish this upon anybody because it's such an impossibly hard road to navigate. Yet, my son is so amazing because of that.
So do I regret that it happened? I don't. I don't even know if I would trade it, as hard as it was for him, and our whole family. It was horrendous. But he's such an evolved kid and he's learned so much, and it's set him on this beautiful path in his life that I don't even think I would change it. So there's the answer to that.
PEOPLE: What is it like for you to get a blowout now?
Webb: My colorist, Amy Huson, gives such a mean blowout and it's always this funny thing between us because she's always like, “I always get a little nervous.” It's really the only time I ever get a blowout. [Otherwise] I do it myself.
I've always really loved blow-drying my own hair. I've always found it to be almost meditative. I will completely lose track of time. I have to set alarms on my phone when I'm blow-drying my hair because I get lost in it. Obviously it makes sense given who I am and what I've done with my life, but it's something I really enjoy. And it's so easy for me.
The problem when I would get a blowout, even at Drybar, is it's almost more stressful for me because I'm so particular about the blowout. It’s probably part of why Drybar was Drybar, but since I've sold it, I don't go anymore.
PEOPLE: What’s the secret to scoring the perfect blowout?
Webb: You won't like the answer, but it's time. You have to take your time. And, sectioning. If you give yourself at least 30 minutes, and you work in small sections, you'll have a much better blowout. If you think you're going to do it in 10 minutes and you're going to do it in big clumps, good luck.
PEOPLE: Now that you've had some distance from Drybar, do you still use the products? Or has it been fun to experiment with new things?
Webb: Even when I was in the throes of Drybar I used other products, just because I liked seeing what else is out there.
And, I'm toying around with another potential hair project, because I really love hair, and I have some ideas of things that I think are missing out there. There's always opportunity.
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