Japan’s Coupe helps beauticians find hairdressing models online

L to R: Coupe co-founder Megumi Takemura and Aiko Watanabe

See the original story in Japanese.

Coupe is a web-based platform that helps beauticians find hairdressing models. Officially launched last Thursday, the platform has acquired over 130 models and dealt with more than 1,200 requests from beauty salons for models since its beta launch a while ago.

Coupe announced today that it has secured an undisclosed sum of funding from CyberAgent Ventures. We recently spoke to Coupe co-founders and soon-to-graduate university students Megumi Takemura and Aiko Watanabe.

Beautician provides inspiration

Takemura came up with the idea for Coupe when her close friend started work at a famous beauty salon in Omotesando, a fashionable district in Tokyo. Typical trainee beauticians work everyday without a day off, but what is harder for them is finding hairdressing models. Regardless of the weather, these budding beauticians must stand out on the street to recruit passersby to be a hairdressing model.

As a university student Takemura knows that many students want to be a hairdressing model. Seeing the difficult situation her friend was in, she hit on the idea for Coupe to help beauticians easily connect with potential hairdressing models.

Unlike models who receive treatment for free in return for giving trainee beauticians the chance to practice their haircutting and styling techniques, Coupe offers hairdressing models whose pictures will be used for a beauty salon’s menu, fashion magazine, or other publications. To ensure quality, a strict screening process means that only one out of ten applicants becomes a hairdressing model after receiving document-based and camera test-based qualifications.

Watanabe explained:

Many young women want to become a hairdressing model for beauty salons, which is now even more popular than fashion models for magazines. We sometimes recruit them but now receive many applications from aspiring hairdressing models.

Business model


Beauticians can benefit from Coupe, but will not be charged whether or not they find a good model using the platform. While the Coupe team had explored charging a fee to beauticians or beauty salons, they subsequently understood it was not substantial through a series of interviews.

So they set up a new business scheme called Coupe for Business as a primary monetization stream, where big companies like Recruit and DeNA pay to hire registered models for their business. Example includes Recruit starring Coupe’s models in the former’s web service called Preno as well as Uber using these models in their ads.

For companies that do not usually use models for business, they are not familiar with how to discuss with a model agency or typical pricing to hire a model. However, Coupe’s pricing is clear so that companies are required to pay 5,000 yen as a commission for the platform and an hourly-basis wage when hiring a model. The hourly wage price for models is different from person to person. While some models get paid 5,000 yen per hour, others are satisfied with these opportunities regardless of a lack of a wage.

Choosing an entrepreneur’s way

Coupe founders and CyberAgent Ventures team
Coupe founders and CyberAgent Ventures team

Takemura had been worked as an intern at Logbar, the Japanese startup behind wearable device Ring. When she hesitated to start a business, Logbar CEO Takuro Yoshida encouraged her to try:

You never know about society or companies, but that’s your strongest weapon for now. You will not be able to launch anything by yourself once you get used to being employed.

She started exploring funding opportunities last November to secure funding before she graduates from university this spring. Invested funds were recently remitted to their bank account, and they are ready to focus on expanding their business. But before reaching that point, Takemura had a tough time raising the money. Her knowledge of entrepreneurship or investment only came from what she read in books, so everything that has happened in this process has been new to her.

Takemura explained:

Through my funding effort, I came to thoroughly understand how the system of investment works. I think what I learned from the recent several-month experience was much more than I could have learned in four years at university.

Watanabe is in charge of managing models for the Coupe platform. While running a startup, she got to know how important it is to manage herself both physically and mentally.

Takemura continued:

I have failed in many things and have been disappointed because I’ve never experience so much. However, I can find my advantage in myself, so I’m becoming more optimistic.

The Team

The Coupe team consists of three interns, three former beauticians, and one engineer, aged 18 to 23. They are hiring more engineers who are interested in solving problems in the beauty salon industry. Most team members are young women, so they have the ability to develop the service by understanding the perspective of hairdressing models.

Takemura explained:

I think that men cannot develop something like Coupe. Because we are in the same generation with our users, we can understand their desires to have a cute makeup and a photo shoot. That’s why we can keep thinking about how to make them look great.

Watanabe added:

Aspiring hairdressing models had no chance other than being recruited on the street by beauticians before the Coupe platform was introduced. Instead of a registration site for models, we want to make the platform as a predigested brand for everyone. That’s why we sometime organize meet-ups for users
to get them well connected with each other.

Marketing expansion

If models can manage themselves using the Coupe platform, more companies will be able to hire models without using model agencies. Hence, the Coupe team plans to strengthen acquiring companies using the platform, aiming to receive new registrations from over 20 models and 100 orders that send hairdressing models to companies every month.

While it is hard for hairdressing models to make a living, the team looks to have more users who can make a living with orders from the Coupe platform. They work out of Takemura’s home, but they plant to rent an office in Omotesando, where models can come together and meet.

Takemura concluded:

We want to tell more people that entrepreneurship is an option. I don’t think I am not an entrepreneur. I got here by simply choosing the best way. Even if I fail in the path I choose, I will definitely gain great experience in the effort. Everyone has a different best choice, but I want to tell people there is a way by launching a business.

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by Kurt Hanson
Proofread by “Tex” Pomeroy