Tiffani Bell, 26, isn’t your typical Silicon Valley CEO. She’s a Howard University-trained engineer from North Carolina, who after missing one too many appointments with her hair stylist was inspired to create Pencil You In, a business that streamlines the appointments process for grooming-based business providers.
Fresh off of a stint at NewMeAccel, the first minority-owned start-up accelerator, Tiffani sat down with the Atlanta Post to discuss how she built her business, the lack of diversity in the technology industry and what it’s like being filmed for the fourth installment of CNN’s Black in America 4.
What is Pencil You In and who is it for?
TB: Pencil You In allows hairstylists, barbers, make-up artists, and nail techs to more efficiently and professionally manage their businesses by accepting appointments online.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
TB: The inspiration for Pencil You In goes back to 2008 during my last semester at Howard University.
I had a full schedule that included classes, presentations and interviews and needed to look presentable at all times. Showing up in a headscarf and track pants was no longer acceptable.
I’d been going to the same hairstylist for 2-3 years, but thanks to my schedule, I was no longer able to see him every two weeks. After an extensive game of phone tag, I’d end up getting appointments at extremely odd times. 7am once. And I figured that since I was a Computer Science major, I could probably write some software that could solve this problem for myself, and others.
What year did you launch Pencil You In?
I threw the first prototype together back in 2008, but didn’t get serious about the app until 2010. Prior to that, it was just another project in a long list of ideas I was tinkering with at the time.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
TB: I’ve always been a person that’s gone against the grain and disagreed with the notion that I had to “get a real job” where somebody else determined what kind of salary I made and what I’d get to work on or think about everyday.
And not to sound greedy or anything, but I knew I wanted to be wealthy and as I got older, it became increasingly obvious that to be wealthy, I’d have to determine my own salary, through entrepreneurship.