For all the technological advances in the beauty space, we still tend to trust authentic recs from our own friends and colleagues when it comes to sourcing the best and buzziest treatments in the city. New platform Skoop is rooted in that exact peer-recommended = best mentality. Founded by two former co-workers who would spend their lunchtimes swapping tips on manis, massages, and more, Kristen Depowski and Riley Christopher created the concept to become like a network of green-lit services. From the trendy to the tried-and-true, it’s a foolproof way to cut through the Google noise when you just need a little R&R. Here’s their story!
You met at work, at a startup. What’s your first memory of each other?
Kristen Depowski: I remember overhearing that Riley was going to be late to a work happy hour because she booked an infrared blanket session at Shape House (RIP) and I thought, ‘Wow, I want to be friends with that girl!”
Riley Christopher: I remember on our President’s Club (top performers) trip, Kristen missed the majority of the
beach party because she was using her stipend for massages. I was so jealous!
Ha! Did you always think you’d work together or was it a random moment when the penny dropped?
Riley: So, both Kristen and I, within our networks, have always been the go-to resource about wellness. Friends and family consistently ask us what new treatment may help whatever concern or ailment they need to address. What is the best spa in Chelsea for a massage under $100? Who gives the best Botox for beginners? On July 22, we were sitting in a conference room talking about our shared knowledge base. I learned that Kristen, being the lawyer and obsessive researcher that she is, went so far as to create an excel spreadsheet to document her findings. There was something here; a question we posed for ourselves—how can we create a way to streamline the way women find, book, and share services? And Skoop was born. We trademarked “skoop” that night.
Kristen: We bonded outside of the office for the first time in the Bahamas at that aforementioned President’s Club trip. We got back and I needed to send flowers to someone special in a random city and I had no idea who to use—this was pre-Urban Stems days! Riley called the front desk of The Ritz and asked them who does their flower arrangements and that’s when I knew….
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What were your respective backgrounds before you met?
Riley: Before VTS, I was at Bluemercury. Kristen was a bad ass real estate attorney.
Tell us about how you used to keep mental lists and spreadsheets of NYC salons and studios?
Kristen: I had a Google Doc that I would email around to a mailing list of friends and I would list out spa and treatment recs to everyone and would note who to ask for and any special tips (ie – the front desk at DTX gives you aloe vera water after your colonic).
When are you launching Skoop?
Kristen: We went full time to pursue Skoop in February 2020. We have been in beta testing since February 2021 and have used the last year to work on the app and get the functionality ready for a public launch.
What’s the premise, in a nut shell?
Kristen: There is a lot of noise in the beauty and wellness space when looking for the best services. To find the best service, most people ask someone they trust, yet there is no single place that collects this word of mouth within a trusted network and then moves to streamline the actual booking process— now Skoop is that platform for finding and booking the best beauty and wellness services.
What’s the reaction been like?
Riley: “How does this not exist!!!!”
Are you both from New York?
Riley: Kristen is! I am from DC.
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Where does your love for beauty/discovering new treatments come from?
Riley: The fun stuff—hair and nails. I tagged along my mom with for as long as I can remember. I feel like I was lucky to always be learning and ahead of the curve (I did electrolysis at age 14 on my upper lip and at maybe 18 for brows). I’ve been into massages my whole life having suffered from a bad back. After surgery, I learned about the benefits of regular infrared sauna and deep tissue for continued recovery. Having bad acne scarring post-college, I was determined to resurface my skin. Through a lot of research on what would actually work, the right estheticians and combination of treatments, I was able to get the results I wanted. Personally, I had a bad face picking problem and struggled with finding the right treatment for my scarring. I discovered vampire facials and they changed my complexion and confidence. Kristen cured her restless leg with weekly acupuncture. We found that in sharing our own stories we were influencing—I hate that word but it’s true!—our own friends’ decision-making and spending patterns in this realm. Skoop is the platform that takes this to the next level.
Kristen: My mom. She would take me around the beauty counters of Lord and Taylor every weekend and we’d go around from counter to counter listening about the best lipsticks and night creams. She also would spend 45 minutes in the bathroom every single night before bed. The house could be burning down and she’d still remove her makeup!
Originally, where were you finding out about the best places to go?
Riley: Word of mouth. It’s all about that handful of women you trust. And I mean really trust. Think about your go-to girlfriend for specific advice: the best bar for a pre-dinner drink on a second date, the best inexpensive La Mer dupe, the chicest pair of heels that you can actually walk in…so on and so forth.
Kristen: I’d Google top ten lists and comb through reviews to figure out where to go and who was the best person to see.
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Where is your most recent discovery?
Kristen: Floating Lotus in Midtown. I toured the space with Grace Yoon, their COO. It’s an incredible oasis of all the cutting edge wellness treatments—including a ketamine floating tank! I was taking notes in my iPhone as she explained it all to me.
What are the markers of a five-star treatment in your eyes?
Riley: Results-driven (whether it’s a massage or a facial, I need to feel and see a difference) and bang for buck/value over frills.
Kristen: Results and a reasonable price—but not “cheap” or a “deal.” Plus, when people tell you that you look different or you’re glowing but they can’t tell what you did.
What criteria does a service have to fit before it’s added to the platform?
Riley: It has to be best-in-class for that specific price point or neighborhood for that specific subcategory of service. For example: Balayage for under $300 on the Upper East Side.
What beauty treatment trends do you see taking off this year?
Riley: Non toxic/healthy gel manicures (i.e. Japanese gel); facial workouts; body tightening treatments; acupuncture. I think this whole notion around how beauty starts within—like how everything starts in the gut and the gut-skin connection—so think: getting colonics and detox sweats. Different sorts of facials like Hydrafacials, LED light, and micro current. Non-invasive ways to tone up and body contouring treatments. Hair loss treatments for men and women; brow design treatments; and body scrubs and scalp scrubs—because it’s not just your face that needs exfoliating!
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What’s ahead for Skoop & what are your biggest dreams for the platform?
Kristen: It’s all about consistently doing treatments each month and planning ahead—that delivers the best results. It takes time, patience, and budgeting. I want Skoop to be that place where you can track your routine, your spend, your progress in one space and feel good and proud about it, so that in two years, you look back and you look better than you did five years ago. Skoop = confidence. It’s about looking natural, like yourself, but better! And you don’t need tons of money, you just need access to the best and to know where/what’s the best. It’s not just celebs that have access to this info. I want every woman (and man) to feel and look their best and carve out time for self care—make the nail appointment, book the facial, save up for microblading. Because these Skoop treatments have the power to change your frequency, your energy, and your life. I picture a world where you’re traveling in a city, you need a blow out or a lymphatic drainage massage, you open up Skoop on your phone and find out exactly where to go and who to see. Or that a Skoop review beats a Yelp review!
[Editor’s note: Download the app from the app store now.]