“Ten years ago, when we first started, there were only a few companies doing what we do. You would type ‘eyelash extensions’ into a search engine and barely anything would come up. Now, millions of things come up,” says Barbara Rattigan, owner of LashSpot Spa in Costa Mesa, CA.
A successful lash business starts with a great lash technician, and a great technician comes from stellar training.
“The process is not just about how to apply the lashes, it is also about safety, theory and how to analyze the client’s lashes and face to decide what really works for them,” Rattigan says. “Part of being a great lash technician is not just giving the client what they think they want, but knowing what type of lashes work on the type of existing lashes they have. It is an art and it takes practice.”
To give a clearer idea of what the different levels of training mean to the bottom line, Cecilli Grootemaat, owner of Sable Lash Lounge in Bellevue, WA, explains her lash menu. “I am a master lash artist and can charge $255. My senior artist has one and a half years and she does my lashes, so she charges $195. Our junior lash artist has only been applying lash extensions for approximately 3 months and is still getting her technique and speed down, so she only charges $100. Essentially, clients are paying for the skill level of their service provider,” she explains.
Once you hire well-trained lash artists or become experienced yourself, it is all about being the best and having people talk about it. “Doing quality work gets you great online reviews, and that gets you the word of mouth you need to succeed. That is it. That is the marketing plan. Yelp reviews are so important these days,” says Courtney Akai, owner of Courtney Akai Lash Boutique in Soho, NY.
Likewise, Blinkbar, which has locations in California, Texas and soon in New York, has a no advertising policy. “It is all word of mouth. And, if press writes us up, they write us up. We rely on our clients to spread the word and they certainly do. We get a lot of bloggers writing about us. Our first big win when we first opened in West Hollywood was when we were named one of the best places in L.A. for eyelash extensions by CBS. That drew a lot of new clients,” says Blinkbar owner Tirzah Briscoe. The same thing happened when Akai got great press in The New York Times. “That was our first big hit that got it going,” she says.
Akai did spend a few marketing dollars on Reach Local, an online marketing company, for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes to make sure Courtney Akai Lash Boutique came up high in Google searches so potential clients would find them when someone typed in something like “best lashes in New York.”
“That worked great,” she says. “But, now, we have enough clients and they keep coming back. We do not need to spend money on marketing or advertising. We just need to keep up the quality work,” says Akai.
So, why is it that eyelash treatments can rely so heavily on word of mouth?
“It is because lash extensions are instantly transformative. Clients open their eyes and look in the mirror and go, ‘Oh my god! It looks like I got a face-lift. I look younger! Thank you!’ And, they hug me. It is a powerful moment and it is so gratifying for me too,”says Carla Goycochea, manager, makeup artist and lash stylist at Blu Water Day Spa & Salon in Kensington, MD.
Since word of mouth is key, a great way to nudge that along is to share photos of your fabulous lashes on all of your social media platforms, especially the powerful Instagram, but also by posting photos on your Yelp page. If you are a day spa new to the lash game, make sure you introduce your new lash menu to your existing clients through your newsletter, all your social media outlets, and through special introductory prices and promotions to get started.
Another reason lashes are good for business is that clients truly become addicts once they get their first set of lashes. They usually become a client for life because, like with acrylic nails or hair coloring, they really do need to come in for regular touch-ups/refills. Refills are needed every 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the client’s natural growth cycle, or how picky they are about keeping the fullness of the lashes consistent. Refill prices can be set or fluctuate with the type of lash offered. For example, Blinkbar’s Glam-Rock Rihanna ombre lashes that cost $200 have a refill price of $100, while Akai’s touch-ups range from $75 to $200 per hour.
A good way to make sure lash clients come back is to book their refill/touch-up appointment when they check out. Additionally, having a few programs in place to encourage frequent visits does the trick as well. Lashes by Shannon in Dallas, TX, offers several enticements, including package deals (five or more for 5% off, 10 or more for 10% off, and 20 or more for 20% off), as well as a referral program, where if you send in three new referrals you get a free touch-up. She also offers a FabuLash card. For every five touch-ups, cardholders get their sixth one free, and a $99.99 monthly membership for unlimited touch-ups.
Similarly, the LashSpot Lash Lovers membership for $29 a month offers discounts and special members-only deals. For instance, a normal initial application of lashes is $175, while the member price is $99. “It has worked out really well for us and they save money on our other services we offer, such as waxing or brows. Once you secure them as a member, you almost have them as a client for life and they do keep coming back,” says Rattigan.
Just like with add-ons for facials, there are creative add-ons for lashes that help add a few more coins to the cash register as well. Lashes by Shannon offers Candied Lashes in four colors that are hand-dipped, freeze dried and crystallized, and then cut to the desired length. They come in Cinnamon Toast, Blue Raspberry, Mint Chocolate and Sugar Plum, with each extra lash costing $3 a pop. Courtney Akai Lash Boutique also offers Candied Lashes for $10 per lash, while LashSpot Spa adds bling to lashes with Swarovski Crystals at $8 per crystal. “The crystal goes on the lash line so when you blink, you see a little bling. Brides and girls with banging style love this,” says Rattigan.
Of course, the last piece of the puzzle is sending your clients out the door with some retail products. The key to stocking your retail shelves is to buy the products that go specifically with the brand and type of lashes and lash glues that you carry. Aftercare products can include makeup remover, facial cleansers, eyeliner, lash conditioner and eyelash shampoo to keep those extensions clean. While it may seem counterintuitive, lash and eyebrow growth serums are an important component as well. Today most lashes and lash glues allow for growth products. In addition, it is a very good alternative for your clients who just want to naturally extend the length of their lashes.
With so many lash bars successfully delivering top-notch lashes in every town, it begs the question: Can day spas that are new to the lash game really compete? “Absolutely! I always say there are enough eyes to go around,” says Lashes by Shannon owner Shannon Sturdivant. Adds Goycochea, “Lashes bring in money and loyal customers. In this day and age, day spas must have lashes on their menu.”
While it is important to offer clients a variety of lash services and products, Grootemaat notes that a full set of eyelash extensions provides the best profit margin by far. “Since the product cost for an eyelash extension service is fairly low, the profit margin is high. Essentially, clients are paying for the skill level of their service provider,” she says.