Life, learning and lashes have come together in a beautiful way for Savannah Thorne, owner of Lash Spa Boutique and Academy. In the six years since opening her first lash salon in Manhattan, Kansas, Savannah has opened a second salon in Brookings, South Dakota, developed a line of magnetic lashes and created an academy to train future lash and brow professionals. Below, she speaks about a career that has accelerated beyond her wildest expectations, and how she navigated a few pandemic pivots along the journey to success.

How were you introduced to lash extensions as a career calling?

I fell in love with lash extensions in college. After college, I moved to California for a career in photography and worked as a part‐time receptionist in a lash boutique to pay for my extensions. After seeing the potential of a career change, I’d planned on enrolling in Bellus Academy’s esthetics program at the Poway, California, campus. Before enrolling, my fiancé lured me back to the Midwest, where there was also a Bellus Academy in Manhattan, Kansas. As I learned more about lash extensions, I realized there was a real market opportunity to do lash extensions safely and correctly. That’s one of the reasons I added an academy when I opened my second location.

How were you able to build a business so quickly?

Social media was a huge part of our growth. The esthetics program at Bellus Academy required all students to create a business platform using Facebook or Instagram. I built mine on Facebook and started getting feedback right away, along with lots of questions about how to do lashes correctly. Marketing myself and my business on social media is what got the clients coming in. As I had a background in photography, I posted a lot of photos and as soon as clients left the salon, the work spoke for itself and word had a way of getting out. Our second week in Manhattan, the salon bookings were full.

What role does continuing education play in a lash specialist’s success?

Change in this business is fast and constant. There are constantly new adhesives, new techniques and new methods for lashes and brows. I’ve attended about a half‐dozen trainings since I started my salon and I’ve been an educator since my second year in business. I want to make sure I can confidently answer any question a client or student might ask. I also want to make sure that I’m current on new developments so I can share any trends that might be coming. In my experience, beauty trends typically start on the coasts and take a little time to make it to the middle of the country, so attending trainings keeps me aware of new trends.

So just as your business was gaining momentum, the pandemic happened. How did you manage?

In early 2020, I had just returned from my honeymoon and had to quarantine. I was stuck in my home, not able to get my lashes done, and salons were closed. I thought hard about what I could do to keep my doors open so my estheticians could return to their jobs when salons re‐opened. Social media provided a way to connect with my clients who were also stuck at home. I shared videos noting that I was feeling and looking terrible but was looking forward to seeing them again. And I let them in on a new offering I created when extensions weren’t practical. Working with one of our manufacturers, I created a line of magnetic lashes and started with 100 samples. Using social media, I amped up my marketing, letting clients know the magnetic lashes would be available and when they could text their order. We sold out in the first four minutes. I ordered a few thousand units and within one weekend we were able to make our rent for the next three months. And I knew I could keep my doors open and offer my estheticians job security.

What are some ways you differentiate your lash salon from others?

I love to use food analogies, so I’m going to describe us in terms of a restaurant versus a pizzeria. You can go to a family restaurant and order pizza, or you can go to a pizzeria that specializes in pizza. We’re the pizzeria of lash extensions and brows! The first thing I did when I opened my second location was get the word out to other salons in the area. I didn’t want them to see us as competition, but as a specialized resource they could use if they had cosmetologists or estheticians that wanted to start offering brows and lashes. I let them know that after taking any of our courses, their lash artists would join our referral list if we ever had an over‐fill situation. I let salons know about my passion for doing lash extensions safely and correctly and positioned Lash Spa Boutique as a trusted space for lash and brow services if they needed a referral source.

What advice would you offer a lash specialist just getting started?

Three pieces of advice come to mind. First, work for someone else at first, so you can determine whether you want to focus on your craft all day and then go home, or if you want to manage the many aspects of a business. Be sure to look for a salon environment that feels like a good fit. You might want an aromatherapy vibe, or something brighter and more upbeat; but just find the space that feels right. Second, make sure that you’re constantly getting up‐to‐date training because this business moves so quickly. And finally, hire an accountant or a bookkeeper. You might think you can’t afford one, but good financial guidance is a key investment in your business.

About the Author:

Susan Miller is a writer and public relations specialist in Indianapolis. Writing about topics ranging from business and industry to popular culture, Susan is passionate about sharing the stories of people in the professional beauty industry. Contact her at smiller@5metacom.com

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