Courtney Buhler, CEO and president of Sugarlash PRO, shares information on her brand and on her beauty beginnings as a lash artist and entrepreneur.
MS: Tell us a bit about your beauty background and the how/why of Sugarlash PRO.
CB: I got into the lash industry when I was only 19 years old. I was a newly single mom and I knew I had to prove everyone wrong who just thought I had ruined my "potential"! After getting my own lashes done, I fell in love with the confidence it gave me and asked my lash artist a million questions every appointment until she finally said ‘you just need to go take a course and do this for a living! I’ve never seen someone love lashes like you.’ And that was it, I took my beauty courses and began my little lash business. From there it grew so fast that within six months I had multiple staff, which then turned into a six-person full time operation. The move to a commercial space was very natural and when we moved into our beautiful space we continued to expand until we were a 10 staff operation, fully booked weeks in advance, and charging three times the average rate for my city. Yet, I knew I needed to do more for the industry. Because of how successful the salon was, I had lots of people messaging me wanting to know what products I used, and if they could come meet and be trained by me. I had originally always said no because I wanted to protect my success and my trade secrets - but a lightbulb went on one day that I could provide far more influence and inspiration on the industry I love by opening a new door. That's how Sugarlash PRO was born - it was me letting go and realizing - my success will now be others success instead of just my own.
MS: What hole did you see in the market that you thought Sugarlash PRO could fill?
CB: When Sugarlash PRO started there were only a few lash companies offering training and lash products. The norm was that you had to take a course with them to use their product line, but when you took a course with them the companies would make you sign a non-compete that said you had to purchase their product forever - and if you ever strayed, your certificate would be voided. I couldn't stand that mentality of locking someone in; I believe product loyalty is earned through quality and great customer service and that's what I wanted to give people—a choice.
We opened people's eyes to the limitations that were put on them - and dared them to think for themselves. We invited them to try our products and our training because they wanted to and we sold to all lash professionals regardless of who they originally trained with. We also pushed a ‘the more knowledge the better’ mentality, and encouraged people (and still do) to train with as many people and companies as possible because knowledge is power - and with knowledge comes confidence and success.
MS: How and where did you launch?
CB: I launched very small just by designing my own website, sourcing and working with manufacturers to develop our products, and writing all the knowledge I had of lash services into my training manuals. I was already very well known in the lash industry by peers so I just mentioned my new endeavor on forums, and it caught like wildfire and spread very quickly throughout the world with people raving about ‘these new amazing lashes.’
MS: To what do you attribute your growth?
CB: I think I have a natural knack for business. My grandfather is an entrepreneur and although we never talked about business growing up, we have extremely similar personalities and are passionate, driven, and relational. I have a passion for building strong brands, and developing marketing strategies, and most importantly, for knowing quality when I see it. I think these three things, paired with the fact that I myself am an award winning lash artist, set us apart as a company. Not many CEOs of lash supplies and training companies can do lash extensions to that calibre although I'll be the first to admit I'm a bit rusty now.
MS: How does someone become Sugarlash PRO certified?
CB: Our new LashPRO Academy has just launched and we have actually opened a whole sub-brand to handle the demand. At the beginning of Sugarlash PRO I travelled all over doing eyelash trainings but it fizzled out as the demand for product development and business expansion took its toll on my time. Training was on the back burner for a while until I knew we could do it right. LashPRO Academy (our new business) is offering: Classic, Volume, Advanced Styling, and Lash Lift courses all online as well as hands-on courses starting this May 2017. Our classes are different and we have some strong pillars of education that set us apart. Our courses are taught by lash artists who lash full time and are also successful business owners themselves.
We ensure that students are earing their certificates based on skill level that is checked over in-person by educators instead of simply giving them a certificate at the end of class regardless of performance. To get fully certified, students need to apply lashes on a real model and have them checked over for adhesive control, isolation, technique, bond strength, and more. Only then, can they gain full certification and a plaque for their space. We want our artists to be the most sought after in the industry because consumers know the skill level to expect. Secondly we have our new breakthrough program called LashPRO Accelerator. This is a career shaping course that teaches women business branding, marketing, social media strategy, staffing, running an efficient business, client policies (and how to stick to them!), lashing techniques in classic, volume, and styling, as well as advice from a doctor, physiotherapists, mindfulness expert and more on how to stay happy, healthy and balanced as a business owner. Pre-enrollment is on now and it launches only once a year. Starts May 1.
MS: What are your plans for 2017?
CB: We have so much in the works for 2017! Besides the LashPRO Academy, we also have Lash + Co which is our full retail line for everything lashes. We have products to care for eyelash extensions and keep them in tip top condition and lasting longer, and then we have a natural lash line to care for natural lashes keeping them healthy and soft (or growing them longer!). Thirdly is our make-up line that is both natural lash and eyelash extension friendly and actually helps lashes grow stronger while you wear it! Followed by our false lash line -- and while we enjoy lash extensions much more - we know false lashes will appeal to those without the budget for the service!
We have just secured a space that will be opening this summer on one of the most beautiful streets in Edmonton. Surrounded by clothing shops, theatres, restaurants and art galleries... students can come from all over to enjoy an amazing training experience in the first brick and mortar academy in North America! Launching August 2017 in Edmonton, Alberta.
2017 is also our year for expansion. We already ship lash products to over 70 countries around the world, but we want to set up warehouses in key markets to cut down on shipping costs for our overseas customers and harbour academies in other countries as well! Our first stops are Australia and the UK late this year.
MS: Where and how are the products made available to the beauty pro:
CB: Our products are made all over. We have factories in over 10 countries - and we simply work with whoever can provide us the best quality. All of our products can be purchased through www.sugarlashpro.com (lash products) or www.lashproacademy.com (training)
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