CHOOSE BEAUTY: Sophy Merszei
Sophy Merszei, President and CEO of NovaLash, Inc, is a cosmetic chemist and molecular biologist who built her company on education and understanding women’s lust for lashes.
Cambridge, Massachusetts, a place where makeup is almost illegal.
Vidal Sassoon. I love how he applied architectural and mathematical concepts to hair.
“Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain
I’m Italian, so I cook, draw and paint. I think it’s in our DNA.
Title of your autobiography:
“Anagen to Telogen-The Company that Reinvented Faux Lashes”
Do you have a mantra?
“No lash left behind”
President and CEO of NovaLash, Inc, Sophy Merszei wrote the book on lashes, literally. Lead author of “The Essential Guide to Lash Extension Technology,” Merszei, who was raised in the U.S, Germany and Italy and now resides in Houston, TX, combined her love of beauty with her rich life experiences and extensive education to create NovaLash Eyelash Extension.
In the proud tradition of her Italian forbears, Merszei is an artist and innovator whose beauty bent was obvious early on. As a child, she mixed powdered tempera paints with talc, cornstarch and Vaseline to create “cosmetics.” At 14, she was behind the Clinique counter.
“It was around that time that I started asking friends who were traveling to bring me a bottle of shampoo made in as many countries as possible (I still have a great collection),” says Merszei. “I knew I wanted to study chemistry, fine art and as many foreign languages as I could. The original plan was to become a cosmetic chemist and work as a liaison between R&D and Sales and Marketing for a liaison company like L’Oreal or Estee Lauder. I never dreamed I would start my own company, let alone be responsible for introducing lash extensions to the world, as well as bring the old-fashioned strip lash back out of the closet. It makes me happy to see people wearing false lashes while doing mundane things like grocery shopping or pumping gas. I love it.”
A self-described “compulsive and perpetual student” Merszei recently completed a program at Harvard on intellectual property and business strategy. Before that, she racked up almost enough credits to add up to three different bachelor’s degrees in everything from biology to fine art, communication and German while working as a pharmacy technician at the U.S. Army Hospital Pharmacy in Berlin, Germany.
“It was there that I learned how to compound topical creams to treat a variety of skin conditions. After college, I studied cosmetic chemistry and worked for a dermatologist at UCLA. From there, I did three years in a Ph.D. program for molecular biology to better understand hair, skin and how the body works. Looking back, I think I studied so much because I knew I would be on my own as far as trying to land a job with a large cosmetic company. I didn’t know anyone in the business, so I just tried to cover every possible angle, and it ended up working out well. I actually use so much of what I learned in school every day.”
NovaLash was structured around education and R&D. They offered certification courses and required hands-on training. Merszei created a global distribution network for lash extensions, worked with different countries’ FDA-like organizations on their regulation standards, wrote a textbook, lobbied the government to pass health and safety legislation and worked with state boards who wanted to implement lash technician licensing. At the same time, she was traveling all over the world trying to convince people to just show up to a free class and learn the right way to do lash extensions.
“People were working from DVD training, which resulted in damage to the natural lashes and they did not want to be told they were doing anything wrong. While we were fighting all these battles, we were also trying to convince disinterested consumers that lash extensions could look natural. Building the scaffolding for this industry took a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Watching it grow from a safe, solid base is the best feeling. I feel like false lashes spent too many decades locked away and I was able to free them by introducing extensions first.”