Back in June, we gave a rundown of I-Corps, the Penn accelerator program that helped 14 early-stage startups gain business and customer insight to accompany the technical sides of their ideas.
Now, LashBee, a company from the original 14 programs specializing in semi-permanent eyelash extensions, has officially launched and opened two shared-space locations in Center City: one inside eyebrow salon Anjuthreads, and the other inside About Face Skin Care.
For the record, eyelash extensions are pretty much exactly what they sound like. Rather than a temporary set of fake eyelashes, a stylist carefully applies a longer extension to every individual lash, resulting in the ability to go without mascara and an overall younger, fresher look.
A spring break trip to South Korea, says cofounder Anjali Bhatia, led to her first experience with eyelash extensions (leaving her “obsessed”) and upped her knowledge of beauty practices outside the United States. Upon her return, she tried to find a salon to touch up her lashes, but found her options to be either low-quality, inaccessible, or too expensive.
"I can't say more strongly how important it is for a startup founder to actually get into the nitty-gritty of what they're doing."
After meeting cofounder Erin Soletski at Wharton’s Founders’ Retreat, the two began to brainstorm how to go about creating an eyelash extension service.
Bhatia credits the I-Corps program for leading them to their business model of partnering with existing spaces.
“Through the program, you have to do a lot of customer discovery interviews. You talk to customers and understand anything about your products: why they’d get extensions, why wouldn’t they; for salons, why they partner with us or not,” she said. “I think our biggest decision was to not open our own brick-and-mortar [store], because we were talking to a lot of women and finding that they were tired of going to one place just for hair and one place just for eyebrows.”
In addition to applying the extensions for clients, LashBee has been engineering a much-needed tool that would cut more than half of the time-consuming process and make it easier to train technicians.
“We found there’s very little innovation in a lot of beauty practices — there might be innovation in the actual cosmetic products people use, like there’s new skincare lines all the time — but people tend to be using the same exact technique that’s been around for a while,” said Bhatia.
Because the application of extensions is a lash-by-lash process, it’s quite a time commitment. The LashBee-developed tool, according to Bhatia, will allow stylists to forgo the isolation of each lash and apply the extensions “without the danger of them connecting” in a much more timely manner.
“We’ve found that most of our clients aren’t the Kim Kardashian wannabes,” joked Bhatia. “They’re surgeons, they’re lawyers, they’re women who are busy and don’t want to deal with [small] things.”
As for how Bhatia and Soletski accumulated their expertise on lash products and techniques?
“We both went through lash training ourselves and do lashes on people, and that has been the way that we’ve generated a ton of ideas,” said Bhatia. “I can’t say more strongly how important it is for a startup founder to actually get into the nitty-gritty of what they’re doing. I am constantly coming up with ideas for new techniques and tools because I’m doing lashes every single day.”
LashBee hopes to open additional locations in the Rittenhouse and Old City areas of Philadelphia, as well as along the Main Line, in Washington D.C., and in New York. In the meantime, you can get your lash on with a complimentary consultation.
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