Founder Molly O’Bryant created a market in the ever-bustling city of Las Vegas which at first was a hit with showgirls but became popular with tourists and locals alike.
There is an art to batting one’s eyes and it all begins with long, gorgeous lashes. With this in mind, Molly O’Bryant opened A Touch of Lash 10 years ago — the first of its kind in Las Vegas. The location was certainly fitting, since resident showgirls may want an extra oomph to give them an edge on stage. It eventually became a wild hit with locals, tourists and entertainers alike.
Business has since boomed and O’Bryant opened a new, larger salon in January 2019 to appease her avid customers. She also launched subsidiary companies under the A Touch of Lash (ATOL) umbrella. They include a permanent makeup line and an eyelash academy, where she teaches others how to become true lash artists.
“I love my industry because it’s all about helping women feel more confident and beautiful with every service,” says O’Bryant. “We are able to give them their mornings back because they wake up tanned, lashed, waxed and with perfect brows! It’s really an amazing feeling knowing that we have helped someone’s confidence shine brighter.”
Being passionate about eyelashes and beauty services is one thing. Turning it into a viable business is another, and for that, O’Bryant picked up the plastic.
See related: Uncorking the possibilities with the right business card
What was it like to open the very first eyelash studio in Las Vegas?
It was hard. The lash industry was extremely new and on top of that, I didn’t know many people in Las Vegas. I didn’t have a social network to help me gain clientele or get my business name to the public. I did a lot of explaining in the beginning – discussing my services to any and every one I met. It was stressful finding the clients I needed in order to continue renting my salon.
Also, I was unaware of just how costly advertising could be, along with the hidden costs of running a business. For example, I was surprised to learn the minimum number of products I could order at a time was more than I expected. Shipping prices were also a shock since most lash manufacturers reside overseas.
And credit cards — how have you been wilding them?
I use my Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card. The card offers me a great credit line, which helps with the cost of advertising. In addition to getting the ATOL brand out in front of as many different groups of people as possible, it has helped with our products. The ATOL product line was a large upfront expense and having a credit card was very helpful in not only launching it but continuing its success.
As far as managing it, I have been very diligent with paying off the credit card on time or in a fast manner. It has helped create a positive relationship with my financial institution. This card also offers helpful cash back rewards that I can use whenever I build them up. I like that I often have “surprise” money sitting there almost as a reward from past purchases.
What are the types of expenses that go into running a lash-focused business?
Our expenses include spray solutions, state of the art lighting, sterilized needles, tattoo machines, 56 different types of lash extensions, custom adhesives and, of course, the aftercare for all the services offered at A Touch of Lash.
Now that we have a location in Illinois, we also have monthly travel expenses like flights, rental cars and hotels. There are many other expenses that go into running a business, but these are the bulk of our costs and are unique to our business.
How have you been handling the financial aspects of running the business? Are you usually leveraged or do you remain debt-free?
For the past eight years, A Touch of Lash has been very much debt free. I’ve been able to pay off all my business charges right away. This year, however, we made our largest expansion and to do that, I’ve had to take full advantage of our credit card lines. We are making great strides on eliminating that debt, though, and because of the speed at which are repaying, we were offered larger lines of credit once again!
While we are not looking to make any large charges at this time, it is comforting to know that if something should arise, our credit cards are there to help us continue operating our business. I’m so grateful for the help credit cards offer because they have allowed me to propel my business into our new future!
After all that growth and success, do you get to breathe a sigh of relief and relax?
At this time, we just finished an expansion, so we are settling into a steady situation that we hope to continue for the moment. A Touch of Lash is working on creating a name for itself in new areas of the industry and we couldn’t be more excited for the future. We are hoping to continue this growth for the next two to three years before preparing for another expansion.
We’re also continuing to grow as a brand. In addition to expanding our product line, we also have goals for expanding our salons and reaching more students through our ATOL Lash Academy. Creating new legislature for the lash industry, introducing helpful strategies and participating in community outreach through networking events with local salon owners is one of the large focuses for 2019. I couldn’t be prouder of my business and how far it has come, but I am overly excited for what’s next.
And now for advice: What have you learned about borrowing money along the way that would help other business owners succeed?
I have learned that you should never borrow more than you need and to always take what you can pay back. Having had my business credit card for almost a decade, I can see how easy it would be to rack up a debt that would be impossible to climb out of. Instead, budgeting your expenses and how you plan to pay them is a much smarter approach at protecting your credit score.
Research your credit card options and figure out which one suits your future business goals best. Learn borrowing and repaying strategies that will help you grow your business instead of burying you in financial debt. Work closely with your financial advisor and don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you’re unsure about. It could save you from getting into a financial mess in the future.