Anna Phillips of The Lash Lounge: “Patience ”

Patience — In the past two years, I have hired a seasoned CEO to help run my company and one of the most valuable lessons I have gleaned from her has been to slow down, take the time needed to make the right decisions and to complete the tasks successfully. This means prioritizing what is most important […]

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Patience — In the past two years, I have hired a seasoned CEO to help run my company and one of the most valuable lessons I have gleaned from her has been to slow down, take the time needed to make the right decisions and to complete the tasks successfully. This means prioritizing what is most important for us to focus on and saying “no” to the 1 million other distractions that all seem urgent. When so much of the success of your business relies on the speed-to-market and need to always be 10 steps ahead, being patient and taking my time has been one of the hardest skills I’ve had to learn as an entrepreneur.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anna Phillips.

Anna Phillips is the founder and chief innovation officer at The Lash Lounge, a premier eyelash salon franchise. Founded in 2006, Phillips’ specialty beauty concept was the first salon dedicated to eyelash extensions in the U.S. As pioneers of the eyelash-extensions boom and part of the $60 billion-dollar beauty industry, The Lash Lounge operates 118 salons across the U.S. with over 200 additional units in development. After partnering with the franchise-focused growth equity firm Franworth, The Lash Lounge has seen extensive growth and has expanded to 43 new states over the last several years.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I started off in high-tech and due to a forced lay-off, I found myself making a switch to the personal care industry. I had always been interested in learning and offering massage and skincare services and this opportunity opened the door for me to take the leap of faith. Shortly after making the career switch, I came across the semi-permanent lash extensions, which was a brand-new beauty service to hit the U.S. at that time. I was hooked immediately. I was one of the first to offer this service in the country and the demand grew like wildfire. In less than a year, I was booked solid for months in advance specifically with customers coming in for this eyelash extension service. I quickly ran into the issue of not being able to keep up with the demand on my own, so I had a crazy idea to replicate myself by opening a full salon dedicated exclusively to providing lash extensions. This was the birth of my first Lash Lounge salon. For the next two years, I opened a second and third location which all experienced the same instant success. After my third salon, I realized this concept I had created might actually be replicable as a franchise system… and the rest is history.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

It’s hard to think of eyelashes as being disruptive, but I think what we have been successful at is creating a new category in the beauty industry that has taken a large market share away from the mascara companies and the temporary lash strips that our mothers use to wear.

We’ve also introduced a new beauty routine that women are budgeting and scheduling into their monthly “must-haves,” which often results in the replacement of a different service they use to get (i.e. nails, waxing, facials, massages, etc.). Additionally, I think whenever a new service is introduced that provides the type of transformative results that these lashes provide — it helps with closing the gap between the look that seems unattainable in the movies and the magazines, and what the every-day woman can achieve. The byproduct is helping women feel a greater sense of confidence just because they are seeing themselves looking better than they ever imagined was possible.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m not sure if this qualifies as a funny mistake, but it was certainly a mistake I will never forget and never repeat. By the summer of 2008 I had opened two very successful The Lash Lounge salons and was in the process of finding a site for my third location. At the same time I was pregnant with my first child who was due toward the end of June. Around the end of May, the landlord from the first location I had opened approached me about the opportunity to take over a failed nail salon that was next door to my The Lash Lounge location. Our businesses had shared a lot of common clientele up to that point, but unfortunately the owner had mismanaged the business and ultimately got locked out. With two quickly successful businesses under my belt in two years, I thought this was a “no brainer” and I eagerly jumped at the chance to walk into the space and reopen it. Well, after turning the lights on, we were met with a shop that looked a little bit like a haunted house. It had been poorly kept up and was going to require a massive sprucing up before we officially opened our doors. Time was of the essence, as I was due to give birth in the next 2–3 weeks. So there I was, big as a house, up on a ladder cleaning and painting everything from the air ducts down to the floor. I ended up getting the doors open the week I gave birth, but it wasn’t six months later I made the hard decision to close them again due to a failed business. I learned many lessons from this mistake. First and foremost, stick to what I know! I knew lashes.

My recent success went to my head and made me think I could also run a nail salon successfully — I should have never let me ego get in the way. I also learned to never start a business on a whim, without a business plan or being properly capitalized. Last but not least, I learned that it’s not a great idea to start a new business weeks before your due to give birth! I have stuck to only lashes since then.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I have been very blessed to have different mentors in my life at times when I needed their particular set of expertise. Starting with my father-in-law, who was a self-made entrepreneur. His advice and support as I was starting out and taking a huge leap of faith with this new business was instrumental in helping me make the decisions to keep growing and moving forward. Later, when I expanded into a franchise system, I had the privilege of meeting and being coached by a handful of seasoned franchise professionals along the way. Each of these mentors helped me by being a thought-partner, a supporter, a crystal ball in some cases, and even a crisis handler by talking me off the ledge at times. Collectively, they have all made an impact in helping me to where I am today and as a result, I have realized the importance of paying it forward by being available to emerging entrepreneurs in the same manner.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I think there are always two sides to everything, and disruption is no different, no matter how much it might improve or enhance our lives. Disruption always comes at a cost to someone or something — whether it’s a business, a culture, a way of life, or otherwise. Take the cell phone for instance. This little device has played a huge role in our lives towards providing real-time communication capabilities, conveniences never before experienced, a world of information at our fingertips, and more. On the flip side, it has contributed greatly to a society that doesn’t know how to communicate face-to-face anymore, an addiction that has caused a severe decline in human-productivity due to people spending more time on their phones than with their families or anything else, and uncensored access to information and sites that our children should never be exposed to — to name a few.

As a result, rehab groups have been developed for reasons solely related to the cell phone, suicides have increased due to cyber bullying, and human relationships have declined tremendously. People care more about their cell phones than they do about nearly anything else. That said, would you say this disruption has been a good one overall? I think no matter what the disruption is, or if there is no disruption — the sense of responsibility should fall on the business owners and innovators to ensure they are contributing to only positive advancements and if their disruption ever results in the inadvertent creation of a monster — then they should be accountable for reigning it back in, simply for the purpose of protecting the good of society.

Can you share three of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Patience — In the past two years, I have hired a seasoned CEO to help run my company and one of the most valuable lessons I have gleaned from her has been to slow down, take the time needed to make the right decisions and to complete the tasks successfully. This means prioritizing what is most important for us to focus on and saying “no” to the 1 million other distractions that all seem urgent. When so much of the success of your business relies on the speed-to-market and need to always be 10 steps ahead, being patient and taking my time has been one of the hardest skills I’ve had to learn as an entrepreneur.

Gratitude — As an entrepreneur and founder of a company, I think it is very common to always be focused on what else we need to do, and we rarely take the time to appreciate and be thankful for what has already been accomplished. Early on, I had a manager who told me that I never “thanked her” for her work. This was pretty eye-opening because internally, I knew I was deeply thankful for her and everyone else in my employ, and although I took good care of them, I rarely verbalized my gratitude. From that point on, I have made a conscious effort to make sure I share my gratitude openly and freely with my staff, customers, vendors, business partners, and family. It is, after all, because of them that my business has been as successful as it has.

Resilience — Hard work doesn’t even begin to describe what it takes to start a successful brand and franchise system. This is not for the thin-skinned or faint of heart. You must be able to bounce-back and pick yourself up by your bootstraps one million times and keep going. I cannot count how many roadblocks I have run into over the years with my business but there’s always been a way over it, under it, around it or through it — you just have to be resilient and never give up. In my opinion, this is probably one of the most important skillsets an entrepreneur must have.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Eyelashes have no doubt come a long way over the years, but there is only so much innovation you can do to the actual product. In order to keep shaking things up, we plan to integrate technology into the service to continue improving the efficiency and consistency of the lashes for our guests. This will be new and it likely will feel awkward and strange to many people, but I firmly believe it is a necessary disruption that will ensure the longevity of our industry.

You’ll have to keep following us to find out what this is….

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I read and listen to a wide variety of inspirational influencers and for me personally, I have found that I gravitate to different messages based on what I’m going through at that time in my life, either personally or professionally.

On the rare occasion I have come across an influencer who has a message that has affected me indefinitely, no matter what I’m going through in life. One of my all-time favorites is a Neuroscientist called Dr. Joe Dispenza. I first heard him as a guest speaker on a podcast where he shared a statistic that blew my mind a bit. He said, “95% of who we are by the time we are 35 years old is a memorized set of behaviors, emotional reactions, unconscious habits, hardwired attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions that function like a program and effect our everyday state of being. Everything we do, feel, and think are influenced by our past experiences which eventually becomes automatic and unconscious.” His life mission is to share how we can use our mind to create a better state of being and the life and future we desire. His books, “Breaking the Habit Of Being Yourself” and “Becoming Supernatural” are permanent fixtures on my nightstand which I read and re-read over and over again.

For me, his teachings have been huge ‘ah-ha’ moments that have helped me reassess many situations I encounter and take control of the outcome before it causes unnecessary pain and suffering. In many ways, I feel that it’s helped me learn how to cut through all the pollution and unnecessary noise in my mind and clearly visualize what I want both professionally and personally.

Can you please give us your favorite” Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” — Winston Churchill.

I came across this quote a couple years after starting my business and it has always hit home for me. I have experienced both the highs and lows many times over as I have built this company and I have learned that both are fleeting. One of the best compliments I have ever received was when I was told that “my ability to never give up was impressive.” As crazy as that sounds, it made me realize that my tenacity and courage to keep going no matter what, was motivating others around me to also stick with it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The movement I would love to inspire on a grand scale goes along with Dr. Joe Dispenza’s teachings. Specifically, it would be to share how we all have the power to improve our lives, our world, and our futures by focusing on making the change we want to see within ourselves instead of condemning others for causing our suffering. I firmly believe that if we all made this type of switch to our mindset, we would be shocked at what we could achieve as a nation. I don’t see how we will see real change for the better until we can collectively stop living in the past and focus on creating a better future.

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