Know your brand and the story you are telling
Be present in the moment
Define your box, then think outside of it
Create efficient systems that are scalable
Utilize your ecosystem and be resourceful and solution-based
As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elaina Watley, a New Jersey-based multi-unit owner of Amazing Lash Studio, a 260+ location lash extension franchise, has made a successful career through franchising even during the pandemic. For reference, Watley owns 5 Amazing Lash Studios with plans for expansion in the future.
Prior to Amazing Lash, Watley was a powerhouse in sports marketing. She started her own agency called Brand Infinite managing professional athlete’s careers. After working with men for the majority of her professional career, Watley was ready to promote women in business — particularly women of color. She turned to the always-booming beauty industry and set herself up for continuous growth with the Amazing Lash brand. Since COVID-19’s mask mandates have put an immense amount of focus on the eyes, Watley’s Amazing Lash Studios are set up for future growth in New Jersey and increased sales.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’m a New Jersey native and graduated high school when I was 16. After graduation, I moved to Miami for college and received a degree in International Relations and International Finance. I developed a love for working in sports in college. I worked for the student union and ended up starting a math tutoring program where I worked with a lot of male student athletes who were working towards getting into the NFL. Prior to finding my passion for sports, I thought I wanted to work at the United Nations, but working with student athletes and creating friendships while helping them achieve their educational goals showed me that sports was my true calling at the time. I decided to read The Mailroom to learn how to get a job at a sports agency. I followed the instructions and faxed my resume to several agencies in Los Angeles including Creative Artists Agency, ICM Partners and William Morris Agency. I finally got an interview with Creative Artists Agency and landed a job as an assistant. I worked there for five years until I started my own agency, Brand Infinite. I focused on working with college athletes who were trying to get into the NFL. I worked on their marketing deals with various brands and helped keep them in front of the media. One of my clients Victor Cruz, won the Super Bowl with the NY Giants in 2012 and that opportunity opened so many doors and experiences for me. Aside from negotiating partnerships for him with big brands like Nike, J.P Morgan Chase, Campbell Soup Company, Beats by Dre and Pepsi to name a few, we did a lot of philanthropy work with the Boys & Girls Club of America. It was this opportunity working more closely with women combined with recognizing being a new mother that made me realize I wanted to switch gears and start working with more women since the majority of my career was spent working with men. I wanted to start a business that would give me the opportunity to work with women and provide services for them.
I have always been told to open a business in something that you love. Since 2007 I had been getting eyelash extensions and I knew that would be the perfect business for me to start. In 2015, I spent the year traveling all over the world, from Canada, London and Spain, to Houston, Arizona, Washington and Chicago and got my lashes done at various places isolating the experiences that I enjoyed so that I knew what to duplicate within my own location. I finally found Amazing Lash Studio and fell in love with their services and at the time there were about 60 open locations, I had a chance to participate in a big way. I still wasn’t completely ready to leave my sports agency, so I knew going the franchise route would give me some flexibility and allow me to hold both jobs until I decided to leave the sports world for good and focus all my efforts on Amazing Lash. I purchased a license in 2015 and opened my first studio in 2016.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
When I opened my first Amazing Lash Studio, I was tasked with being fully staffed and aimed for 16 Lash Artists and 6 Lash Consultants. My team was not yet built out and I was conducting a lot of interviews. There were three interviews that really stood out to me: Jannet Parra, Annie Linares and Amber Donadio. These women were immediate pillars of light for me. During their interviews, I realized that their dreams were in my hands in a sense. I felt responsible for helping them achieve the highest level of success. I remember during my interview with Jannet while the studio was still under construction, I asked her if she’d like to tour the space with me with our hard hats on to get a sense of where she’d be working. When Jannet arrived, I was showing her around where her future room would be. I told Janet she was going to be a leader here and all told her that she too one day would own an Amazing Lash Studio. In 2019, I had the opportunity to purchase another studio and called Jannet to ask her to be my business partner. In 2020, we purchased two more studios with Amber Donadio and Annie Linares and I couldn’t be more excited.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
During month two of owning and operating Amazing Lash Studio, I was still working at Brand Infinite. I would come to the studio every day at 5 p.m. until closing time. Every customer that came in was new and we didn’t have many members at the time. My tipping point was learning the importance of being at the studio every night and understanding the clients and their needs. I learned a lot about how to provide excellent customer service during those long nights. One night, I spent 20 minutes educating a woman on lashes and our process at Amazing Lash. I decided to learn a bit more about her and asked why she was getting her lashes done. I learned that she recently lost her husband and had his services in a week. She wanted to look and feel beautiful for their farewell. That moment made me realize how important it is to ask why and get to know your clients. You never know what people are going through. If you explain the process and educate them on the service while also asking about them, they will have better trust in you and will become repeat clients that love and trust the service that you provide.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I had a mentor that I met at Creative Artists Agency. He changed my mindset with piece of advice that still sticks with me today. One day we were brainstorming about what’s next for me. I said I wanted to think outside the box. He told me that was good, but if I think like that I’ll fail. He told me to define the box, first. To this day, in everything that I do, I define the box and then I can think outside of it. For example, if the box is business partnerships and the goal is profitability and scalability, we put employee ownership programs in place to help develop our staff into the leaders they have the potential to become. My mentor has also taught me about accountability and consistency and for all of this, I’m extremely grateful.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?
At Amazing Lash Studio, we run our business based on education for our guests and ourselves. We have intense education system that allows us to keep growing and learning.With lashes, it’s not about selling it’s about educating. The lash business is a newer business with a lot of technology and innovation. We pay attention to that. At my specific Amazing Lash locations, we created the protocol for Mega Lashes, Brow Lamination, Lash Baths and Hand Made Volume Fans. We sent the corporate team our case studies, they did additional research and helped us launch these services across the entire brand. These innovations will further help our estheticians have longevity in their craft and give the clients additional services, and I am all about this type of career development and motivation.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?
Some things that excite me in the modern beauty industry are diversity and inclusion, integration of raw ingredients into formulations, and I think the most exciting thing about the modern beauty industry is the non-traditional industry disruption. In the past, the beauty industry was dominated by big ticket brands that controlled what’s “hot” and what’s not. In the ever-evolving world of social media, the power has been given back to the people and it has opened a huge lane for a diverse group of brands to emerge.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?
- Diversity- There are so many beauty brands out there, and I’d love to see more diverse cultures owning these brands. Sephora and Ulta really stepped up to the plate with their 15% Pledge that gives black-owned brands the chance to thrive. There are so many women from various cultures with beauty rituals that need to be highlighted. We need to do our part to make sure these cultures are represented in the industry, whether that’s dedicating shelf space to them or hiring more women from different backgrounds.
- Launchpads- A lot of Indie Beauty brands have great products, but they don’t have the financial capital and launchpad to go global. I would love to see more investors come in and help out so smaller brands can continue to grow and innovate in the beauty space.
- Cosmetologists and estheticians feeling pressured by society- Many cosmetologists and estheticians didn’t go to a four-year college but rather a trade school. Society puts a lot of pressure on them to attend a university, and so they feel like they haven’t done enough. I want these women to celebrate that they chose the path that they did and not feel like they aren’t living up to society’s standards. I want to help influence these young women to attend community college programs to get certificates in marketing, finance, etc. so they can have an educational path to supplement their already impressive accomplishments from attending trade school.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?
My path to feeling beautiful is opposite of what I thought beauty was. Self-acceptance and self-love have truly helped me feel beautiful. Accepting and forgiving myself for the mistakes I made, celebrating the triumphs I’ve had and considering how my team sees me as a leader all help me feel beautiful on the inside and out.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, Can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.
- Know your brand and the story you are telling
- Be present in the moment
- Define your box, then think outside of it
- Create efficient systems that are scalable
- Utilize your ecosystem and be resourceful and solution-based
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. 🙂
I actually started a company called The Butterfly Effect. It is a theory in practice. The theory is that finding one’s divine purpose only exists in a space where transformation and origin collide. We have already begun a movement which is connecting the global diaspora back to their homeland.
When my co-Founder, Rachel Johnson, and I visited Ghana for what was supposed to just be a holiday trip, we quickly realized it was more than just that. The rich Ghanaian culture and beautiful people inspired change, transformation and the active pursuit of connecting the diaspora globally. The butterfly symbolizes transformation and joy. The lesson of the butterfly is letting go of old behavior and expounding into the next phase of existence. Each of us transforms through multiple stages in our life. It is only through a willing exertion that we emerge into who we will be next.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My grandma always used to tell me this quote by Coco Chanel: “I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little — if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.”
This quote has stayed with me throughout my life and has taught me to always be ready to meet your destiny face-to-face.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.