April Nelson and Kristyl Nelson may not pose a threat, just yet, to television mogul Oprah Winfrey’s position on Forbes Magazine’s 2013 list of billionaire entrepreneurs, but the two Upper Marlboro, Md. women are no strangers to the world of successful business owners.
And, given enough time, skill and luck, Lash Love, the company the two African-American entrepreneurs launched could be the start of a climb up the financial ladder.
But don’t bother to tell the two sisters–April, 29, and Kristyl, 27– that a beauty line built around eyelashes can’t make it.
“The most successful people in the world are successful doing what they love to do. We love fashion. It’s every girl’s dream. We just wanted to do something we love doing,” said Nelson sisters.
Since February 2013 when Lash Love debuted at an Orlando, Fla. trade show, the company that specializes in mink fur and faux mink strip eyelashes has expanded across the nation , showcasing its product at Shecky’s Night Out in New York, PHAME Expo in Los Angeles, Calif. and recently partnering with Fab.com.
Their parents are entrepreneurs. The family has once owned childcare centers, private schools, the Palms hotel in Jamaica, a restaurant in Jamaica named after daughter Kristyl, and an art business. Their father John, a self-taught sketch artist, grew up very poor in Northeast Washington, D.C. Their mother Cassandra grew up in a middle-class family in Florida.
“My dad is a mastermind when it comes to branding. He will make [your company] look like a million-dollar company without even making a dollar,” Kristyl Nelson explained.
“Women-owned businesses are thriving,” said Anie Borja, executive director of the National Women’s Business Council. They can be successful, but their businesses do face different struggles than their male counterparts with regards to business performance, revenue distribution and industry participation.”
Becoming a makeup artist at age 15, younger sister Kristyl landed the opportunity to dress the faces of R&B songstress Mary J. Blige, gospel sensation Shirley Ceasar and gospel duo Mary Mary. It only seemed appropriate to turn this skill into Lash Love, with older sister and business partner, April, selling mink and faux mink eyelashes.
At one time, the limited yet high-quality hair was only available to celebrities, but now mink lashes are available to the average consumer at an affordable price, courtesy of Lash Love. The Nelsons’ animal cruelty-free company uses Siberian mink shed seasonally by animals in Russia, collected, and used as waste. Lash Love also educates women on proper lash application and usage.
Melinda “Small Biz Lady” Emerson, author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months, told Black Enterprise that aspiring small business owners should, “write up a life plan before writing up a business plan.” Emerson listed steps to succeed that included identifying the consumer, developing the business plan, and launching the business while you are still working to survive.
Ironically, Lash Love Founders April and Kristyl launched their business while they were not working a full-time job to support themselves, yet simply supporting their parents’ businesses and used their savings to begin their business.
“Black-owned businesses continue to be one of the fastest growing segments of our economy, showing rapid growth in both the number of businesses and total sales,” said Census Bureau Deputy Director Thomas Mesenbourg in a 2011 report.
However, in a newly released June 2013 analysis by the National Women’s Business Council, businesses that earn less than $100,000 were more likely to die than those earning more than $100,000.
The study noted that all racial groups struggle with low revenue, but African- American women business growth rates are even less.
The Nelson sisters are to appear on WTTG/FOX 5 Morning News in Washington, D.C., to promote their brand. Lash Love will host a vending Beauty Pop Up at various hotels in the D.C. area during the Delta Sigma Theta Centennial Convention July 12-14.