Edmonton-based entrepreneur Courtney Buhler has turned a business that started as a lash lounge into a multi-million dollar global supplier and educator in the eyelash extension industry.
“Sugarlash is a professional product supply company and training academy that teaches anyone how to be an amazing lash artist. We’re basically the only company in the world that offers basically all things lashes in one company,” said Buhler.
The company has an 18,000-square-foot warehouse in Edmonton where it ships all its products from. It is also opening its new headquarters in December, another 18,000 square feet, on Whyte Avenue. It will hold all the company’s corporate staff, creative and marketing teams as well as a brick and mortar academy and storefront to show all its professional products. It will also include in-house photography and videography space.
“I started my journey in the eyelash industry when I had just turned 19 and was a single mom at the time. I just knew that I didn’t want to go back to working retail. That’s what I was doing before – managing a retail store. I knew I wanted to do something on my own and kind of be my own boss,” said Buhler.
“Eyelash extensions at that point in time were very, very new. The first years in the North American market. My mom told me there’s a thing called eyelash extensions and we should go because we had super short lashes. So we thought we’d go get eyelash extensions which we did and I completely fell in love with them. Knew I could never live without them again. An obsession with them.”
After talking to her eyelash artist at the time, she suggested Buhler should become involved with the industry. At that point in time, the only way someone could break into the eyelash extension industry is if you were a full aesthetician, or a cosmetologist or if you were a nurse or had a medical background.
“I was kind of stunted and so I had to find this kind of a backyard course to go through which I did. I began my journey as a lash artist at 19. I started my own business doing lashes. It was just intended to be part-time but very quickly it turned into full-time and turned into me hiring five staff which was all out of my basement. From there we opened commercially into a full commercial lash lounge,” explained Buhler of the journey that began in 2013.
“The idea for Sugarlash PRO came when the lash lounge was doing extremely well. It was always doing well. It was called Lash Affair.”
But Buhler’s vision for the lash industry went beyond owning her own successful lash lounge. She decided to take all her years of experience, knowledge and trade secrets, and partner with others in the industry to elevate the industry’s reputation and standards. “I wanted to be the change in the market,” she said.
In less than five years, Buhler has grown her business into a multi-million dollar beauty empire. Sugarlash PRO provides training and professional products to 89 countries. Currently 60,000 lash artists use the company’s products and more than 10,000 students have taken its courses globally.
“We have grown 40 to 50 per cent year over year since the inception of the company. Our first year sales I think was around $300,000 and this year we just closed right below $17 million. It’s been crazy,” said Buhler.
“I never, ever, ever dreamed this. It was literally just started to be a part-time lash artist out of my house, and I guess the vision has just grown every year and I just keep reaching new heights because I always get a bigger idea or a new idea on how to do stuff better.”
Buhler said the company is currently focused on business to business working with lash artists on product. But the company will be launching three initiatives. One is a consumer line to include everything to put on lashes that a consumer would need. It is launching next year.
“Our goal is to have distribution centres in each continent of the world. Australia, Asia, UK, Netherlands. And make sure it’s even easier to access professional products and training from anywhere in the world. And then the third initiative that we’re launching, hopefully by the end of next year, is going to be salons that people will get lashes in.”
Buhler said Sugarlash PRO has also just partnered with Ulta Beauty.
“We are training and bringing on all of our lash services into all the 1,400 salons and 5,000 lash artists we are going to be training on how to do all things lashes in the States,” she said.