There aren’t many 23-year-olds who are a director of three companies and have turned over close to two million dollars selling a viral beauty product that amassed more than 16 million views on TikTok alone. But then Melbourne-born Olivia Epifano is not your average 23-year-old.
It was while studying marketing at university that she saw a gap in the market for an eyelash curler that lifted, rather than curled lashes, and thanks to the COVID e-commerce boom and some strategic TikTok videos, she’s managed to build a beauty empire with her business The Lavish Lash Lounge and its cult product The Lash Lifter, as well as launching her own branding agency and premium bridal social media service Brandtique Bridal.
Ambition and attitude drive Olivia. She puts much of her success down to her mindset and a healthy dose of motivation from her university days spent working part-time in retail for minimum wage.
With her beauty business focusing on lash health (using all-natural ingredients), she’s seen huge interest from the New Zealand market and is set to launch into retail stores here soon.
We caught up with Olivia to chat about what’s driven her to be such a powerhouse at such a young age.
How did you start your first business and how old were you?
That’s quite a funny story as I actually started the business on my 20th birthday. When most 20-year-olds would be out drinking with friends, I was starting a business. I was at university at the time, but the business took off so quickly that I couldn’t juggle them both. So, I actually dropped out. Yes, I am a university drop-out, but I wanted to make this my full focus, as I knew if I did it properly it would work. I gave myself no option for failure.
Where did your interest in beauty come from?
I used to save all my pocket money when I was younger and buy makeup products. I still remember my first-ever Mecca purchase (in fact, I still own the Stila palette as a memory). I also trained as a makeup artist as a teenager, as I loved it so much. So starting my own beauty business was always a dream.
What made you want to start your own business at such a young age?
Being my own boss was always my dream. I wouldn’t say I was the typical 18- to 20-year-old who partied every weekend. I was very ambitious and had huge goals set from when I was in my teen years. Being able to challenge myself in a way no other job would allow me to challenge myself and that really excites me. I can’t ever imagine working for anyone else again.
You have two other businesses as well. Tell us a bit more about them.
On the back of having so much interest with people asking for advice in marketing and consulting, I opened my branding and social media agency, Brandtique. I did study marketing and communications at university (until I dropped out) so between my studies and my business experience, it was second nature to me. We offer everything your brand needs from social media, design work to websites and ads. My other business is a social media service for weddings, producing all your Tik Tok and Instagram story content.
Where did your entrepreneurial spirit come from?
I’d say it came from when I was working in the retail sector and worked out how much money I could be making by working for myself. I was making the company I was working for $300 every hour and only getting paid under $20ph. I knew I could work towards something and make it big. My manager once told me “I’m giving you 10 years; you’ll be a millionaire.” And she was right.
You began with fake eyelashes but quickly pivoted to eyelash health. Where did this idea come from?
COVID hit — that really affected my business in its early stages, as we had only just launched. Melbourne was hit hard, too, being the longest city in the world to be in lockdown. No one was wearing fake lashes during the pandemic, but I quickly realised on my daily walks that people were still applying mascara. This made me think to turn to a natural lash health regime.
I came up with the Lash Lifter — a tool that replaces a salon lash lift, which went crazy viral on TikTok. It was at the beginning of TikTok, and I hit the boom with my videos going viral and international orders pouring in. From there, I came up with Lash and Brow Illusion — a chemical-free, vegan, and natural serum that grows longer, fuller, and thicker lashes and brows. And then came the Lash Illusion Mascara, a mascara and lash growth serum all in one.
You are one of the only brands that focus on eyelash health with natural ingredients to support growth. What are they and how do they work?
There have been some horror serums out there, so for me, having natural ingredients with no harsh chemicals when dealing with eyes is so important. Our key ingredients include pumpkin seed extract, which is high in potassium and zinc and promotes major lash growth. Also, the amino acid arginine is used primarily to promote hair growth through the lash follicle and pentapeptide-17 keratin is shown to visibly increase the lash length by 36 percent in three months.
Your serum can be used along with eyelash extensions. What’s the secret here?
I formulated the Lash Illusion to be completely oil-free, meaning it can be used on lash extensions, as it won’t remove or disrupt the lash glue. Many clients use lash illusion while still wearing lash extensions. It nourishes and strengthens their lashes, as the glue can be quite damaging on the natural lash.
Can anyone have naturally long lashes?
Absolutely. If you have a hair follicle, the hair can grow thicker and longer.
You’ve had huge success with your business thanks to TikTok. What are your top tips to use TikTok as a business owner?
TikTok has changed my life. I believe anyone who had a business and isn’t on Tik Tok is wasting one of the most resourceful platforms. TikTok has quite literally made me hundreds of thousands of dollars. My tips are to be unique with your marketing strategy — this is really important if you want to stand out. Be consistent and to not be afraid to post what you may think is a ‘silly’ video. TikTok has the ability to blow any video up.
What are your favourite beauty looks for 2023?
I am obsessed with the natural side 2023 beauty has taken, the dewy skin, and natural lash focus, and I’m loving the thick and naturally defined brows.
Who are your beauty inspirations?
My inspirations are less for beauty and more for business. I honestly get inspired by so many different business owners. Davie Fogarty who created The Oodie. Brigette & Bianca Roccisano from Booy Tape and Sarah Timmerman from Beginning Boutique to name a few.
New Zealand has been one of your top markets for lash serum. Do you think Kiwis prefer natural products?
Our New Zealand customer base has been huge for our serums and lash lifters, so I think that’s because Kiwis prefer a natural lash look and I think our natural ingredients help too.
Will more New Zealand stockists be on the cards?
Absolutely. We plan to hit the New Zealand shelves throughout late 2023 with an exciting announcement coming soon.