Deka Lash Founders Journey From Love to Lashes
CANONSBURG, Pa. (BUSINESS WIRE) - Twenty years ago a sweet hometown girl from Pittsburgh walked down the aisle as Maid of Honor, paired up with the Best Man who was the groom’s best friend since high school. There was an instant attraction between the two, and two days later a first date. Six months later they moved in together, and within three years married. In year four they became parents to the first of their four children. But what makes this story unique is the love at first sight that eventually would lead them to their greatest union, creators of one of the most in-demand beauty brands in the U.S. today. This is the story of Jennifer and Michael Blair and how Deka Lash began.
Jennifer and Michael Blair both grew up in Washington, Pennsylvania, a small town south of Pittsburgh. After Michael graduated with a business degree from college he immediately followed his entrepreneurial desire starting AllPointe, a mortgage finance company. Several years afterwards, he launched TrueClose, a mortgage software platform that was successfully purchased by a larger firm. After the acquisition, he went on to attain his Master’s Degree from the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University. “That was a crazy time as Mike was going to grad school, working fulltime and baby number three was on the way but he was very driven and I knew things would calm down, or so I thought,” Jennifer remarks.
An incredible business opportunity across the country was presented and The Blairs packed up their three small children and off to San Diego they went. “We were living in the same town we grew up in so moving 2,500 miles to the west coast was a huge transition but we were excited about it,” says Michael. “I was recruited to help lead a banking software company that had an incredible amount of potential and I was very excited about the challenge.” Then it happened—the banking crash of 2008. “The company lost about 80% of our client base; devastating is an understatement of what we went through.” After working to downsize the company, the Blairs opted to move back home. “I cried when we left Pittsburgh and I cried when we left San Diego,” says Jennifer with a laugh. “I was anxious to move back home to be with friends and family but leaving San Diego—what’s not to love about San Diego?”
Back home Jennifer was busy with kids, and Michael began a consulting business with tremendous success. “I was doing what I knew best, building teams, strategizing, utilizing innovation; all areas I had a proven track record in.”
Jennifer loved all aspects of being a mom but it was 24/7 as Michael’s work took him away from home each week. “I began looking for something to do for myself and wanted to pursue my dream of doing something in the beauty industry as this was something I always wanted, ever since my modeling and beauty pageants as a young teen,” Jennifer said. Introduced to a teeth whitening concept, she launched her own brand called NeuSmile, opening inside a kiosk in the local mall. It was instantly successful and she added a second location inside a local salon. The business quickly grew but with baby number four on the way, she slowed down the business growth so she could regain time and be with her children.
When Michael turned 40 everything changed! “We were heading to Las Vegas and I wanted to have a bit of glam so I looked into eyelash extensions,” says Jennifer. “I was surprised how hard it was to find a salon that offered them and how expensive it was.” She finally got them in Las Vegas and a light bulb went off—if she was having such difficulty finding access to this service, other women certainly would too. Then she thought, why not make this service convenient and affordable for women everywhere! After taking an eyelash extension training course and a great deal of practice she learned how to do eyelash extensions, and the business was up! “I quickly had to hire and train employees because the concept took off so fast.”
This sparked Michael’s interest, “What are you doing again?” he asked Jennifer. “He knew I was onto something,” Jennifer says with a grin.
They were all in. They named the business based on the first two letters of their two daughters, Demi and Karli – Deka. They trademarked the name, signed their first lease, put up signage and did what they did best: Jennifer as the visionary of the beauty brand, guiding the consumer experience, while Michael took on the role of CEO and strategist creating a scalable, efficient business model. In 2016, they were operating four Pittsburgh locations and were ready to launch Deka Lash nationwide — immediately building a franchise team and signing up the first franchise in Salt Lake City, UT.
“Our brand is unique as we focus on being experts at one thing, eyelash extensions. Our cutting edge use of technology, including a no-receptionist iPad check-in supported by a dedicated customer care center, allows our lash artists to focus on a better experience and at the same time provide our franchise owners with lower labor costs,” says Michael. “From the modernized studio design to the music, the ergonomic beds, and even a custom aroma inside the studio, it is all designed to be a WOW experience.”
The Blairs are proud of the 40 studios that are operating but it’s only the beginning. “We are opening a new studio each week and have an aggressive growth plan with 300 studios in the next three years—a goal I am confident we can achieve. Jennifer’s passion and focus for Deka Lash will make this a known brand nationwide,” Michael says beaming with pride.
About Deka Lash
Deka Lash was founded in 2011 by Jennifer and Michael Blair, with the vision to create everyday confidence through beautiful lashes that are affordable and accessible to everyone. Deka Lash studios are modern retail salons which apply semi-permanent custom eyelash extensions by highly trained lash artists to the clients' own lashes, providing a variety of unique looks and styles. The leading eyelash concept in innovation, Deka Lash began franchising in 2016 and to date has 40 studios open in 17 states. For additional information visit dekalash.com
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