Most high school students have, at some point, been asked to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, his masterful novel on the American Dream. One of the enduring images of the book is that of a billboard consisting of bright blue eyes, with irises at least a yard in diameter, advertising an optometrist. It is an image which, almost a century later, could easily have inspired someone who herself has achieved the American Dream about which Fitzgerald wrote; Elena Asher is an immigrant, internationally recognised eyelash extension artist, and the founder of LashMakers, a company based out of Miami but which serves 57 nations worldwide.
If Gatsby is a cautionary tale, however, Asher’s is an encouraging one. Coming to the United States practically penniless and without a command of the English language, she was filled with the grit and determination necessary to take her small extension business out of her living room and start an eyelash empire. After little more than a decade, she became an international speaker, judge, educator and business owner. And she believes other women can follow in her footsteps.
LashMakers does not just make beauty products, although with 118 different options, and more in development, it is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the $1.4 billion eyelash industry. Asher insisted that LashMakers also develop an educational program that trains and certifies over 400 women as eyelash artists each year. It is her belief that each of these women, with training not only in beauty but also in business, has the ability to create their own million-dollar companies. She is training these future millionaires how to monetize their artistic abilities and dedication to their clients so that they can do what she has done: achieve financial independence.
Asher’s mantra to her students is simple but poignant. They must “go into business with discipline and love. Discipline will keep you learning and growing, but love will make you work with purpose.” Asher’s work has such a deep purpose, because she cares not only about enhancing the natural beauty of women’s eyes, but also wants to improve their lives so that they can fulfill their potential. She knows that her students will have to work hard and demonstrate a high level of dedication, but in that she leads by example, accepting every challenge that comes with starting and developing a business. As she says, “Challenges never really stop. Once you develop as an artist and a business person to a certain point there’s always a new level that opens up and it will come with its own challenges, and new things to learn.”