Blinkbar is extending its eyelash extension concept.
After opening Southern California locations in Santa Monica and Los Angeles last year, Blinkbar is riding the lash-lengthening wave with a major expansion that will take it to Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach this year before reaching New York in the spring with up to three outposts. In five years, it’s expected 55 to 60 Blinkbar locations will blanket the U.S.
“We aim to be the Starbucks of eyelash extensions,” said Blinkbar founder Tirzah Shirai. “Before there was a Starbucks, there was coffee on every corner, but Starbucks gave us something we can trust. When we are in New York, London or L.A., we know we can get our latte a certain way. New York has a lot of eyelash extension places, but they don’t have a Blinkbar. What’s lacking in New York is a place that’s trusted.”
In a beauty service field crowded by nail salons and blowout specialists, Shirai outlined Blinkbar has several advantages as it spreads: locations cross into the black quickly (she revealed the Santa Monica and L.A. locations were profitable almost immediately), there are steeper barriers to entry with lash extensions than with other beauty businesses to keep competitors from flooding the market, revenues can be substantial (as much as $1.5 million to $2 million annually per location) and full lashes are coveted by a wide variety of women young and old, living in cities and towns, suburbs and urban centers.
“If you look at a company like SoulCycle, they have found success in high-level markets, but they are never going to be in Baton Rouge. We get calls from Baton Rouge saying, ‘When are you going to open a Blinkbar here?’ I feel like we have the potential to be in a lot of markets across the board,” said Shirai. Currently, Blinkbar is growing with corporate-owned locations. In a few years, after it penetrates both coasts, Shirai indicated it might consider franchising.
Blinkbar’s lash extension technicians go through three months of training to ensure they’re experts in extension application and the more than 300 extension options available at its locations. Blinkbar services are priced at $120 for a basic set of synthetic mink lashes, $200 for silk mink lashes, and $300 for Siberian mink lashes. Memberships or special packages reduce prices for regular customers by around 20 percent.
A customer’s first lash extension appointment lasts from 90 minutes to two hours, and Blinkbar advises customers return once or twice every four weeks to refill their lash extensions. Roughly 1,000 women a month visit Blinkbar’s locations in Santa Monica and L.A., and Shirai said about 80 percent of them arrive at its doors due to recommendations from friends, family members or coworkers. The company reports it has a 74 percent customer retention rate.
Blinkbar’s two existing locations are 1,200 square feet and 2,550 square feet containing five and 10 beds, respectively. Going forward, the locations will err on the bigger side, ideally with eight to 10 beds each. Shirai cultivated an edgy, yet feminine aesthetic for Blinkbar. To illustrate the design point of view, she noted concrete floors are paired with pink walls. Pink, silver and white are the main colors used. Blinkbar worked with the firm Consort to perfect the look, and Stage 1 Financial to help gird the financial backbone of the business as it rolls out locations.
On top of the services, Blinkbar offers an assortment of products including eyelash shampoo, eyelash growth serum and mascara priced from $25 to $89. “Our plan is to be the go-to brand for people who have eyelash extensions,” said Shirai, adding that prestige specialty retail distribution is a goal for Blinkbar’s products. “People really love it because it is one of the only brands out there with products specifically formulated for eyelash extensions.”