When you scroll through Mink Envy’s Instagram page, filled with reels from the trendiest beauty influencers and feature links to all of the biggest magazines, you’d never guess that the multimillion-dollar false lash and cosmetics company is only three years old. You’d also never guess that Mink Envy is CEO Ashlee Sarai’s first venture, or that she built it with nothing but hustle and a genuine love for falsies.
A brand with over 100,000 followers, mentions in the most high-profile magazines—Vogue, Allure, and Harper’s Bazaar, just to name a few—and celebrity endorsements from Ciara and Ari Fletcher, Mink Envy’s wildly rapid growth all goes back to the superior quality of its lashes. What is now a seven-figure company started out as a personal passion project: Ashlee Sarai’s mission to find the perfect false lash.
Sarai always loved false lashes, and most importantly, how unstoppable she felt the minute she glued them on. After trying countless other brands and models, she set out to create the perfect pair for herself, combining elements from all of her fav models into one lash: the “Sarai,” which is still available for purchase on the site. And once she came out with the perfect lash—from its length, its durability, and its volume—she wanted to share her creation with other women.
So she quit her job as a school bus driver—government benefits and all—and took a leap of faith to start her own lash company. At first, Sarai and her husband packaged and hand-delivered each pair of fake lashes to customers themselves. Packing lashes by night so they could deliver to customers across Baltimore during the day, the pair eventually became known as the “Lash Uber” in the city.
While her lashes were gaining word-of-mouth buzz in her hometown, Ashlee took to social media to grow her business on a larger scale. With bold lashes and a brand that integrated seamlessly with the trend-obsessed and fast-paced platforms that dominate the mediascape, Mink Envy quickly found its audience.
After Ashlee Sarai’s launched Mink Envy’s e-commerce side for the new national audience she earned on social media, manually delivering orders proved to be overwhelming and unsustainable. Mink Envy transitioned almost exclusively to online sales, but Sarai still wanted to provide day-of, on-demand lashes to her customers.
Taking on the overhead costs of a brick-and-mortar store, the first obvious choice, would have meant sacrificing the affordability of her product. And then, in the middle of the night—when Sarai’s best ideas usually strike—she came up with a solution. “What if I put my lashes in a vending machine?” she thought to herself.
So Sarai installed around 10 lash vending machines in malls all along the Eastern Seaboard, from New York to Sarai’s home state of Maryland. Sarai’s idea proved to be as game-changing as she had hoped it would be. Not only do her vending machines serve her OG customers well, who knew Sarai when she was delivering her lashes by car herself, they attract an even wider clientele than her social media or online store ever did.
While the average Mink Envy client is usually between the ages of 18 and 28, Sarai finds that her vending machines attract clients anywhere from 15 years old to ladies in their 50s and 60s. That’s because her vibrant fuchsia machines catch the eyes of customers who may not have found Mink Envy online themselves. I mean, who can help but falling in love with Mink Envy lashes once they are right in front of them? And in true Mink Envy character, Sarai’s vending machines soon started trending on social media as well, driving even more sales.
Though Sarai has taken full advantage of the latest, most innovative sales strategies, from beauty vending machines to influencer partnerships, it’s really the quality of the lashes that makes Mink Envy the success that it is. A single set of Mink Envy lashes can be reworn up to 25 times, a number that jumps out among lashes around the same price point.
And though a lot has changed since Sarai’s days of driving around Baltimore with a car full of lashes, one thing hasn’t: her impeccable attention to quality. She still inspects every single pair of her lashes herself to uphold The Mink Envy guarantee: if a set is not perfect, it doesn’t ship. Even if there is the slightest discrepancy in quality—take, a tiny gap in between the strands of a lash—the pair is put on a very generous sale and sold in the defective category.
It’s Sarai’s original mission to provide the best, highest quality false lashes on the market, along with her intuition for sales strategies that catch the eye of a social media-steeped, trend-obsessed generation, that launched her into a beauty business maven almost overnight. Head to minkenvylashes.com to read more of her story, and of course, to shop the lashes!