How Sahara Lotti of LASHIFY built her empire through innovating in the lash industry

Sahara Lotti is the total badass inventor and founder behind the award winning DIY lash extensions company, Lashify.

And when I say that this is a must-listen episode - I truly mean it. It’s real and it’s raw and Sahara shares so much of her journey and the challenges she’s faced along the way; if there’s only one podcast you listen to this week - please make it this one.

We talk about the absolute importance of patents and the ins and outs of how people can screw you over in any industry, how she actually found her manufacturer. (Spoiler alert: it involves karaoke and Celine Dion hits), the controversy that surrounded her brand in the early days that almost ended in a cancel culture moment (not ok) and the effects that had on her life and her mental health and investing $100,000 into a black-owned hair care brand. Plus so many incredible pieces of actual gold. Actual gold!!

These are the learnings of a woman who has a clear mission and isn’t afraid to chase her dreams. Full disclaimer: the audio quality is questionable, but can be a nightmare sometimes and this episode is more than worth it. Your ears need this. Trust me.

Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!

I want to start by learning more about your origin story and what got you started with Lashify to begin with.

Oh, gosh, you know, I was I was in the movie business and I was always sort of like a jack of all trades, I wasn't satisfied with just one thing. So my mind needed a lot of stimulation in order to be satisfied. So I was constantly a person that was solving things like problems. So in movie, in screenwriting, that's really what you're doing, is you're creating a new world and everything has to make sense. Every word that the character is saying has to match their personality and it all has to be fluid and in line and it has to make sense, very logical. And so what I found was that that way of thinking is the way that products are invented as well. They have to have a follow through. And so I basically just took my problem solving mine and I was really obsessed on why I could not get these regulations on. I wanted to get the logic that I'm an obsessive personality, like I'm that person. Like if a word doesn't come to your tongue and you're like, what was that word? What was that word? And then you just you can't think straight until you find that word. I'm that person. So when it came to lashes, I was like, where is this last thing that I just it's like I take it and I stick it underneath. And then I and then I have this tweezer and it feels it down. And I was looking for it like literally Googling the under and it didn't exist. And so when you're so when you so vividly can see something but it doesn't exist, it's your job to bring it to fruition. Does that makes sense. You kind of have to.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

And so were you like, OK, I'm going to like leave my current career and start a business with the vision of what it's become today or be like, oh, I'm just going to start a little side.

I'll be completely honest with you. I was a screenwriter. I also did like I did some consulting, like intuitive strategy where I would I was really good at figuring out, like what people's talents were and how to get them there. I never, ever did anything to make money. I was an artist. I did it. Of course, I wanted to make money, but my focus was never I need to make tons of money. So I got really involved with, like animal feeling and and natural medicine and for animals. And I found that that was the number one way to heal these animals was to use natural medicine. But I also found that there was no money for research and it bothered me. So I was like, wow, I just saved my dog's life because I use this natural thing. Well, the thing that the doctor gave you made him more sick, but the natural thing just saved his life. But the doctor refuses to give other dogs the natural thing because there's no research. So I was like, well, where do we get the research from? And they're like, oh, research has millions and millions of dollars. I'm like, well, why are you doing research on turmeric? And they're like, well, there's no there's no king of turmeric who's going to fund it. So I was like, oh, so you need billions of dollars.

Oh. So in my mind I started thinking differently. And then I was like, wow, I, I need more money. Like I don't need money, like, you know, have a cool apartment or house or a Chanel bag. I need money like real money. How do you get that. Because my mind wasn't thinking that way before. I wasn't trying to become a millionaire, I didn't need a million dollars and that makes sense. So then when I changed my way of thinking and I was like, I want to make a change in order to make these changes, I need money, OK? I'm going to have to create a business that is like that is very lucrative. So I thought about it and then I was like you. And then I'm like, that idea I should go forward with the idea because I'm obsessed with it. So I began to strategize how I would basically create this market, create this product and basically own a space that would it would be a revenue model that would allow me to do what I wanted. So that's my intention to blow it up was very clear. It wasn't about like who? I have an idea. I don't really know what I'm doing. Maybe I'll see. It wasn't like that. It was like you don't grow that successful that quickly without knowing what you know what I'm saying.

Without yes. You wanted to dominate. You wanted to, like, conquer.

Absolutely. No. You had the vision. No question. It was not a coincidence.

I didn't just come in and be like, hey, look what I got. I was like, that is day to day, OK, you know what I mean?


China, before I even have a patent in the US because I knew exactly I knew what was going to happen if I didn't protect myself because I watched it happen to other female entrepreneurs in space. So yeah.

And I read you've got like 70 patents now all around the world or something that I was like, gosh, I didn't even know that you could have that.

Well, because what happens is you get for every patent that you get in the United States, let's say there's the manufacturing patent, then there's a method patent, then there's the system patent, you know what I mean? Then there's like the patent for the law and the patent for the cartridge, the patent for all of them that work together. So you really have to go in. Otherwise they'll try to get around your patent.

So I didn't know that. Oh, yeah.

Do you have to pay every time for all those different little patents every year and every time the patent system is it's incredible because it inspires innovation. It's terrible because it inspires manipulation and getting around it. So a lot of these companies, all they know is getting around your patents. They don't know how to market. They don't know how to, like, connect with their people, but they know how to get around your patent. So, you know, a patent doesn't mean anything unless you're willing to defend that part.

Yeah, yeah. You've got the funds to back it up.

Yes. No, basically, it's like you can spend fifty thousand on a time, but unless you have five million dollars to take them down, then your partner doesn't mean anything you don't have.

You had to do that. Oh yeah. Oh. Oh yes.

Where you want to tell me about that. You want to tell me a little bit about what's up in life.

Yeah. And so I am basically when you're in this level of the business was a very murchison's. It was like it was like a very hush hush business that a few companies have been dominating for over 50 years or something like that, no innovation, nothing. This same strip loss that they were selling you in 1964 is what they were selling you in 2020. All right. Sounds like Tampa, right? Because guess what? The person that's making and designing the tampon is what men. So literally a person that was creating these work, they weren't using them. So, yeah, they're they're pretty lashes that usually take on your eyelid. You have to have like an NBA on sticking it on. Is that difficult? You know what I mean? It's like it wasn't a product that was easy to use. And I and then I started thinking about it and I was like, this makes no sense. I just felt like a self-driving car or something. And I can't get my feet, you know what I mean? We can get a guy in the moon. You and I are fighting like Jesse's style, but we can't put on our own lashes. So I really realized there was a very specific reason for that. And it's because why fix it if it ain't broke? Right. Got it. So I was like, OK, yeah. No, no, no, no. I want to be able to actually make lashes look like what I get in the last sentence long. So I invented a movie that mimics the growth pattern of your eyelash and I created a lash. I needed to call it something because it didn't have a name.

So I named the Gossamer Lash and I created a manufacturing process that would make this glass so thin and light that it would connect to your underly. And it was really revolutionary, like revolutionary, because most of the most incredible ideas are right in front of your face. They're so close that you can't see them. And so I got a provisional patent on it in 2016 and I didn't talk to anybody about it like nobody. So finally, when I started talking about it to the factories in 2017, next thing you know, you see pictures of my idea on their website. And I was like, why is my oh, because they want to have it prepared so that if I apply for a patent, they can go, no, no, no. There's prior art work with they didn't know is that I had a year before I even told them, you know what I mean? Because what they do is they say, OK, the big companies and the factories in Asia are in. Indeed, most of the time they're sharing information. So they're like, this is coming out. We better get it into the public and make it public so they don't own the market, you know? So if you look at what happens, if you look at what happened to the magnetic lashes. I mean, she came in, she got patents on it, the patents were pending, a law gave her an award. It was incredible. Next thing you know, there's a huge article and it's like supermarket giant so-and-so is reading the magnetic lash to the supermarket.

And it was like.

Meanwhile, they forgot to say that it was totally infringing on someone else's patent, like they change the narrative, you know what I mean? And so I saw what happened and I was like, wait, the girl that invented that way? And then I was like, wait, is that her pushing these ads? And then I'm like, oh, my God, it's not. And I realized, like, they just literally took oh, God, it's so easy.

I know. And I watched it and I was like, well, and I was literally taking notes. And I'm like, OK. That's what I really started by putting pieces together and I started seeing a pattern. I started seeing a pattern that was happening all the time.

Yeah, with innovation. And then I realized, well, that's why no one's innovating anything, because I just spent five million dollars or something on getting patents and nobody gives a shit. Do you know what I'd say? Yes. So I definitely came in with a strategy of defense. I'm in a cornetist. I brought in someone, for example, when I first started, I brought in Dean Factor in Dean Factors, founder and CEO of Matchbox Cosmetics, and he was my friend. So I brought Dean in and Dean was like, well, I'll give you all this money if you give me this much of your company. And I was like, yeah, no, I'm not going to do that. I was like, I don't need your money. This is my dad's advice. I don't need your money. I said, I'm just going to give you a percentage and you're going to consult for me. OK. So basically I was like, I'm gonna bring this guy in like he's here. And, you know, it was kind of sad I had to do that because nobody would take me alone seriously because I was a chick, you know what I needed. So it was just a woman, as you know. But if I had factor from Smashburger, you know, then it's like, oh, he's there. You know what I mean?

Yeah. Yeah, Fitial.

So I brought him in protective to sort of because, you know, because I knew that they would try to take it and and that's what they do. That's just the business. So now in a few months, you're going to be hearing a lot about that. OK, I'm going to I'm going to stay because I think it's really important that as innovators, we're using these products every single day. You know, I had a complex about not having lashes. When I put lashes on, I woke up and I felt I went from feeling gross to feeling incredible. And so I had massive incentive to create a product that fulfilled my needs. And it had nothing to do with money, if that makes sense. But then I realized that in that can make a ton of money. But the love of the innovation of it wasn't like, oh my God, I'm going to make so much money. Once I figure out it wasn't like that. It was like so the money comes with I think the intention has to be a good one.

Yeah, you had the vision of what else you wanted to create in the world in addition to that and and why you needed the money. Exactly.

I want to go back to back to the beginning and learn kind of what the process was when you were just in that initial phase of being like, OK, well, I need to raise money to start this business. What do you do? What's the process? What happened in those early days?

I wasn't thinking about raising money because I was just trying to figure out how do I make this one tool? So I had an idea that if I had this tweezer that wrapped around my eye like this, like I it's just it's the shape of my eye I could get the extensions on. I was like, yeah, so look at this like and then I'll go like that really quickly and then I can get the single lashes on without the technician, you know, like I was like I was amazed.

Did you make some weird prototypes yourself.

So I was melting jewelry because I told you I'm the chick that I become obsessed with things and become like the master of it. So I taught myself like a year previous goals. Right. So I was like, I can build my own one. And so so I took some wire and like, I twisted it up and I kind of got the form. I'm like, yeah, it's like a wire. And then it goes like this. So that was my first step. Then it was, OK, how do I get this one made? And after, like, mad research, I realized that you need something called a CAD designer. OK, once I figured out what a CAD designer was, my life changed. OK, cad computer automated something design basically. What's in your head. They put on the computer. That was the thing. So if I'm like, hey, I want to make a cartridge that looks like an eye. That person once I found the guy designers all day, I was like, OK, not wearing them. I get it now we're on track. So I figure I saw I had a cad made of the wand and then I started doing all this research on like adhesives and how do I find it? He said. And I called some factories in L.A. and they thought we were crazy. And so we did for when day we, you know, imagine it was like, hey, I want to make a T-shirt. And they're like, Hi, this is three AM person department you're looking for.

Yeah, we're just trying to make excuses for like I thought it was really it was kind of a joke you like, how do you make glue?

And it was really funny. So I had brought my friend in because I was the kind I was like, OK, you guys, I'm going to create a factory like Andy Warhol and then I'm going to have five beauty ideas and this is going to be one of them. Laci is going to be one of my genius ideas. And then I'm going to have this and this and this. And then I thought that was how it's going to be, but that's not how it was. Instead, it's like all my everything went into classified.

So I brought in friends, realized that they really didn't know what they were doing either.

So it's a really bad idea to ever bring your friends do not get in business with your friends.

Noticed we can get more to that later. But anyway. But and then I just did a lot of Googling and then I was looking for an adhesive manufacturer and I came across a manufacturer in Korea that said something about adhesive. Then I started doing research on him. It turns out they owned glass factories. So then I contacted their agent and I went to the agent's office and I said, here's my idea. And the guy was like, wait, say that again. And I said, it's like this. And then it's like this. And then it's like this that he put on your eye. And he was like, oh, OK. And he later told me that when I came in that he looked at me and he was like, this is either insane or completely genius. He's like, I'm not sure, you know. And so then he was like, this one factory. I know the person that might be able to help you. If there's anyone that can do it, it's this guy. So he starts like selling me to this Korean manufacturer and the Korean manufacturers, like, yeah, whatever, whatever. Then he comes in town, the Korean manufacturer and him and I meet in the office and it was like, boom, he got it. Oh my. He was like it was literally I said, look, I want to make this. It looks like, you know, and it's like and it goes under like literally his mouth dropped open because he got what I would say. He was like, oh my God. And so then we formed a friendship. And with Koreans, a lot of the friendship forming has to do with getting really drunk in karaoke. I'm not even OK. I don't drink. And literally I got wasted in in the name of laughter. But OK, I say Celine Dion. I don't even like the music, but I sang it. I sang Guns and Roses, you name it.

What did he say. What Gangnam Style. That that sets it up. Like I say, so much karaoke with these guys to get this product made. You have no idea.