CEO/President of NovaLash, Inc.
In 2004, Sophy Merszei was three years into a Ph.D. program in molecular biology at the University of Houston when she took a leap of faith and started NovaLash. Today, the 23-year beauty veteran, who got her start working for Clinique Cosmetics at the age of 14, is credited with being the mother of the eyelash extension industry as she pioneered the very first distribution and training network for eyelash extensions outside of Korea. NovaLash products are now being distributed in 38 countries. NovaLash's mission is to create better paying jobs for women and support women entrepreneurs in the beauty industry. The company has invested over ten million dollars back into the development of the eyelash extension industry and regularly works with charitable organizations aimed at providing educational assistance to women and girls.
From where does your entrepreneurial drive originate?
I think part of the internal drive is just in one’s blood. I also learned that women could be strong, independent business owners like my great grandmother, who owned olive and almond groves as well as the only general store in her small town in Italy.
As you grew your company/brand, what “Ah-Ha” moments of clarity helped you shape its future course?
The most significant moment for me occurred the first time I read the official copy of the bill we passed into law to create safety standards and licensing opportunities for professional eyelash extensionists. That was a milestone for us and has allowed us to dedicate our company to education.
As you shaped your company, what have been some of the biggest stumbling blocks?
For NovaLash, it has been difficult because we were the trailblazers. We had no path to follow. All the while, many people thought what we were doing was no different from techniques done in the past. That unfortunate line of thinking caused many people to dismiss the need for proper training and education to learn how to use new products and techniques, which were much more difficult to use than past products.
Throughout your professional history, what’s the best lesson you’ve learned after making a mistake?
I did not plan ahead for the amount of counterfeiting and other types of intellectual property theft that goes along with innovation. I recently was lucky enough to be accepted into an Intellectual Property Business Strategy class at Harvard, where I learned that the innovator of novel technology is often not the one who profits most from it.