A Passion for Lashes /
Dirt bikes, skiing and rugby were what Kimberley Coleman lived for as a child growing up in Mid Canterbury. Just how did this outdoors girl with mud on her knees wind up as glamorous ‘Lady Lash’, owner and founder of a thriving Christchurch eyelash extens
Kimberley Coleman, a.k.a. Lady Lash and her thriving eyelash extension studio
Itonly takes a few minutes, chatting with Kimberley Coleman a.k.a. Lady Lash, to be impressed by her charismatic energy. She wears striking eye-shaped earrings and is sparkling with crystals on the day of our interview. Outwardly she’s all glitter but there’s a talented woman of purpose here too: in less than a decade, she has grown her business from a part-time mobile service to a luxurious central city studio and training academy, employing four other women.
We are sitting by a potted palm in her new studio’s freshly pink-and-blue painted reception area. Beyond are private consultation rooms, tastefully and comfortably furnished, a staff kitchen, spray tan room and spacious training area. As Kimberley explains, all of this has been achieved without compromise to family time; she built Lady Lash from scratch working only school hours to ensure she’d be there for her children Bella, 11, and Kobe, nine.
Crystals, sparkle and lashes represent only one side of this remarkable woman’s story. Kimberley and her husband Liam love the outdoors too and often take the kids skiing at Mt Hutt or surfing at Taylors Mistake. ‘I lead two fairly different lives: the professional working life and then this other complete outdoorsy life,’ she says. I’m not surprised when she confesses to having a restless mind, only needing five hours’ sleep a night!
Years ago, Kimberley would likely have laughed at the idea of becoming a professional eyelash artist. She grew up a roughand-tumble kid, loving nothing better than cross-country dirt bike adventures and skiing every weekend possible. In her pre-teens, she played rugby in an all-boys team. Her parents separated when she was five, but remained good friends; her dad, George Agnew, worked as a tour guide at Mt Hutt, while her mum, Janet Taylor-Murphy, worked in accounts for a family furniture business. ‘I grew up between Ashburton and Methven and then, when I was 14, we moved as a family – my mum, stepdad and brother, Jordan – to Christchurch, where I went to Christchurch Girls’ High School.’
The seeds of a future career in the beauty business were more than likely sown by the two women she looks up to most in life – her mother and grandmother. ‘Mum always looked fabulous! She was a model in the 1980s and was always completely glamorous. She used to wear tight leather pants and a white lace shirt and had massive ’80s hair and a full face of make-up. Back then, it was a little embarrassing – no one else in Ashburton looked like that – but as I got older I realised how proud I was of how she looked. My grandma, Sylvie, was always completely immaculate too with beads, make-up, jewellery and really bright clothes.’
Kimberley’s own journey to adulthood – and figuring out
what kind of woman she wanted to be – was marked by ill health. As a teenager she was very sick with Crohn’s disease and hospitalised for two years. In fact, she had to move to Sydney for treatment, which was eventually successful.
‘This is the other side of my life: I like to help people with Crohn’s disease and speak at medical events around the world about the medication I was on – I was put on a mix of antibiotics at 16 and stayed on it for nine years until I got pregnant with Bella. That medication has now been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration… In hindsight, I think it explains where my passion comes from. I was told I’d never have any kind of life, so as soon as I got better I just went for it!’
Through her late teens and twenties she led an adventurous life, travelling around between the US and Australia working as a ski and snowboard instructor and a nanny. She also spent six months as a surf teacher in Fiji.
All told, she was in the ski industry for 12 winters, jumping between Australia and the US. ‘I was living the dream really – I’d always wanted to be a ski instructor. I made lifelong friends from it and learned how to really communicate and connect with other people. It was great.’
Eventually, though, the time came to return home to Canterbury. By 29, she was living in Sumner with two young children and starting to think about future career options. ‘My mum had started getting eyelash extensions around that time and I remember noticing how good she looked all the time. She said to me, “Why don’t you try it.” I took her advice and it was literally a life-changing moment. I didn’t wear make-up then so it was a huge change – I suddenly felt a million bucks!’
So inspired was she by her new look that she persuaded the young woman who had done her eyelash extensions to teach her how to do it. The rest, as they say, is history. Starting out with a mobile business worked out well. As Kimberley observes, she simply didn’t have the space at her Sumner home back then to accommodate a home-based service. The name – Lady Lash – was born almost straight away. She’d introduced herself to her second client by saying she was ‘new to this’ only to be chided and told she looked like Lady Gaga so she ought to start her intro again, this time saying, ‘I’m Lady Lash and I’m the best lash stylist you’ll ever know!’ She’s been ‘Lady Lash’ ever since.
‘It was all very affordable to set up and I found it so rewarding. I’d be meeting other women at home with kids,
‘I was told I’d never have any kind of life, so as soon as I got better I just went for it!’
who were often feeling pretty low after having babies. When you do eyelash extensions, the results are instant – and the positive impact is amazing.’
After four years on the road, she decided to rent a room on Papanui Road and before too long had to hire someone else to meet demand. That arrangement worked out very well, driving bookings up further. Kimberley then trained up one of her clients to join the business before moving Lady Lash to a cottage in Holly Road and developing a website, through another client contact, Fleur Truscott.
Next step was to research and develop her distinctive brand. Part of that involves using non-plastic products where possible, such as bamboo wands and choosing recyclable or compostable boxes. ‘Ultimately, we’re working towards having biodegradable lashes too.’
After two years, the Holly Road premises had also become too small, prompting the search for new premises ending at the current site in Bath Street. Her husband, a former builder and project manager, has recently set up his own business called Good Fit, with the new salon fit-out being one of the first projects for his team. Turquoise velvet sound-proofed screens between consultation rooms were handcrafted by the whole family, with the aid of a button machine from China. Many of the gorgeous artworks and furnishings were sourced from Katamama.
Kimberley says she finds the process of applying eyelash extensions very calming, almost like an exercise in mindfulness through having to be so much invested in the moment. ‘Even after eight years, I still love it. I have beautiful music playing in the background, all my equipment is by me, my client is relaxed and comfortable and there’s just this tremendous sense of peace and happiness.’
Many of her regular clients have been with her from the start. ‘My husband says, “Why do they keep coming back?” Sometimes I think it’s not so much for the lashes but for that chance to unwind and have that hour and a half of “me-time” every three weeks.’
The training academy was added to the mix after she was approached by a woman who had lost her job and was in a difficult financial situation. ‘I put together a programme and showed her what to do and she then went and created an incredible business too. It made me realise anyone can do this, so why not share how to create a really fantastic lifestyle and income.’
She has since trained more than 130 women, who share updates via a private Facebook group. All have started businesses of their own, some of them working together. ‘I love that buzz of being around women who are feeling good about themselves because they have this practical skill they can use and make money from. I love helping women to understand their passion and to be successful.’
Motivated by a desire to step up to that next level and become a leader in eyelash beauty, Kimberley also began attending overseas conferences and training workshops. ‘I spoke at a conference this year called Lash Vision and will be speaking at the Australian Lash Open on the Gold Coast in March. As well, I’ve been invited to a global conference in Mexico for lash industry leaders.’
Sometimes she can’t quite believe how far a passion for lashes has taken her and what a collaborative and empowering business it has become. She is inspired by fellow travellers such as Canada’s 2019 EY Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Courtney Buhler, whose business is a multi-million dollar global supplier and educator in the eyelash extension industry. ‘It is an incredible business to be in. I love making women feel beautiful 24 hours a day. For me and so many others, it has been life-changing.’
‘When you do eyelash extensions, the results are instant – and the positive impact is amazing.’
Lady Lash, Kimberley Coleman.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT / The striking artwork on the wall was found at The Tannery (Katamama). A similar image will be used on the outside of the building (only she will have a long ponytail, earrings and, of course, long lashes!); Kimberley is pictured with two of the salon’s senior lash artists, Nicole Hampson (left) and Bella Rowe; a swing chair (Katamama) and potted palm add to the salon’s relaxing vibe; products on display include vegan certified lash glue from California, lash cleaner (made for lash extensions) and Lady Lash tweezers handmade in Pakistan. The cardboard boxes contain eco-friendly bamboo lash wands and cleaning tools.
ABOVE / Kimberley and her children, Bella and Kobe, relaxing at Hawaii’s Haleiwa Beach in April 2019, following a family ski trip to California.
ABOVE / Kimberley in her happy place, applying lashes.