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

Latitude Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS Kim Newth IMAGES Char­lie Jack­son

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.

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