Real Women Doing Real Things: Sara Happ, The Lip Expert

If you’ve got lips, you should already be scrubbing them with Sara Happ’s infamous The Lip Scrub, trust me on this! I am obsessed with this brand (and especially love her product The Lip Slip), but aside from creating a fantastic product line, Sara is also a self-made entrepreneur. Fun fact: she actually made her first lip scrubs in her kitchen! Here’s what this LA-based innovator has to say about creating a beauty line and who she’d love to have dinner with…

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Tell us the story of why and how you created your first lip scrub.

I created The Lip Scrub in 2005 out of sheer necessity! I’m not a chemist. I worked at ESPN and thought journalism would be my life, but I’m a magazine and beauty lover at heart. Beauty editors kept writing “Exfoliate lips using a washcloth or baby toothbrush.” I couldn’t believe a scrub didn’t exist for my lips, when I had one for my face, my body, my feet… so I went to my (rarely used) kitchen and made them myself. I fell in love with the six flavors I mixed by hand, and began scrubbing every single day. The results gave me chills. I felt like I was sitting on gold.

What do you take into consideration when coming up with new flavors?

We try to do flavors that aren’t huge yet and most importantly that don’t exist in the beauty space. We were on to the red velvet craze in 2011; years before it became “a thing.” Same with peony. We try everything out on our staff, make all of our girlfriends test them, and ask our loyal customers and buyers for their input. From there, new flavors are born! It’s like getting to play Willy Wonka with cosmetics. So fun.

What’s been your biggest obstacle to-date and what did you do to overcome the issue?

Getting a lab to make the product back in 2005 was the biggest obstacle. No manufactures had ever heard of me, or a “lip scrub.” I brought them my formula, made them sign NDA’s and swore them to secrecy, only to be told that they’d be happy to make me a lip gloss. Or a lipstick. But this “lip scrub” thing I’d invented? Nope. I saw a hole in the market. They thought I was adorable and maybe crazy. The machinery didn’t exist either, so the labs that gave it a shot (because I wouldn’t stop calling them) didn’t think it was cute when my homemade recipe broke their (very expensive) equipment. I told one rep “bring this Vanilla Bean Lip Scrub home to your wife and her girlfriends. Have them try it at soccer this weekend. If they don’t love it, don’t call me back.” He called me Monday and said, “My wife is obsessed with it. So I guess we have to figure out a way to make this stuff.” Done. Persistence and sweetly-worded ultimatums, basically.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you first started that you now know?

I wish I’d known that ups and downs never stop. And that everything will be okay. This company is my heart and soul and always has been, so when things went wrong early on, I struggled with anxiety. Now I roll with the punches, trust that good wins, and that hard work pays off. Our staff keeps the same attitude. We stay positive, try not to panic when we get bad news, and know that we’re playing our hardest. All will be well. It always is.

If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive who would it be with and why?

I’m going to cheat. I have two. Estee Lauder, who single-handedly changed the beauty world forever; she was a cosmetic and business genius. A true lady, and deeply savvy. What I wouldn’t give to hear her talk about…anything, really. And Michelle Obama. To me she’s the model of intelligence, grace, of dignity. She embodies what it means to work smart and hard, to raise thoughtful children, to be socially conscious and go after change in unexpected ways. I simply adore her. And I think she’d make me laugh non-stop.

How do you admire in the industry and why?

Oh man. That’s such a hard question because I’m a fangirl of so many women in business today. Alli Webb, founder of Drybar. The girl works her bum off. She is kind. She is generous. She is honest. She is real. She took this tiny idea that she had a giant vision for, brought in people she trusted, and has created an empire. Her success is hard-earned, and she doesn’t take it for granted for one moment. I have the biggest crush on her game…and she knows it. Ha!

For more on Sara Happ, go to SaraHapp.com and follow her on Instagram.

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