If there’s anyone who incites inspiration to pursue a great business idea, it’s founder and creator of lip heaven, Sara Happ. A former broadcast journalism major, Sara was happily bound for a career in the male-dominated world of sports media. But at home, she clung to her girly side by whipping up batches of lip exfoliant to cure a case of persistently chapped lips. The next thing she knew, the former Bonne Bell addict had a great breakthrough, The Lip Scrub by Sara Happ, and a blueprint for what is now a small yet lucrative Redondo Beach-based beauty business.
I recently got the chance to sit down with Sara and find out how she got the nerve to create her latest offering, The Lip Slip by Sara Happ, aka “the greatest lip balm of all time.” Behold the secrets of her success:
The Daily Obsession: Let’s start with the burning question: What makes The Lip Slip not just another lip balm?
Sara Happ: Well…to start from scratch, I wanted to create something never before experienced; something incomparable. I’m a total lip product junkie. So this means I’m also one of my toughest critics, and I had a tall order. I didn’t want [The Lip Slip] to be just another lip balm; this had to be ridiculous. It had to have the best characteristics, not the ones I didn’t like about lip balm. I worked with a chemist in New Jersey for two years. We went through so many incarnations and tweaks! I gave her a list of opposites: It had to be glossy but not wet, shimmery but not glittery, creamy but not goopy, natural pink but not colored and a glossy balm that would work really well on its own. It also had to have color, shine and hydration but be a substitute for lipstick as well as a repair treatment for lips.
TDO: What were the initial ingredients you mixed up in your kitchen for your breakout product, The Lip Scrub?
SH: You know when you envision an outfit? I did that with lip exfoliant. I knew the lip balms I was using at the time weren’t doing anything for dead, chapped skin. It was cold in Connecticut, and my skin went nuts! I wanted something that tasted good so I bought 30ish products, from oatmeal to sesame seeds and sugar at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Then I spent two to three weeks experimenting, and I ended up with a sugar, essential oils and food-grade extract blend mixed in tupperware. They eventually went from dark to light in six flavors, from cocoa to peppermint. I tested them on my friends for a few weeks and got so excited about it. Six months later, I made a batch in the kitchen and took it to Los Angeles [packaged] in individual boxes with bows that I had tied on myself. Every store bought them! Then Reese Witherspoon bought a ton of it and it got into a magazine … Ashlee Simpson was a fan too. I then took the recipe to labs that would begin to work with me [because] I had wrist injuries from filling so many orders in my kitchen.
TDO: What did you do before you created the Lip Scrub?
SH: I went to USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and majored in broadcast journalism. Then I worked at ESPN in Connecticut. I loved my job but as a sports girl in a room full of men, I needed to retreat as a girl. The Lip Scrub was a complete hobby. I didn’t envision I’d leave my career but everyone was crazy supportive. The real test was selling it to beauty store owners and celebrities.
TDO: What is your favorite Lip Scrub flavor?
SH: Almond Creme. I love marzipan, and almond extract, for me, is a unique, soft flavor that appeals to non-sweet tooths. A lot of people, like my sister, love Cinnamon Sugar.
TDO: Despite the fact that your products have very few ingredients, how did you react to the latest controversy about preservatives like parabens?
SH: We used propylparaben as a preservative in the Lip Scrub at first. But there’s no water in the product so you don’t really need a lot of preservatives. In our second round of product, we took out the parabens because if it doesn’t need to be there, why put it there? We now use grapeseed and jojoba oils and the consistency and response have been great. Our products are also tested only on humans, and each jar lasts about three to five years.
And there you have it – the perfect excuse to pursue that great business idea that’s been burning a hole in your brain. The Lip Slip and The Lip Scrub by Sara Happ are available at sarahapp.com and in boutiques worldwide (U.S., Hong Kong, Australia, Germany, U.K. and Denmark). I highly recommend them as a luxurious beauty treat for yourself or for friends and bridesmaids. Stay tuned for Sara’s next big product launch (hint: It’s another exfoliant)!