It was that dreadful moment when a man opens up his bank statement to find large sums of money going to a single product for the same price.
That was the moment Mexican-born, American singer and songwriter Lupillo Rivera witnessed one morning while sipping coffee at home.
“I remember looking at my bank statement and just seeing all this money going somewhere, but I wasn’t sure where. I knew it wasn’t me spending that money, so I knew it could only be my wife,” said Rivera during an interview in Sacramento earlier this summer.
His wife, Mayeli Rivera confessed the money that was “missing” on the bank statement was actually going towards the purchase of not one, but several pairs of mink eyelashes, one of most popular fake eyelashes on the market today.
“I told my wife, WOW, I never thought eyelashes could be so expensive. Instead of buying them, why don’t you find out how you can buy them in bulk and maybe you can sell them?”
Mayeli took the advice to heart.
A native of Chihuahua, México, Mayeli met Lupillo back in the early 2000’s. Prior to that, she had been working as a photographer and saving her money with the hope of one day buying a car. She had saved nearly $8,000 up until she met her future-husband.
“I was sitting at one of his concerts and I was in the front row and we made eye contact for an instant and we just connected. It was definitely love at first sight,” said Mayeli.
They married in 2006.
Since then, life took on a different role. Instead of using the money she had been saving for years to buy a car, she set it aside for a future endeavor. Not once did it cross her mind that her savings would be used to launch her own eyelash empire, “Town of Lashes”.
“Instead of buying a car, I poured all of my money into my business. I was lucky when I got started because the makeup industry hadn’t gained that much traction like it has in the last two or three years and eyelashes were something still very new on the market,” said Mayeli. “I feel like I came in at the perfect time, just before the boom.”
The popularity for fake eyelashes exploded shortly after she opened up her business. Mink lashes, she said, are made from horse hair, human hair or synthetic fibers. They are natural looking, not shiny, soft and do not cause allergies when worn. No animals are hurt in the process of their making either and they can be worn nearly 25 times.
As a new entrepreneur, Mayeli figured the best way to promote her product was for people to use it. She sent out samples of her eyelashes to beauty bloggers, journalists and other famous TV personalities with the hope that if they liked it, they could promote it themselves.
The idea was a risky one, but one that worked.
“In the beginning I never told people that the company was mine. I never promoted it. I just sent the product out. After two years on the market, mink eyelashes became really popular. I was only one of two people who were selling them so I started getting a really high demand for them,” said Mayeli.
She looked at her competitor and decided she could lower her prices slightly to have a competitive edge. A regular pair of mink lashes sells for about $59.99 on the market. She started to sell hers for $29.99 and some for $19.99.
As the popularity of her eyelashes grew, so did national attention. She was invited to showcase her eyelashes on Univision’s popular show, El Gordo y La Flaca. She was hesitant initially, but later granted them an interview where she talked about her new business venture.
In the first two years of “Town of Lashes” Mayeli sold mink eyelashes at familiar places in her hometown of Temecula, California. She would sell them in small boutiques and places like her favorite hair salon. Sales were always great and the demand was always high.
“I would sell about 200 pairs of lashes a month just on my own through my friends, family and contacts. Then, when the show aired on El Gordo y La Flaca, I was selling about 5,000 pairs a month online. Now, I am selling triple that amount a month. I think I have established my company pretty well,” said Mayeli.
The beautiful thing about eyelashes is that they completely change a woman’s look. They transform her face. They make a woman look gorgeous.
Enjoying her new role as an entrepreneur, Mayeli decided to take another leap and start a second business, thanks to an opportunity that opened up with Estrella TV shortly after “Town of Lashes” went public.
Producers for the show, “Rica, Famosa, Latina”, which is the equivalent of the popular television show, “Rich Housewives of Beverly Hills”, except in Spanish, approached her and offered her a deal to be on the show. She accepted with no hesitation.
It was around this time that Mayeli launched her second business: a makeup line titled, “Drama Queen Makeup” which ironically, was inspired by her participation in “Rica, Famosa, Latina.”
“I remember seeing the show once and some of the girls were saying ‘OMG she is such a drama queen!’ I laughed and thought, yes of course, I am a drama queen, but what woman isn’t? I took it as a compliment, and definitely didn’t see it as something negative. I mean, yes, I am a drama queen and there is nothing wrong with that,” said Mayeli.
Last month, Mayeli celebrated the one-year anniversary of the launch of “Drama Queen Makeup” in San Francisco selling much of the cosmetic line at the renowned ‘The MakeUp Show’ which brings together make-up artists, sellers and makeup aficionados from all walks of life, across the globe—to the Hyatt Hotel on Embarcadero Street.
Her makeup line includes a colorful array of lipsticks, eye shadows, the latest spoon-shaped brushes, color correctors and face palettes that all accentuate a woman’s natural features. All of the products have made an impression in a market that is otherwise competitive and saturated with new items each day.
“What makes my makeup different is that I create the colors of the eye shadows and lipsticks. Most companies approach you and they pick everything out for you and you just put your name and label on it. I don’t like that. I like experimenting with colors and offering something that feels like it’s truly my own,” said Mayeli.
Her husband Lupillo helps with the names of the lipsticks, she said. Some are nicknames, others are names of her children or popular sayings around the home.
Mayeli is passionate about beauty and fashion. She was inspired to launch her makeup line as a result of the dramatic and empowering styles of some of México’s most beloved women and actresses such as Dolores del Río, Silvia Derbez and Maria Felíx. It was precisely their fierce beauty and dramatic makeup that inspired her to create a cosmetic line that defines strong women.
Plus, there is no better time to sell makeup than today, she said.
“The makeup industry is booming. There is certainly a lot of competition, but everyone has something to offer and that’s what makes it so unique and so interesting. Thankfully, my product has been selling well, especially the lipsticks. But in general, everyone wants quality makeup and that is Drama Queen Makeup,” said Mayeli.
To match her makeup line, Mayeli also opened up a makeup school in Temecula called ‘Drama Queen Academy’ where her cosmetic line is put to use by aspiring makeup artists. The best part of the academy is the opportunities it provides its students who are looking to break out into makeup artists in a tough industry.
My students have opportunities that others don’t have. For example, I have sent many of them to do the makeup on famous artists like Noel Torres, Jonathan Sánchez, Helen Ochoa and Kate del Castillo.
“My students have opportunities that others don’t have. For example, I have sent many of them to do the makeup on famous artists like Noel Torres, Jonathan Sanchez, Helen Ochoa, Kate del Castillo and others. Everyone wants those opportunities, but only my students get them,” said Mayeli.
Anyone who buys Drama Queen Makeup can learn how to apply it via her YouTube channel and daily videos she uploads where she takes customers step-by-step through the makeup application process. It is also through there she can explain her product in great detail.
Mayeli has been a makeup artist herself for over ten years, but never really exercised the profession until now. Her belief as an entrepreneur is that you cannot sell a product that you know nothing about.
“People ask me all the time how to apply makeup, how to match the color of a certain lipstick with the foundation or the eye shadow and I have to know that. If I didn’t know, I would be at a huge disadvantage because you need to know everything about the product you are selling,” said Mayeli.
At the moment, Mayeli is working on another business venture, a line titled, “Little Drama Queen Makeup” which will be a cosmetic line geared towards young girls and young women. It will consist of mostly flavored lip glosses and non-heavy makeup.
“I want it to be a friendly line of makeup for young women—not dramatic but something light and fun for young girls,” said Mayeli.
Most of her customers are between the ages of 27-39 and are very diverse, she said.
At 31-years-old, Mayeli says her entrepreneurial spirit is just getting started.
“I am the only one in my family that didn’t get an education. Back in México, I was the youngest and didn’t go to college. But now, my family and my husband and kids— they are all so very proud of me for accomplishing so much and I plan to continue making them proud,” she said.
Being married to a Mexican superstar has been a bonus, she added, but not everything.
Starting your own business requires sacrifices, commitment, hard work and a lot of creativity to ensure the business continues to grow. Although Lupillo has been a very supportive husband, Rivera credits her hard work, determination and passion as a result of her success.
I firmly believe you need to have knowledge about the product you are selling. If you don’t know anything about it, you shouldn’t be selling it.
“Lupillo has just recently helped me with my makeup line and in giving me ideas on who I can sell the product to and the like, but this venture has really been all me because I am very passionate about it. I love makeup, I love eyelashes and I love how well my businesses are doing,” said Mayeli.
In sum, Mayeli feels she is living the American dream.