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The Salon Business Journey of Liz Lugo

by Allegra Garcia November 19, 2020 8 min read


Hard Wax Guru, Liz Lugo


Liz Lugo is the star behind @BrowsBy_Liz, and the mastermind behind the development of Nova Wax. After attending one of the most accredited beauty and wellness institutions in the nation, Bellus Academy in Poway, California, Liz soon realized that waxing would be more than just a career. Instead, it became a fiery passion of perfecting the technique of the artistry by sharing her knowledge with the world - which catapulted her into social media stardom. With over 300,000 followers on Instagram, Liz Lugo has not only established herself as a hard waxing expert, she has also become a successful entrepreneur and business owner in the process. 

With running her own waxing salon, to developing the ONLY high-quality wax formula that is available to both professionals and amateurs, Liz Lugo has truly become an all-encompassing hard wax guru. With over 180,000 licensed estheticians in the U.S. alone - we know many of you share the same passion as Liz, and want to learn how to carve your own path to success. We asked Liz the top questions we have received from you, our Nova Fam, to provide you with a special story that will hopefully inspire you in your waxing journey.

What was it like working for a major waxing chain? Do you recommend it for people starting out? What did you learn and did anything from that experience help you with your journey towards having your own business? 

“I always knew I wanted to work for a franchise. I didn’t know the first thing about opening a business and I had no interest in figuring that out - I wanted to focus on my craft & nothing else! My waxing career started at European wax Center and it was a great experience. I went into that position knowing I needed proper training, as school solely prepared me for the state board exam. You don’t get real experience until you are working in the field. I was taught how to wax by following a specific pattern, I learned that customer service is an essential part of our job and how to professionally speak to and handle clients, I learned about sales, product ingredients, how to educate clients on their skin, how to sanitize/clean your area while maximizing your time. No job is perfect, but my time at EWC unknowingly was preparing me for what would be a very successful future within my own business. After 3 years at European Wax Center I started feeling a need for more, I wanted to be my own boss and I felt like it was time to move on. You never truly feel ready to become an independent contractor; it's scary, and the uncertainty can cloud your judgement but for me I felt like it was something I needed to do... at some point you need to take a leap of faith! Whether you want a storefront, a suite, or to work within a salon once you’re licensed… I highly encourage you to seek out some sort of formal training for at least a year to set yourself up for success. Learn and absorb as much information and training as you can and surround yourself with experienced professionals who are willing to help you.”

When did you know that you wanted to open your own business? 

“I knew it was time to venture on my own when I started feeling unhappy at EWC. I no longer felt challenged, that spark I had when I first started was gone and, to be honest, I wanted to make more money! I reached a point where I felt like I had gone as far as I could at EWC. I was still living paycheck to paycheck, waxing 16-20 clients daily, selling $800+ in products a day and still I struggled financially; it was time to go and work hard for nobody else but myself!”

How did you prepare to open your own waxing salon?

“There was no preparation or strategy when I started the process of opening my own business. The only tools I had were how to work a wax room; I knew the ins and outs of what worked with clients but I didn’t go to business school and I had no clue where to start! I learned through trial and error. I knew I didn’t have clientele, so I would need an inexpensive suite. I googled “opening a business in Temecula” and figured out what steps I needed to take per the city's requirements. I didn’t worry about décor or spending money on unnecessary things;  I had a bed, a wax warmer and that’s all I needed. My main goal was to focus on the important stuff like permit / licensing requirements, building a clientele, making my suite state board approved to avoid any potential fees, and I dedicated myself to my business. I worked Monday to Sunday until I built a steady clientele and my prices were reasonable.”

How and why did brows become your specialty? 

“After I left EWC I knew I wanted to focus on brows I loved the artistry of a brow, carving out a shape specifically to that person's facial features, I made the decision to work under a very talented brow artist in Los Angeles - I learned so much from her and her skills as she is by far one of the best eyebrow artists in LA! During this time I couldn’t afford to live in LA, I moved into my parents house and I would commute 2 hours (one way) every day sometimes 3-4 hours depending on LA traffic - not fun! Needless to say I was miserable, and after 6 months of this routine I knew LA was not it. Although I learned a lot, I knew if I continued my career in LA long-term I wouldn’t be happy - so I quit that job.”

How did you gain so many followers on social media? 

“One morning I decided to record myself waxing my upper legs, since I didn’t see anyone doing it on social media. I set up the camera, recorded, did a quick edit, posted it and forgot about it. A few days later that video had gone viral and I went from having 5k followers to 30k - within days that following continued to grow!”

Knowing what you know now, if you could go back to when you first decided to open your own business -what advice would you give yourself?

“Create a cancellation policy!! Learn to say “NO” and for goodness sakes - take a lunch break! One of my biggest mistakes in the beginning was not having a cancellation policy in place, I was too nice and was afraid that I would scare clients away or better yet, I didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable. I did not realize that what I was doing was hurting business in order to accommodate others and let me be the first to tell you, if a client doesn’t respect your time you don’t want that person as a client! A cancellation policy will create boundaries and will tell clients they need to respect your time and business if they fail to do so they will be charged for your time. This will truly help filter out the bad apples.

When I initially opened my business I never said “no.” I was always available and I aimed to please. I would reschedule clients at the last minute to accommodate them and was too understanding when they cancelled on me. I was fearful of losing clients,  so I put too much focus on catering to their needs. This is both good and bad because good customer service is everything, but having a structured schedule with your specific operating hours is even better. If you can't reschedule within your set schedule then you can't do it. Look at it like this: if your cell phone breaks, you need a new one but it's midnight and Verizon is closed - you can't call the manager of Verizon and say “open the shop, I need a new phone NOW!!” No, you wait until their place of business is open. 

Take a break, leave your space for at least 30 minutes so you can breathe... It helps so much! Working with clients all day is fun and you develop wonderful relationships over the years, but you also need some time to sit down and detach.”

Were there any key mistakes or hurdles that you learned a lot from in the process of developing your own business? 

“Being more organized! Handle your business like a corporation and make time for important aspects like taxes, insurance, business accounts, business credit cards etc. I would recommend buying a book on business management to help you along the way!”

How are you managing your business amidst COVID-19 and the restrictions/shutdowns?

“Since COVID-19 hit and we were shut down, I shifted my focus onto social media and created a new at home routine. I focused on my brand and was able to grow Nova Wax with the help of our phenomenal Nova team. I stayed in contact with clients via social media, decided to make more videos on how to wax yourself since we were all home and everyone was becoming a DIY’er, and I prepared to reopen again with all the new protocols.”

Liz Lugo's Studio

Describe your current salon suite and how you came up with the design inspiration. 

“This was my first real ‘big’ suite with windows, before I was working in what felt like a janitor's closet, so I wanted to make my space beautiful and peaceful. I knew I wanted it to be clean and crisp, with as much open space as I could… I am not a fan of clutter! For the first time, I made big purchases on items that were really important to me like my massive wall mirror, chandelier, and a beautiful motorized bed. With this, I created a space that felt clean but was also beautifully functional.”

How did you develop your own wax formula? 

“After working with countless hard waxes I always loved each wax for their own uniqueness, but there would always be something about that particular wax that I wouldn’t be enthusiastic about. I would say that I wish I could take the elasticity of one formula and add it to another, or add the creamy texture of a certain wax to a separate formula, or wishing formulas that were made for sensitive skin would set quicker. I wanted a wax that had all of these elements. 

One day while in Spain at the cosmoprof beauty convention that I was invited to attend by Starpil Wax, I had an opportunity to speak with the owner and I went on and on about wax. I talked about wax like it was food - consistency, textures, colors - and I told him he should make a wax that set quickly, had elasticity, was created for sensitive skin but removed hair aggressively. I explained that I wish there was an “all in one wax” that could do it all and he politely listened and smiled. When we returned to the office he looked over at me and said ‘Liz go see our chemist, he's waiting for you.’ I was very confused and agreed, but asked if I would be touring the lab. He replied, ‘No, tell him everything you told me about your wax, I want him to develop the formula.’ 

I remember slightly jogging to meet the chemist... because a full on sprint would have been crazy. I sat down with the chemist and it was the first time I felt like someone completely understood my madness. He jotted down equations and showed me shimmers, he had me smell different scents, and we discussed every detail I wanted for Nova Wax. I told him I want a wax that was so unique you can't compare it to anything that’s out on the market because nothing like it exists. A formula that is easy on the skin but can be used on all skin types, and a strong wax that is effective but also stunning in appearance. I wanted to develop and experience and I think we nailed it.”

Allegra Garcia
Allegra Garcia