The Main Line Lash Queen Shares Her Inspiring Entrepreneurial Story
by Melissa Jacobs
For Deneen Marcel, it was love at first lash. From the moment Marcel saw lash extensions, she knew that they would become her professional passion. Now, the Bryn Mawr entrepreneur is the award-winning lash queen of the Main Line with an A-list client roster of women who turn to Marcel for every-day glam, special events, vacations, and big business meetings.
“I customize lash lengths and styles for each woman, so that she can look and feel her best no matter what room she walks into,” Marcel said. “Today, there isn’t one way that everyone has to look. We can define our own beauty, and that empowers us. That is my ultimate goal – for myself and my clients.”
Marcel first laid eyes on lash extensions during a 2004 trip to Los Angeles. At the time, strip lashes and clusters were the only widely available options, and many women DIYed them at home with messy glue that left lashes askew or too long. “But the lash extensions looked so natural and beautiful,” Marcel said. “They were glamorous yet elegant.”
Elsewhere in Los Angeles, a young woman with a reality TV show was also discovering lash extensions. By the time Kim Kardashian revealed that lash extensions were one of her beauty secrets, Marcel had become an expert at applying them. “They were so new that there was only one video on YouTube, and it was 30 seconds long,” Deneen said.
Undeterred, Deneen found experts in Los Angeles and New York and traveled there to take classes. She spent hours practicing, then introduced lash extensions to clients at her salon, which was then in the Rittenhouse Square area. “The difference was amazing,” she said. “They loved them and I loved them.”
Kim K. loved them, too. When the Kardashian effect made lash extensions the new beauty must-have, Marcel was one of the only lash extension experts in the Philadelphia region. “Channel 6 called and we did a segment about lash extensions,” Marcel said. “Within hours, we had 300 appointments for them.”
But if you told 21-year-old Marcel that one day she’d be the Main Line lash queen, she might not have believed you. Thirty-odd years ago, Marcel was a newly married new mom of a baby born prematurely at 26 weeks just as she was opening her first business. The baby was a boy and the business was Marcel’s hair salon, located near Washington Square. “It was a very stressful time,” Marcel remembered. “But I had a great group of friends, my sister helped, and my parents were so supportive.”
In fact, Marcel’s business savvy stems from her father. The owner of a taxicab company, he instilled the entrepreneurial spirit in Marcel, encouraging her to determine her own future by owning her own business. That was no small goal for a girl – let alone a Black girl – growing up in the 1970s. “My father inspired and empowered me, as did my mother, who was a teacher’s aide,” Marcel said. “Through education and hard work, my dreams were possible. That’s what I believed.”
Hair styling was Deneen’s first career, one she learned at a vocational school in South Philadelphia. Braids, relaxers, blow outs, hot combs and electric curling irons were popular then, while Cicely Tyson, Diana Ross, Diahann Carroll, Iman and Minnie Ripperton ruled the pages of Essence and Ebony. “We all wore baby’s breath in our hair like Minnie Ripperton,” Marcel remembered. “But by 11th grade, I shaved my hair off, and for my prom, I dyed my hair blue and wore a blue silk shirt with a white skirt. That was my look and I loved it.”
After high school, Marcel worked at several Center City salons, but was ready to open her own shop at age 21. She planned the business to open before her son was born. But life had other plans, and Marcel found herself juggling her new baby and her new business. This was long before daycare was commonplace, so Marcel took her son to work with her. When she was pregnant with her second child, Marcel went on bed rest and left the salon in the hands of her sister and employees. “You need a team because you never know what is going to happen,” Marcel said, “but you know that the business has to keep running.”
It did. By the time Marcel transitioned her career from hair to lashes, she had the entrepreneurial expertise needed to skyrocket her business to its next level. Since then, local magazines have named her Best Of This, That And The Other. When she migrated her business from Center City to Bryn Mawr in 2015, Marcel’s loyal clientele base followed her and expanded. Marcel feels blessed that her hard work resulted in a thriving business that she loves. “Anything is doable,” she said. “The business may change a few times and it may not look the same as when it started, but if you put the time and effort in, it will happen.”
That’s just one of the lessons that Marcel instills in people who want to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. She advises aspiring business owners to have a firm handle on their financial realities and understand their economic situation, even if they delegate bookkeeping to someone else. Creating and nurturing a referral system is also important and can help grow businesses. “If you trust me enough to send your mom, sister or friend to me, that means a lot,” Marcel said.
Mindset is also crucial. Marcel starts every day with a routine that sustains her through good times and bad. In addition to affirmations and 10 minutes of stillness and meditation, Marcel writes every morning. “When I wake up, I write on my phone in what I call open pages, which is like a stream of consciousness,” she said. “I may write for an hour, if that’s how long it takes me to feel good.”
Marcel does feel good about the many women who started their own salons after working for her. Marcel shrugs off the role of “teacher,” but accepts “mentor” with pride. “It’s bittersweet when they leave, but it’s part of the process,” Marcel said. “I tell them this, ‘If you really want to do this, I’ll help you. And I’ll root for your success.’”
This story was created as sponsored content in partnership with Deneen Marcel.
Connect with Main Line Tonight!