Tippy Wyatt of Fresno started and sold an eyelash company, a long way from her birth in a refugee camp in Thailand. Photo contributed
Written by Frank Lopez
Shifts in social and political perspectives in recent years have led many to ask if the American Dream is just that — a dream.
Tippy Wyatt, 32, a local entrepreneur, author and health and lifestyle YouTuber, believes the American Dream is still alive, but different than the common idea we’ve held on to for generations.
Last year Wyatt wrote “The Asian Keto & Low-Carb Cookbook: A Healthy Guide to Authentic Asian Cuisine” with her sister, who provided the recipes. Just through organic sales, the book has sold 3,100 copies.
Her YouTube Channel, Tippy Tales is nearly two years old and Wyatt currently has more than 77,000 subscribers, with her most viewed video garnering over 977,000 views. All the videos on Wyatt’s channel have a combined total of 3.7 million views.
Just last year, Wyatt sold a false eyelash company that she founded in 2016 called Icona Lashes. She said the sale was in the final stages of closing. She declined to reveal the terms of the sale.
While it seems that Wyatt has reached the levels of success any entrepreneur could hope for, Wyatt and her family had to travel a hard road to reach the United States, and their dreams.
Wyatt’s family came here from Bangkok, Thailand. Her parents’ biggest dream was for her and her older sister to get to the U.S. for a college education.
Wyatt was born in Bangkok in a refugee camp in 1988. Her parents were both from warn-torn Laos. Wyatt’s mother died while giving birth to her — leaving Wyatt’s father to raise two young girls.
Wyatt’s parents wanted their children to benefit from the public education system in the U.S. In Laos, only the children of families with money could afford to go to school.
“My father still carried on the dream of my mother — wanting us to come here and pursue the American Dream of having a better life. You could imagine that it wasn’t easy,” Wyatt said.
In 1990, at two years old, Wyatt arrived in the U.S. with her father and 5-year-old sister. They settled in Fresno because of the large Laotian and Southeast Asian population present in the Central Valley.
Wyatt’s father remarried, and continued to grow the family into a blended family of five girls and one boy.
From a very young age, Wyatt tended an entrepreneurial spirit, dedicating herself to one day get into business. She did the summer staple of a child-operated lemonade stand, even charging extra for straws, creating advertising signs, and setting up her own yard sales. That got her in trouble with her family, as she would sometimes sell their clothes without their knowledge.
Graduating from Clovis East High School in 2006, Wyatt was still dedicated to continuing her entrepreneurial journey into college, despite her father wishing for her to pursue something more secure, believing business to be too risky.
She graduated from Fresno State in 2011 with a degree in advertising, and immediately moved to Austin, Texas, with her boyfriend and now husband, for almost six years.
“I wanted to get out of California,” Wyatt said. “I wanted something new, something different — I wanted to get out and challenge myself. I picked a city that was thriving. We were trying to catch that wave, but we struggled for two years.”
Both Wyatt and husband were doing odd jobs to make ends meet, struggling on their own without telling anybody, wanting to get out of the slump on their own. They married in 2015 in Austin, shortly after starting their first business together.
Seeing the trend at the time, Wyatt suggested to her husband that they sell oil diffusers online. They targeted the product toward men.
Sales were doing well, and they were seeing high numbers during Christmas time, but shortly after that, customers were returning the product because the scent cartridges broke due to a mold defect from the manufacturers. Both Wyatt and her husband decided to scrap the product.
Each diffuser sold for $80 and Wyatt estimated that sales reached about $10,000 in a span of three months.
The duo went back to the drawing board to formulate their next business venture, and this time, Wyatt wanted to take the reigns.
They wanted to stay away from selling bulky, electronic products that come with higher shipping costs, and wanted to sell a product that people would have to rebuy.
At the time, the cosmetics industry was blowing up on social media platforms such as Instagram, and having a love for fashion and art herself, she founded Icona Lashes in 2016.
Because of the small size, and the lightness of the product, it was easier to ship and cheaper to produce. They used attractive packaging filled with encouraging messages to provide an experience for buyers. Wyatt was charging $15 for her lashes, which she said usually sell for $2 to $3.
Wyatt expanded her line to include eyelashes for special occasions with phrases such as “Hello Bride,” or “I can’t say ‘I do’ without you” for bridesmaids, but those did not have much of a reuse value, so she simplified the packaging and the styles offered, expanded to offer eyelash tool kits, and actually saw more sales.
She sold the company to a mother-and-daughter business team from New York.
Wyatt is currently continuing her goal to help people make better choices by working on healthier ways to make common food condiments such as mayonnaise and ketchup, and is active on her YouTube channel, educating her viewers on dieting, exercise and showing her viewers her physical and spiritual journey.
Since Wyatt is committed to her health and well being, she wants people to remember how fragile health could be, especially during the global pandemic of COVID-19.
“One of the things I always say, no matter what, health is our greatest wealth,” Wyatt said. “Without that we don’t have anything. This is a perfect opportunity to better our selves and take care of ourselves. We are prioritizing our health first now, and I think that will make everything OK. You will find comfort in it.”
Her next project is preparing a variety of healthy meal plans for both children and adults. She is working with an app developer that will allow users to download meal plans to their phones and keep track.
“Go after your dreams,” Wyatt said. “We came here with nothing at all. For somebody like a me, a full-on immigrant, be able to live what I call the immigrant American dream — start a business and sell a business, and keep on starting businesses and keep learning — I am grateful.”