Meet the Lash Queen: ‘Lashing longer and stronger than anybody else’
October 29 - November 4, 2018
By Becca Bona
Karla K. Runner– known as the Lash Queen to all of her clients – is a beauty industry veteran of 35 years and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.
“The beauty industry survived the Great Depression,” she says with a grin, “along with firearms and alcohol. Those things have the ability to make people feel better about themselves or at least take matters into their own hands.”
A transplant originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Runner wasn’t always sure Central Arkansas could support an aesthetician’s dream, but she’s now leading a trend that is around to stay.
Setting up shop in the Rock
“I didn’t even know there were aestheticians here,” Runner remembers. “I saw no evidence of it when I first moved here.” When she first came to Central Arkansas, she decided to try her hand at a different sector entirely – as a bank teller with Eagle Bank.
“I worked my way up from being a teller to being an assistant vice president and in charge of security when I left,” she says. And while she loved it, particularly when it came to interacting with her customers, the stress started to take hold, and she knew she needed to find something new.
She fearlessly set out to start her own spa business in North Little Rock. Known as New Beginnings Transformation Center – she worked there for eight years while the company grew organically. At one point there were nine people working with her.
“We used to do spa parties – we even did little girl’s spa birthday parties,” she says, looking back. Managing the growing operation was taking its toll, until her daughter-in-law-to-be visited her at the spa.
“She came in one day and sat in my room and looked at me and said, ‘What do you think about me doing what you do?’” Runner was supportive of her daughter-in-law who followed in her footsteps and also became a licensed aesthetician.
At the time, the plan was to partner with her son – who runs the popular Bodies by Bashay River Market Bootcamp – and her daughter-in-law in a shared space in the River Market.
“Their idea was to have a spot where she could have a spa and he could have a space to bring his classes in out of the rain,” she explains. They joined forces until the bootcamp outran the space, at which point Runner floated around before landing in the South Main (SoMa) area.
“I love the SoMa district – it’s just cool,” she says. “There’s a lot of neat events all the time, and the other merchants in the area are great. It’s such a cool little spot and it’s growing,” she says.
Plus, working out of the historic Rozelle-Murphy house at Scott and 13th Streets allowed her to offer an ambiance that is fitting for spa services. Her former space in North Little Rock was also in a historic house, which she felt made the space cozier.
Unfortunately, the building sold a few years ago, leaving her in need of a new space. Luckily, fellow tenant – Lyndsey Dilks of Dilks Law Firm – was in the same boat, and decided to buy a house a few blocks over on Cumberland. She offered for Runner to join her, and the Lash Queen has been happily growing her business on 1008 Cumberland, since.
Leading the lashes trend in the Rock
Runner has offered many services under the beauty umbrella in her lifetime, including makeup, facials, and so on, but about fifteen years ago she latched on to the lash extension trend.
“I was the first in the area to offer it,” she says, although she acknowledges that a salon in West Little Rock was close to follow. She was the first to teach other aestheticians the process, which is a little more complicated than you might think.
Lash extensions are just like they sound – extensions of your own natural eye lashes. They are applied one hair at a time to the natural lashes and are bonded with a specially formulated adhesive.
“When they’re done properly they look like they’re growing naturally,” says Runner. “They’re gorgeous, lightweight, and when done right they eliminate the need for mascara.” She revels in being able to help clients feel and look their best.
When she first heard about the trend some fifteen years ago, she did some research and went to Houston, Texas, to learn the procedure professionally. The trend has skyrocketed to a point that, Runner warns to do a little research before getting them, as unlicensed individuals can do more harm than good.
Her appointment book has been full for quite some time now, and since moving to her location of Cumberland she’s slowly added more specialists to her team – all of which are licensed and offer their own expertise beyond lashes – from makeup to hair and facials.
Over the years, Runner has learned to change with the times, embracing social media as her latest achievement. Fans can find her and her team on Instagram under @TheLashQueen as well as a business page on Facebook. She also has an app clients can use to book their appointments 24/7.
“I’m working on allowing myself to have more time for marketing and growing the business that way,” she says, detailing her goals for the future.
And these days, when she looks towards inspiration, she looks online.
“Tapping into the artists in my industry – I can be internationally connected to movers and shakers on the other side of the globe,” she explains. “I belong to several forums which is really awesome, and I’m always learning stuff watching them and thinking about my next step.”
For instance, the latest trend is known as volume lashing versus the classic style.
“You actually hand craft little fans of lashes and the way that you attach them makes them kind of wrap around the single natural hair so they bond and stay on longer,” says Runner. “They look fuller and kind of like baby doll lashes. They’re incredible.”
Speaking of volume, Runner speaks volumes about being in Central Arkansas as she says, “It’s been a good place for me as far as business goes.” Her clients are typically clients for life, and she wouldn’t want it any other way.
When not working she enjoys lifting weights which she credits to her husband, who is a competitive body builder and personal trainer.
“I’m a firm believer than strength training and resistance training is how you can really transform your body because I believe in it.”