Two of the smartest women I know – one a Harvard-educated pediatrician, the other a Yale-educated Manhattan realtor – told me last year they were starting their own business.
They have seven kids and two jobs between them. So I thought they were crazy.
I KNEW they were crazy when they explained the business concept: Lice Treatment. Lice?
Then they explained the concept: safe, gentle, all natural ingredients. (No more chemicals strong enough to burn off your earlobes!) And service: they were going to hire, train and deploy lice “technicians” who would get every nit out of your kids’ heads, your head, and your house. Which, as you know if you’ve ever done it yourself, means you have to take a MINIMUM of a half a day off from work to accomplish.
Then I got it. Their business concept was BRILLIANT. Because lice is a working mom’s – any mom’s – mortal enemy.
My first experience with head lice came two years ago. I still have not fully recovered. Our family summer vacation was eight days at Disney World. On the flight down I noticed what looked like a small flying ant on my daughter’s hair but thought nothing of it.
Then as the highlight of our Disney experience, I treated her to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique salon, where she would get a makeover as one of the Disney princesses. Twenty minutes into the extravaganza, I was taken into a private cubicle. An exceedingly sympathetic woman asked if I had ever heard of “animal parasites,” a Fancy Nancy way of saying “your child’s head is crawling with lice.”
We were immediately asked to leave the premises. (I must add we were asked nicely and without being charged). We headed straight to the largest Walgreen’s we could find to buy South Florida’s entire supply of Quell and Rid and a dozen combs with teeny tiny tines.
I spent the rest of our vacation in the hotel bathroom washing and rewashing my and all three children’s hair. It took over an hour per child each time I washed their hair and carefully combed through each strand picking off nits.
For the next six weeks, I obsessively checked and rechecked all three heads. I am amazed I wasn’t fired from my job because I could hardly focus on anything but tiny white lice eggs. I derailed several important meetings by interviewing other moms’ about their treatment strategies. It got to the point that my children started scattering like cockroaches when I came at them with the lice combs.
Not surprisingly, my friends’ business has exploded. Their success is a classic example of the wisdom of “unglamorous” businesses proclaimed by my Wharton entrepreneurship professor Ed Molt. There is far more demand, greater profit potential, and far less competition, in businesses no one wants to go into. Think waste removal, Port-A-Potties, pig farming, and um, lice treatment. Because these businesses meet a dire, price-insensitive need. “I don't think you can be a working mom and tackle head lice on your own --that's why we're here,” explains co-founder (and mom of five) Liz Solovay. Since 2007, The Lice Treatment Center [1-888-LICE-AWAY or 1-888-542-3292 or www.licetreatmentcenter.net ] has helped more than two thousand families in New England, Washington, DC and Philadelphia, as well as schools and camps from New Jersey to Maine. The company’s Jolis Cheveux products are also available in pharmacies and online.
Which is really great, considering the message I got from my husband yesterday. My cell phone beeped just as I was sitting at my desk, preparing to dig into a stack of work projects and emails pushed aside by the winter holidays. He was in New York with both our daughters visiting cousins and celebrating his dad’s birthday.
“Um, honey? “ His voice quavered on my voicemail. “I know this is a terrible message to leave so prepare yourself. I just found out that the cousin Morgan and Tallie spent all yesterday playing with has been officially diagnosed with…ah…lice.”
For more information:
Head Lice 101: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Head Lice, but Were Afraid to Ask 
Lice Treatement Center 
The CDC on Lice 
Revolution Health on Lice