Lice Lessons (On Marketing, Business and Life)

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Yeah Baby, We Have Lice … But, I’m Not Embarassed

Ok, so that’s not entirely true.

When I had to call Lesley Bohm, the amazing celebrity photographer I was supposed to have a photo shoot with today,  and tell her I couldn’t make it because I have lice, I was a little embarassed.

More than a little embarrassed.

When I first found out my daughter had it, I wanted to keep it a secret.  I wanted to tell her not to tell anyone at school.  I wanted her to make something up about why she didn’t go to school.

Fortunately, before I passed on my tendencies towards shame and hiding, I came to my senses.

I remembered that keeping secrets is the heart of just about every emotional dis-ease out there, alcoholism, drug addiction, food issues, anorexia, bulimia.  Behind each one of them is a secret that’s festered into a kink.

In each case, there’s some well-meaning parent who inadvertently conditioned his child to feel shame, embarrassment, or judgment about something and hide whatever that something is, creating a hole that needs to be filled.

Lice isn’t something to be ashamed of or embarassed about.  If you get it, it doesn’t mean you’re dirty.  (In fact, did you know that lice is more attracted to clean hair?)

The only reason we are instinctively embarrassed about it is because at some point we were conditioned to think that way.

I decided not to pass on the conditioning.

I mean yes, it’s kind of yuck-o that there are bugs laying eggs in my hair, but feeling shameful about it certainly doesn’t help the situation.

And, passing that shame/need to hide  on to my daughter is definitely not the answer.

So, I boldly picked up the phone, called the school nurse and let her know I’d be keeping Kaia home for the day and that the 3rd grade class should be checked for lice. Gulp.

(Guess what? It turns out half the school is infested, I really didn’t have anything to be embarassed about! Yay.)

I accepted the reality of the situation, and then got busy.

We went out and bought that poison stuff from the drugstore and started going through Kaia’s hair.  Then, when that didn’t seem to work that great, I got out the vinegar and went through her hair wit the nit comb dipped in vinegar, which apparently helps to unstick the nits.

To top everything off (literally), we slathered her hair with half a jar of mayonnaise and wrapped her hair in saran wrap and a shower cap before bed.

After all that, I expected we’d be cleared for school, no problem.

But, no.  When we got to school, the nurse still didn’t give Kaia (or me!) the all clear and I realized I needed to call  in reinforcements.

Hair Whispers.  For a $35 travel fee and $85/hour,  they saved the day.  (I called around and they were the least expensive.  I was quoted a $50 travel fee and $125/hour by another company and then $250/$300 by a third company).

What a great business!

Amy Goldreyer is one smart cookie.  She was even named best nitpicker by LA Weekly.  Yep, best nitpicker.

If she doesn’t have enough business via word of mouth (which I can’t imagine she doesn’t – she was mentioned in the NYT amongst celebrity baby consultants and as I sit here I just got my third email from a schoolmate friend of Kaia’s whose mom never emails me, looking for a referral to my hair fairy – the mommies are desparate!), I can suggest some quick changes to her web presence that would get her even more business.

For those of you small business owners who have been asking me for advice on marketing your businesses, here’s some good stuff for you:

Web presence suggestions –

* Create a nitpickers blog with stories about people met while nitpicking (all names disguised of course) and about how they act, what they say when they call for appointments, etc.;

* Put up an opt-in form for her nitpicker’s weekly that offers something extremely valuable, like a weekly report tracking infestations throughout the area so parents can be proactive and schools can avoid the kind of infestation our school is dealing with at the moment;

* Give affiliate commissions to referrers.  If I was getting paid, I’d email the whole school about our experience with my affiliate link included.  I may do it anyway, but only if I find an extra 15 minutes tomorrow.  If I was getting paid, I’d find the 15 minutes for sure.

* Establish a Facebook page for the business where I can become a fan and set up a Tweet that I can send out announcing I’m a fan of the business.

Hey, Amy, if you want to take this business huge, contact me.  I’d love to see it birthed out of the Millionaire Mom Business Incubator I’m launching with fellow millionaire mom Sheri McConnell (like the program name Sheri?) in 2009 as part of an incredible new association we’ve got launching.

But, even without the serious web presence, it’s a great business.

Do a little bit of marketing by making sure your brochures are in the hands of local school nurse, buy up Google Adwords for lice {local city} and lice removal {local city}, put up an informative website using the key words and keeping it updated with new information frequently, then send out young women with a cute utility bag of nitpicking tools to desperate moms who have no one else to comb lice out of their hair.

It’s a homerun.

I paid $200.39 + gave our nitpicker (who didn’t like being called that, by the way) a $20 tip to be deloused and it was well worth it.

I mean truly, what else is a mom to do?  It’s not like she can ask her husband to do it, or even a friend.

If I had nothing else going on and had to make some quick money, I’d get into the lice removal business.

I passed on Amy’s company information to at least three other desperate moms in our neighborhood already.

Here’s what I learned about lice and lice removal:

1.  The lice removal kits you buy from the drugstore are a big ripoff.  And, they poison you too.  A doubly bad combination.

2.   The little plastic comb they give you is bunk.  It doesn’t work.

3.  You can do the whole comb out deal at home without the service.  But, you need the right equipment and you DON’T need poison.

The equipment:

* A real nit comb – metal, not plastic. I recommend you buy one now to have on hand for when the lice hits your family.

* A bottle of water/conditioner mixed together

* Some type of oil – olive oil works, lavender oil.  Whatever.  The hair whisperer gal sold me a nice size bottle of their proprietary blend for $20.  Whole Foods wanted $30 for a teeny bottle of lavender oil, so I felt good about my purchase.

* Paper towels

* A bowl of water

That’s it.  No poison necessary.  Total cost minus the cute gal to comb your hair for you?  About $30.

The difficult part is the combing out of the nits/lice.

It was done totally differently than I expected.

There were three steps, which took a total of about an hour.  The key seemed to be running the comb through your hair vigorously from forehead over top of scalp and off back of hair with various substances combed through hair.

(It actually felt kind of nice – we sat out in the sun on my front patio area during the combing and for a few minutes I imagined I was at a high end spa, having a head treatment outside – ahhhh, I love having my hair played with).

It’d be nearly impossible to do to yourself, I imagine.  And not nearly as enjoyable.

Overall, my personal lesson from the whole day is there’s never anything to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.  There’s so much to enjoy about and learn from every experience … even lice.

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  1. Amy from TexasSaturday, December 13, 2008 at 7:50 am 

    That’s good to know!! Lice is going around here. I know several families who have it. I’m sure we’ll be next. ugh. I’m loving your blog:-)

  2. Sarah AuerswaldSaturday, December 13, 2008 at 2:52 pm 

    Thanks, Alexis! You’re so right about secrets and the psychic knots they tie you in. Plus those are great business tips — AND a great tip about the Lice Removal Service. Now, if only head weren’t suddenly so itchy…

  3. LucySaturday, December 13, 2008 at 8:45 pm 

    I’ve never heard of professional bug-busters before, but it’s a great idea. We’ve used the metal comb+conditioner trick for years – initially to get rid of the beasts, and then to monitor on a weekly basis for reinfestation. (Making my head itch just thinking about it).

    In ‘the olden days’, when I was young, there was a National Health nurse who came round the school every so often, checking for nits – long gone as part of the budget cuts. Yet nits are extremely common …

    … so offering a service to do the combing seems like a great opportunity. And it’s clearly enjoyable.

    I guess my question would be, do you have to have a followup session a week later to catch any newly hatched lice from eggs that weren’t removed the first time? That could get very expensive, and a shady service could ‘accidentally’ not remove them all, so you had to have a repeat session. Perhaps the thing to do, as a reputable service provider, would be to offer twin sessions a week apart, as a package – then you’re much more likely to be rid of them all.

  4. julieMonday, December 15, 2008 at 1:12 am 

    It is great that everyone wants to jump on the band wagon and without any formal training, licensing or oversight, anyone can pick up a nit comb and start a business that works on children. Anyone no background checks or regulation, this is more terrifying than the lice. The lice are predictable and easy to eliminate without nit picking when you know how, but that fact that this type of business is allowed to work on children both in schools and in your home is scarily. My current dilemma, my children’s school hired a professional company. I tries to research the company and cannot find out any information about them. Are they registered nurse or in the medical field, or any they licensed hair experts by the state, this is the real mystery. So there needs to be some kind of accountability for this. I was so motivated by your blog that I went off on a rampage this afternoon to find some if any supporting information and the one business that I found in my new York area was a company called head lice hero, they are licensed hair experts. I would recommend finding or starting your own head lice hero company. Good luck, got to go kids are at it again. Julie

  5. SamanthaMonday, December 15, 2008 at 2:45 pm 

    With the right training I too would agree that these people are life savers…especially if they give some type of guarantee.

    I have found a great metal comb and chemical free removal product online at and keep it on hand all the time just in case.

    It says they do wholesale etc so anyone thinking of starting a company like this should take a look at their prices. I am guessing that most people who have aq nit remover into their home woudl do it yourself the second time but they would need to comb and remover product so the in-home person still gets business from the do it yourselfer.

    Seems to be a great business idea to either do the removal or to become a distributor of the combs and other products that the parents and removers need.

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