By Brett Samuels
The Buffalo News, N.Y.
Lina Kennedy was recovering from a serious car accident in 1991 when she saw a woman on TV who had brought the idea of body sugaring for hair removal — an alternative to waxing — to Canada.
Despite having no experience in the beauty products industry, Kennedy tracked the woman down and tried to learn as much about the product and sugaring technique as possible. She then started up her own business based on sugaring products and how to use them, all while raising her three children.
Now that business, Alexandria Professional, based in an unassuming office building on Lawrence Bell Drive in Amherst , manufactures and distributes products internationally, and continues to grow.
“Having gone international, people say, ‘How do you do it?’ You just do it,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy has developed a body-sugaring method that is taught to professionals around the world. It uses products like sugar paste to remove hair and treat the skin. Kennedy’s business efforts earned her a trip last weekend to Las Vegas for Beauty Week, an event where beauty industry leaders gather for forums and award ceremonies.
A new aspect of the event was a pitch competition, which gave entrepreneurs a chance to promote their beauty products to investors. Kennedy was one of the 10 finalists for the competition, and though she didn’t place in the top five of the pitch contest, she said she’s still heard from investors who are interested in her business.
Though Kennedy’s venture began in Canada, she moved her operation, still small at the time, across the border to Western New York. She has been in the Amherst location for the past three years, and said she has no intention of moving the operation. She said the current space gives her the opportunity to expand if needed, and it’s convenient for shipping and traveling purposes.
To date, Alexandria Professional products are used by more than 13,000 salons, and sugaring treatments using those products are provided to more than 100,000 customers annually. Kennedy declined to share sales figures.
There are about 10 employees at the Buffalo location, Kennedy said, and more than 100 workers around the world who use her sugaring technique. Those people come back to Amherst every two years to be recertified in the process, which is an added facet of the business.
Kennedy created a technique for using sugaring to remove hair without damaging the skin. Her method has been noticed by dermatologists, she said, and in addition is taught to beauticians who learn the technique in the Amherst office space.
To some distributors, that technique is what sets her products apart. Andrea Habegger, who distributes beauty products for Swiss wellness company Simon Keller, said the education system Alexandria Professional has is something that others don’t match. Habegger has been selling Alexandria Professional products since 2007.
Despite building up the multifaceted business with an international reach, Alexandria Professional is not widely known in Western New York. The company is not a member of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, and many who work with local businesses hadn’t heard of it.
Craig Turner, who is the president of Momentum Public Affairs, said he wasn’t familiar with Kennedy or her business until just before she was in the pitch competition.
“She has this company in Buffalo for 25 years and is known all over the world but nobody really knows about her here,” he said. “I think it’s because she’s never pushed it, she’s never made it a big priority to do that.”
Kennedy said the location and the community are a good fit for her business.
“Everything is reachable if you just put yourself out there,” she said. “One country at a time, we’ve just been rocking it.”