The Story That Inspired Me to Start a Business Based on Empowering Women

Debi Lane. Photo Courtesy of Debi Lane.

Debi Lane. Photo Courtesy of Debi Lane.

Debi Lane
Debi Lane
June 23, 2024 at 10:18PM UTC

Sometimes, when we’re feeling silly, my daughter and co-conspirator in business, Lily, and I dance around our house singing Drake’s “Started from the Bottom.”  My favorite part of that song is the line “now the whole team here.” To me, making it in the business world is so much sweeter when you can bring your team along with you, and that’s the ethos that’s guided me as a founder and CEO.  

To say I was raised in humble surroundings would be an understatement. I grew up in a trailer park in Salt Lake City—which was a step up from the apartments we lived in before that—with my single mother, who worked two jobs to provide as best she could for us. Those early years marked the beginning of my internal struggles. At 14, I ran away from that trailer, opting instead to live on the streets, couch surfing when I could find a place, and covering up my feelings with drugs, alcohol, and other destructive behavior. This upbringing stunted my ability to get a proper education or even traditional employment, but it’s also what inspires me to put women’s empowerment at the center of my business.  

Many sober years later, I run a multi-million-dollar company, LunchboxWax. We have 40 salons across 12 states. I believe it is my purpose in life to create economic opportunity for women through LunchboxWax to ensure they have the options in life I lacked in my youth. And the best part about our growth is seeing women rise with the business. 

Take Tina Maxwell, our Quality and Training Director. Her rise from waxologist to a director at LunchboxWax corporate epitomizes what’s possible when you allow your employees to prioritize their personal growth. After 8 years with us, she’s leaving her position and a department she helped build from the ground up. She’ll be just 20 miles down the road, owning and operating her own salon.

Tina embodies the intrapreneurship model we seek to foster. This model means we treat our salons like labs, testing out what works, what’s fun, and what makes guests feel confident and beautiful inside and out. This starts on day one for our waxologists, most of them young women who may or may not hold a traditional four-year college education (spoiler alert: I also never got a college degree). We build in two hours of professional development each week for waxologists to pursue creative marketing, customer engagement or other skills that allow them to practice intrapreneurship and share their creative ideas. 

That’s what a culture-first company is to me: one that recognizes the power of its employees and focuses on their personal and professional growth. 

“The best leaders are visionary and yet head-heart connected,” Carrie Morgan, Lunchbox's Vice President of Culture and Leadership, shared in an interview recently. “If a business is too heart-driven, it can’t become successful or sustainable.  If it’s too bottom-line oriented, it creates more dysfunction... The best leaders (and companies) seek balance and find their true north, grounded in integrity.”

Creating this sort of workplace culture pays dividends beyond happy employees. It strengthens our communities, because our people have time for their families and can nurture their life outside of work through hobbies, volunteering, or a side hustle. And it strengthens our business, because our people believe in something bigger than themselves and are excited to be a part of a brand that is leading a movement toward beauty rooted in confidence and economic empowerment. 

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