Behind the Scenes: With Clear Eyes
Lisa Burns developed Eye Envy to combat her cats’ tear stains and branched out to the world of dogs, building a successful brand and company along the way.
Eye Envy founder Lisa Burns, flanked by brothers David, left, and Robert at their first trade show, the H.H. Backer Christmas show in Chicago.
In her early 20s, Lisa Burns began breeding Himalayan and Persian cats, with the only drawback being the breeds’ propensity for unsightly tear stains. She asked experts what they used to alleviate the problem.
Burns was able to determine that some key ingredients would work. She solicited help from her chemist uncle.
“I mixed the first batch of Eye Envy Tear Stain Remover,” Burns said. “After the first cleaning, my flame point’s eyes were clean and stain free.
“All I could think was ‘Wow, I can market this,’” she said.
Initially, response to Burns’ product at a Santa Monica cat show was less than stellar. Undaunted, she returned to the same cat show a year later.
“Jay Leno sent out his [“Tonight Show”] crew to do a spoof on ‘crazy cat people.’ We were in the last few seconds of the interview, and Eye Envy aired on national TV,” Burns said.
She said the “Tonight Show” segment caught the attention of a Maltese owner; her dog had terrible tear stains.
“She tried the product and sent us photographs showing her results,” Burns said. “We were so amazed that we started attending dog shows. Those shows launched us into the breeding, grooming and pet industry.”
Today, about 85 percent of Eye Envy’s sales are to dog owners, Burns said.
PPN: Share Eye Envy’s history.
LB: Eye Envy was founded in 2001 with a $300 investment and a hunch. During our company’s first two years, we grew more than 160 percent. During the economic downturn, we dropped to single digit growth in 2007, then suffered a few years of little to no growth. But we endured the recession. At the end of 2010, we began to see our revenue again begin an upward swing. This year, with the launch of our new products, expanding our manufacturing facility and our global footprint, we are seeing 26 percent growth year over year.
Eye Envy currently has Eye Envy Tear Stain Remover—Eye Envy Solution and Eye Envy Powder, Off the Beard Stain Remover, On the Nose Therapy Balm, Eye Envy Moisturizing Shampoo, All Natural Deep Ear Cleaner and Liquid Ear Dryer.
Eye Envy products are all made in the USA and manufactured in our plant in Carson, Calif. Our ingredients also are tested for efficiency values through a licensed laboratory, and all ingredients are human grade, organic or both. Mixtures of any products are tested through a credited laboratory specializing in human and pet products.
PPN: How do you plan on growing in the years to come?
LB: We have introduced three products in the last 12 months and have more in development. We introduced our ear cleaning system, beard stain remover and nose therapy balm. We are very cautious about launching new products until we are 100 percent certain that they are safe, made of only the best ingredients and better pets’ overall health. We recently launched a campaign called Choose Health, Choose Eye Envy, in which we’re focused on helping educate the public on making the right choice for their pets.
PPN: How is Eye Envy a family business?
LB: I could not have done this without the support of my husband and family. Cal, my husband, was vice president of operations and international distribution and has been with Eye Envy since it was founded in 2001. Cal retired from his role in October but continues to play a vital part in our success.
My older brother, David, handles Eye Envy’s IT system, network and security, and provides computer and software support. My younger brother, Robert, has been involved in the manufacturing side of the business.
PPN: How does Eye Envy give back?
LB: In July, we participated in a 4 Paws 4 Patriots event to help our veterans receive service dogs. It was great to be able to help our veterans but also to help rescue dogs that might not have been adopted to find a home and be of service rather than being put down.
We also provide product to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and various rescue organizations, and send product when there are fires, natural disasters or environmental issues that affect animals.
We support many boutiques with special events and anniversary parties, and support the breeder community by providing items for their specialty shows, free puppy and kitten kits for new customers and many special events.
We also sponsor the Kansas City Hammers Little League Baseball team and have supported organizations that work with handicapped children.
PPN: What makes your products stand out?
LB: Our products are safe, simple and effective and have been proven in the market for 15 years. We stand behind them 100 percent and only use safe, human-grade ingredients. Our products have be tested and recommended by veterinarians, breeders, groomers and, most important, pet owners.