Lice Combat (www.licecombat.com) is A brand of lice treatment products designed to battle lice and nits without the toxic pesticides or chemicals - Vanessa Leon

Lice Combat (www.licecombat.com) is A brand of lice treatment products designed to battle lice and nits without the toxic pesticides or chemicals – Vanessa Leon

How my worst nightmare became my greatest asset

My name is Vanessa Leon, I am the founder and owner of Lice Combat (www.licecombat.com). A brand of lice treatment products designed to battle lice and nits without the toxic pesticides or chemicals found in most products.

I took on this entrepreneurial endeavor because of my long and arduous history with lice. 

When I was a kid, I frequently had lice, which was a nuisance because I have very thick, long hair. My three sisters and I were lice-producing machines. It was a cycle. We would get lice, get treated, be lice free for a month and get lice again. At my school getting lice became so unexplainably constant that a myth began about a lice harboring tree that would infect you if you stood under it. I now understand that lice have little to do with trees. They are almost inevitable, especially during middle school

Back then, treatment was harsh. Boys were lucky because they had a quick solution for those pesky little critters, shaving their heads. Us girls, on the other hand, would have the worst of it. Repetitive treatments with itchy pesticide shampoos, lots of combing, hair pulling and headaches.  Someone’s grandma would almost always suggest a house remedy passed down from generations made with bizarre ingredients like mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon and who knows what else. We’d end up covered in in oozy stuff that looked and smelled like one of Harry Potter’s potions.

I have heard far worse than nasty Harry Potter substances. Foul stories of people spraying poisonous bug spray on their children’s heads out of desperation. One time, in an attempt to make the treatment more effective, my mother decided to apply a popular over-the-counter, pesticide-laden lice lotion on my sister’s head and leave it overnight. The stuff was so toxic that the next morning my sister had to be taken to a hospital. She was swollen all over and had an asthma attack. It was so bad that her shoes did not fit her massive feet.

Time has passed and the one reliable thing in my life besides my husband are lice. I am in my forties and—to my great luck— I am the mother of three lice-magnet boys! I have zeroed their hair with clippers, I have spent hundreds of hours and even more dollars on over-the-counter toxic lice treatments.

And don’t get me started on the pre-summer-camp lice removal routine! For those who don’t know, on the first day of camp kids are thoroughly checked for lice and nits (lice tiny eggs that are glued to a hair strand’s base with a crazy-glue-like adhesive)  If a single louse or a nit is found on a kid’s head they are taken aside immediately (as if they had the plague) and given a $300 per-head emergency lice treatment procedure (billed to me), carried out by a “certified lice specialist” on site. Then, they would be quarantined for a minimum of 3 days or until they showed no traces of lice. Meanwhile, all of their packed-with-love belongings would be thrown on a washing machine and disinfected.  

I had managed to fly under the lice detection radar, until one summer, four years ago, I received the dreaded camp call: “your kid has lice.” Three hundred dollars poorer and furious with the fact that the time I had spent on my pre-summer-camp routine was lost. I had enough!

Technology has advanced long ways since I was a kid. How is it possible that there are no new, non-toxic, effective and efficient lice treatments out there?

That was the beginning of Lice Combat’s story, my story as a mom entrepreneur.

By the time my kids returned from summer camp (lice infested again obviously, as every other kid in the camp) my husband and I had practically earned our lice doctorates from the amount of research we had done. We began with the basics, learning about lice themselves: how?, why?, when?, where?, what?, who?   

We learned about their anatomy, life cycle, feeding habits and annoying resilience.  One interesting fact we learned is that lice live and thrive only in human scalps. They have preference for clean hair (as opposed to popular belief), and they have no respect for social class, ethnicity or climate.

My goal was finding a way to kill lice without harsh chemicals or pesticides. The memory of my sister intoxicated with lice chemical treatments and the guilt of using those same toxic chemicals on my own kids sourced my determination. 

Our research taught us that lice could be killed either by pesticides or by asphyxiation with oily products (our grandma’s mayo recipe did in fact work for lice). Yet, either way would do no harm to nits, therefore their comeback and resilience. Thus, our challenge was to design a natural formula that would effectively kill lice AND nits.  We found a lab with had the capabilities and the infrastructure to help us. From there we tested various ingredients, and eureka! We had great product.  

We came up with a 100% natural formula that kills lice and nits with no harsh chemicals or pesticides. It has a wonderful lemongrass scent, and it doesn’t leave the hair greasy.

Our product was ready for launch in August 2019, but we began setting up shop before we had the formula ready.  Having the business up and running was much more challenging than the product formula itself.  

My lice journey was over (well not really because my business now depended on them), but my entrepreneurial one had just begun. Finding an idea was easy, making it a reality was the challenge. 

Here is some advice I wish I had known before I started. Hopefully it transfers form my head to yours as efficiently as lice. 

Of extreme importance, and this I can say with emphasis, is having the name of your product registered. Your first priority is your product’s name. It is required to process your trademark application and reserve your domain name.  These three steps must go hand in hand.  You will find out that, more often than not, when you have a good name for your product, the domain is already taken, or that when the domain is free, the trademark cannot be registered for that product category.

You can do a preliminary search on the USPTO page for the trademark, but this should be for informative purposes only. I strongly recommend you hire a patents and trademark lawyer to register your brand name. Registering your trademark will not only protect your company’s name and brand from infringement, but it will also be required when you begin selling on Amazon.

You want to have an amiable web page with an online shop that you can direct campaigns, customers, blogs, searches, Instagram and Facebook groups to. Building this web page was harder and more expensive than I initially thought, so make sure to factor you factor in this time. 

The design of the page, the layout and the walkthrough will depend on the type of product or service you want to offer, same thing for your online shop. I recommend that you find yourself a person or company with proven experience; starting off with a poorly designed web page will hinder your takeoff and hurt your sales. This will eventually need a re-do, better not to waste your time and do it well once. Great, professional and affordable people and resources can be found in places like fiverr.com.  There you can hire freelancers for pretty much anything at a reasonable price.

Once you have manufactured your product and are live online and on social media, you may quickly find out that your store does not sell much. Do not get discouraged…. There are things like SEO (Search Engine Optimization) that also need to be addressed if you want your product to be found online by consumers.

This is why offering your products in a marketplace like Amazon becomes important. Register to sell on Amazon from the start!  In fact, many people begin selling their products on Amazon and then, after they are stablished, they begin putting more time and effort advertising their online store. Amazon makes it easier for people to find your product. Not to mention it adds trust to your new unestablished brand. People’s payment method is already registered, they are familiarized shopping there, and trust the process more than surrendering their credit card and contact information to a new online store. 

Now, let’s be clear; Amazon is a very complex animal that you have to tackle one piece at the time. I don’t want to extend myself into how Amazon works. I will just give you a hint on how to approach it: Amazon (not the end consumers of your products) is the client you must satisfy if you want to be a successful seller.  The more you please Amazon and the 9 factors in its A9 algorithm, the more Amazon will show your products to the end consumers. If it shows you to the consumers, the consumers will buy your products (sort of: “if you build it, they will come”).  Sounds simple, but it’s not…

We have been proudly selling our lice treatment products for over three years now. They can be found on our online store www.licecombat.com or on our Amazon store www.amazon.com/stores/LiceCombat/page/6E50E704-08A8-4019-8D83-9D94EA5ADAAC?ref_=ast_bln 

The category has grown over the years and many more brands have entered the market with natural lice treatment products.  Our business has grown year over year, but we are facing new challenges every day.  Apart from more competition, that translates into higher advertising expenses, we constantly struggle with Amazon’s unexpected change of rules, increasing costs and little regards for its sellers.  Amazon lives by its clients, and it will do anything to please them even if it is in detriment to its sellers.  

As a brand, we feel that we have reached a moment in time where we need to diversify and differentiate. Both in our line of products and onto different marketplaces and physical stores.  Based on that, our next marketing moves will be aligned with that strategy, but our mission will remain the same; to provide safe, natural and very effective lice treatment products.  

If there is something we have learned over the years is that lice have been among us for millennia, and unfortunately will be bothering us for many more years than we can predict.  So, it is up to Lice Combat to make products that are effective and safe for the sake of our kids… and their moms.

Anastasia Filipenko is a health and wellness psychologist, dermatolist and a freelance writer. She frequently covers beauty and skincare, food trends and nutrition, health and fitness and relationships. When she's not trying out new skincare products, you'll find her taking a cycling class, doing yoga, reading in the park, or trying a new recipe.

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