Camille Boiteux prepared for high school track meets with water-proof mascara.
She wanted to be picture-ready for the photographers documenting the competition, and since regular mascara often smears when it comes into contact with sweat, Boiteux thought water-proof mascara was the obvious pick for sporting events.
The only issue was that water-proof mascara can be difficult to remove, even when the wearer is trying to remove it.
Boiteux struggled to effectively remove the water-proof mascara, but she didn’t blame the mascara — it was supposed to be long-lasting, after all. Instead, she identified ineffective makeup removal methods as the problem.
Two forms of makeup remover are currently on the market: cleansing pads (like makeup wipes) and oils (like micellar water). Both forms can be insufficient, leaving makeup behind and irritating the user’s eyes, Boiteux said.
So, Boiteux, now a business administration junior at Cal Poly, set out to develop a better, more effective makeup remover and founded Swish Lash.
Swish Lash is a startup developing a makeup removal product specifically for mascara. A sponge brush doused in a makeup remover solution is attached to a metal clamp so that users can swipe their eyelashes in the same motion used to apply to mascara.
Although Boiteux began workshopping the idea during high school, she didn’t begin developing Swish Lash as a business until 2022 at Startup Marathon.
Startup Marathon is a 54-hour event hosted by the Cal Poly Entrepreneurs Club during which student innovators work through the weekend to develop a startup idea. At the event, Boiteux and her co-founder, business administration sophomore Alyson Marzocco, developed the first iterations of the Swish Lash product. Their original prototype ideas included a “PacMan shaped sponge” as well as a clamp similar to an eyelash curler.
Boiteux also participated in the the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Elevator Pitch Competition (EPC), where Cal Poly students have 90 seconds to pitch their innovative ideas for the chance to win cash prizes. Swish Lash won the audience choice award of $500.
“I was so shocked [(when I won]) because I’d just heard so many great pitches,” Boiteux said. “I was literally on cloud nine.”
Boiteux is now working with a group of industrial manufacturing students to develop a working prototype of her product. She hopes to finish the prototype in time for Innovation Quest (iQ), an annual prototyping and business plan competition hosted by the CIE in April.
“We’ve been on a positive streak from Startup Marathon to Elevator Pitch, so now we really want to compete in Innovation Quest and figure out where we go from there,” Boiteux said.
She is also working with the CIE’s on-campus Hatchery, which provides Cal Poly students with the resources needed to build a business. The program allows students to attend workshops that teach the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and connects them with seasoned entrepreneurs and mentors.
Boiteux said the mentorship she has received through the Hatchery has been “truly invaluable.”
“There’s nothing like the Hatchery that can truly offer free help,” she said. “The Hatchery, as a whole, is a great network and a great community of motivated people.”
With the help of the Hatchery, Boiteux sees Swish Lash releasing an early prototype and beginning to collect customer feedback within the next year.
Eventually, she sees Swish Lash as the one product on drug store shelves that can effortlessly and effectively remove mascara.
“I just really want to see a product that genuinely makes a difference in taking off mascara for everyone that wears it,” Boiteux said.