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Eye(lash) on the prize

by Alex Z. Salinas (B.A. ’11)

Nadia Carrasco-Vasquez

Nadia Carrasco-Vasquez hadn’t been at St. Mary’s University a full semester before thinking, “I’m tired of being broke. I need to do something with my education.”

So, as a Management major into makeup and fashion, she started her own luxury eyelash business — VAS Cosmetics.

Her business, which launched in September with a line of four eyelash options, was the result of much research and personal product-testing, Vasquez said. The sophomore enrolled in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Track said she broke even on her investment in just two days.

Her eyelashes are made of vegan, cruelty-free silk — an expression of Vasquez’s being pescatarian (a person who eats seafood but not meat) since the age of 8 years old.

While it took nearly a year for Vasquez to finalize her eyelash brand, which she labeled “chic, for the woman who sees herself as a boss,” she’s not one to bat an eye at challenges.

“I always knew I wanted to start my own business,” the Phoenix-native said. “My mom owns her own coffee shop. In middle school, I used to sell bows and lemonade. I’m always doing something.”

Helping out in her mother’s coffee shop — Fair Trade Cafe, “the first woman-owned business in Roosevelt Row” (a walkable arts district in downtown Phoenix) — equipped Vasquez with a work ethic she brought to St. Mary’s.

VAS Cosmetics product

Her passion for entrepreneurship soon caught the eye of Sergio Palacios, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Management.

“Nadia is an impressive student,” he said. “Her opportunity-recognition, problem-solving and leadership skills make her an effective entrepreneur.”  

At Palacios’ encouragement, Vasquez participated in a pitch competition at St. Mary’s and won first place. She then traveled to Tampa, Florida — all expenses paid by the Greehey School of Business — and competed in the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Global Pitch Competition.

Out of 80 competitors, Vasquez made the top 16.

“Nadia used a lean approach to launch her startup,” Palacios said. “Her first product line offers value to conscious customers. Nadia is an amazing role model for female entrepreneur students at St. Mary’s.”

When Vasquez was first considering where to go to college, she had only one condition: it had to be somewhere outside Arizona.

“I was part of an organization that (former director of Financial Aid) David Krause would come speak to,” she said. “So there I was, little 15-year-old me talking to Mr. Krause about St. Mary’s. He eventually helped me work a deal I couldn’t refuse.”

Without having visited campus, Vasquez arrived to St. Mary’s without friends or family around.

However, keeping both eyes open to new experiences, she quickly felt at home. In addition to managing her online business, Vasquez is busy serving as community coordinator for the Rowdy Rattlers — a living learning community that supports Rattler Athletics — and also a mentor for freshmen in the Greehey School of Business.

“I was comfortable right away being on campus,” she said. “The faculty and staff are friendly and are willing to help.”

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