Nikki Huebner lived every parent’s nightmare in November 2010. Her 18-month-old daughter, Chyler, died after an SUV backed over her in the Raleigh family's driveway. Huebner and her husband John shared their story in hopes that back-up cameras would be a requirement in all SUVs, which happened in 2014 after the nonprofit Kids and Cars advocated for the change. Not long after, Huebner stumbled upon an unlikely business idea that has allowed her to donate thousands of dollars each year to the Ronald McDonald House Charities and Kids and Cars.
Q: You were in medical device sales for 16 years and were a dental hygienist before that. Your company, Endure Beauty, sells makeup removal cloths and drying cloths for eyelash extensions. How did the business come about?
A: I was wearing eyelash extensions and had maintenance issues. How do I dry these after I swim or exercise and wash my face; how do I remove makeup? I felt I needed to keep my eyes clean. I knew there was risk of infection, but I loved the convenience of being a working mom with three kids and feeling put-together. I started looking for a type of cloth to purchase and couldn’t find anything.
Q: You did some research and ended up with several different cloths for drying and cleansing. How did you realize they might be something other women would want?
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A: My lash artist asked what I was doing to maintain the extensions. She said she wasn’t having to remove lashes and that my natural lashes always looked healthy. I brought in my prototypes ... and she said, “Why have you not done anything with this?”
This was in the summer of 2016. My heart and soul really kept tugging at me to do something with this. I literally have been to hell and back. It’s a living nightmare. We were in shock (after my daughter’s death), but my husband is a McDonald’s owner/operator and we went public with the story after the Ronald McDonald House charity approached us for help with its local "family room" projects.
We were able to raise roughly $200,000, funding the WakeMed project as well as supporting the salaries to run the Duke and Chapel Hill programs.
Q: Did supporting a children's charity help in your healing process?
A: It was almost an outlet so we could take tragedy and re-route our mission — not to say you still don’t find me in the fetal position even today sometimes. When you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder like I do, it’s a daily beast. So when I created the Endure Lash cloth, I thought, I’m supposed to be doing this. I need to put this on social media and see if I can sell these, and there’s my outlet. I can donate a portion of my proceeds to these family room projects.
Q: Your cloths are now selling worldwide and featured by beauty magazines all over the country. What’s next?
A: We just launched a collaboration with a lash artist to the stars, Ja’Maal Buster. I was just out in Los Angeles for photos. He goes on vacation with Beyonce, Rihanna and Britney Spears.
Q: What challenges have you faced?
A: There have been ups and downs for sure. There have been a lot of things to deal with on the back end ... with manufacturing, and two of the three of our first cloths I redeveloped. But I do think this is led by a divinity. I have just let go and allowed my life to happen as it’s supposed to. It’s been terrifying for sure but I’m just trying to be as fearless as possible.
Nikki Huebner — Tar Heel of the Week
Born: Jan. 20, 1978, in Beaufort S.C.
Family: Married with three sons, ages 11, 6 and 4
Education: Bachelor's degree in dental hygiene from UNC-Chapel Hill
Fun fact: She was on the dance team at N.C. State University before she transferred to UNC.