Raising Eyebrows: A Failed Entrepreneur Finally Gets It Right by Dal LaMagna

Compulsive entrepreneurship, anyone?

Synopsis of Raising Eyebrows: A Failed Entrepreneur Gets it Right by Dal La Magna: The often hilarious and sometimes poignant story behind Dal LaMagna's rise in the beauty industry. By the time LaMagna graduated from the Harvard Business School, his entrepreneurial activities—including operating discotheques in drive-in theaters, working with the 1960s musical teen sensations the Cowsills, and opening an ice cream parlor on the Venice Beach boardwalk—had landed him $150,000 of debt.

Raising Eyebrows tells the story of how he finally succeeded. After years of failures and living pennilessly, LaMagna founded Tweezerman, one of the world's most respected, innovative and successful beauty tool manufacturers with over 40 million customers. A leader for socially responsible companies, Tweezerman became a success by making helping communities and caring for the environment everyday practices, not publicity gimmicks.

A responsible capitalist, LaMagna wrote this roller-coaster memoir for entrepreneurs who are struggling and disenchanted with the ever changing economic system. Packed with business lessons, financial plans, and practical advice Raising Eyebrows is full of inspiration, conscience, and good ideas for entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs everywhere.

My two cents

Ever heard of a "compulsive capitalist"? Because that's what Dal LaMagna calls himself -- he has a compulsive desire, an addiction, to spend money to make money. From a young age, his confidence and his chutzpah carried him through Harvard Business School, may and various (failed) businesses, until finally ... he has the eureka moment. He was searching far and wide to find a pair of tweezers that would take a splinter out of his backside! Thus was born the seed of an idea ... and how tweezers made its way into the beauty industry! 

Today, Tweezerman is a household name. Mr. LaMagna embodies that anyone can achieve anything their heart desires, but you need to pick yourself up after each failure, continue to challenge yourself, persevere, and never give up. 

I think this book suffers an identity-crisis of sorts. Is it a memoir? Is it a business book? I can take the easy way out and simply say it's a hybrid, but the memoir part really overrides the business side. I think I was expecting a more solid treatment of the business side with practical (and sagely) advice for entrepreneurs and insight into being a socially responsible company. 

Instead, it is about one failed business after another, with the stories tending to ramble and often go onto strange tangents including a hodgepodge of newspaper clippings and photos. I was actually starting to get impatient because I still hadn't gotten to the "good part" even though I was more than halfway through; in my opinion this book should've focused on the story of Tweezerman. While the accounts are funny, they were all starting to sound the same because of the underlying sad fact that they failed because of bad judgement and recklessness.  

Any business advice was emphasized by the author with bold type throughout the pages. There are a  few gems in there. However, I found the advice spotty and some felt overstretched in places, as if trying very hard to draw parallels in life and business. For example, LaMagna says: 
"I've always though belief was more powerful than knowledge and that all activity, everything we do is based on belief. Knowledge affects human endeavor, and it's belief that causes things to happen." - p. 32-33
Yes, that's a lovely line. I believe it. But LaMagna chooses to illustrate his point with one of his experiences as a child. After a blizzard, he and his playmates wanted to build a fort but were soon tired out shoveling snow, so LaMagna tries to rally the troops.
"Forget about being tired [..] If we just believe together, we can dig this hole--we can move a mountain is we believe it." (p. 33). 
Now instead of everyone picking up their shovels and believing that they could finish their much-wanted fort through hard work and perseverance, they decide to do some heavy duty "wishing." LaMagna ends up digging the hole by himself until it turns dark. His friends wake him up the next day, ecstatic that the hole was "magically" dug. LaMagna attests that: 
"There was no need to tell anyone who dug the hole. The fact was the hole got dug. We all concentrated; we all believed, which caused one of us to do something extraordinary." 
It's unfortunate that many of the reviews in Goodreads and Amazon.com are written by people who personally know Dal LaMagna and naturally these are all positive reviews. I don't know him personally and I am sure he is a perfectly nice person. However, this memoir rubbed me the wrong way; he came across as compulsive, whimsical, reckless .... up until the very end of the book! While I admire LaMagna's spunk and his no-holds barred approach (sometimes too much information for me), I think this book would've benefitted to sticking to his entrepreneurial story instead of running off on a tangent on a failed presidential bid which only diluted this main storyline.

While this book may appeal to those close to the author and "get" his personality and his brand of storytelling, it may not sit right with the average reader (like me). I suspect I will get some flak for this review, but I don't expect every book to be great and in the same vein, I hope people understand that a book isn't going to hit the mark with every reader. Very much like a business. That's the risk any entrepreneur, and any author is just going to have to take.


A hilarious memoir of a man with grand ambitions and an addiction to entrepreneurship ... who eventually became a successful entrepreneur. Would appeal to someone who wants to read something funny but probably not for someone who wants a strong business-based memoir. 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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1 comment

  1. I am a compulsive! How many businesses have I started? How much money have I lost? I need to read this.


© guiltless readingMaira Gall