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The Car Mustache: One Hairy Ride

Thursday, 16 Sep 2010 | 4:21 PM ET

For years, Ethan Eyler has worked in product marketing in San Francisco, creating websites and ad campaigns for online games and music. He's always had a long commute. One day, when he was especially bored in traffic, he stared at the car in the rear view mirror and thought, "You know, that car would be funny if it had a mustache."

He couldn't stop laughing. He couldn't stop thinking about it .

Source: carstaches.com

"I began fantasizing about it," Eyler he told me. "I've always worked in the digital space, but I wanted to market something real, tangible." He bought a bunch of fake fur materials, went to his sister—a mother who makes her kids' Halloween costumes—and she created...a Carstache. "Once I threw it on the car, it was unbelievable," Eyler says. People went nuts. "It was like seeing a unicorn."

Carstache officially launched last April, and Eyler says he's sold around 3,000 of them so far. The mustache designs are based on the classic, bushy types seen on Tom Selleck, Dale Earnhardt, and Yosemite Sam. "I think mustaches are funny," says Eyler, who admits, "I do not have one, I'm ashamed to say."

Eyler says his R&D expenses plus a first run cost him a couple thousand dollars. After Khloe Kardashian tweeted about the product, Eyler went out and found a local manufacturer to ramp up production. Carstaches are now sold online at Urban Outfitters, where they are ranked as one of the most-liked products on the site. They're also sold at Hot Topic and Spencer's Gifts. Eyler says Maxim plans to put them in the magazine's holiday gift guide.

The product continues to turn heads. When pedestrians see Eyler stopped at a crosswalk, they'll often "stroke the stache" as they walk by. "The marketing is built in."

Meantime, he's hired a licensing partner and is planning new products. However, someone else beat him to one idea. Six months ago, Eyler says he started thinking about making eyelashes for cars, to give them a feminine look. "People like the personification of their cars." He looked into creating CarLashes.com. Too late. "The URL was taken."

Source: carlashes.com

Sure enough, CarLashes, based in Utah, just launched and has gotten national attention. Eyler says he's embracing the competition with LashesvsStaches.com. And he has other ideas percolating...think Carmullet, Carfro, Carpee (a toupee for cars).

Think of the possibilities. A car wearing a stache next to a car wearing lashes. Or one car wearing both. Hey, in LA, anything is possible.

As for mistakes he's made along the way ("I wish I'd made CarLashes quicker"), he says there have been only a few. First, "Doing the fulfillment out of my house in the beginning was intense." His basement was filled with "a mountain of mustaches". Secondly, he learned not to celebrate that mountain by diving on top of it. Last time he did that, he was forced to repackage some of the goods.

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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