Being a Boss, Part 2: Making It Happen

The face of an entrepreneur who didn't expect her company to grow so fast.
The face of an entrepreneur who didn’t expect her company to grow so fast.

You might not think it by looking at me, but I get giddy. And when that happens, it’s best that I am by myself because it’s a ridiculous reaction. When a thought about something I’m really happy about first comes into my mind (or an old school jam I haven’t heard in a while is on the radio), I get so overwhelmed with how good it is that I break out into a giant smile and I squeal. Yes, squeal. Picture a 6 year old on Christmas morning, but make them a few inches taller and wearing a Biggie shirt and red lipstick.

This giddy feeling hit me on the daily mid-winter of 2011 when I became a full-time business owner. I felt a freedom that I had never felt before and I was elated. But I was also terrified, because my entire income came from my business and I had to actively bring it in. I had always put my all into every job I ever had, but part of me knew I could have put in less effort and I still would have gotten a paycheck. That’s not the way I do–my genetic code won’t allow me to half-ass anything–but I think I would have had to really mess up or consistently do small, crappy things to get fired. I knew that when I opened my business, I would have to work hard to earn every penny someone paid me. That was a less scary thought when I had a regular source of income from a day job, as I did for my first two and a half years in business. But in winter of 2011, shit got real.

When I left you last, I jumped from my decision to open my own business to the fact that it took 2+ years to do it full time. That gap of time, although somewhat financially stable, was tough for me because I knew what I wanted to do full time but couldn’t do it yet. That’s a frustrating feeling for someone with an ambition addiction. I had opened my business without taking out loans, receiving seed money or grants and I as mentioned in Part 1, no sugar daddy (or sugar mama, unless you count my friend Julie who used to cook me delicious meals and let me use her washer and dryer because I couldn’t afford the laundromat). I had no savings because the “extra” income I made went towards college and Esthetics school loans and the credit card debt I wracked up as I built my business. I had no roommates because I don’t play well with others, so no one to split living costs with. I also had no business partner with whom I could divide responsibilities and startup costs. I was running my business nights and weekends when I was not at my day job, but I was making only a supplemental income from it. It would have been financially foolish to quit my day job and go full time with my business during the first 2.5 years. So I (impatiently, and with much bitching to my family and close friends) waited until the time was right.

In 2011, I started hiring Independent Contractor hair stylists and makeup artists because my company was growing too much to be a one woman show. This was a huge turning point for me. I actually didn’t start out intending to build a company. I wanted to work in film and do wedding makeup on the weekends (which I now realize is an absurd plan). I thought 5 or 6 years into it, I could bring on another makeup artist and maybe a hair stylist. I now have 11 rockstar artists and stylists and am hiring. The Weddings component of my business grew so quickly that it demanded too much of my time to be on a film set for 12+ hours a day. Without purposely intending to, I pulled away from building a career in film (something I only did on a small level) and went full force into running my company. Around 2013, I stopped feeling like a freelancer and starting feeling like a business owner (both are boss status in my book though, as I mentioned in Part 1).

When I got enough work that I could go full time in 2011, I was beyond excited to be out on my own. But it was a struggle to exist financially. I never defaulted on my bills or paid my rent two months late, but I lived what Oregon Trail would call a barebones lifestyle. I rarely went out to eat, never bought clothes, didn’t go on any trips (unless I had miles and a free place to stay) and freaked out when it came to Christmas gift buying time. There were times when money was so tight that I felt paralyzed. I remember once getting towards the end of a tube of toothpaste, looking at my bank account and thinking, Shit. If I had lived with someone or didn’t have even half of the debt I had, it would have been a completely different story. But I made choices that put me in that situation, so I dealt with it the best I could. Sometimes that meant getting in my bed and crying, but it mostly meant working harder to bring in more business. By 2014, I started pulling in the income I needed to make me feel like a real adult. Fast forward to current day, where I am completely debt-free and will be living in a warmer location for the winter because I can. And I can buy as many tubes of toothpaste as I want without even glancing at my bank account. Straight out ballin’. Although I struggled hard for a few years, I am now in the best financial position of my life. I’m no millionaire–that was never my goal–but I don’t have the financial stress that weighed heavily on me for so long. It’s an amazing feeling.

But yo, the workload! To this day, some people assume I have the day off if I don’t have a wedding or a shoot. WRONG. The majority of my time is spent running my company. Emails, contracts, schedules, invoices, advertising, accounting, managing my team–that’s me. From the smallest errand to the biggest decision, it’s all my responsibility. Out of printer ink? Staples run. Need a new logo designed? I have to find the right person, hire them, come up with ideas, look through proofs, approve and then pay for the work.  A bridal trial with one of my hair stylists and makeup artists? I coordinate everything. That’s a location, date and time that works for all three parties. I now coordinate 100+ trials per wedding season. Plus the logistics of every wedding, photoshoot, corporate shoot and event we do. As the owner, I’m also responsible for coming up with the big ideas, which I’m not even going to hint at because I’ve got so many things in the infancy/prep work stage. I am growing a beauty empire here, my friends. If all of that is your version of taking a day off, then you’re a weirdo.

Luckily, my passion for makeup and my desire for the type of life I personally can only get through entrepreneurship keeps me going. I still love the transformative power of makeup. When someone looks in the mirror after I do their makeup and says “I love it!,” I have to keep my giddyness under control. And the lifestyle entrepreneurship has given me–control over my schedule, which allows me more time to see my family and friends and financial freedom, which makes everything a little bit easier–is something I wouldn’t change for the world.

When I started my company, I knew my freedom and business success would bring me the confidence I needed in life. Confidence was not something I had in my teens or most of my 20s, but my intuition told me my business would change that for me. And it did. I realize part of that could be just growing up, getting infinitely wiser by the day. But I believe the confidence and self awareness I have now comes from opening and successfully running a company. I have learned a lot about myself–both good and bad things–since opening AB Beauty.

I am a goal-oriented person. You know what tastes as good as a Three Olives Cherry Vodka, club soda and a splash of cran on a hot summer day? Accomplishment. I love reaching–nah, crushing–goals. I revel in it, I celebrate, then I move on to attack the next one. There is always a next one (or 50) and they are on my To Do list, waiting for the sweet sound of pen hitting paper, crossing a line through something I slayed. I’m guessing most successful entrepreneurs feel the same way. (And by “successful,” I mean an established business that grows each year. I don’t think you have to own a Fortune 500 Company to be considered successful.)

I didn’t start my company to be well-known or filthy rich. Those things don’t motivate me. What motivates me is efficiently running, constantly improving and growing a company. I strive to provide my team with as much work as they want and give my clients the kind of service that makes them hug me. My goal has been to create a career that I not only enjoy, but one that allows me to spend time with the people I love. I’m not the perfect business owner by any stretch, but I do my best and I’m happy with what I have. I am very thankful for my team, my clients, people who refer my company and my family and friends who have supported me. I recognize that I have something really good here and for that, I am immensely grateful.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

 

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Being a Boss, Part 1: The Inception

Entrepreneur, girl boss
Me at 24, pictured here not having a panic attack.

I believe life is too short to wish time away. We get a limited amount of time here and it’s a damn shame to hope all of the days until the weekend/a vacation/a move fly by. I mean, it’s natural to look forward to something you’re excited for, but I don’t like the idea of consistently living life like that. Yet that’s what I found myself doing before I owned my company. When I worked at other jobs–no matter how flexible my boss was or how awesome my coworkers were–I always found myself hating Mondays and living for the weekends. I wanted to hit fast forward on the hours between 9-5, Monday through Friday, and I wanted my nights and weekends (except for time spent at the gym or running) to slowwwwwly pass. Unfortunately, this is not how time works. I knew if I wanted to be happy, I had to find a way to take back my time, but also make an income because Daddy doesn’t fund my life and I’m not cut out to be a sugar baby. (I would rather wear rags that I paid for than a Versace dress that someone else bought for me.) So I opened my own business, which means not only do I no longer wish away days of the week, but I seldom even know what day it is. That’s the short story.

This is the longer story, which you’ll need to know to understand what I’m going to throw down in this series of posts. I moved from New England to south Florida solo after graduating college. I spent two years there, mostly getting tan and avoiding palmetto bugs. I worked as an office manager at two companies, something my 7 years working for the small business my father owns had prepared me for. While I made some fantastic lifelong friends in some of my coworkers, the jobs I was doing were not making me happy. I did, however, learn some valuable customer service skills and admin systems that I use now. I also saw examples of how to be a bad business owner–screaming at your employees, writing angry emails to clients, jetting off to Miami for three days and neglecting your business–which I subconsciously filed away and remembered when I opened my business.

The summer I moved back to New England was a tough one. I luckily found work as a full-time school secretary and a part-time admin at my father’s company, but neither job was what I wanted to do. The problem was, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I could only pinpoint the fact that if I was going to spend the majority of my hours working, it needed to be something I enjoyed. What did I enjoy? Writing always came to mind. I had harbored fantasies of being an author since I was young. That summer, I signed up for the equivalent of an online writing course (this was actually done via the mail, because I’m old), but it was more as a hobby than in preparation for a career. I knew making a living from writing was a rough path and I was still at the point where I needed stability and consistent income. So what should I do?????? This question was the cause of my daily freakouts. (Other causes: stupid boys, gaining one pound, having debt, stupid boys, thinking a friend was mad at me, bad hair days and stupid boys.)

This big question was eventually answered by my close friend and bombshell Italian actress lookalike, Caroline. You would think I would clearly remember this defining moment of my life, but what I have instead is a vague memory of what I think happened. I believe we were sitting in her driveway on lawn chairs, having a wine party. (She lives on a dead end and her husband is too nice to run us over, so we were safe.) I was hardcore venting to Ca–as I still do–gearing up for another freakout about what I was going to do with my 24 year old life. She reminded me how much I loved makeup– something I had been into since I was 5–and suggested becoming a makeup artist. We talked about Cosmetology school, but I wasn’t interested in doing hair. She then mentioned that our friend Lauren was looking into Esthetics school, something I had only first heard of earlier that summer when a psychic told me I would be going to Esthetics school. (Did you just get the chills?) I didn’t make a definitive decision then, but this is the first memory I have of thinking, I could do that and like it. I may be wrong about the details (Paesana, please correct me) but when I think of how this whole career of mine started, this is what I go back to. The moral is if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, have a driveway wine party and let one of your best friends figure it out for you.

So I jumped into action the next morning, right? Nope. Because first, I had some serious shit to address. I had been feeling sick and exhausted for a while and when it got to the point where walking from one desk to another in my father’s office was taxing, I knew I had to do something. But doing anything was so hard, because I had zero energy. Luckily my parents stepped in and got me an appointment with Dr. Qutab, a naturopath and MD who approaches health issues from an Eastern medicine and ayurvedic perspective. I had been to plenty of Western medicine doctors who would run a few tests and say that I was fine. After extensive testing with Dr. Qutab, it turned out I was in no way “fine.” I had several health problems–from hormonal to un-diagnosed allergies to pre-cancerous issues–and we immediately began to correct those with diet changes and supplements. To say that he changed my life is a giant understatement. I am telling this part of my story because I know that if I hadn’t gotten help with my health issues, I wouldn’t have had the energy to take the steps to start my career. I firmly believe that if you don’t physically feel well every day, you won’t have the emotional and mental energy and the motivation to make big changes in your life.

Even though I was feeling a million times better and shedding that weight I had been struggling with for years–turns out some of the issues I had were keeping that from happening–I wasn’t a complete Suzy Sunshine ball of energy. I had struggled with depression in college and I was, at this point of my life, much more of a pessimist than an optimist. Not feeling horrible every day certainly helped, but I still had intense worrying sessions. How would I pay for Esthetics school? (Sallie Mae.) Would I like it? (At times.) What if I failed the state licensing exams? (Oh, please. No math is involved.). What would I do after I got licensed? Work at a spa? Makeup counter? For a cosmetics company? (It’s going take you a bit to figure that out, but “no” to all of those.) I don’t know if it was that I was in my mid-20s and everything feels hard then, or if my Type A personality made it that way, but I certainly was not carefree and confident in my decision.

Because I had, at some point, made my decision. I would move back to Newport, RI–the town I had fallen in love with when I went to college there–and enroll in the closest Esthetics school. I would work an office day job and go to school on nights and Saturdays. I did move to Newport, but I ended up going to school 8:00am-4:00pm Monday-Friday and waitressing nights and weekends. I graduated and got licensed in July of 2008 and embarked on my new career. A few years before, I had been adamant about never owning my own business, as I had worked in several and seen how hard it was and how much responsibility fell on the owner. But I realized that because of my stubborn,  independent nature and my desire to not be stifled creatively if I wanted to enjoy my work–the whole reason I went down this road–I would have to go out on my own.

It would take me two years of working at full-time jobs not in the industry to do that, but I got there. That’s for Part 2, which I’m sure you are dying to read.  That will explain my early years in business, because this post is already too long. Part 3 will be a comparison between entrepreneurship and working for someone, as I see it. So if you are considering making the jump into entrepreneurship and are more of the analytical type, you may want to wait for Part 3.

I want to be clear about one last thing before you leave me for Snapchat. When I use the word “boss,” I mean because I am my own boss. I am technically not the boss of anyone who works for me, as they are all independent contractors. I’m more of their agent, procuring work and setting it up so they can do the magic they do. In my view, one person doing freelance is as much of a boss as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. If you are making all of the decisions for your career–the jobs you take, the hours you work, the way you market, etc.–and the responsibility of it all ultimately falls on you, you’re a boss. So go on with your bad self.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

1990s Beauty

Ah, sweet victory. It was late August of 1994 and I had won the biggest battle of my life so far: my parents had finally allowed me to wear makeup to school. And wear it I did. I did not go with a “no makeup-makeup” look. I had been stocking up at CVS for years and I was ready to show the world that I was someone who could and would wear makeup (and lots of it). The 1990s was my new favorite decade.

This Beauty Decades post is the first one I can write about from experience. I was born in the 80s but as a child, I didn’t really know what was going on with hair and makeup trends. (Which is fine, because I wouldn’t have wanted my formative beauty years to be based in 80s looks.) But my teenage years–aka when you try all the makeup and make all the mistakes–were in the 90s, a decade that my brain still thinks was about 8 years ago.

In the early 90s, matte makeup was the thing. Brown and wine colored lipsticks were in (I’m looking at you, Revlon Coffee Bean and Blackberry), and lipliner was a must. I’m talking two-shades-darker-than-your-lipstick lipliner. There was also a trend of wearing dark lipliner with a light beige lipstick and I was definitely feelin’ that one. By the late 90s, lipsticks were frostier and lip glosses were everywhere.

Foundations had improved since the 80s, but the majority of them still had a pink undertone. Although more and more formulations hit the market every day, they were usually matte and medium or full coverage in the early and mid 90s. Tinted moisturizer become popular in the late 90s, finally giving an option to women who wanted some coverage but not a full face of foundation.

Blush didn’t get much love in the 90s. It was probably because most of it had been striped on people’s cheekbones in the 80s, or maybe snorted up by accident.

Early 90s eyeshadows were primarily warm matte browns. Black eyeliner was the go-to color. In the mid to late 90s, shimmery white and opalescent shadows were popular, particularly with teens and young women. And if you went to high school between 1996-2000 and claim that you never wore white eyeliner on your top lashline, you’re lying.

Colored mascara had its moment, but other than that, there wasn’t a huge emphasis on lashes. False lashes were not popular and although lash extensions were invented in 1916, they didn’t hit the mainstream market until after the 90s.

Thin eyebrows were the bomb in the 90s. Sure, you saw the occasional Cindy Crawford full and arched brow, but most were tweezed into thin little lines. It personally was too much work for me to get my brows that thin, as they are robust, Italian brows, but looking back at my photos from middle school and high school, I see that many of my friends were tweezer-happy. Brows got thicker and more stylized in the late 90s but were still on the thin side, at least compared to today.

Bronzer of the Oompa Lompa variety was popular in the mid to late 90s. A rise in the popularity of tanning booths soon followed. Those evil machines have been the cause of so much skin cancer and skin damage and are surely one of the most deadly and damaging beauty trends of the 20th and 21st centuries. I understand the desire to look tan and I definitely went in tanning booths before proms and spring breaks. But I didn’t know how bad they were, and I cringe at the thought of them now. On the positive side, this obsession with looking tan forced the market to create better self tanning products, bronzers and the spray tan. Jergens Natural Glow was created in the 90s and it’s still a popular product today.

The grunge scene had a huge impact on makeup, particularly in the early 90s. It was all about dark, thick, smudgy eyeliner rimming the eyes and in the waterline and greasy or bedhead hair. Mascara was swiped on like the wearer was in a rush to go to a Pearl Jam concert. If foundation was used it was the same color or slightly lighter than skintone. Blush and bronzer did not exist in this world. Lips were either bare or dark and matte.

The hip hop culture of the 90s heavily influenced the beauty and fashion worlds (at least in my life). Dark lipliner around the lips filled in with light lipstick was a big look, as Kim Mathers can attest to. The black pencil eyeliner at the lower lashline was about the same thickness as the popular over-tweezed brows. High, tight ponytails gave an instant facelift. Curls were gelled to within a crunchy inch of their life.  Baggy jeans and a tight top or an oversized Fila or Looney Toons t-shirt really brought the look home, in case you want the full picture.

Skincare became more important in the mid to late 90s. Facials and spa treatments–once reserved for wealthy women only–became more accessible. Estheticians and dermatologists were frequently interviewed for magazine beauty articles and the general realization that good skincare was key emerged.

Nail polish was big in the 90s. Hard Candy and Essie were crazy popular and the Chanel Vamp shade was often sold out. Deep, dark colors were in but really any matte color had its moment. Acrylic nails and French manicures were for the classy ladies. And you want to put some rhinestones on those claws? Do it to it, homegirl.

Streaky highlights were so 90s. The Rachel, the cut Jennifer Aniston had on Friends, was everywhere. Frosted tips on short hair–for women and men–were in. Zig zag parts were super popular, as were plastic accordion headbands and blingy (I hate that word) barrettes. In the early to mid 90s, there were a lot of scrunchies and baby barrettes being sold.

I think the 1990s is when our culture became truly celebrity-obsessed, which had a major impact on the beauty industry. Between magazines and the new Internet thing, people were seeing more celebrity faces outside of film and television. Celebrity endorsements of beauty products became commonplace and instead of models on magazine covers, you saw actresses. In interviews in women’s magazines, it was pretty standard that an actress would be asked about her beauty routine. Whether she answered honestly or not was one thing, but you better believe if Jennifer Lopez said she used a certain bronzer, that company’s sales were about to go through the roof.

As cheesy as some of the looks were, 90s beauty was in my opinion–which is correct–a lot better than 80s beauty. It was more flattering and less-in-your-face than the previous decade and product technology improved in a huge way over those 10 years. There was a marked difference between the foundation choices available in 1999 versus 1990.  And the beginning of the shift towards taking care of your skin instead of just using makeup to (try to) hide imperfections and damage was a game changer.

I hold a special place in my heart for the 90s, my coming-of-age years. This was when my childhood love for beauty products blossomed, as I finally had a small income and was allowed to wear makeup to school. Most importantly, I was able to experiment with different looks. The past few decades had made this possible. If I was a teen in the 40s, I would have had pretty strict rules about which colors to wear, which haircut was best for my face shape, how much makeup a “classy” girl wore, etc. But the country changed in the 60s (read about it here http://wp.me/pZuuY-v1), allowing women to have some choice over a lot of things, including how they looked. That continued into the 70s (http://wp.me/pZuuY-vB), where the free-spirited hippy and later disco cultures encouraged people to play around with their looks. That brought us into the 80s (http://wp.me/pZuuY-AJ), where self expression and an anything-goes take on colors was the norm. I’m grateful that I grew up in a decade where I had the freedom to try different looks and figure out what worked for me. (Frosted blue lipstick and shimmery lilac eyeshadow does not.) So thank you 90s for this and for what I consider the Golden Age of Hip Hop.

Have a beautiful day 🙂