My Top 11: The Entrepreneur Edition

Celebrating 11 years in business with some of my nearest and dearest. Every single person in this picture has helped me with my business and/or helped me take the breaks I need to take if I want to survive this career.

Like every other entrepreneur and small business owner, I’ve got a lot on my plate. I do as much as I can to be organized, and I systemize whatever I’m able to. There are some business tools and resources that have made a world of difference in my solopreneur life, and I am thankful for all of them. So let’s close out this Top 11 series with a list of my business essentials that will probably still be in my life 11 years from now.

Hatch Tribe Members Circle. If you’ve read this blog before, you know how I feel about the Hatch Tribe Members Circle. Hatch Tribe is a group that “cultivates and connects women entrepreneurs,” and the Members Circle is the amazing online platform for the Tribe. With a very reasonably priced membership (which you can do annually or monthly), you get access to a ton of free classes, posts about topics relevant to business owners and the opportunity to ask the many other boss ladies in the Members Circle questions. I’ve learned so much and made so many great connections and friendships since I joined the Members Circle. It’s one of the most important resources in my entrepreneur life.

17Hats. For years, I did my contracts and invoicing in Microsoft Word. It was inefficient and made the wedding booking process take much longer, since people had to print and mail their contracts, and I had to do the invoicing math myself (instead of letting software that didn’t almost fail every Math class it ever took do the work). I knew I had to find an online client management system that I could send contracts and invoices from, so I did some research (aka had the person who was doing some admin work for me do some research) and landed on 17Hats. Between that and starting to accept credit cards, the booking process has been cut down from 7 – 10 days to three or less. I can also send the questionnaires we have for various things right from 17Hats, which makes for a quicker response time. There are a lot of other functions in 17Hats that I don’t use and probably should, but the contract, invoicing and questionnaire functions alone are worth the $300 every two years.

Stripe. I held off as long as I could with accepting credit cards because I knew that the processing fees would add up. But eventually, I caved in and chose Stripe. I knew that we had lost some wedding clients because we didn’t accept credit cards, which makes sense since around 60% of couples who pay for their own wedding use credit cards. I did the math (about 17 times, and mostly got the same answer each time) and realized that if accepting credit cards made it so we booked two to three weddings in a year that wouldn’t have if we didn’t accept credit cards, that would cover the credit card processing fees. So I took the plunge, started accepting credit cards and made us a more appealing wedding vendor for potential brides.

Square. Let me give you some numbers. I currently have 19 Independent Contractors on the team. We have 10 weddings in the first seven days of September alone. There are sometimes as many as six people from my team at a wedding. And they each bill AB Beauty separately for every job. Paying out for jobs used to be one of my most time consuming tasks. I would review all bills on the designated day (which I still do to make sure they are correct), print each bill, enter it in Quickbooks, pay each bill, print all of the checks, sign them, put them in envelopes, address them, mail them, then staple the check receipt thing from Quickbooks to the bill I had printed and file that. It was a monster task which I was doing once a week for most of the year. I finally thought, This is insane! and starting thinking about a better way to do it. I landed on direct deposit, and after my attorney gave me the okay to pay Independent Contractors using that method (you can’t mess around with worker compensation laws), I did my research. Square was the best option for me, and at only $5 per Independent Contractor per month (and they don’t charge you for an IC if you don’t pay out to them that month), it’s affordable. They also prepare and file 1099s for you, which saves me money that I would have otherwise spent having my accountant prepare and file those. But mostly, using Square for direct deposit has been a giant time saver. I still have to review bills, pay bills and enter them in Quickbooks, but I don’t have to deal with checks or printing anything (which is better for the environment too). Switching to direct deposit in Square was one of the smartest business decisions I’ve ever made.

OneTab. I like open windows in my house, because I enjoy the ocean breeze (most of the time) and hearing the hustle and bustle of my busy neighborhood. But open windows on my browser? It can be both overwhelming and distracting. My tech guy, Dan, also told me that having a bunch of windows open slows down your computer, and is there anything more maddening that that?!?! He suggested OneTab, which allows you to put Google Chrome windows–or tabs, if you will–you are not actively using to sleep without losing them forever. It saves them for as long as you’d like, which is key for me because sometimes I have sites that I don’t need to look at for a while after the initial time, but I know I will later, and I don’t want to have a zillion bookmarks. When those tabs are snoozing, they’re not slowing things down, so your computer can be its best efficient self. I’ve been using OneTab for several years now, and I recommend it to anyone who ever looks at more than one website. (If that does not apply to you, who are you? My father?)

Google Calendar. My last job working for someone else was at a construction company. I was the Office Manager, and I learned a lot from my boss, Ralph. He used Google Calendar to keep track of his appointments and reminders about tasks that needed to be done, and now I do the same. GC runs my life. It allows you to create various calendars and share them with different people, so I have a company calendar so the Independent Contractors on my team can see job details, and a calendar that only I can see with all of my meetings and personal appointments, as well as reminders for the 70 million tasks I have to do. I have recurring reminders, like “Review Independent Contractors Bills” every Wednesday morning, and one time reminders like “Follow up with 9/8 wedding planner re: location change.” The email reminders pop up on my laptop and phone, and get sent to my inbox so I have no excuse. I would forget 90% of the stuff I was supposed to do without GC, so I honestly don’t think I would have gotten very far without it. Thanks, Ralph!

Dropbox. Girl, you looks good, won’t you back those files up? That was from Juvenile’s lesser known recent hit, “Dropbox”. I guess he uses the same file hosting service as I do to back up his files. Interesting! Backing up files is of course super important for any business, and Dropbox makes it easy. I pay $10 a month, and all I do is copy some folders into Dropbox when my weekly reminder comes up. It’s one of the easiest tasks I do all week, and also one of the most essential.

The E-Myth Revisited. I don’t know any business owners who don’t read business books. We all crave the expertise from experienced bosses who have succeeded in their respective fields. I first read The E-Myth Revisted in the early years of my business, and it forever changed the way I look at my company. Author Michael E. Gerber talks about the three main types of jobs entrepreneurs often do: the Technician (in my case, Makeup Artist), the Manager and the Entrepreneur. His advice is to hire Technicians and Managers and solely be the Entrepreneur. As someone who has been filling all three roles for the past 11 years, I agree that choosing one–namely the one that grows the business–is the smartest choice. I re-read this book every year or two and it helps keep me motivated.

Quickbooks. I first learned how to use Quickbooks when I was an Office Manager in Delray Beach, FL in 2004 – 2005. The OG of accounting software is still widely used today, and I’ve found no reason to switch to another one. Taking care of your books may not be the sexiest part of being a business owner, but it has to be done. I could fully outsource everything I do in Quickbooks but for now, I can handle most of it and my bookkeeper comes quarterly to reconcile and make sure I’ve entered everything correctly. Quickbooks allows you to run reports to show all kinds of details about income, expenses and comparison to previous years. As a business owner, you have to know your numbers–and know them well–as they tell you how your business is doing. Vital information, don’t you think?

My Business Advisors. I don’t have all of the answers (in business and in life). I probably don’t even have half of them. That’s why I crave advice from the business-minded people in my life. Sometimes that means my Members Circle girl gang, my family members who also run shit, or my friends who–even if they don’t own a business–have experience in the business world. I don’t turn to my advisors with every question I have, but when I’m really grappling with something, I hit ’em up. These folks have helped me countless times, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

My Family and Friends. I’m probably not an easy person to be close to, hopefully mostly due to my career. Being friends with me requires a certain level of understanding, because this entrepreneur lifestyle is not the norm. (My family is kind of just stuck with me and forced to try to understand it. Sorry, guys!) I’m very lucky that the people I’m closest to get it, and therefore get me. They are one of the big reasons I started a business–so that I could spend time with them without having to potentially get denied a time off request. When someone else dictates your work schedule, that impacts your free time, which then affects how often you can see your friends and family. Sure, I’m limited by my workload during wedding season, but I still do get to see my friends and family more than if I had a 9 – 5. I’ve got a lot of spectacular, loving, funny, intelligent, kind and considerate people in my world, and spending time with them is what keeps me going. I’m not going to say “keeps me balanced,” because I’m not nearly as balanced as I’d like be (and I don’t just mean because I’ve had a vertigo-like thing since October). But they keep me sane, or as sane as a Type A, INFJ ambivert entrepreneur can be.

And that does it for my Top 11 series! It’s been a supa dupa fly 11 Years In Business Anniversary Month for AB Beauty. Business is great, my team is killing it and we’ve left a trail of happy clients in our wake. I’ve got a lot more than 11 things to be grateful for, that’s for damn sure.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

My Top 11 Products: The Hair Edition

I have “We’re going to need extra time with this client” type of hair.

Full disclosure: I’m not a hair stylist. I have no professional background, and any knowledge I have comes from AB Beauty hair stylists or from hair stylists I’ve gone to. But I do have a lot of hair! It’s naturally curly and dark brown (most people think it’s black) with blue on the ends. It’s prone to frizz and my scalp is more dry than oily. I have gray hairs in the front, and while I don’t have a ton of them, I have enough to be annoying, so I get a color touchup every 5 – 7 weeks. My hair grows crazy fast, which is good for the times I’ve gotten a bad haircut and bad for the roots touchup schedule. My locks are long and I’ve got follicles a plenty, so for most of my life, hair stylists have needed to schedule extra time for me.

Due to my hair type and the fact that (not to be cocky) I get a lot of compliments on it, I think I’ve been using the right products. I’m giving all of the credit to the pros who have guided me, but I think they would be good with me sharing my Top 11. So here we go.

Olaplex No. 3 Hair Protector. I put my hair through a lot. Twice a year since 2013, I’ve been having the bottom third of my hair bleached and then colored blue. Blue touchups follow every month or two, and gray coverage color every 5 – 7 weeks. Up until June, I blew my hair out straight (or someone more qualified than me did it for me) once a week. I now occasionally let it air dry and rock my natural curl, but it’s usually blown out. And when it is, I sometimes add in big curls with a two inch curling iron. So between the bleaching, hair coloring and heat styling, my hair can show some damage. Olaplex 3 repairs that damage, and it does it well. I use it 2 – 3 times a month, and my hair looks and feels better every time. I’m convinced this product is saving my hair from looking and feeling like hay.

Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo. This shampoo came out after Olaplex 3, and was recommended to me by Kristin, one of the licensed AB Beauty cosmetologists. When I use it (before Olaplex 5, which I’ll get to next) after an Olaplex 3 treatment, the combination of all three products does something magical to my hair. Before this came out, I used Olaplex 3 with whatever shampoo and conditioner I had, but it didn’t feel or look quite as good as when I do the 3, 4 and 5 together.

Olaplex 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner. This could have been grouped in with Olaplex 4, but hey, I needed 11 products! This conditioner is part of my Olaplex Dream Team, so I love it. Some conditioners leave a film on my hair, but Olaplex 5 does its job then rinses away perfectly. Bravo, No. 5.

Moroccan Oil Treatment Original. I first used this for a while in my early to mid 20s, before I started straightening my hair. I thought it made my hair feel heavy, but I suspect I was using too much of it. A few years ago, I started using it again to prevent the frizz I get some days during my winters in South Carolina (I get Brazilian Blowouts to knock out the frizz during my summers in Rhode Island, but I try to keep those to twice a year). I now use the correct amount on damp hair prior to blowing out my hair or letting it air dry, and I can tell it helps with the frizz. It’s a hair stylist favorite for a reason!

Sachajuan Volume Cream. It gives volume and protects the hair from hear styling damage? That’s all I need to know! I’ve been using this for a couple years and I haven’t been tempted to switch yet. I apply a little to each section after the Moroccan Oil but before I start blowdrying. Simple as that.

Pssst Dry Shampoo. You can’t expect a girl who only washes her hair once a week to not use dry shampoo, right? This stuff works, it’s cheap and it doesn’t have a strong scent, so what’s not to like? And should I continue to only ask questions about this product? What do you think?

DryBar Triple Sec. I like messy, textured, bedhead kind of hair on myself. Too smooth or polished is not my jam. I love Triple Sec because it gives me that type of look without having to use multiple products or tools. The original Triple Sec had a strong scent that I loved, but a lot of people didn’t, so they now have a unscented version which I accidentally ordered then got mad about. Even without the scent though, it’s a stellar product.

R + Co Dry Oil Spray. Another AB Beauty team recommendation, this time from hair stylist, Emily. My hair can get a little dry looking, and nothing brings back moisture like oil. I’ve found some hair oils to be too heavy, but this spray oil is lightweight and fast-absorbing. Love.

Living Proof Humidity Shield. I like humidity for my skin, as it reacts well to that kind of moisturize, but my hair is a different story. I get Brazilian Blowouts in May and July and they keep me virtually frizz-free for the highest humidity months, but I’m still prone to frizz once my Blowouts have washed out. That’s where this hairspray comes in. A light mist of it before I leave combats mid-level humidity. My hair type needs the Blowouts for the kind of humidity that makes people complain on Facebook, but this hairspray is good for the other times.

Living Proof Nourishing Oil. This no frizz nourishing oil is heavier than the R + Co Dry Oil Spray, but I use that more for shine and this more for frizz control. A little goes a long way, and I appreciate that in a $38 hair product.

Celeb Luxury Viral Colorditioner in Blue. My hair stylist friend, Jennie Kay Plumb, recommended this to me to use as a conditioner between blue retouch appointments. It can also be used for color touchups if you leave it on for 30 minutes. I really only use it for that now. I didn’t think it was the best as a conditioner because my hair didn’t feel as soft after as it does with Olaplex 5, but as a blue color touchup, it’s one of my favorites (and I’ve used a lot). It also comes in silver, rose gold, coral, lilac, turquoise, green, red, magenta and purple, so pretty much anyone who has fun colors in their hair is covered.

And that’s it! Thank you to all of the hair stylists who have helped make my hair a better person.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

 

 

My Top 11 Products: The Skincare Edition

My dermis crew.

You know what I say–the skin is the body’s largest organ, so friggin’ take care of it! Here’s how I do it.

Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm. Talk about a luxurious cleansing experience! This cleansing balm feels like heaven, smells divine and removes every trace of makeup. It’s a new-ish addition to my beauty life, and I am grateful for its existence.

Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micelle Solution. My eyes can be a little sensi to eye makeup remover, but the original micellar water doesn’t sting, burn or otherwise irritate my peepers. I have been using this product for years, and I can’t stop, won’t stop.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5. Hyaluronic Acid is the MVP of hydrators, and this obscenely inexpensive one from The Ordinary is the bomb. Everyone I’ve recommended this to has told me they’ve noticed results within a few weeks of using it. It’s great for all skin types, so just get some already.

Neutrogena Oil Free Moisture Broad Spectrum 35. You know, I’ve tried a zillion moisturizers, but sometimes its best to keep things simple. This is a no frills moisturizer that does the job on my combination skin, and occasionally helps me get Extra Bucks.

Josie Maran 100% Argan Oil. Yo, you like moisturized skin? Of course you do. This Argan Oil is idea for facial massage, post retinoids application and elimination of dry patches. If you’re super oily, they have a Lite version too, so no excuses.

Trentinoin Cream 0.05%. It’s the Fountain of Youth in a tube if you start on it early enough. My 37 year old face is often mistaken for a 27 year old face, and I think a big part of that is due to Trentinoin. If you can get a hold of this stuff before the fine lines get too deep, you can seriously slow done the progression of those lines. Some people call it magic, I call it science.

Hydroquinone 4%. I have melasma, a section of hyperpigmenation (dark patch of skin) above my upper lip. It gets worse when I’m in the sun so I make sure to protect my face with sunscreen, but the only thing that fades it is prescription hydroquinone . So I use it, and it works, and it makes me less self conscious about my melasma.

Lancome Advanced Genifique Eye Cream. I don’t use this as much as I once did, solely because I now have two nightstands and it’s on the one opposite the side of bed I sleep on, so I forget about it. (Weak excuse, and I’ll move it to the bathroom tonight so it goes on post-face cleansing.) When I was being smart, I used it every other night, as I use the Trentinoin as an eye cream every other night. It’s a great eye cream–no stinging, burning or irritation and it really seems to hydrate and plump up the fine lines nicely.

Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. If you’re thinking “Wait, didn’t you put this in your last post about makeup products?” I did, you astute little blog reader, you. That’s because it can be used as a foundation primer and as a face mask. When I’m on top of my game, I use it as a face mask every week. It brightens and refreshes dull skin

Glossier Balm Dotcom. They call it a “universal salve,” but I only use it on my lips. I’ve found the Original and Mango shades to be the most hydrating of the ones I’ve tried. They are truly the best lip balms I’ve ever used. Nothing heals my lips like the Original and Mango Balm Dotcoms. I use the Original on every wedding client, and so many of the remark on how good the balm feels. This universal salve is a staple for my pro kit and my personal life.

Glossier Invisible Shield. A serum-like sunscreen that protects my skin, doesn’t leave a white cast and doesn’t make me break out? I’m in.

And that’s how I keep my skin in good shape! I’d love to hear about your faves too.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

 

My Top 11 Products: The Makeup Edition

It’s basically a common law marriage at this point.

In honor of 11 years in business for AB Beauty, I figured I’d do some Top 11 lists. And naturally, we’ll start with makeup. Here we go.

Dior Diorshow Mascara. I’ve been using this mascara for a decade, which makes it the longest relationship I’ve ever been in. Nothing gives my top lashes volume like Diorshow, and until I find something better (and to be honest, I’m not even looking) I stand by this mascara.

Laura Mercier Foundation Primer. Disclaimer: Only use this primer if you want your foundation to glide on nicely and last all day.

MAC Face & Body Foundation. I use this foundation on myself and the majority of my clients. It lets the skin show through while giving a nice glow. It transforms from a sheer to medium coverage the more you work it in, so it’s really like having two foundations in one bottle.

MAC ProLongwear Concealer. This is the Holy Grail of concealers, as far as I’m concerned. Its acrylic paint-like consistency makes it buildable, and its pigment and range of shades makes it ideal for both under eye coverage and spot concealing. It’s a gem.

Blinc Mascara. I started using this mascara on my bottom lashes this summer because the Clinique mascara I was using was smudging in the heat and humidity. Beauty tubes mascara do not smudge, and since this is the OG of beauty tube technology, why wouldn’t I use it? It’s called a no-brainer.

Benefit Hoola. Some cult favorites get hyped up for no good reason, but Hoola is as good as they say. This neutral matte bronzer now comes in four shades, as it should. It’s blendable, matte and just the right amount of bronze. It’s the only bronzer I’ve found that works as a contour too. If they ever discontinue Hoola, there will be a revolt.

MAC Eyeshadows. I rarely use any other powder eyeshadows on myself or my clients because these are just the best. And that’s all.

Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Pillow Talk. The lip pencil allows you to overdraw the lips without looking obvious, and it’s the only shade of pink I like on myself. She’s perfection.

Glossier Cloud Paint. Don’t have a Cloud Paint? Go get one. They’re easy to use and there’s a shade that works for every skintone. Bravo, Glossier, bravo.

Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray. If you want your makeup to stay on all day, this should be your last step. I don’t know how they do it, but it really works.

Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. When my face is looking a little dull and tired, I use the Beauty Flash Balm before foundation. It tightens, brightens and makes me feel like a new woman.

It was hard to narrow it down to 11 products, but these ones are the cream of the crop in their respective categories. Give props where props are due. That’s what I say!

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Independence Month Recap

Bang! Pop! Boom! Everyone’s dog is freaking out!

I did a June recap, so it only seems right to do one for July. Don’t you think?

July is always the slowest weddings month, for reasons I’m still not sure of. (People going on vacation? Too-hot weather, even though August is usually hotter? Couples not wanting to share their anniversary month with America?) June 2019 was the busiest month in the history of AB Beauty, so I was ready for a little break in July. Joke was on me, though! While July had a lot less weddings than June, we booked a ton of weddings for 2019 and 2020, which kept me busy. We also did a lot of trials–I personally did seven times as many as I did in June–and I started training two new makeup artists. We broke our all-time yearly weddings booking record which was set in 2018, which I’m psyched about. We also had a new hair stylist finish training and I’m in talks with two more potential new hair stylists. I worked with some wonderful new clients and left all of my jobs smiling. I ended up being way busier than I thought, but I had a little more of a breather some days.

On the personal side, it was a marvelous month. It started off with a Southern Charm binge watching night with my friend Julie, then a fun Fourth of July day out (notice I didn’t say “night out,” because I’m 37) with my girl, Kristin. My father had a big cookout the first weekend of July, so I got to see a lot of family and some friends there. My college friend, Caroline and my Charleston friend, Arryn, were in town the following week, and I was so happy to spend time with them. I made a new friend with someone who has been in to makeup model for makeup artist training sessions, and we had a fun first-time hangout. I went to see Nick Kroll in Providence with my newlywed friends Greta and Chris, and I always have a blast with them.

At the end of the month, I went up to Montreal for the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival for my second year in a row. I went with my aunt Michelle and her friend/business associate, Christine. They run the Women In Comedy Festival in Boston, and they are awesome. JFL was fantastic. I saw a ton of great comics and went to a bunch of panels about different shows and topics. I saw people give television show pitches to major networks and I went to two live recording comedy podcasts. I went to a “Boast Rattle,” where comics tried to out-compliment each other. I saw some of my favorite comics and added a few more to my list. I’m already excited to go back next year.

I can’t claim that I had a balanced month, because contrary to the length of the previous paragraphs, I worked way more than I played. Except for when I was in Montreal, 12 – 14 hour workdays were the norm. But hey, that’s the life of a business owner in the wedding industry this time of year, you know?

We have more than twice as many weddings booked for August as we did for July. On top of that, August will be busy because September is our second busiest month this year (and could potentially beat out June as our all-time busiest month), and the month before the busiest month is also always crazy. I’ve got a lot of makeup artist trainings on top of that, plus some trials. In August, AB Beauty will celebrate 11 years in business. That’s bananas, right? I can’t believe I have a pre-teen.

And now, work time. I’ll be back with an August recap before you know it.

Have a beautiful day 🙂