Answering my own Women In Business Interview Questions: Introduction

Before we get into the question I’ve chosen for today, let’s have a chat.

It’s no mystery that for any business the holiday season is busy. During a typical year, October through December are my biggest months for shopping, and my service schedule is packed, so I find myself with little energy for much else. I had to accept the fact that interviews and resource guides may need to be put on pause until January, and that’s okay. In previous years I felt better about the chaos because I’d factored it in and planned plenty of time to myself. I was getting to a point where I could afford time off so I tried my best to take it. My goal was two weeks off last year (✔️), three weeks this year (not happening), and then a month starting in 2021 and moving forward until I change my mind again (it’s happening).

I’m talking about a sabbatical from the chaos to get my mind right, work on myself and my personal life, and see my business through fresh eyes so I can adjust. Recalibrate. Matthew McConaughey would call it a “walk about.” I won’t be getting high and floating down the Amazon River, however, a month without obligations but with set intentions can change your life. Even if you’re staying home. I learned that last year on my digital minimalism journey.

Then 2020 happened and all my “security,” plans, schedule changes and policies I’d been fine-tuning since becoming self employed evaporated. And here we are. I’m still taking two weeks off around Christmas and New Years, less out of a sense of accomplishment and more out of a sense of sheer exhaustion and necessity.

Since July I’ve been working on my online store project. Anyone who knows me is familiar with my insistence that I do things completely, and to the best of my personal ability, the first time. You know, it’s my Dad’s voice in my head: “Don’t half ass it. Do your best and that’s all you can do.” I hear that ringing in my ears every time I’m doubting myself, but it’s the truth. Our best is all we’ve got. My best is in creating things when the old ways just aren’t working out anymore.

I feel like I’m starting a second business. The time, coordination, rebranding, systems changes, and the money spent. It’s more than I bargained for, but it’s almost here. In less than two weeks my biggest work project since opening my business in the first place will be out there for the world to see. And all the familiar doubts usher me in with open arms.

Will it fail? Will I fail? Will no one like it? Was it a stupid idea in the first place? Should I have saved my money until a more predictable and steady time (non-pandemic)? Do I actually know what I’m doing? Will this give me more freedom or less?

I wanted to share these feelings with you because, to be completely honest, I’ve noticed many of you have commented on how well I’ve been navigating this challenge as a business owner. Quickly adapting, not frozen in fear or inactive. Pivoting and succeeding. And while I appreciate all the kind words and support, behind all the action is still a lot of fear. Fear of failure and fear of ending up back where I started.

But any smart business owner will tell you that it’s impossible to end up back where you started. Half of the fun of creating is learning what didn’t work. Even if you didn’t bargain for it, you’re left with the knowledge. Never back where you started. Always carrying more information than you had yesterday. Whether you wanted it or not.

I decided to answer these questions now because I feel like I’m in an unique place in my entrepreneurial journey. Experienced but not very experienced. I’ve thought about doing this in the past but didn’t feel like it was appropriate. Like writing a memoir at 25. I needed more time in the fire. 2020 has doled out the fire and the lessons, in droves. But I know I’m not even in the middle yet. In another five years I’ll answer them again, just to see.

I also thought it would be beneficial for new clients to get to know me better. With my online business becoming real, it’s a nice reminder for anyone who’s interested that it really is just me, a person, on the other side trying to do my best.

Being an entrepreneur and small business owner is scary in the first place, without the challenges 2020 has presented. But for some reason some of us are able to channel that fear into a challenge. It’s like a friendly but difficult and unending scrimmage with the universe.

That’s all you’ve got?

_____

Question 1: Tell us about your business, and your qualifications in the beauty industry.

I warn you in advance. I’m going to talk a lot, because it’s my blog. So why not?

I own Two Beauties Skin + Makeup in old town Eureka. I opened my two-person skincare and makeup studio in November of 2016 where I work with my sister. We’re both licensed estheticians and makeup artists. We offer facials, peels, waxing, makeup lessons, and event artistry. We also carry several skincare, makeup, and body care lines, and are launching our online store on December 1, 2020.

Somehow I always knew I wanted to write, and also be an artist in the beauty industry. I’m not sure how I knew that, and my roles have evolved over the years, but I’ve always chased that balance. A career that allows me to be creative while still being practical. Growing up in a family where we had enough, but money was always a constant source of worry, I knew I didn’t want that for myself. I knew that I needed to create things to feel sane, but rarely do art degrees pay the bills. So I met myself somewhere in the middle.

I started my career in the beauty industry in 2007 as a beauty sales person at an Estée Lauder counter in the mall. I, to this day, do not think there’s a better way to become a great makeup artist than to have a job which requires you to put makeup on anyone who asks you to, in the mall, for almost free. I worked on all skin types, tones, conditions, ages, and concerns. It’s an excellent way to get your feet wet without needing a professional license or any beauty qualifications whatsoever. I had some sales experience, and that was all that was necessary. My love for makeup was just a plus. I learned enough in that short year to propel me to my first job in a real makeup studio.

I applied to work at the local spa I went to for waxing. My amazing esthetician (who now owns her own shop and is still amazing) suggested I apply because their makeup artist was moving. I got the job and ended up working there for almost six years. I did everything there, including observing the benefits and pitfalls of running a small, local business. I worked as a receptionist, as a makeup artist (which now that I’m licensed I know is illegal to do without a license in a spa or salon…), as a manager, as a retail buyer, and finally after graduating from both Humboldt State with my degree in journalism and beauty school with my esthetics license, as a legitimate beauty professional.

After that, I worked in a spa one of my best friends co-owns for three years. With the amazing support, encouragement, and wisdom of the group of experienced women who work there, I was able to save enough money and gain enough confidence to open my own studio.

During this whole time, to make ends meet and pay for school, I worked at Victoria’s Secret. I started out as an 18 year old sales associate in 2006 and eventually ended up managing the beauty department. I credit the ten years working for that company in their heyday (plus my media degree) for almost all of my sales, management, and marketing knowledge. Working for a gigantic corporate brand and running their beauty department while simultaneously running a small business working with professional-level brands taught me both sides of the beauty world, large and small. Between the spa and Victoria’s Secret I was also able to make the closest friendships that I still have to this day, only nowadays we show support to each other by hiring each other, lifting each other up, and keeping our network strong. Working with (almost) all female staff my entire life has taught me that collaboration, rather than competition, is vital to business success.

My most notable experience during my “VS” days is where the above photo comes from. My beauty department in small-town Eureka sold more perfume (as a percentage of overall sales) than any other store in California. The company flew 19-year-old terrified, baby Liz to Texas (first time I’d ever flown, and by myself) where I got my makeup done by the models’ pro artist and got to have my pictures taken with Candice and Erin. What a day to be alive. Clearly, based on my facial expression, I wasn’t terrified whatsoever (just zoom in). That was the first time I saw how big the beauty industry really is, and it helped me to grow my own dreams.

As problematic as corporate beauty may be, Victoria’s Secret taught me how to merchandise and sell a rotating inventory of hundreds (if not thousands) of products, and I loved it most of the time. I finally quit in spring of 2016, so I could open my own shop.

And here we are. I love what I do. I love the fact that I get to work with my sister and spend my days with women I admire, clients and friends alike. But I am excited (and a bit terrified) to see where things go from here.

2 Things I’ve Realized While Being Sober in 2020:

1) When you’re sober during a crisis, social media starts to look like a really bad, really desperate reality TV show (you know, the kind I love to watch).

As a society, we rely on booze like the comforting friend most of us are taught to look to in times of trouble, and social media is their highlight reel. Being sober in 2020 feels like peering into a whole news feed full of inside jokes you just don’t get anymore. Scrolling starts to feel like a voyeuristic maneuver to spy on a club you quit – a sorority you told your friends “wasn’t for you.” It’s like waking up and choosing to take the red pill over and over again, sometimes because you know it’s the better choice, and sometimes out of morbid curiosity. Maybe social media has always been like this – a big, long booze commercial starring nearly everyone – and I just didn’t notice before because I did my best to avoid scrolling. And before that, I was in on the joke.

Instead of feeling left out of the club, I feel good. I’m now an observer rather than a subject. I escaped a cycle that looks like fun, constantly reaching out with magnanimous hands offering relief and ease, but it fails every time. It’s a bully, a mean girl – after a night on the inside you somehow feel worse, until it comes around the next day promising to fix the problems it created. Get in bitch, we’re staying mildly cloudy at all times to avoid reality! This abusive cycle becomes particularly obvious when you’re no longer participating. Booze fixes problems just as well as Regina George values feminism (before she got hit by a bus and had an awakening).

I read an excerpt on social media that I screenshot about the differences between the underlying fears in George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. After doing some basic research, I found the quote as part of a forward in a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Showbusiness, by Neil Postman. I’ve never read it. It was written in 1985. I’m surprised no one in journalism school mentioned it.

“Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no big brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think… What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

It’s been years since I’ve read these books, and plan to reread them again soon. After becoming sober this analysis seemed to resonate with me and pair beautifully with my reality TV theory. At this point I believe booze and social media work concurrently to produce the results Huxley feared, because no one is forcing us to partake, we choose the numbness for ourselves, and it takes work to escape it. Now, my challenge seems to be more in the looking away from the booze-induced denial fest, but we’ll delve into that topic another day.

2) Your brain off alcohol and drugs is capable of some crazy shit; good luck sorting that out. AKA: Everything is now an existential lesson in living… yay.

Seriously. There has never been another time in my life where I have gone through a significant amount of life-altering experiences and been sober enough to observe how I feel and respond in that moment, and then remember enough to be able to reflect on it later. It’s unsettling how much introspection and time is lost to alcohol consumption. I go to weekly therapy, workout about five days a week, eat healthy food and take vitamins. I don’t even take an Advil unless the situation is dire. You’d think my brain would be clear, my memory vivid, and my understanding of reality better than when I was drinking or taking anti anxiety drugs. Well, in some ways it’s not, but my recognition of that fact is new.

This is probably confusing, so I’ll attempt to explain using a recent example. When I got the news that Humboldt County was issuing a stay at home order and my business would be mandated to close, I literally do not remember much of the next three months. I remember staying late to work on one last client, packing up my car with all my retail products, and driving home. After that, it goes blank, or at best, spotty, until I started working in person again on July 1st.

That shit is confusing as hell.

In the past I would’ve chalked that up to nightly alcohol consumption. No big deal; it happens to everyone. Things got blurry; life was stressful. I drank more to cope with my crushing new reality. Now I look back and am forced to reckon with something much more complex – I get to unpack what stress does to my brain, how I react and respond, and what implications that has on the rest of my life. Awesome. So while things get clearer, they become more confusing. Instead of wallowing, scrolling social media aimlessly and letting my business die, I did the exact opposite. I used 100% of my brain capacity (ask my husband, he could probably tell you what actually happened during my three month out of body experience) to grow my business during what continues to be the most challenging time for me as an entrepreneur. But I don’t remember three months of it.

I think the lesson I’m taking away from this realization is that we are complex beings in a complex universe who understand very little, but without booze I’m awake enough to really think about that.

Monthly Resource Collection: October 2020

I’m losing focus. I can tell when this is happening because I feel scattered, ungrounded, and become obsessed with work. October has been a whirlwind for my business (all good things, coming soon) but that means that during my “down time” I do less learning and more zoning out. Tuning out. Which ultimately leads me to feeling unsettled and unfulfilled. I go from work to distraction, from distraction to work. I’m in constant movement.

Instead of reading, I watch TV. Instead of learning, I scroll. Instead of being grateful, I shop. I notice these patterns and try to give myself a certain amount of understanding when I’m feeling overwhelmed, however, the irony is in the realization that the behaviors I tend to revert back to during times of intense change or stress only increase my feelings of anxiety. And on we go.

I’ve put safeguards in place over the years to prevent the spiral – a solid morning routine, work boundaries, fitness, meditation, healthy eating, mindfulness, and less media consumption. Since the start of shelter in place I have participated in more media consumption than I’d prefer. Much more. But it saved my business, and serves a necessary purpose. However, after coming off of a month-long digital declutter, resulting in my claim to be a digital minimalist, the subsequent use of constant tech is taking its toll. My mind felt clear and awake before. Inspired. And now it feels loud, cloudy, and distracted.

The reason why I bring this up is because I’ve gone from reading at least several books a month, no none. Suddenly. And I know exactly why. It’s not that the time suddenly disappeared, it’s because I’m falling into old time wasting patterns that do not serve me. And I do not want my priorities to change. I’m much happier when I’m learning, taking time for introspection, and living a quiet life. I’m not doing that right now, and I feel it.

This month’s resources consist of the few podcasts I managed to focus on that I think are currently relevant. Most are from Code Switch by NPR. I also included a couple episodes from the true crime genre (another one of my favorite types of podcasts) that discuss important social justice cases, therefore, making them relevant here. I imagine that between work, the election, and general holiday chaos, it may be a struggle for me to conduct interviews for my guest features, or even prioritize reading books. I’ve come to terms with that as my temporary reality.

So in January, I plan to completely step out of the media world once again to find my footing and build on the progress I made before the world changed.

Notable Podcast Episodes:

NPR Code Switch

– “Is Trump Really That Racist?” Code Switch, NPR, 20 Oct, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/code-switch/id1112190608?i=1000495497006

-“Let’s Talk About Kamala Harris.” Code Switch, NPR, 13 Oct, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/code-switch/id1112190608?i=1000494674687

-“Is it time to say R.I.P. to ‘POC’?” Code Switch, NPR, 29 Sept, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/code-switch/id1112190608?i=1000493048421

-The episode I found most interesting: “The Latinx Vote Comes Of Age.” Code Switch, NPR, 27 Oct, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/code-switch/id1112190608?i=1000496309010

True Crime Podcast Notable Episodes:

“The Death of Kendrick Johnson.” Weird on the Rocks, 3 Aug, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/weird-on-the-rocks/id1453938390?i=1000487067103
Continue reading “Monthly Resource Collection: October 2020”