Women In Business Series: Angela Boults Co-Owner Escape Salon & Skin Studio

Today’s blog edition is a special interview dedicated to one of my closest friends, Angela Boults. Angie has played a major role in mentoring and supporting me personally and professionally throughout the last decade, during half of which we worked together. Her kindness, honesty, non-judgmental guidance, and intellectual incite has proven invaluable to me during times of abundance and growth, but more importantly, during the lonely and challenging moments in my life. I call her a mentor because I believe she leads with a vulnerable and open heart and in doing so has helped create a community of strong female cooperation and empowerment. So much can be learned from her success doing so.

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1) Explain what your business is, and your role in the company.

Escape Salon & Skin Studio is a full-service salon established in February of 2012. I am a co-owner with my business partner Amy Kolshinski. We are both licensed estheticians (skin care therapists). 

2) Tell us a little about yourself, your professional background, and why you chose to get into the beauty service industry. 

I am a Humboldt County native. I was a dental assistant for seven years before discovering the world of esthetics. I have always been someone enchanted by all things beauty, but knew that I didn’t have a passion for hair or nails. It wasn’t until one day on my lunch hour when I went to have my lip waxed that it clicked for me. After my ten-minute service my friend said: “That will be $12.” At the time I was making $12 hourly and was struggling to love my job. The salon environment was fun and energetic and stirred something in me. I had made a comment to my cosmetologist friend about how I could totally see myself doing waxing but had no interest in the “other stuff.” She told me about Frederick and Charles Beauty College in Eureka and their esthetics program. That was it for me! As a single mom of three, it wasn’t an overnight change – I had to develop a plan. But six months later I had quit my dental assisting job and was enrolled full-time in the December 2006 esthetics program at Frederick and Charles Beauty College. The program took 600 hours to complete and it was the best thing I ever did for myself. 

3) What is it like working with an all-woman team and co-owning with another woman who happens to be a best friend? 

Amy and I joke all the time that we are totally “cheating” at the job thing. We have been in business together over seven years and have never had an argument. I couldn’t have imagined a world where my work environment is so fun, supportive, and full of love. My business partner and I are different in a lot of ways but also complement each other well. Amy is very organized and methodical. She takes care of all the logistical aspects of the business. I tend to be the more social of the two of us. If we need to network or engage in a challenging conversation, I am usually the woman for that job. All other situations are figured out together. There are six of us who work out of our salon: Amy and myself are estheticians, Katrina is our massage therapist and airbrush spray tan specialist, Yvette is killing it on fingers and toes (natural nail care), and JoAnn and Sarah are our talented and experienced hair stylists. We are all self-employed booth renters. These women empower me to be the best version of myself every day. We encourage and lift each other up without judgment and actually enjoy our interactions with each other. It is a unique working environment in that way. 

4) Do you feel that working with (predominantly) female clients and colleagues helps to create community? If so, why. 

I 100% agree that our work environment and the people (mostly women) we encounter foster a sense of community. We all actually care about each other. It would be impossible to share many hours with someone over the course of a year and not become part of their life. Our interactions with our clients and our co-workers impact who we are as a whole. Our world is opened up. New ideas and views are formed. Connections are made and relationships grow. People initially come to us for beauty and relaxation services. They return, over and over again, because of what transpires during those appointments. And I am so overjoyed and thankful that they do. 

5) What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned from spending so much time with women of all different backgrounds and life situations? 

I think the most powerful thing I’ve discovered in my years as an esthetician is that despite our amazing and beautiful differences, we are all basically the same. We all want to be loved, supported, validated, and respected. And sometimes we just want someone to listen. 

6) What is beauty to you? And how does your work environment foster that idea? 

Beauty is confidence. And confidence is beautiful. Does a single facial or leg waxing erase every self-perceived imperfection? Ummm… that would be a no. BUT, spending time taking care of one’s self can make them feel important. And the valuable choice to invest in ourselves makes us more confident. Putting ourselves on our own list is beautiful and necessary. 

7) What is one thing you hope your kids learn from your journey as a female business owner? 

More than anything, I hope my kids have observed that what we do for a living should be part of our life, not our entire existence. That everyone deserves to feel respected, happy, and valued in their profession. Life is short, but it can feel very long if you don’t love what you’re doing with it. 

General Questions:

8) What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

“You can’t please everyone.” Struggling to do so is fruitless and results in frustration. 

9) What is the biggest challenge and biggest reward of owning your own small business? 

The biggest challenge at times is knowing that I’m it. There is no one else to blame if things don’t work out. The biggest reward is that I am able to cultivate my environment. I create a space of acceptance for everyone and it feels pretty damn good. 

10) Tell us about one book that changed your life. 

The Four Agreements and The Fifth Agreement by Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz changed my life. I chose two books because they really go together. The idea of these books is how to achieve heaven on earth by changing our agreements with the universe. The first agreement is to “be impeccable with your word.” Say things that need to be said, speak the truth, and do not gossip. The second agreement is to “not take anything personally.” What people do and say has nothing to do with you and everything to do with who they are and what they are going through. The third agreement is to “not make assumptions.” Take things for what they are and ask questions if you have them. The fourth agreement is to always do your best. Your best will vary from day to day but as long as you give what you can to everything you think and do, you’ll be on the right path. And the fifth agreement is to “listen but be skeptical.” Which I understand as actively listening to what people are telling you but knowing that every piece of information comes with a healthy dose of opinion. Doing my best to implement these five agreements has helped me to become a more effective communicator and has therefore helped improve the quality of my day to day interactions with others.

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http://www.escapesalon.org

215 7th Street, Eureka CA

707-269-0199

@eureka.escape

Digital Minimalism Diaries Part 2

My First Week Being Somewhat Digitally Minimal

I struggled with what to bring to you this week. I have a list of blog topics and a calendar of scheduled ideas on hand, but the only thing that I feel motivated to discuss with you at this moment is what I’ve discovered during the last seven days. This week I began truly examining and unpacking my technology use and implementing strategies for improvement. My journey toward a life with less distraction, improved mental health, and time spent doing meaningful things of value (to me) has become my new obsession. For better or for worse.

I decided that the best way to communicate this journey is to break it down into individual strategies, my motivation for making these changes, and how they’re working in my real life so far. 

Strategy #1: Come up with a plan to minimize social media use.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. As a business owner, Facebook and Instagram help me network and book new clients. Posting on The Real Life Vegan Wife can be fun and informative, working as a vehicle to discuss veganism and entrepreneurship. But somewhere along the line managing all four of my social media accounts became an arduous chore – the pressure to post has become a nagging stress in the back of my mind at all times. Being constantly present seems almost necessary in the current social media climate we live in, lest you risk disappearing and becoming irrelevant altogether.

The reality is that what I truly want to be doing with my time is build in-person client / community-member relationships and write meaningful content for my blog and other publications. Not feel constant anxiety or distraction from toggling between social media and the real, tangible, valuable things I am producing. And when I do post on social media, I want the content I share to also be real and valuable, not forced or phony.

So what did I do? I decided that the best way to implement strategy for change is to know the conditions I’m currently functioning under. Step 1: Find out how often I am using social media. Step 2: Come up with a strategy to maximize my return on my time invested, therefore enabling me to minimize my time spent with these platforms.

This seems simple enough. Honestly, now that I’m really examining it, it is fairly simple. I determined that between my four accounts I spend about one hour per day on social media. This is actually not as much time as I assumed I spent, so there’s a positive. Using the month of June as our example, that means that in June I will spend thirty hours total on social media. This is over one FULL 24 HOUR DAY of the month spent with social media. In a year that is 360 hours, or FIFTEEN DAYS. For some reason, what our minds consider a harmless hour per day becomes shocking when you realize you just bought yourself a two-week vacation per year if you just quit using Instagram. Or, on a smaller scale, an entire extra day per month. Chances are, that’s where all our time has gone. Or it’s at least a major contributor.

For me personally, it does not make sense to quit social media cold-turkey like my husband did, and truthfully I don’t want to. I want to figure out a way to coexist with these methods of communication without allowing it to waste my time, while communicating meaningful content that produces value for my business, my clients, and my blog. I would argue that if you’re concerned about not having enough time in your life, you have stress and anxiety related to social media, and you’re not producing original content, you should probably just quit it altogether. At that point, it’s value to you may be perceived but not actually real. That’s what my husband determined and did. Instead of going that route, I mapped out the ideal content I would like to post in a month for my business and my blog social media accounts, how much time it should take me to make those meaningful posts, and tallied up the hours – to 8.5 per month. That means that the content is planned, the timing is planned, and the hours I was spending scrolling or wasting time would be reduced by almost 75%. I just bought myself 258 hours a year – almost eleven entire days.

My plan is to take January completely off from all social media and return in February with this strategy as an outline moving forward. Although, after a month off, I may have entirely different ideas and new incite to put into practice. 

Strategy #2: Stop using social media for business communications, and funnel all inquiries to my business phone and email.

This strategy may seem counter-intuitive after explaining that social media is actually valuable to my business. But it seems simple to me. When someone has a service or business inquiry, I set up an auto-response on Facebook and a quick-response on Instagram to instruct them to contact the business directly. This is straight-forward, clear and reasonable. It will “weed-out” inquiries that were not serious, or people who want free advice or consultation without going through the appropriate channels of making an appointment for our undivided attention. It ultimately saves me a tremendous amount of time. And ensures that the clients who do choose to make scheduled appointments get the highest quality of service and attention possible, because we are not distracted. This does not mean that I will not get back to you, it means that you need to call my business or send the business an email with a serious inquiry first, and I will get back to you during my posted hours of operation.

Essentially, I’ve determined that social media serves my business when used for networking, event promotion, and portfolio picture positing, but anything more is a waste of time.

Strategy #3: Set client boundaries with tech use.

Strategy #2 falls into this category because I set clear boundaries. I no longer will respond to personal and direct messages at all hours of the day and night because it is convenient for the potential client. I will respond to calls to my business phone and emails to my business email during operating hours. Basically, I am no longer available all the time because I’m unwilling to continue distracting myself from doing other things that produce more value for myself and my business in the long-term. I’d rather give that new client or project my undivided attention.

So, this leaves texting. How do I handle the steady stream of communications coming in? Yesterday my first text from a client came in at 6:42am, but I didn’t know this until 8am because I set up an auto-text response as part of the “do not disturb” feature on my phone. I turn this on manually outside of my business hours so that anyone who texts me before or after hours, or on my weekend will know that I got their message and will respond, but will no longer be available to answer non-urgent inquiries at 6:42am via text message. This is straight-forward, clear, and reasonable.

This takes an enormous amount of stress away from my day-to-day operations, allowing me to check out from communications and enjoy my days off, or evenings and mornings outside the shop. While being reassured that everyone is being taken care of and is clearly informed about my boundaries.

Ultimately, I believe this will make me happier, and better at my job because I will not be distracted by a constant stream of text messages and emails which cause stress and anxiety when I cannot immediately return them. And I can take more time to focus on business improvements.

Strategy #4: Fix the problems created by strategy #3.

This one makes me laugh because it became very apparent early on that this process is going to be full of trial and failure. And although I want 99% of my texts and calls to be filtered until business hours, there are still personal communications that I would like to be able to receive. Additionally, when my phone is on do not disturb with auto-text response, I essentially cannot use it for anything without turning the feature temporarily off, resulting in the flood of texts coming though that I didn’t necessarily want to see until I was back in the shop. 

My solution, after doing a heap of research, was to go purchase an Apple Watch, turn it on do not disturb, adjust the setting to not mirror my phone so that I do not get any notifications, and only use it for music, podcasts, audiobooks, and tracking workouts. And oh my goodness it’s fabulous for that.

Essentially I can put my phone on DND with auto-text response, plug it in, and leave it alone until I need it while still using my watch for everything I enjoy and find value in. I added my close family and friends to my favorites list in contacts, so if they need to call me they will get through to my watch. If I absolutely need to look at my calls and texts I can also choose to do so by turning DND off, and seeking out my messages which are not easily accessible. I did it once to make sure it was working, and haven’t looked at it since.

I did not install any apps on my watch except Pandora, security lock and alarm, and my to-do list. My watch face is simple, with music, podcasts, and my workout results being the only easily accessible features. It’s life-changing and it’s been five days.

I feel free from my phone and the expectation to text and email everyone back immediately, but reassured by the fact that Kanan or my sister can still call me and I can still contact the world if need be. Currently I use my watch with my phone on DND with auto-response before work and after work but have not worn it and left my phone at home for entire days out of the shop yet. Today will be the first time and I’m so excited to try it and write about it.

The irony of using technology to correct technology use is not lost of me, but that is why digital minimalism is so much fun. It’s all about picking out the good and letting all the rest go. The next things on my list to quantify and correct are television, random internet use, and news consumption, and I cannot wait. I feel like my mental clarity and stress levels have already decreased dramatically in an extremely short period of time.

Women In Business Series: Amber Reiners Owner Stonesthrow Boutique

1) Briefly describe yourself and your business.

My name is Amber Reiners and I own Stonesthrow Boutique, a woman’s clothing and accessories store here in Eureka, CA. Owning a boutique has been my dream since I was old enough to have career aspirations! I didn’t feel confident enough to pursue fashion after high school, nor did I have the knowledge or capital to start a business, so I ended up getting a degree in education and working as a teacher for five years. Throughout high school and college I enjoyed working in retail but didn’t see myself having a career working for a large chain store or corporation. While I was working as a teacher my mom opened a franchise boutique back in my home state of Minnesota. I worked for her on weekends during my last year teaching and that’s when I realized how much happier I would be if I pursued my dream of owning a store. I moved from Minnesota to California in the spring of 2015 and by that September Stonesthrow Boutique was open for business!

2) What do you sell at your store? Do you try to incorporate any cruelty-free / environmentally responsible / ethically sourced fashion?

We sell clothing, handbags, shoes, jewelry, and other small gift items like cards and candles. Some of our brands are proud to advertise that they are environmentally responsible and cruelty-free, while others make it harder to know. While I don’t know that any of the brands we carry right now have unethical practices, sometimes there isn’t a lot of information regarding this topic available. Often times the representatives we work with from the companies themselves do not know much about the factory where the clothing is made so we have to do our best to find information ourselves, or look for brands that readily share their practices. I’m really excited about some of the new graphic tee brands we are bringing in this summer! One is called Educated Earthling – their shirts have great messages, but they’re also ethically-made in the USA using water-based inks, with 100% recycled and plastic-free packaging. A portion of their proceeds are donated to environmental organizations as well.

3) Do you have inquiries from customers regarding accessibility to these types of fashion choices? Do you think people make the connection between fashion and animal byproduct use at all?

Unfortunately it is very seldom that customers ask about cruelty-free / environmentally responsible / ethically sourced fashion. On the rare occasion that it does come up, we show them the options we have in-store that meet this criteria and let them know that we are always looking to bring in more brands with similar missions and values. I do not think the majority of consumers realize how impactful these issues are within the fashion industry, or how much waste is produced by it each year. We do have customers ask if our handbags or shoes are made with real leather from time to time. Some people ask because they don’t want real leather while others ask because they only buy genuine leather. Polyurethane (aka “PU” or “vegan leather”) has improved dramatically in look and quality and we make an effort to show customers that high-quality accessories can have the same look and feel of real leather without the negative impact on animals and the environment. But some people are harder to convince than others.

4) Do you believe that you can provide the same quality and style not using animal products? Particularly with shoes, purses, accessories, etc.

Yes I think so! We only have two real leather items in the store and they are great quality, but the similar items we have that are vegan leather are also high-quality, but with a much lower price point. I think brands are starting to realize they don’t need real leather to make nice products and consumers are starting to catch on as well. As stylists we continue to educate customers on the materials and benefits of choosing responsibly sourced, cruelty-free items, and that also makes a difference.

5) Is it difficult to find high-quality fashionable alternatives to lines that typically utilize animal products?

Not for us since the majority of what we carry isn’t designer or high-end labels, which is often where animal products are incorporated into fashion. I’ve been looking to replace the remaining non-vegan items at Stonesthrow with cruelty-free alternatives, and the process has been easier than expected. I’m attending a big trade show in August, and I’m looking forward to talking with the representatives from a specific brand we work with to let them know we would be greatly interested in seeing them offer vegan alternatives (or even better, shifting toward only vegan products throughout the company). I also enjoy taking the opportunity to seek out new, ethical, environmentally-friendly and cruelty-free lines at trade shows.

6) Do you notice a shift in the industry to offering more socially and environmentally responsible alternatives? Ie: banning fur

Yes I definitely notice a shift! I think the general population has become increasingly aware of being more socially and environmentally responsible in recent years and that is reflected by the fashion industry. Major labels such as: Tommy Hilfiger, Stella McCartney and Giorgio Armani have been fur-free for a while and more recently other notables including: Versace, Michael Kors, Gucci and Prada have followed suit. These luxury labels set the trends so I believe it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the industry catches on.

7) Do the cruelty-free fashion options cost you more to purchase, therefore causing the price to go up for customers?

Cruelty-free doesn’t usually cost more because the materials are less expensive than animal materials to produce. Some smaller brands do charge more for being made in the USA, being environmentally-friendly, or using less wasteful packaging materials, but fortunately it’s not typically enough of a cost increase to make a difference in whether or not we order from that brand, or resell to customers at a standard price point.

General Questions:

8) What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

Not to worry about what others are doing, especially your competitors. Just focus on making yourself and your business the best you can, and everything else will fall into place.

9) What has been the biggest challenge / biggest reward from owning your own business?

The biggest challenge I face as a small business owner is learning how to manage my time. I serve so many roles in my company and it can be challenging to get to every task in a given day, or to allocate my time to what needs the most attention. Ironically, I also struggled with this as a teacher! It gets easier as time goes on and I gain experience. I’ve also become better at delegating tasks to my employees and asking for help when I need it. Another challenge specific to the fashion industry is predicting trends ahead of time. Much of our buying takes place at a trade show two or three seasons before the products are in-store for purchase. In August I will be picking out styles that will be shipped to the store before the holidays and in early spring.

The most rewarding aspect of owning a business is seeing people wearing things they purchased from my store. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a girl out in public looking great in something she got from Stonesthrow, or when customers come back to the store later to tell us how much they love what they purchased. When you like what you’re wearing and look good in it, you feel good too. We don’t just dress people, we help them feel comfortable in their skin and proud to present themselves to the world. That’s why I do what I do.

10) What is one book that changed your life? Briefly describe why.

My favorite book (and one that changed my life) actually falls into the young adult genre. It was first read to me by my fifth grade teacher, and I’ve read it at least a dozen times since then. It’s called Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. The title comes from the phrase in the book: “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” This reminds me to put myself in someone else’s position before judging them or making assumptions about how they feel, which helps me as a business owner and also in my personal relationships.

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https://www.stonesthrowboutique.com

326 2nd Street, Eureka CA

707-269-7070

@stonesthrowboutique

My Digital Minimalism Experiment Part 1: Why

I’m becoming a digital minimalist. Simply put, I’m doing this experiment because as a business owner my goal is to maximize my return on time invested. I want to get the maximum possible value out of the media and tech I use, while using the minimum possible amount of intentionally-spent time to achieve that. In my personal life, which is tied to my blog and my Real Life Vegan Wife social media accounts, I want to do the same thing, but with the goal of becoming more effective. I believe that when we step away from the constant distractions, deep, introspective thinking occurs and original work can be created. Better quality, thoughtful work.

Up front it’s an experiment but overall, it’s a lifestyle change.

I’ve been struggling with media and technology use since I opened my business, and to be honest, I hate it. My business inbox always has thousands of emails; my personal email is a joke, filled with junk I have yet to delete. I have messages on Instagram and Facebook that need to be returned, and when I look at my phone I get anxiety looking at the steady stream of texts coming in from clients, family, and friends. I leave messages unread so that I will remember to return them, and the little red numbers just add stress to my already full schedule. I am extremely grateful to have steady clientele, but the feeling of looming dread is a cloud hovering over me. The stress and anxiety caused by this constant state of needing to get back to someone is counterproductive to living a positive and effective life. The time I spend attending to this open stream of communication and NOT being an esthetician, makeup artist, or writer is astonishing and clearly not an efficient use of my time. And because the distractions are constant, flowing, and always accessible, it is almost impossible to sit quietly with my own thoughts for a time period long enough to produce something meaningful. There is a reason why I write at 5am.

But we feel trapped, right? At least I do. I know that many of us who grew up without social media and smart phones long for simpler times – quieter times. Nostalgia for the days spent in the college library doing research because that was the only access to the internet I had. Going on a weekend away and only thinking of responsibility after checking your answering machine when you return. Emailing someone for fun. Working during business hours. Using technology for it’s intended purpose, without being tied to communication 24/7.

But the thought of stepping away is terrifying, especially if you’re running any type of small business. You’ll miss important emails, client texts, forget to pay something – your opportunities for social networking will be diminished. You’ll be less visible, and therefore less successful because clients can’t find you, or talk to you as easily (so they’ll go with a different option), and other professionals can’t collaborate with you. And this simple assessment doesn’t even take into account how potential clients perceive you based on your social media presence, or lack thereof. As a small business owner we are very aware of the real implications of not being available. Losing potential clients, and missing out on opportunities that could help grow our careers are very real possibilities with huge life-altering consequences for our reputations and bank accounts. Without clients we don’t stay open.

I’ve lived in this stressful limbo for about three years now. Wearing all the hats of small-business-owner while also maintaining all my communication streams, website updates, and social media accounts. It’s exhausting, and takes up way too much time. I constantly feel like I’m failing at it. Maintaining and growing my blog and corresponding social media is currently enjoyable, but I want to keep it that way and be efficient with time spent. And I’m guilty of scrolling during the “free” moments. But for me it’s not as simple as quitting cold turkey, and I can’t maintain this lifestyle much longer. So what’s the solution? If we acknowledge that technology is neither inherently good or bad, but how we choose to use it is what matters, then how do we learn to exercise autonomy over our own attention?

Recently I listened to “Cal Newport on Digital Minimalism: Why Focus is the New Superpower” on the Rich Roll Podcast. And then I did more research, and listened to him on other podcasts, and ordered his books Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, which I will read for part two of this series. I am completely hooked on his ideas – he’s a computer scientist explaining that we spend too much time with tech, and I can respect that. He posits that for the first time in history humans have completely eliminated solitude from our lives and that this state of constant communication and never-ending cognitive demands is impacting our work quality and creativity, but also our physical and mental health. I agree completely. We’re walking, talking balls of anxiety and stress who fill every moment we used to spend in our own heads coming up with our own ideas, with someone else’s thoughts instead. We’re constantly interrupted or distracted. We’ve banished solitude, and with it our peace, our time, and our potential to produce our best original work. We’re also using tech as an escape from reality, which doesn’t remedy any of our real problems, but instead distracts us from them.

Cal Newport’s solution is a “Digital Declutter,” which he likens to the idea of “Marie Kondo-ing your digital life.” A thirty-day time period in which you only use technology and media if absolutely necessary. Obviously this is a broad term with a lot of gray area for interpretation, so this is where his books come in, and I will report back with more information and my personal action plan. During those thirty days it is absolutely essential to the success of this project to do some real “soul searching” to determine your “why.” Without a set of guiding principles or a framework for self discovery or improvement, most people will either struggle to finish the thirty days at all, or will revert back to all their previous habits as soon as the declutter is over. Think of it as a lifestyle change instead of a crash diet. He argues that we should be spending this time getting back to those “analog activities” that make us happy. Do what our grandparents used to do for fun. Go on a hike. Build something. Read a book. Sit in the sun. Do a craft. Enjoy a dinner with friends. You get the idea. Find yourself in a world where your phone or computer is no longer a crutch – find solitude. Realize what truly makes you happy. Rediscover your own powerful and influential thoughts.

After the thirty days are up, decide what technology and media actually works for you, improves your life, and gives you value. Then add it back in if you want to. If you’re happier without it and have determined it’s value was perceived and not actually real, then don’t. Don’t keep anything that doesn’t “spark joy.”

My next step in this process is to read his books, and then report back to you about my own detailed thirty day digital declutter. And then in January, I’ll disappear.

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Headshot Photo: The Studio by Kimberly Ann

http://www.photosbykimberlyann.com/contact.html

320 2nd Street, Eureka CA

@thestudiobykimberlyann

Women In Business Series: AEHMartistry

1) Explain what your business is and your qualifications in the beauty industry.

I’m a Content Creator and run a Cruelty-Free Beauty Channel on YouTube called AEHMartistry. This means I create tutorials and review videos using only cruelty-free beauty products. However, my goal is much bigger than putting makeup on my face without intention and telling you my opinion about it. My goal with my channel is to create a community centered around positivity where I can connect with people on a deeper level through our shared love of beauty products. My hope is to give people an escape from their day-to-day demands and inspire people to take a moment for themselves and pursue what they’re passionate about, just as I did. I also aim to be a resource for people transitioning into becoming a cruelty-free consumer by showing them how accessible it is.

I got my start in the beauty industry in 2007 when I graduated from Paul Mitchell The School and became a licensed cosmetologist. While working in salons as a hairstylist I continued my education and harnessed my craft as a freelance makeup artist specializing in weddings. Eventually I took a job as a store manager for a popular beauty boutique in Southern California where I learned a lot about running a business and received even more education on makeup, haircare, and skincare brands.

After having a baby I returned to work for about a year before my husband and I decided that me staying home would be the best fit for our family. However, I still wanted to be a part of the beauty industry in some capacity. So I turned my love for all things beauty into my online business as a content creator for my YouTube Channel, Instagram, and social media outlets called AEHMartistry.

2) Why did you decide to transition into being a cruelty-free beauty channel?

I had my channel for about a year before I fully transitioned into becoming a cruelty-free consumer and social media influencer. It was something that was in the back of my mind as I became a more aware consumer. I didn’t like that animals were suffering for our vanity. I spent that year researching as much as possible and I soon discovered that testing cosmetics on animals is completely unnecessary and actually not at all accurate or reliable in testing for the safety of humans. The best way I can describe it is to think of all the things we can eat, but that our dogs can’t. Like chocolate, for example. We can eat a whole candy bar and be fine, but our dogs could go into toxic shock after eating it. So why are we injecting a rabbit with cosmetic ingredients to test their reaction if, as a different species, we’d react differently? I learned that there are far more effective and ethical ways to test cosmetic safety rather than harming animals in the name of beauty.

Once I decided that I didn’t want animals to suffer for vanity purposes I discovered how many brands were already cruelty-free. So many more companies are making the transition now, which made the switch even easier for me.

For more information on animal-free cosmetic testing:

https://www.crueltyfreeinternational.org/why-we-do-it/alternatives-animal-testing

3) What has been the biggest challenge about going cruelty-free?

The only thing that was difficult was replacing a certain not cruelty-free makeup brand that was in my freelance makeup kit. I had stocked the full range of my go-to foundation and it took a few months to find something that could replace it. I’m happy to report that I like the cruelty-free brand of foundation even more than the previous brand that I stocked in my professional kit.

4) Do you get any resistance from the mainstream beauty community since going cruelty-free? Or is it mostly supportive?

The only resistance I experienced was from a couple people that were concerned about the safety of using cosmetics NOT tested on animals. Which I totally understand because I had those same questions. With a quick explanation of alternative testing procedures and why animal testing is outdated and unnecessary, they were fully accepting! Of course, I’ve had some brands reach out to me for collaboration and when I ask what their cruelty-free status is and don’t get a response back, that tells me they still test on animals. Overall everyone has been very supportive and I see more people being inspired to becoming cruelty-free which is very exciting!

5) Can you achieve the same results as a pro MUA and hairstylist using only cruelty-free products?

100% yes! The quality of products that are not tested on animals does not differ from their non-cruelty-free competitors! I see literally no difference when it come to quality for makeup, hair care, skincare, and even body care products! We are very fortunate to live in a time where people are becoming conscious consumers and companies can no longer turn a blind eye. Every month a brand is announcing their cruelty-free status and pulling out of countries that require animal testing. A big win for the animals and a big win for us makeup junkies!

6) Do you feel that cruelty-free beauty is now accessible enough for anyone to transition to using all cruelty-free products?

Absolutely! There are several brands available in all price points. From drugstore brands like: Wet n Wild, Covergirl and Milani to high end brands like Charlotte Tilbury, Too Faced, and Tarte Cosmetics. Usually a quick google search can help you discover whether or not a brand is considered cruelty-free.

My main resource is Tashina over at Logical Harmony:

https://logicalharmony.net/cruelty-free-brand-list/

7) What is your biggest piece of advice for people looking to transition to a more cruelty-free lifestyle?

A common misconception is that you need to throw away everything that is not considered cruelty-free. I don’t feel like that is necessary at all! The way I did it, and what I recommend, is to just replace the products you run out of with a cruelty-free product alternative and eventually your collection will be entirely transitioned. This is not only cost effective but also environmentally friendly. You’ve already spent the money, it’s best to use the products and then replace them as needed.

Lastly, seek out cruelty-free bloggers to get ideas and reliable information from. Other than myself, here are my favorites:

https://www.logicalharmony.net

https://www.ethicalbunny.com

https://www.crueltyfreekitty.com

if you can’t find any information on a brand’s status I recommend emailing or reaching out to the brand on social media to ask them about their testing policies. This is common with smaller companies.

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General Questions:

8) What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

Never stop learning. I’m all about growth and evolving and I feel like if you aren’t learning something new, you’re stagnant. And for me personally, being stagnant makes me feel very unsettled.

9) What has been the biggest challenge / biggest reward from owning your own business?

My biggest challenge has been balancing my personal and family life with my desire to fully invest time into myself and my channel. I have millions of ideas constantly circling my creative brain but I only have a specified amount of time per week to accomplish them. My number one priority is being a stay at home mom, so that means I have to really prioritize the content I am able to put out. However, this challenge can actually be a blessing because it pushes me to have a better “work life balance.” It forces me to disconnect, which is what I need because I can be a little obsessive about things I’m passionate about. Soon my daughter will start school full-time so I will be able to apply some of the ideas and goals I have, but I know that will bring on a new set of challenges. I’ll need to force myself to continue to have a healthy balance.

My biggest reward is the daily communication from my YouTube community that I’ve lovingly dubbed my “Fam Bam”. I have a very active community and I look forward to my chats with them when I upload new content. One of my favorite things is when people tell me they were nervous to try bold makeup looks but always wanted to. After we talk about some tips on how to rock a bold lip or bright eyeshadow with confidence, I’ve had them report back to me that they tried it and loved it!

I have also had some members of my community reach out to me and thank me for showing them how easy it is to transition into becoming a cruelty-free consumer. I love that I can be a resource for people going cruelty-free and also be an outlet for people to talk and dish about their favorite beauty things right along with me!

10) What is one book that changed your life? Briefly describe why.

I had a hard time with this question because even though I do love to read, I rarely carve out time in my life to enjoy a good book. And when I do they tend to be psychological thrillers or easy read fluff books (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn or Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison). However, I do have one quote that comes to mind from a book I read a long time ago. I wish I still had it so I could quote it verbatim, but I always tend to lend out my favorite books and never see them again! It’s a quote from Dr. Drew Pinsky’s book Cracked. He states something along the lines of: “It is through our relationships with others that we can really learn and grow as individuals.” The chapter is roughly about how we learn a lot about ourselves through our experiences interacting with other people and how that can help us evolve. At least that’s how I took it. I was at a transitional point in my life where I was a bit of a recluse and not very open to new relationships and people for fear of getting hurt. But I was getting sick of that isolating mentality and felt stunted. When I read that I realized that I was ready to grow, ready to move forward with my life, and ready to be open to new relationships. Roughly three months later I met my husband. So yeah, I guess I could say that book changed my life.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjMIaMz2gF70O0YiYLSl9hw

New Goals & My Life’s Purpose

Everybody Loves Raymond is one of my favorite shows. There’s an episode where Ray decides that there must be more to life than he currently has: A successful career, a loving family, a nice home, a retirement plan. His wife Debra confronts this idea with a response like: “Maybe you feel like there’s nothing left to achieve because you have everything you’ve always wanted.” Basically, you have everything; stop complaining. This throws Ray into somewhat of an existential crisis, unsure if his current routine will fulfill him for the rest of his years. He’s only in his early forties from what I can tell and the thought of there being nothing left to achieve makes life seem repetitious and somewhat pointless. Call it a mid-life crisis, call it privilege – sometimes I think we should acknowledge those feelings as subtle encouragement from ourselves (and the universe, if you’re into that) to pursue things that we’re drawn to, even if we’re unsure the reason. Because there is usually a big reason.

The idea that because we have reached a certain pinnacle of “success” we will be happy or fulfilled is completely false. Success is arbitrary and fluid. We’ve let others define what success means for us. Research has found that external conditions have almost nothing to do with internal happiness. Getting that job may cause us to experience temporary joy but does not predict long-term happiness. Why? Because there is more to being human than getting a promotion and making more money, but that’s what we’ve been taught to strive for.

This brings up the dilemma that I’ve been pondering recently. Can I simultaneously have gratitude and live with happiness in the moment while recognizing that I need more out of this life? While acknowledging that what I am currently doing is not fulfilling my purpose?

Five short years ago I was in the darkest place that I’ve ever been. Depressed, anxious, sad. I had lost my job and a person very important to me has unexpectedly died. But now I truly believe that without losing what I thought was everything, I wouldn’t have felt free to do anything I wanted to. Which brings me to my current life that I would’ve never had, had things not fallen completely apart.

Recently I’ve started to wonder if the life that I’m living now is the facilitator instead of the end-all be-all. I have my amazing husband, my dogs, my business, my awesome sister and supportive clients because I’ve really worked hard and changed my habits to create this life. Because I currently have certain systems in place, I am now able to pursue things elsewhere that are calling me, and that have been quietly pushing me to them since I can remember. But I also recognize how temporary everything in life is, so I struggle to find the balance to enjoy where I currently am without thinking of the future all the time. I always thought that once I had worked hard enough to create this life I envisioned, I’d be content to coast – shockingly I’m finding this not to be the case. (That is sarcasm, for those of you that may not know me in person.) Coasting is okay temporarily, but I know that for me to feel fulfilled I need to contribute to my community, and to making the world a better place to live in. I’m realizing that I didn’t go vegetarian almost half my life ago on accident, my journalism degree wasn’t an arbitrary choice. I didn’t lose my job for no reason. I believe all these events were pushing me toward my true purpose. I’m realizing that perhaps turning one of my talents (makeup) into a full time successful career path is not my life’s dream and purpose, but because of it, I can pursue whatever my true purpose is. It’s confusing and difficult to face that. But for me, even writing the words “makeup is my passion” seems silly to me. Because it’s not, and I’d be lying to everyone if I said it was.

Working with amazing women who contribute to our community and world is one of my passions, helping women to feel valued is one of my passions, making deep and lasting connections is one of my passions. Contributing to making my community and world better is one of my passions. Each connection ripples out to create positive change and mutual support for us all. I feel like Two Beauties is a practical application of those passions meeting in one location. With beauty being the initial purpose that brought us together, but over the years meaningful relationships make those connections last. This whole time I’ve thought being a successful beauty professional was my end-goal, and now I’m realizing it’s not. But that doesn’t make me love it any less. After thinking this over for a long time now, I’m realizing it makes me love it even more. Because I realize how special and rare it is. How privileged I am to have created it with everyone else’s support. And how temporary all things in life are. So it encourages me to pour more heart into it. Isn’t that weird? When I initially began reflecting, I thought if I admitted these things to myself, it would influence me to put less of myself into my business, but it encourages me to do the opposite, because at the end of the day it isn’t really all about beauty, is it?

My current conclusion: You can have great gratitude and live in happiness each day even if you are pursuing new goals and dreams. As long as you’re not chasing them out of unhappiness. Why do we feel like we need to achieve something and always move on? Or correct our temporary problems by changing the scenery? Or think the next thing will be better than the last? Maybe we can add to our lives to make them more full and rich while appreciating what we already have just as much. We can love our lives already, while also adding in more lovely things.

For some reason, I keep visualizing myself in a huge open field of flowers, with a basket full of the ones I’ve already picked. Instead of dumping them out to find “new, better ones,” I’ve decided to add different ones that are just as beautiful, each one complimenting the last, until the bunch is overflowing.

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As part of this process, I’ve decided to say yes to things that make me feel uncomfortable, but that give me that gut feeling of pursuing my purpose. This is my first published article since college and my first freelance writing job ever. I have so much gratitude for the oppurtunity. It’s amazing how a little 250-word article in a local magazine can light me up and encourage me to ask these questions about my life. Being Vegan and using my writing to inform and inspire people to pursue it is what drives me, but it’s taken a long time for me to really figure that out. And I know this is only the beginning for me.

Sensi Magazine, Emerald Triangle Edition: May 2019
Sensi Magazine, Emerald Triangle Edition: May 2019

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Check out the full issue at:

http://s3.amazonaws.com/document.issuu.com/190430165321-4dfd0e4d73e63dadcf57b1f32e9d7e1d/original.file?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIATDDRE5J76XO2TL4J&Expires=1556989386&Signature=J02FTsS40mqWz2vk7%2B6VTop70GQ%3D

Easy Tax Tips from A Small Business Owner

So you just filed your taxes and you owe. A lot. Or maybe you ended up owing a little, but the tax process itself was a disorganized nightmare. As a small business owner who does not have an accounting degree, or a business degree for that matter, everything is self-taught. Learned on the job. Trial and error, success and failure. Often times the learning process is long and expensive. And the survival of your sanity and your business is at stake. In past years the stress from the beginning of the year until I got the email back from my accountant informing me of my tax outcome has debilitated me. Literally causing me to feel like a failure who should never leave the house again, lest I spend a dollar. If I remember correctly, this is the seventh year that I have filed taxes as a self-employed person. The third year I’ve filed for my actual brick and mortar business location: Two Beauties Skincare & Makeup Artistry. And it’s the first year I’ve felt like I’m somewhat “on track” to be set up for success in the future. Basically, I’ve failed enough for so long that now that I’m doing mostly well, it feels amazing. But it’s been a long, arduous process.

Here are my tips for small business owners looking to make tax season run as smoothly as possible. I hope these can help someone to make less of the mistakes I’ve made.

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Tip #1: Hire an accountant.

I will not stress this enough. I am not an expert; you may not be an expert either. Hire someone who is. Do not do your taxes yourself; do not have an inexperienced friend or family member do them – do not go to the cheapest option you found online. Ask your small-business-owning friends and successful business owners you admire who they trust, meet up with a couple of their recommendations to see if they’re professional, and hire the accountant who feels right to you. I promise you it will be worth the money. Do this even if you think you’re “too small” and don’t make enough money to require this level of service. Because as you grow, you will need them.

A good accountant will know how to maximize your savings, will be up to date and educated on the current tax laws, and will be able to help answer any complicated questions you have. But the best part about having an accountant that you trust is that you can rely on them (to an extent) to do what’s right for you and your business. They will be able to help set you up for future successes by accurately projecting the direction you’re going in to help you plan.

Tip #2: Do a mid-year tax appointment.

As a small business, your accountant will most likely set you up to pay estimated quarterly tax payments instead of one huge lump sum at tax time. These payments are based off of what you made the year prior. They help you to stay organized and minimize the financial blow later on.

What I’ve found is that each year, if my income is increasing over the year prior (which it should be) it’s hard to estimate exactly how much to pay in order to not owe in April. My accountant suggested doing a tax appointment in July to assess the trajectory of my business, my income and expenses, and use that information to adjust what I pay the rest of that year. This means that your quarterly payments may increase, but that way I can go into tax season knowing I’m on track to owe as little as possible. And being informed and organized will help you to feel less stressed, especially during your first couple of years when you have almost no idea how much money you’re going to make.

Tip #3: Have a system for tracking expenses.

Having a great accountant is only half of the equation. As a small business owner, it is most likely going to be your responsibility to keep track of many of your expenses in order to relay that information to them. Every penny counts. Seriously.

Over the years I have compiled a list of all the categories I need to track throughout the year to maximize my savings, and although I’m still not perfect about filing every receipt and bill as soon as I get it, I do try to make sure I stay as caught up as possible. Obviously some things are easy to track through online banking, like your monthly utility bills, but other things are more sporadic. This means having a filing cabinet, box with labels, or file in your computer for every little thing from shop furniture, to makeup kit supplies, to car maintenance, to advertising and office supplies. I track all my retail invoices through Quickbooks. Every little bit counts, and should be recorded. If you’re unsure of all the different categories you should be tracking, your accountant should be able to work with you to help give you an idea of where to start. That way when you give them all of your expense information, everything is organized and ready to go. The mountain of receipts will hopefully be minimal.

Tip #4: Have a clear, organized system to record transactions and all money coming in.

You cannot grow your business without being aware of what money is coming in and what money is going out. I am shocked at the number of business people I talk to who have no idea what their numbers are. Being informed is powerful – it gives you the knowledge you need to prepare for the future, but also to see where your areas of growth and opportunity lie.

Before I opened my business I had my tech guy (I like to have a professional help me with everything. This is a great way to network and support local businesses, but also a great way to avert disaster and save time by delegating tasks you do not specialize in.) set up Quickbooks Business on my work computer so that I could track everything coming in. It took me several days to enter each and every makeup and skincare service, every add on, and then every retail item into my system. Hundreds of items. But it has been worth every minute of time put it. I ring every customer through upon checkout – for products AND services rendered, every single time they come in. I run my little studio like a retail store would run, even if someone just comes in for an eyebrow wax. I ring it through the computer when they pay me.

Quickbooks automatically generates all the reports you need so that at tax time I can see the breakdown – what service income I made and what retail income I made. I can tell you exactly how many facials I did last year, what percentage of my business and income they make up – I can break that down into specific type, and the customers who got them. I can tell you how many tinted sunscreens I sold, when, and to whom. I can compare months, customers, years, products, product lines, etcetera. I know how every dollar that comes into my shop is being made, how it compares to previous years, and it matches exactly with my bank deposits that I do weekly, and my automatically deposited credit card transactions made daily.

I cannot emphasize this point enough – it takes two seconds to check a customer out, and five minutes to balance your computer, credit card machine, and cash drawer at the end of the night. Doing this every day will save you from spending countless hours trying to calculate what you made at the end of the year before tax time. And it will give you the knowledge you need to grow your business.

Tip #5: Pull your sales reports weekly and save money accordingly.

I have a worksheet I put together that I do every Tuesday before I start a new work week on Wednesday morning. I pull the numbers from the previous seven days (using the reports that are generated by sticking to my advice in tip #4), make a few calculations, and save that amount in my tax bank account. I do not touch this money unless it is an absolute emergency, but save it to make all my tax payments out of. If I do have to spend money out of my tax account, I make sure to know the exact amount and pay it back promptly.

*Having separate bank accounts for your business is not something I plan to include in this blog, but do it.

Basically, my weekly tax worksheet shows what my service income is and what my retail sale income is. I save 25% of my total income and also make sure to save the sales tax that I collect on every retail sale.

This may seem like a lot of time and money – and it is. You don’t have an employer subsidizing the amount of taxes you pay. You pay them all. But if you’re doing this weekly, or even monthly (although I would highly suggest weekly) you can steadily save what you need to so that when those quarterly payments and sales tax payments come due, you have the money neatly stashed away with probably a little to spare. Don’t wait until months have gone by to pull those reports and start saving for taxes. If you do it consistently it will become habit, and reduce a tremendous amount of stress.

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I hope that these tips can help you to start implementing your own business systems. The key is to HAVE systems. Put in the work up front so that you can benefit from the long-term results. It will be difficult and time consuming, but it will be worth the work. Not being organized with your money, and not knowing how each dollar comes in and out will cause a level of confusion and ignorance that can only lead to stress and failure. The only way to tackle these hugely demanding projects is to accept when you’ve failed, learn your lesson, and improve. I went to a bad accountant in the beginning; I’ve owed thousands and thousands of dollars, I’ve been depressed, buried in debt and have spent countless hours sifting through piles of bills and receipts. I decided that instead of living this way, I was going to work harder to figure it out. And although I’m still learning, and I’m definitely not an expert, these tools have helped me tremendously.