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?

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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.

Business Feature: Feminist Book Club

I have never paid for a monthly subscription to anything that wasn’t a newspaper or magazine. A subscription box always seemed like a waste of money to me – a way to pay to collect miscellaneous makeup products I’d never use or fluffy fiction I’d never read. Then a client introduced me to Feminist Book Club and their monthly subscription box. My mind was changed when I saw the amount of value included in their monthly boxes, and their emphasis on community building and intersectional feminism.

I’ve received three boxes so far, and I am beyond impressed with the customer service, packaging, care, and the carefully chosen products inside! It’s like getting a little present for myself each month full of surprises I’ll (mostly) use, that support an array of woman owned businesses, and woman authors! If you’re looking to support small business, organizations doing great work, and get quality intersectional feminist reading material, I highly suggest trying this subscription box out! And gifting it to all the feminists in your life this holiday season!

The first thing that I noticed and immediately loved is that there are three subscription options to fit most budgets.

Subscription Options:

– $12 per month will get you access to all Feminist Book Club’s virtual content. This includes the ability to vote on book options (what?! I love this), video chats and virtual discussions about the books.

– $25 per month includes a physical copy of the book of the month, a pamphlet outlining all the awesome businesses featured in the expanded subscription box, a hand written thank you note from the owner (usually), and all the virtual content mentioned above.

– Lastly, for $49 a month you get everything described above AND 3-5 unique products from small woman-owned businesses! I subscribe to this tier because I love supporting small business and learning about new brands.

Thing to Note:

– 5% of all proceeds every month are donated to a different charity that must be “committed to intersectional social justice, preferably working with marginalized populations.”

– They have the Feminist Book Club Scholarship Program. You can sponsor it, or apply to receive it!

We firmly believe feminist literature and intersectional feminist businesses should be accessible to everyone, regardless of location, finance, or circumstance. So we’ve created a scholarship to help bring Feminist Book Club to everyone.

– You can gift a subscription for three, six, or twelve months!

– If you’ve already read or own the book of the month, you can swap it out for a different option.

– You can cancel any time, are charged on the 10th of each month, and your box ships out the first week of each month.

– The founder of Feminist Book Club, Renee M. Powers hosts a weekly podcast called Feminist Book Club: The Podcast featuring conversations and interviews with feminist authors, writers, and readers!

– FBC also hosts a blog that you can apply to contribute to!

Monthly Examples That I Have Personally Received:

August Box
September Box
October Box

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All photos, information, and quotes pulled directly from https://www.feministbookclub.com

Go sign up or follow along @feministbookclubbox

Monthly Resource Collection: September 2020

This month I found myself listening to music (the new Katy Perry album Smile, and the In the Heights soundtrack) and true crime podcasts (see: Weird on the Rocks and My Favorite Murder) during my morning workouts and makeup sessions. I don’t believe this was an attempt to distract myself from our current reality, but somehow it does feel nostalgic to listen to things as if we were pre-pandemic. To rest your mind as you prepare for another day. Fall reminds me of true crime podcasts and training for half marathons; running through the leaves and rain. It reminds me of wrapping up my wedding season at work just in time for a big vacation. This year is obviously different.

However, in between my distractions, mental “breaks,” or privileged lapses from reality I did go back to my morning ritual, complete with coffee, a lit candle, and a book, followed by fifteen minutes of meditation to absorb what I’d read. And this month I dove into Ta-Nehisi Coates, requiring extra time for absorption.

This month’s resource guide focuses highly on Coates’ work because I am fascinated by it. His writing reads more beautifully than anything I’ve picked up in a decade, like poetry with poignant edges. I cannot believe it’s taken me this long to sit with it and I hope you’ll join me.

Books:

Quit Like A Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed With Alcohol takes a close look at the normalized relationship most of us have with alcohol, it’s effects on our mental and physical health, and how the constructed “alcoholic / non-alcoholic” binary created and enforced mostly through Alcoholics Anonymous-style programs designed by white men, and for men is harmful for women looking to quit. Whitaker examines the ways alcohol is marketed specifically toward females, why women choose to drink in the first place, and why teaching women to give up their power, intuition, and control over their own lives in order to become sober is a damaging and patriarchal idea.
Ta-Nehisi Coates writes this book as a open letter to his teenage son, explaining the complexities and dual realities of navigating this world, and specifically this country, as a Black man, in a Black body. Coates explains that there is a separation between lived realities, or worlds. There is what is true, and there is the “dream” – an illusion of democracy built on stolen land using labor stolen from Black bodies. The dreamers continue living this comfortable illusion, given the truth but in denial or refusal of it, the reality that our very democracy and every institution therein exists only because of current and historical violence against the Black body. Are we capable and willing of awakening?
We Were Eight Years in Power is a collection of powerful essays written by Ta-Nehisi Coates meant to chronicle the years President Barack Obama was in office and the dangerous white supremacist backlash that followed. Fear of a Black President, The Case For Reparations, and The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration are some of the works included. Each essay is prefaced with context and personal memoir making the collection even more compelling.

Notable Podcast Episodes:

The Rich Roll Podcast Episode 547: We are Water: Erin Brokovich on Pollutants, Politics & People Power https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-rich-roll-podcast/id582272991?i=1000491955278
In this episode Rich Roll and Erin Brokovich talk about her new book Superman’s Not Coming and discuss the roles corporations and government really play in protecting our environment and the water we think is safe.

Bookstores to support: https://www.semicolonchi.com https://eurekabookshop.com https://keybookstore.com