Answering My Own Women in Business Questions: Part 3

The Things I Ask Everyone:

1) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

I already mentioned “you teach people how to treat you” in last week’s interview. So, I’ll share another incredibly influential piece of advice.

“Give yourself the emotional permission to create more time.”

Rory Vaden

For the first time in my life, someone had addressed the real issue with “time management.” As a new small business owner, soon-to-be wife, and someone who has varying personal interests, I had become tired of reading the same self-help, time management advice which essentially consists of: make lists, multi task, wake up earlier, and create a schedule. I was doing all those things and still felt like I could never find a free moment for myself, despite my efforts and discipline to make it work.

Am I the only woman who feels this way? Umm, no. These time management styles work for those of us without complex societal pressures to do everything, for everyone. And they absolutely do not address how to cope with the resulting guilt we feel when we can’t do everything, or simply don’t want to, and the pit of despair we tend to fall into once we beat ourselves up for “failing” at everything and letting everyone down, including ourselves.

Those books don’t even try to teach us how to deal with the constant exhaustion and (let’s face it) straight up fury we feel when we try to explain these concepts and are gaslit at every turn by those around us and society at large. “It’s 2021, sexism isn’t a thing anymore. Everyone is equal so you choose this for yourself. Other women have it way worse than you anyway. You’re overreacting. Stop being so emotional. Why is everything about being a woman? Why can’t you just be happy? Be grateful. If you don’t want to do all that stuff, just don’t do it. Or just stop complaining.” And the list goes on, and on, and on…our experiences invalidated, our frustration bottled back up at our own expense.

The problem is that lurking below the impossible weight of our never-ending to do lists is guilt and a sense of emotional obligation to do everything. Someone had finally named it. And once I wrapped my head around this concept and started detaching myself from that guilt, things slowly began improving. The solution to breaking this cycle is to recognize that the game is rigged, flip it two big middle fingers, and start working on your damn self.

However, I do want to mention that Vaden’s argument omits any type of gender theory (and all other identity politics for that matter) making his solutions overly simplistic at times. I plan to write an entire blog post on this topic, but until women can identify that we are conditioned by society to be what Emily and Amelia Nagoski in their book Burnout call “Human Givers” rather than human beings, we cannot even begin to unlearn this conditioning in order to change our behaviors.

The bottom line: Human Givers are taught (from the moment society genders us) to believe everyone else is entitled to our time and if we don’t give it, we’re bad people. Unpleasant, ungrateful, rude, selfish, lazy people. While human beings are taught (from the moment society genders them) to go out and conquer the world! No guilt necessary.

Give yourself the emotional permission to create more time. No one else will give it to you.

Vaden’s TED Talk: https://youtu.be/y2X7c9TUQJ8

2) What’s the biggest challenge and biggest reward of owning your own business?

The biggest challenge for me has been scaling my business to meet demand every time I outgrow my current model.

It’s easy to get comfortable and want things to stay the same once I find a rhythm, but that’s not how businesses grow. The universe has a way of forcing me to level up if I’m open to seeing opportunities and willing to put in the work to make them real. But every time I’ve had to do this I fall into what I call the “work hole” where I live and breathe my projects until they’re done, at the expense of everything else in my life. I’m working on that.

The biggest reward is participating in a community of women who believe that if we help each other, we will all succeed. That’s powerful.

3) What is one book that changed your life? Why?

Find A Way by Diana Nyad.

Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the assistance of a shark cage. She failed four other attempts, and succeeded on her fifth, when she was 64 years old. It took her 53 hours.

Basically she is one of the biggest badasses ever, and her ability to develop mental toughness and persistence in the face of so much adversity is amazing to read about. The logistics behind her story are fascinating, but her memoir changed my life because she’s an amazing writer (journalist by trade) and many of the principles she eloquently writes about apply to all aspects of life.

My favorite quote from Find A Way that has helped me through so many impossibly difficult times:

Take every minute, one at a time. Don’t be fooled by a perfect sea at any given moment. Accept and rise to whatever circumstance presents itself. Be in it full tilt, your best self. Summon your courage, your true grit. When the body fades, don’t let negative edges of despair creep in. Allowing negativity leads to a Pandora’s box syndrome. You can’t stop the doubts once you consent to let them seep into your tired, weakened brain. You must set your will. Set it now. Let nothing penetrate or cripple it.”

Answering My Own Women in Business Interview Questions: Part 2

Today’s interview consists of my favorite questions from previous interviews. Some of them have been altered slightly.

Photos by: Annika Botha https://www.annikabotha.com/

Why did you decide to build a career in the beauty industry?

The simple answer is because I’m a naturally creative person who loves to do makeup. Even when I wasn’t very good at it, I was still pretty good at it. And because my parents instilled a great deal of unearned confidence in me as a child, I kept practicing and getting better even when the eyeliner was too thick, my brows looked too dark, or someone called me a “clown” with too much blush on. It never seemed to phase me much. I didn’t take it personally because my creations were always somewhat separate from myself. More like art, less like glamour.

I think that careers in the beauty industry can absolutely be trained, taught, and learned. However, I think that many of the most successful beauty professionals I know have a bit of natural talent somewhere. Whether it’s practical, like makeup application, or a little bit more abstract, like the ability to communicate well and deeply empathize with others.

The complicated answer is more along the lines of the Oprah quote: “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you intend.” I always positioned myself in a job near to the beauty industry. My original idea was to join my best friend Ashley Ellix, and attend beauty school right out of high school. Then go to college to get my writing degree once I had a career that could pay for it. I graduated when I was seventeen, and my parents wouldn’t allow it. Beauty school dropout and all that, I guess. So I went to journalism school first. Looking back on it, that allowed me to seriously build my knowledge in the industry. Working at Victoria’s Secret (running their beauty department), Estee Lauder, doing freelance artistry and working the front desk at a spa paid the bills while I was in college, but provided me with some serious beauty experience. And a lot of real business experience.

I moved up the ladder and was offered a couple of different pathways: climbing the corporate chain with Victoria’s Secret, or becoming a full time esthetician at a spa I worked at. I chose the latter, knowing that small business was more my style, and I didn’t know if I wanted to leave the area. Years later I was approached about a business partnership and the idea of owning (or co-owning) my own skincare and makeup studio was suddenly an option. I had never considered that before. A couple of years later after that deal fell through, I opened my own studio. You get what you intend. Even if you’re not exactly sure what that looks like.

I think that for me it was always important that I have a job that allowed me to be creative, and work as far away from “the man” as possible. I work very well with others, however, I do not work well with bosses. I think that just as important, coming out of college with a ton of student debt, from a family that struggled with money, I needed to work in an industry that could give me monetary security. News writing is not that industry. It doesn’t pay very well, and it’s highly politicized so I knew my dreams of writing about what I was passionate about would be crushed, leaving me disillusioned. I also think that in the back of my mind I somehow knew that I wanted to keep writing close, to save it for later when I could choose what I would write about.

Now, my beauty career is more about community and entrepreneurship and less about the art. Reconciling those two aspects of business is the journey I’m currently on. But I wouldn’t trade it in for anything else.

What’s it like working with your sister?

It’s the most stress-free work environment I can imagine because we both just do our jobs. I know that sounds incredibly simplistic, but it’s the truth. We take care of our clients, show up on time, keep the shop clean, offer the same level of service, and are basically on the same page regarding all political and social issues that we may encounter as a business. Essentially, we don’t have to deal with any annoying coworker or boss issues, and we can trust each other with the business as a whole, and with each other’s clients.

Most people assume that we spend a lot of time together, but because we’re estheticians and spend 99% of our time in our treatment rooms, we actually see each other for about ten minutes a day. So we have to schedule time outside of work to see each other!

I love working with Christina and am happy that I was able to create a safe space for us to work together and build our careers. As an older sister it also makes me feel proud to watch her succeed.

Do you think working with predominantly female clientele and colleagues help to create a sense of community? If so, why?

YES. The answer to this question is simple for me. The more women I collaborate with, meet, and have as clients, the more full my life becomes, and the stronger our community and world become.

As girls, we’re taught the lie that women don’t work well together. That we are “catty, not supportive, back-stabbing,” and “dramatic” when we form groups. This is a lie the patriarchy constructed to keep us separated from each other, and out of our collective power. I believe with ever fiber of my being that our liberation lies is collaboration and empowerment of other women.

Women are people. We are individuals. We all have personalities and problems and flaws. We will not all get along with each other. However, there is nothing written in our DNA that states that once too many of us enter into the same room, we magically turn into passive aggressive bitches. We need to unlearn it, and I think the way that I’ve unlearned this lie is by putting myself in room after room after room full of women. In beauty school, in college (I was a Woman’s Studies minor), at work in a female-dominated industry, and by actively going to other businesses owned and run by women.

All the business connections I’ve made, the friends that have lifted me up, the opportunities I’ve been recommended for and the success I’ve had in my industry are all possible due to a strong network of women. Plain and simple.

What is beauty to you and how do you use your work to foster this idea?

To me, beauty is a lot of things. But mostly it’s a choice. Beauty is whatever you need it to be in that moment, for you, because ultimately it’s a feeling, and it’s fluid.

We have all been taught (especially as women) what is considered “beautiful.” I think that real beauty comes in the messy unlearning of that false ideal. In discovering what makes you feel good, happy, healthy and whole.

Beauty can be the full face of makeup you put on to cover up your sadness, or the full face of makeup you put on because you’re happy. It can be the feeling you get from a clean face. It can be art. It can be practical. It can be a feeling of calm, or a feeling of excitement. It can be messy or orderly. Dark or light, subtle or loud. It can take physical form outside the body in many ways but it’s also something inside of us.

At this point in my career, I think that one of the most important things I try to keep in mind is that my goal is to help you to feel beautiful. So my real job is to discover what that means. Not to impart my own ideas of what beautiful should be.

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

I’ve learned that I don’t know everything, and I should be grateful for what I have.

I would elaborate, but I think that is fairly self explanatory.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone wanting to enter into the beauty industry as a professional?

I learned this piece of advice from a dear friend and someone I would consider a mentor: You teach people how to treat you.

This is true in your personal life, but also in business. As a new beauty professional you will want to take every client that calls, work long and unpredictable hours, try to be nice when people don’t show up or cancel last minute, and make every concession to accommodate new clients. I did all of these things for years.

And while I absolutely think that working hard and being flexible in the beginning of your career is integral to building a solid long-term clientele, I also think that you will attract people who value the same principles and boundaries that you establish. Do you want clients that show up on time? Be prompt. Do you want clients that rarely cancel? Rarely cancel. Do you want clients that treat you like a professional? Treat your clients with professionalism.

This will, over time, eliminate potential clients that don’t understand why you’re treating them this way. Clients who are always late will rarely be compatible with a professional that always runs on time. Clients who text you at midnight will rarely be compatible with someone who clearly states their business hours in response to those texts. I also think that this helps your clients to see you as a person with a life outside of your business, not simply a service person obligated to wait on them.

Photos by: Annika Botha https://www.annikabotha.com/

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.