Can you share a bit about your journey into entrepreneurship for those that may not be familiar with you or Dallas Beauty Lounge?
I sort of fell into entrepreneurship. I began working in 2004 at the age of 14 after my dad lost his HVAC business of 20 years in a flood caused by Hurricane Ivan. We lost everything, even our college funds and cars. My brother and I played sports and needed to get to and fro daily, so I snagged a job at the closest business in walking distance — a then nail salon called Anne’s Nails. I worked there throughout high school and college and eventually graduated beauty school in 2010 while I was still in college.
After graduating, I realized how wrong Anne’s had been running — disregarding state laws and such. So, I decided to leave and open on my own. I petitioned to have a house that I rented zoned for a building permit so I could obtain a state salon license and begin a one-woman operation in my dining room.
From there I became busier and busier until I worked 7 days a week and dropped out of college right before my senior year. Then the rest, as they say, is history!
What got you into nail art — was that what you initially saw yourself doing, or was it something that you just fell into?
I got into nail art because I worked in a salon atmosphere for so long and I would spend many a days just sitting around painting my own nails while we weren’t busy. At the time no one wanted it, so I forced my clients to get an “accent nail” here and there for no charge. I just wanted to be creative!
Many clients in my teenage years would always say, “I can see you owning a salon someday!” And I’d reply with something like, “OMG! I’d never want my own salon! I see what my parents went through with businesses, I could never do it!”
7 years and an Instagram page later, here I am!
Where do you get inspiration for your designs? Because, let's be honest, they are freakin' beautiful works of art.
I get inspiration for designs from everywhere. I troll Instagram for fashion, prints, New York Fashion Week photos, other nail stylists, anything! Clients regularly bring in prints for dresses they are wearing for upcoming events, shoes, tiles, even tissue boxes. The possibilities are literally endless and no two manicures are the same!
Does it kill you that they are temporary in nature or is that something that keeps it exciting and helps you be more open to trying new things?
I love that they are temporary, actually. I’m super into changing my own look all the time and I’m such a believer that whatever you wear makes your attitude, mood, and confidence. Plus, I ALWAYS have new things I want to try so I love when my clients let me run with it!
How much time do you spend IN your business working (doing nails), versus ON your business (planning, marketing, learning ...)?
Every week I work about 45 hours actually DOING nails. I physically see about 40 clients per week, which is exhausting but it’s my favorite part of the business. Outside of the creative aspect, I spend another 10-20 doing payroll, researching new techniques, finding classes for my staff, networking with other salons, planning pop-up shops, and ordering inventory. You name it, I do it. I’m HR, PR, CEO, a coworker, a mentor, a teacher, and a janitor. I’m not above cleaning the toilets.
What has been the biggest challenge for you (current or over the course of running your own business)?
The most challenging thing about running a business is something my dad always told me would be the most challenging: employees. Don’t get me wrong, my staff is f*&^ing phenomenal in every way possible, but sometimes have a staff of 12 females can be a lot. I love them like they are sisters, but separating the boss from the coworker part of me is tough. I don’t want to have rules and contracts, but I’ve found time and time again that having these things in place protects me from untrustworthy employees and gives everyone boundaries that we all learn to respect.
What has been the most surprising?
The most surprising thing about opening a business has been how fast things can grow... and then go backwards... and then grow faster. A business is always a roller coaster and I’m learning to roll with the ride.
This year I had my first employees quit, whom I loved as more than just coworkers. It felt more like a breakup than just quitting. At the time I thought, “OMG, how am I going to come back from this? We are booked for months and need to keep these appointments.” So I began a hiring process and took on 16 more nail hours and now our team is 12 strong and the best it’s ever been.
I’ve really learned that no employee or client is irreplaceable, which sounds horrible but there will always be someone else who's even better to fill the void.
Where do you see yourself heading in the next 5-10 years? Any big juicy goals you'd be up for sharing?
In the next 5 years I plan to expand into another storefront or two. I’d love to be able to bring this to other areas and maybe other cities. My mind never stops turning, so I’m always on the lookout for the next best storefront or area.
Surprisingly I don’t want to open anywhere in the city, even though I live in the city and went to college downtown. It’s just not my ideal business area. I also would love to get into consulting at some point. I’d love to help train other salons and help them revamp their businesses with their contract, legal protection, decor, social media, bookings, etc.
Famous last words... What advice would you give to women who are looking to get into the beauty industry in some way?
For anyone looking to get into the beauty industry, whether that’s with fashion, makeup, nails or whatever, just be different. Too often I see local salons copy our marketing strategies with things as simple as similar usernames, pictures, and artwork. It’s flattering, but they’re not paving their own way which is the only way you will stand out.
Also, making great connections and social responsibility plays a huge role in my success. I volunteer at Children’s Hospital and Cystic Fibrosis all the time and I think giving back is so important.