Category Archives: Beauty U

Bring On the Beauty Start-Ups?

Beauty Salon For Rent Main Street USA Virginia Sole-Smith

A few weeks ago, Inc.com listed beauty salons as one of the best start-up businesses for 2011.

According to AnythingResearch.com, the cosmetology and barber schools (that educate salon-entrepreneur-hopefuls) grew at 29 percent last year, and nail salons grew at 9 percent. Inc.com’s reporting shows an industry with a low barrier to entry for salons and barber shops. Pair that with a recent resurgence in barbershop nostalgia—and with a return to beauty-service spending by consumers—and it’s a perfect storm for rapid growth in the salon and beauty industry. Bring on the beauty start-ups.

Well. Let’s take a look at that, shall we?

I suppose, by some measures, the $10,000 and 4 to 12 months it costs to get through beauty school add up to a “low barrier to entry.” For sure, it’s not medical school. But neither is the average post-graduation income ($9 to $15 per hour) anywhere close to what doctors make.

The statistics that Inc.com forgot to factor in to their analysis are ones that I learned my second month in at Beauty U from Simon Scott: Beauty salons have the second highest failure rate of any business. And 80 percent of students who graduate beauty school leave the industry after five years.

So let’s look again at the numbers that have Inc.com in a lather about beauty start-up potential. Beauty schools grew at a rate of almost 30 percent last year. Nail salons — as in, the places of business where beauty school graduates can actually earn a living — grew at less than 10 percent.

Trade schools always thrive during a recession (or a post-recession, if that’s what we’re in now) because if you’re out of a job, quickly retraining to qualify to do something else makes some kind of sense. Unless that “something else” is a job paying not much better than minimum wage for a business that’s likely to fail.

On my post-Beauty U road trip last summer, I saw beauty salons and barber shops on practically every corner of the Midwest. I did not see a lot of customers in them. I did see a lot of “For Rent” and “For Sale” signs.

Meanwhile, my Beauty U friends are having varying degrees of success in the business. A few of my classmates have landed part-time spa jobs. Most are still working the non-beauty-industry jobs they had when they arrived at Beauty U. One of my former teachers is now working at Sephora, while another is doing office temp work. That’s not exactly the rocket ship success that beauty school admission officers like to promise, or the “recession-proof career” that the beauty industry trade groups brag about.

It might not cost much to start up a beauty business. But to keep it going? That’s another question entirely.

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Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Beauty U, Career Opportunities

Beauty Schooled is on Marie Claire!

"The Price of Beauty," by Virginia Sole-Smith Marie Claire

Because I know you never get tired of reading about me performing bikini waxes. But this piece, which just got published on MarieClaire.com, is actually about the art of the upsell.

Which I’ve touched on before — like over here — but never in quite this much useful detail. It even includes a handy sidebar on how to get the spa service you really want. And people, it is big news for a women’s magazine to do a story like this, even online. So click, check it out, and pretty please, leave some comments, tweet it and Facebook Like It, if you do?

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, Beauty U, In Class, Press, Tip Jar

[Back to Beauty U] The Written Licensing Exam

The written part of our licensing exam is held at one of those vocational high schools where they teach Driver’s Ed and certify real estate agents on the weekend. There is a lot of dingy gray carpet and all the fluorescent lights seem to have one bulb out.

Meg and I plan to meet outside, fifteen minutes early, so we can sit together. We’re both nervous and we both show up at least twenty minutes early. We are not the first to arrive.

When we reach the check-in table the first thing the old lady exam proctor says to me is, “Your purse is filthy.”

I’ve put it down on her table to search for my checkbook and am completely disconcerted. Is purse hygiene part of the test? Am I failing already? Continue reading

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Filed under Back to Beauty U, Beauty Schooled, Beauty U, Career Opportunities, In Class

Bam! Licensed.

Virginia Sole-Smith Esthetics License

I realize this is a little anti-climactic for those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, since I spilled the beans last week when the license arrived — and then failed to deliver on the follow-up post all week.

Look, I’m a licensed esthetician now. We’re very busy and important.

(And wear sexy biker chick jackets.)

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[Back to Beauty U] Mary Kay Calling

Back to Beauty U: An occasional series where I roll out some never-blogged-before Beauty U moments

Mary Kay and Missiles

The first thing I learned from Delores is that Mary Kay ladies don’t drive pink Cadillacs anymore.

Well they can — a shiny pink convertible is still one of the choices if you’ve earned Career Car privileges — but Delores drove up to Beauty U in a silvery-pink Chevy Equinox SUV. She wore a royal blue skirt suit with black fishnets and black knee-high boots plus lots of gold accessories and I later learned that the suit itself was a “Mary Kay Sales Director” suit that she had to qualify (in sales numbers) to wear, but that the accessories were all hers.

Delores carried in a pink tote bag brimming with catalogs, while behind her, Sue wheeled in a the biggest pink polka-dotted suitcase I’d ever seen. Upon closer inspection, the dots revealed themselves to be tiny hair dryers and makeup brushes. There weren’t any clients on the books, so everyone piled into the spa classroom while Sue passed out little plastic-covered cardboard folders. Inside, they held a mirror and a plastic tray, divided into different inch-sized compartments. Mine held the remnants of many prior product applications. The mirror in Blanche’s folder was cracked.

The next thing I learned from Delores was that if I wanted to, I could make “a corporate income” selling Mary Kay products right out of my home. “Even in the recession, our saleswomen are doing better than ever!” She jumped right into her speech about that while Sue came around and squirted little bits of product onto each of our trays.

“I always wanted to stay home with my children and Mary Kay has let me realize my dream,” Delores said, showing us her gold charm necklace that featured silhouette heads for each of her three kids. “My husband has even been able to retire early because my business is so successful!”

I knew that Sue was between jobs and trying to pick up a bartender gig. They mostly relied on her boyfriend’s income, doing something for the town that meant whenever we had a snowstorm he had to pull double shifts and plow the streets.

“That’s why I’m so thrilled that Susan has come back to Mary Kay again,” said Delores. I had never heard Sue go by “Susan,” but it sounded right coming from Delores, all successful and corporate. “She can help support her family and still have time to be with her son and pursue her education! Now ladies, let me tell you about our amazing new skin care line.”

And as we were instructed to dab each of the product samples from our little trays onto our faces — the custom Mary Kay “facial” — I couldn’t figure out if I was being sold a career or a face wash.

Delores really liked the Mary Kay Timewise 3-in-1 Cleanser, which promises to cleanse, exfoliate and tone you all in one step, but Miss Jenny was underwhelmed. “We don’t like combination products here,” she explained to Delores, rubbing a bit of cleanser doubtfully onto the back of her hand. “If you’re going to do all those things properly, you really need three separate products.”

“Of course, that’s why we also offer our Classic Basic Skincare line, where you use a separate product for each step,” Delores responded smoothly, marching us right along to the lip treatment samples. “Remember, ladies, you earn 50 percent commission on every product you sell. That’s why I’m so pleased that Susan has come back to us — the sky really is the limit!”

In fact, this was Sue’s third time selling Mary Kay, which meant it was the third time she had bought the $120 start-up kit, where you get samples of all the key products and a guide to selling them to all of your family and friends. “The first two times, I didn’t make any money,” she told me later. “But this time, with our esthetics knowledge, being in this business, I think it makes a lot of sense.”

After our “skin care class,” Delores handed out catalogs so we could page through all the different shades of Mary Kay eye shadows and lipsticks. “Remember, ladies, if you buy tonight, Susan will earn 50 percent off everything!” she told us. “You really are helping out a friend. That’s how Mary Kay works. You can help her even more if you agree to host a party, plus that way you can get free products!”

Of course, we all wanted to help out Sue. Miss Jenny bought some eye shadow. Miss Stacy agreed to host a party. I bought the lip treatment and later I would buy a toner and a clarifying mask, when Sue swore they would be just what I needed to clear up my Beauty U breakouts. (They weren’t.)

By then, she had hosted a few parties where she earned $500 in a night — way better than bartending. Except out of that $500, she also had to pay for party snacks and wine, pay Mary Kay to maintain the web page of her “exclusive online store,” and pay for inventory so she could make more sales at her next party.

That first night, Blanche had been the most suspicious of the whole thing when Delores began her sales pitch. “Can I get another mirror?” she asked Sue, handing back her cracked one. “Do you really make any money this way?”

But the magical phrase “corporate income” — plus Delores’s shiny car and spiffy suit — seemed to go a long way. By the end of the night, she had signed on to Delores’ team, forking over the $120 for her own starter sales rep kit. And she and Sue helped Delores cart out the roll-along suitcase and the pink tote bag, chattering about that 50 percent commission and the great new range of eye shadow colors.

So. I’m pretty fascinated by the whole world of direct-marketing cosmetics, which so many women at Beauty U seemed to at least dip a toe in — without ever making much money.

Have you tried selling Mary Kay, Avon, or another direct-marketing makeup brand? What was your experience? Tell us in the comments, or email me (beautyschooledproject [at] gmail [dot]com) with your story.

[Photo: “Missiles and Makeup,” by Brent Moore of SeeMidTN.com, via Flickr.]

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Filed under Back to Beauty U, Beauty U, Career Opportunities, In Class, Makeup

[Back to Beauty U] The Exit Interview

photo of beauty school graduation diploma

For some reason, I am really nervous about going back to Beauty U for my “Exit Interview.” Maybe it’s because it sounds so formal, even though I can already guess it will be much like the entrance interview, and thus, not all that scary. Maybe it’s because it’s always a little awkward to go back to places you’ve left. (Ever quit a job and then go back to visit a few months later? Always. Weird.)

So Meg and I schedule our exit interviews at the same time, which makes me feel better. Miss Susan, the night school director, tells us we can even come in together if we want. We say yes, please and go sit on folding chairs across from her desk in the main office, where posters of pouting models with jagged haircuts hang haphazardly in the big window that faces the parking lot and the highway beyond. Continue reading

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Reclaiming the Leg Wax?

phot of DIY leg waxing

A lot of people have been curious to know if I learned anything magical at Beauty U, like that has totally changed my daily beauty routine, or that works SO super well, I want to shout it from the rooftops because I can’t believe there are still women walking this earth without having been enlightened by this Good Beauty Word.

Alas.

For so many reasons, this has not exactly been the case. But there is one beauty treatment that I initially had a lot of doubts about, but am now coming around to appreciating. Not in a rooftop-shouting way exactly. More “oh well, alright then.” I was reminded about it when I saw this great post over on beauty dart and I thought I better come tell you all about it.

It is leg waxing. Continue reading

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Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty U, Waxing