Life is never perfect and it's filled with a ton of typos. One thing many people like to point out to me on a regular basis is that I post imperfect captions and send out newsletters with little goofs. I think that is the best way to live life. I know I am not perfect, no one is, but having an imperfectly perfect business is something I truly love! Everyone always asks me, "Isn't having a child so much work and dedication?" My response: "No. I can tell you I have worked a lot harder and longer on my first baby." A child is born; you inherently love this being you grew for 10 months. It is natural. The business I have worked on and developed for the past 15 years has been a roller coaster of emotions, struggles, funny stories and reflection; it is not a natural love.
As I look back on the last decade and a half I think of what it was like starting out. Not many people get past that stage. It is scary, time consuming and risky. I can remember doing prom makeup in my moms kitchen in 2002. It was something I was never interested in making my career. My passion was dance and I dedicated a total of 25 years to it. Still in college at CSULB and just about to move out of my parents house at age 18. I was truly shocked when a few girls asked me to do their makeup. "Sure I'll do your makeup for $20. But only your eye makeup, I don't know how to do your face and I don't have all the colors." Who knew this world of beauty would be my profession and new found passion?
One thing I don't think people have realized and I see it as one of my greatest successes. I have done every ounce of this on my own. Never borrowed money, no loans, no investors and no money from "mommy and daddy". When I decided to move out at 18 my parents told me "Lindsay, once you decide to move out you are on your own. We will pay your car insurance and your college tuition and that is it." The one thing I always received from them was their complete trust and confidence in me. I believe this is way more important than money. Teaching me the hard life lessons of racking up credit card debt, working 3+ jobs at a time and managing parting with school. There was one time my dad bailed me out of a LARGE credit card bill with the look of disappointment on his face. I never wanted to see that look again. I was 20, sitting in his office with my life crashing before me. I knew he was never going to do this again for me and I wasn't ever going to ask him to fix it.
I was in school, working at a restaurant, teaching dance 3 days a week at Millikan High School from 7:30 am -12:30 pm, on a dance team, doing makeup, house and dog sitting on the side and found time to have some fun here and there. When I hear parents saying "I don't want my kids to work when they are concentrating on school" it hurts my hard working, time managing, life skill learning heart. In junior high I started a pet sitting business not realizing I must be an entrepreneur at heart. I even had business cards and flyers to promote my little "off the books" business. I got a workers permit at age 15 to teach gymnastics to kids part time during the summer. Oh, may I add, I have never taken a gymnastics class a day in my life. Fake it 'til you make it.
Now fast forward to 2006 or 2007. I met a woman who owned a tanning salon and she had an extra room. At this point I did not call myself a "makeup artist". I thought being self taught was not good enough. I was doing 10 girls makeup a day each prom and winter formal and still felt uncomfortable being confident in my work. Now remember, there was no YouTube tutorials to watch or easy ways to learn except by trial and error. I never worked at MAC and didn't have any certificate that read... "you are good at your job". The woman who owned the tanning salon was around my current age now. Maybe a little older. She offered me a room in her tanning salon, taught me how to spray tan and made me brochures and business cards. I had just recently added making costumes in the mix. A few people asked me to do style their hair and add hair extensions. She took a portion of my earnings and I set up shop. I still didn't have the confidence but I knew what I did do, I did well. I was more nervous of other people judging me and laughing at me trying to do something I taught myself. I had zero idea of any rules and just kept trying to ignore my insecurities.
I laugh at that insecurity now because you all know I don't give one flying "eff" about what people will think or any judgement they have on me or my business. That is the most freeing feeling ever! Sometimes I look at people that care SOOOOO much about what OTHER people think and it makes me sad. Be who YOU want to be and be confident in that. No one else should dictate your life and you shouldn't waste the precious life you have worrying about what others think. It has taken me 15+ years to be confident in my choices, business endeavors and life path goals and for those that don't agree with how I do things....not even a thought in my head. It is a waste of time and negative energy.
I was fishing up college, still teaching dance, choreographing musicals, working at the restaurant and doing my beauty business. I worked, worked, worked. Missed a lot of fun girls trips, didn't get to go to many social events on the weekends and was tired all the time. That was my mid 20's. I managed to find time to have fun on off nights. The tanning salon was sold and I started working at a Medical Spa as a receptionist but not doing any beauty work there. I was now doing all of the makeup, hair and costumes out of my apartment still working all the other jobs as well. I was toying around with going to makeup school in Burbank. $20,000 for makeup school. Can you believe that!? I was going to try and figure out a way to pay for it until I took the best advice I could have ever taken. There was this 30 something year old girl that worked part time at the Medical Spa. I told her about my plans for makeup school. Here were the life changing words I heard in return. "Lindsay, why would you pay that much money for makeup school when you are already great at doing makeup? Go get your esthetician license instead. It is cheaper and will get you state licensed."
I listen to people when they talk. If someone is ahead of me in life, career, family I want to learn all I can from them to make my choices smarter not harder. I am 100% happy I listened that day and didn't get stuck in my own expensive pointless idea! Since my parents already paid for college I knew I couldn't go to them for money. I also knew they still claimed me on their taxes so there was no way I was getting financial aid. I tried anyway... denied. OK, so what do I do? Find the cheapest way to go to esthetician school. To me, the biggest waste of money is going to a private school for beauty school and paying over $10,000. I tell girls all the time "DON'T do it!" What option I found was a community college. It was less than $2000 total. For the kit, the class and everything else. I just saved myself $18,000 for not going to makeup school.
I think weeks after the best advice of my life I signed up for school. It was two semesters, spring and fall, 5-10 pm Monday-Thurs. On top of all that other gigs listed above. I was at the tail end of an on and off again 3 year relationship and still figuring out what I was doing with my life at 26. Was this what I really wanted to do? I don't think I even liked skin care and facials at this point.
There were times in school when I really didn't want to continue because I was tired and bored. Now, there was this amazing teacher. She was there two out of the four nights and that made it all worth it. She was a great motivation and let me grow. In Lindsay fashion I spiced up the classes with my "Product of the Day" and "Would you rather?" game at the end of class. I would make up crazy memorable stories to help us remember the ingredients of the products to pass time faster in a productive way. What the heck was I going to do after? The amazing teacher had confidence in me. The confidence I new I need to get some more of. If she thought I would make it, I needed to think that.
By this time it was the winter of 2009 and I was a few years into doing bridal makeup and hair. I only charged $50 for a bridesmaids hair AND makeup. If you got married between 2006 and 2009 and I did your hair and makeup you got a killer deal and me bringing random friends with no makeup or hair experience as my assistants. What skills did I posses at this time and in this place of my life: Makeup, hair styling, hair extensions, eyebrow threading, spray tanning & slutty Halloween costume sewing. In 2009 I sewed 68 custom Halloween costumes? Just add that to the teaching dance, working at the restaurant, going to school & doing makeup. I am sure you can tell why my roommate at the time was not my biggest fan. Imagine the glitter in the living room and the dining room.
From the time I got my license December 2009 to the day I opened up LML in its current location was about 7 months. I didn't really have any sort of plan. I was selling my costumes out of a boutique on 2nd street. We had plans to bring me in as an esthetician & spray tanner and the nail ladies next door were not a fan of the idea. It fell through for a number of reasons but that pushed me to do what came next. Working out of my apartment with a roommate was really not an ideal situation anymore. It wasn't fair to her at all, I am a messy person in general. I am a pain in the ass to live with with out 68 costumes everywhere and clients coming in and out at all hours of the day. You could image how she felt.
Over the next months I decided to open a shop. I wrote an update on facebook stating I was going to open August 1st, 2010. I knew if I wrote it on there I would have to go through with it out of fear of not delivering on my status update. I was spray tanning out of my bedroom, doing makeup trials in my kitchen and hoping a praying I could get this together. I remember sitting on the floor of my apartment building my own website with all the bridal information, preparing to be professional. Next was finding items at garage sales after deciding no matter what location I went with I was going to go shabby chic because I could make that look cute on a small budget. My mom was so amazing at teaching me how to design and make things look the best they could from the day I was born. She has made me the creative person I am today.
Now let's talk about my budget. I don't think I ever had more than $1,000 in my bank account at one given time. Always in a state of growth; any profit I made went right back in for supplies and new ideas. I literally opened my business BROKE. I knew I had weddings lined up and still had my million other jobs so I could make it work. It was July 27th with an August 1st deadline to deliver on my promise. I couldn't look like a failure at this point. I drove down the street about 3 blocks and saw a little sign in the window upstairs off of Howard and Los Alamitos Blvd. that said FOR RENT. I only needed 2 things: affordable & had a sink. I called the number and a lady answered, a lady I had no idea I would share the next 8 years with. She told me to come by the next day she had two suites open. I took my dad with me. The first suite we looked out was the bigger of the two with a more expensive rent and no sink. It wasn't looking promising. The second suite we looked at had a sink, was the perfect size and for my price point of "the cheaper the better" I knew I could afford it with my other jobs and apartment rent but I might not have money to eat.
She was a really nice lady and she rented me the suite 203 July 31st, my 27th birthday, 2010. Here is where I start getting emotional writing this. From this point on I started the hardest journey I have ever been on. It was all easy and fun until shit got real.
I already had clients for makeup so I set my grand opening for September 1st and knew I had about a month to get it together. I need a business license, insurance, facial supplies, cards, brochures and more. How was I going to afford all of this? I just figured it out. I didn't do anything fun, I picked up every extra shift I could at the restaurant and prayed everyday people would walk through that door. I remember painting that first rooms walls like it was yesterday. Sweating in suite 203 afraid to ask the suite next door to turn down the air since they controlled it. I was blonde and naive but driven to make it this work.
I remember only being open when I wasn't working my other jobs and navigating the idea of showing people I was a successful business when I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I think God brought me the people I needed at the time to be my clients and help me through. What I have learned is you have different clients at different stages of your business. I look back at my had written tickets and schedule from many years back and think... wow, what ever happened to that client? When you grow and change you have the die hard clients who stay supportive to the end and you have the clients you grow out of. It isn't a bad thing but when you prices go up, you hire employees and things aren't like they used to be some people who were there at the beginning fall away. Now I look at those clients fondly and know they were there for a reason and a lesson. Some of them still follow LML and are supportive from afar but I don't see them for services and I also have the bitter ones that feel like I ditched them when I grew larger. It hurt at the time but now I realize that is business. It all makes me so grateful for those die hard, grow with me, clients who understand why I can't personally take clients anymore.
My business has changed a lot since 2010. I was just me in a room. Have you noticed I haven't said a thing about LASHES? I opened up LML with no intention of ever doing lashes! Here was another turning point and a day when I really listened. I was doing hair extensions on a client who was also an ethetician. She doesn't currently do lashes but she tried them out for a while. She told me what website she bought the products from and let me know you didn't need to take a class you could just buy what you wanted. HMMMmmm...... I bought the lash products, tried to do them on my friends, never took a class and after gluing some eyes shut and being so frustrated I decided to do lashes. Since then I have, obviously, stepped up my game and taken classes etc but yes the first few years were self taught. Image being a client for the first time back then. You called and I answered the phone, no deposits ( I still trusted people would show up tho their appointments), I would come in at 6 am or stay until 10 pm if I had to and I didn't take credit cards. There was a mess of costumes and no real facial room. But the lobby was cute, I was good at my job and there was that hope for success in my eyes.
Between then and now every policy we have was because someone abused my kindness one too many times. I have had people say really awful things to me, like really awful. Friends wanting everything for free, people telling me I wont be successful and everything you can think of negative under the sun. It is easy to get bitter and there have been times where I let that bitterness creep too deep into my soul. I have been pushed to every end of the spectrum. You know what kept me going? The clients, family and friends that believed in me, God and myself knowing the negative people were not going to hold me down. Many tears, stress, depression and the list goes on. It is hard to share the negative because I don't want people to feel I am ungrateful but if any of you lived just a year in my shoes the last 8 years you would have a very different kind of outlook on who I am as a person.
I need help about one year in so in June of 2011 I hired the one person in the world I could trust more than anyone. Linda. I had a talk with my dad and he agreed she could quit her job and come work for me as long as I paid her the same rate you was being paid at her other job. We knew it was a risk because our track record of getting along wasn't perfect. I was worried I couldn't pay her. So I thought: how could I make Linda profitable for me? As I was starting to get bitter with some of the negativity and stress that came along with small business ownership, I had Linda be the sweet spot for LML. She is the best person for the job. I am blunt and honest and she was the sugar and cherry on top! She added what I couldn't. I taught her to spray tan and do hair extensions because those are "unlicensed" services that she could do without having a licence. That took the pressure off of me and with her at the front desk it was a winning combo. I didn't have to have workers comp because she is my mom so she was a baby step into being and employer. One employee with very little business risk. At this time I quit all my other jobs. They were all crutch I was holding on to in case LML didn't work. When I realized one extra shift making $100 wasn't going to save me any more I had to let go. I still miss those waitressing days. I daydream of not having my stress all the time.
This magic arrangement went on for a year. After a year we needed more help. I had just dyed my hair red after a total emotional breakdown. I was tried, stressed, working 7 days per week 6 am to 10 pm and just finished a year of 59 weddings. It was time to expand. I stop working on clients Sundays and Mondays and I hired an esthetician 3 days a week. This was big scary step for me and back then, in 2012, I was a much different employer than I am now. Let's just say it was good practice. I had to grow up, get workers comp, contracts, esthetician insurance and so much worry that she would quit or take my clients or not like working for me. She was at LML for 3 years. It worked well for what I needed at the time. At the time I hired my first employee I had just expanded into the suite next door. That one I couldn't afford before. I, honestly, still couldn't afford it but when people move out it is my only chance. We cut a hole in the wall and LML became two suites.
Shortly after expansion and three of us at LML I found love. It had been 3 single years for me. After reading this I am sure you can see why! In July of 2012 I was in great shape, 28 and had my fresh red hair. I think God knew I needed to meet someone right away because one date on Match.com was all it took. Mike has been a part of my life for 6 years and almost 5 years married. This isn't a story about my personal life but he has helped out a lot physically and mentally in my business.
Mike has seen me and my business at its lows and highs. I forget sometimes that it is his business too! He is married to me and my first "business" baby. I forget he is half owner because he respects my choices and lets me do what I need to but comes in and hangs things on walls and fixes the internet from time to time when I need his help. I can remember in our first year of marriage I had these two clients who were friends with each other and they were extraordinary hard on me. I think almost every rule currently at LML was because they made my life and business a living hell for YEARS. At one point I even asked them to find somewhere else to get there services done and the kept coming. They are not clients any more and I would never say anything behind their back I didn't say to their face. All the amazing clients I had, at that point, were clouded by these two entitled ladies. I was drinking a lot of wine when I got home to drown them out and Mike got to the point of saying "If you don't stop bringing these ladies home with you I don't think this marriage is going to work". Honestly the biggest gift was them cancelling all their appointments. Sometimes it just isn't worth the money. My marriage is better, my business is better, my life as a whole is better. How could I let two people affect me to that extent? I felt like a prisoner in my own business. I will never let that happen again. I am glad I went through these years, it made me stronger and it made me less stressed by people and their opinion of how I run my business. What I do works for LML. There is always a reason why I do things. Don't like it, bye-bye.
There were a few clients who became friends who were very influential in my growing my business. It wasn't the clients they referred or the money they spent it was the advice I listened to each time they came in. One was the VP of HR for a large motor company, one was a small business owner that was very business savvy and the last one worked in HR for a large property management company. Every time I had an issue I would talk to one of these ladies and really take in what they said in like a sponge. I can't begin to explain how much I appreciate these three extraordinary women. I felt like I could be honest with them and show my weakness while I was imaging my big ideas. To this day they are all still clients, one of them does all my interviews when hiring and even has a niece that works at LML. There isn't anything I could do to repay these three and that is why, instead, I pay it forward. Anyone who needs my help that is a step or two behind me in their own business I share words of wisdom I learned though experience and listening to my mentors.
What was next? Love, marriage and more employees. Boy have I been through it with employees too! How many have I had to fire? How many have quit? The list is extensive. Who are the girls that have been through the most with me besides Linda? Eleni and Candice. They have been around for the past 4-5 years and have seen a lot of people come and go. When other business owners want to expand and hire employees I always tell them it is the hardest thing you will ever deal with. Don't hire friends, flakes and lazy people. It is so hard to manage groups of women. After 8 years I have a group of 11 of them and we haven't had one girl fight to report! SERIOUSLY! Let me tell you, I have these girls backs more than most bosses. We all have to work together everyday and we are a family. I have seen Diane through college and now she is our manager while Linda is taking a backseat watching my son (soon to be SONS). She has bloosmed and I am so greatful I took a chance on a bubbly sorority girl. She is a gem of a person and I hope her and all my LML ladies are in my life always. A lot of changes, growing up and lessons have been learned at LML. I feel like I have probably learned the most. Patience, how to not micromanage, helping everyone grow the way THEY need to grow, not butting my opinion in ALL the time (I still need to work on that a little).
3 Years ago I hired Natalia, she was the most mature employee I had hired at the time as far as her ethetician experience. I wasn't ready for a seasoned estheician when I was barley out of my own estheician training wheels. She pushed me to make my business better. That was the moment I realized I need to hire GREAT people who were better than me in certain areas. Eleni and Candice are amazing but they were young when I hired them and needed more guidance. As a new business owner I needed that but as I grew I knew I didn't have time to train someone from the beginning. Natalia was a big move for me at the time. I had to suck up any insecurity and trust that I could be a great boss.
Let's talk about the fails. You can't fail if you don't try. What have I tried that people always bring up that didn't work. #1 I tried to add nails in 2012, I hired a young, very talented, girl with limited availability. Didn't work. I spent $3,000 on setting that up right before my wedding and that was just a bomb. #2 The bridal team. I was already one foot out the door on weddings and I got pregnant and still had some weddings to do that were around my due date. I spent a ton of money on shirts, a new website, training and promotion. They were all 1099 independent contractors. Let's just say that it wasn't a good fit for LML. When you send people out to represent you and they don't have the vibe of the shop girls or the investment in your company it sometimes doesn't work. It wasn't bad, the brides turned out beautiful but I couldn't get it off the ground for weddings I personally had not booked. They just weren't me. #3 The blowout bar. This isn't a total fail, it is just an unfinished project. I think I was scared from the bridal team flop that I didn't want to hire any cosmetologist. It is still in the works, We have a licensed cosmetologist on staff now and one in school so it is going to happen at some point. The bummer is, each one of these projects costed me a lot of money during times that I couldn't afford to lose money. Wedding, baby, etc. But guess what... I made it work! You just do it, you survive. These wont be the last failures either, there will be plenty more where they came from.
To make a long story short, I love everyday of work because I love changing, learning and growing. I am so proud of all of the girls that have helped me and stayed with me along the way as well as those clients who have been a rock during all of our change. At this point I never use the word "I" or "ME" because it isn't a one woman show anymore! It takes all 11 of us to make LML work on a daily basis in 7 suites in that building on Los Alamitos Blvd. When ever someone moved out I said..."I'll take it". When I look back I think.... wow... look at how amazing all these women are doing! They have careers that they can be proud of that we all worked on together. We have cried and laughed more than you know and they know what I have planned for LML but I don't want to put it out there just yet.
My advice for business owners: never stop working hard, hire smart, stand strong and keep your eye on the prize.
In 8 years at 11140 Los Alamitos Blvd. Ste. 203 I have been single, gotten married, had a child & one on the way and lived 1,000 lives in between. What happens in one day is one big ball of problem solving and beauty making. I put my whole life into this business and now you can see why it was so much more work than having a toddler and why it makes being a mom a piece of cake. You also can probably understand why I always have so many typos. It isn't a one woman show any more but I do a hell of a lot. It either goes out flawed or not at all and that is the way I live my life. Imperfectly perfect. Praise God for letting me live this life.
P.S. I don't think I said enough about my dad. He has guiding me through all of the business aspects of LML and is my sounding board for what is right and ethical. That is why I stand for my convictions and do everything above board. He is who I want to make the most proud because he is such a good father and amazing husband and example of what is great. I couldn't not have done the business end of things without his support. I don't go to him as often anymore for advice because he has given me the skills to do it on my own but I just think what would Steve do, then I add my own spin.