Becoming an Esthetician and business owner hasn’t been an easy task. However, I wouldn’t change this for anything in the world.
Since I was a little girl, I already knew what I wanted to be. I always wanted to be in the beauty and wellness industry. Whether It meant as a makeup artist, hair dresser, waxer, skin specialist or esthetician, but for sure beauty related. I first learned about beauty care in my native country of the Dominican Republic. I would watch for hours how my next-door neighbor created from scratch her own beauty products by mixing sugar and oil to use on herself to exfoliate her hands and feet as she sat on her front porch. I was very intrigued by her, and all she did to beautify herself.
My next-door neighbor noticed my inquisitive attitude and invited me to try what she was doing, I must have been 5 years old, this is when she mixed kitchen ingredients, cooking oil and brown sugar, and gently scrubbed my hands and arms, followed by pouring water over my arms to remove the products. This feeling was an enjoyable one that I would never forget, my arms were so smooth and soft, with a glowing appearance. This memory is forever embedded in my head.
Soon after, I started concocting my own ingredients to perform treatments. I would copy all she did, and try it on myself and the people around me, including my cat. Also, every so often I would join my neighbor and help her prepare her beauty ritual and would continue learning, growing my skills, love and passion for the beauty and wellness industry.
It was not until the mid 80’s, at the age of 8, that my family and I emigrated to Brooklyn, New York to join my dad, that had already been living there for a few years. New York city was so different, I had no friends and the streets were very dangerous. It was a complete culture shock. I’ve never seen so many homeless and drug-addicted people, roaming the streets in an unsafe manner, harming themselves and others. Brooklyn was not a nice place to live, at least where we moved, we saw many people injecting drugs in plain sight around young kids. My brothers, sisters, and I were afraid of the neighborhood, we didn’t come out that often since it wasn’t safe. It truly felt like living a daily episode taken of an apocalypse movie. I was sad & depressed, and my siblings and I cried every day because we didn’t want to live there. We really missed our friends, family and warm weather. I was too young to understand that we had to move here so that our parents could give us a better future.
So, to kill boredom, I would work on my creative side. I would spend hours doing my hair, nails & makeup, or playing with kitchen ingredients making my own products. I would also perform beauty services and skincare rituals on my friends and family. By the age of 12 people actually started to pay me, and I decided to get more serious about my business. On the weekend and after school I would be working on clients and enhancing my craft. Who would ever have thought this was the beginning of my career?
When I reached the end of my high school years friends and family would ask me where I would go and study. I would say I was going to be a Cosmetologist, since at that time skin care specialists weren’t really known as Estheticians, and everybody in the beauty industry was classified as a Cosmetologist.
Growing up in NYC, and I believe throughout the US, there was so much social pressure to graduate college, or you wouldn’t be able to have a steady income. And, pursuing a certificate at a trade school or beauty school was considered a lazy way out, and wouldn’t guarantee or secure a steady income. “It will get you a job, but not a career!”. Many close people to me were advising me that is not the way to go, and how I would never make any money. My life would be working at a salon, 7 days a week, with long hours for little pay. This was coming from so many people, as well as family members already working in this field as hair dressers. Everybody had something negative to say about my career ambition, not one person had a positive word about my chosen career. It was awful, and discouraging. So, for many of these reasons, I never took my passion seriously, out of fear of not being able to make ends meet. I listened to these people, and my decisions were influenced by it. As a result, besides working in the beauty & wellness industry, in the past I pursued a career in media, PR and publications, but I was not as successful and happy as I am in my true passion because it was not my true calling. This is why I never stayed in this field.
After finishing college, I enrolled in beauty school. But, unfortunately, I never completed my certificate and dropped out few weeks after I enrolled. This was due to my inability to both work full-time, and attend beauty school. Also, many of the same fears and doubts that I would never make a sustainable income came back into my head, so why bother?
It was not until 2004 that I again enrolled to attend beauty school, but this time I selected a shorter course and learned makeup artistry. I completed my classes and got certified in studio, editorial, glamorous and special effects makeup artistry. Now, it was time to slowly change my career and find some makeup work, as I planned to completely transition to the beauty industry. I worked on some indie film sets doing makeup for actors that were not yet known and were looking for their big break, just as I was. Often, nobody got paid when working on those small, low budget, film projects. On some occasions, if we were lucky, we would get money for food and transportation. It was very discouraging, I started to think that maybe people were right after all, that making it in the beauty industry was just too difficult.
Right around this time, I was living in an apartment building in the Bronx. I met person that also lived on same floor as me, he was working as a chemist for a French cosmetics lab based in New Jersey. He told me that I could learn the formulation, chemical compounds of products, and the ingredients, and do my own products to sell them. It sounded like a good opportunity to make money. He offered to teach and help me. He helped and I was inspired by him to start my own cosmetic line. In the summer of 2004 Desuar Cosmetics was born, this venture didn’t last long though, since I had no idea how much work and financial investment it would take to become successful. I eventually did the math though, and realized the chances were so low of actually succeeding as a makeup artist or creating my own beauty brand, and so I gave up before I even got to really started.
A couple of years later I relocated to Los Angeles and, while living in LA I took many non-paying makeup jobs, to build my resume, and to support myself I did body massages and took some marketing and PR jobs. I was miserable, I hated my life. It was not until 3 years after moving to LA that I decided to take things seriously, start all over again and give it another try. This is when I enrolled and attended massage school to acquire my massage certificate. The plan was; that once I was professionally trained and licensed as a massage therapist, I would have more opportunity to make a decent income. And, right after that, I would enroll and attend esthetician school, because it would be easier to find work quickly doing massages and be able to support myself, and still attend skincare school. Once I was dual licensed, I would eventually work at a spa as a massage therapist and esthetician, which I loved, and then ultimately start my own business when more experienced.
The plan worked out, mostly as desired. I worked at several places as an esthetician and massage therapist. My confidence grew, and at this point I knew it was time I start my own business. It was extremely expensive to rent a room though, so once again I sat down to do the math, I figured that if I rented a 2-bedroom unit it would only cost me $500 more per month, and I could use this as my live & work space, and most importantly it would be my place, nobody else’s, and I can make my own rules. So, I rented a 2-bedroom loft in downtown Los Angeles, converted a room into a treatment room with all my most essential tools to start making income. I made some business cards, created a free website, and I immediately started to take clients from the comfort of my home, I have never looked back.
I started my spa business to help people with beauty and wellness. To help them love their body, and their skin, and give them a sense of joy after each one of my spa rituals. While at the same time, educating each one of my clients about the importance of wellness and caring for their skin to live a balanced lifestyle. While working from home, I performed a lot of body and skin care services including waxing, slimming & contouring treatments, cellulite reduction massage, full body polish, waxes, facials, and occasionally did makeup work.
My home spa started to get a good reputation, and my clientele grew. My spa grew far too big to be operating from my home. I moved my spa into a small storage room on the rooftop level of a building in downtown LA, with no bathroom, no air conditioner or running water. The elevator only went to the 12th floor, so my clients would have to walk up a flight and half of stairs to get to the roof and find me. If my clients needed to use the restroom, they had to come down the stairs and take the elevator to the basement, then find the restroom inside the tenant’s gym. I also purchased a portable sink and would have to load a 20-gallon container with clean water to use for my treatments. I would have to carry clean water daily, and dump out the dirty water at the end of the day. I converted this place into a 2-room treatment studio and hired more staff. I posted my hours, placed a sandwich board outside the building and I would sit at the spa the whole day waiting for clients to call or walk-in. I never gave up, I stayed consistent and disciplined. It was a huge challenge to bring people in the door, but I was able to do it, my love and passion brought the clients. These clients kept referring their friends and family. My customers didn’t care if they had to climb a mountain to see me, they knew the place was a hole in the wall, with no bathroom, we would all be sweating and sticky during the summer with no A/C but that did not discourage or stop them from coming. Most of my customers raved about how amazing my spa services were, and me, of course. I soon started to get reviews on Yelp, which attracted more customers into my business. Obviously, I didn’t always make everyone happy, but those that didn’t give us a perfect rating was mostly due to the location. I worked out this place for almost 3 years, while my new spa was under construction. I am now the proud owner of a 4,400 sq ft day spa, located in downtown Los Angeles, one of the trendiest and hippest neighborhoods. It hasn’t been easy, it has been a lot of sleepless nights to accomplish this. I just didn’t give up, and haven’t given up! One of my only regrets is that I ever listened to those naysayers and dream killers. Somehow, I know the universe works it’s wonders, because having a marketing background has definitely helped me during the process.
Food for Thoughts:
What I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that success is a state of mind, and me performing beauty services is not about being famous, or becoming rich, it’s about being unique and knowledgeable, while having fun doing what you love.
There are two main principles to which I subscribe:
1. Only you can give yourself permission to be exactly who you want to be
2. Your dreams are your dreams and nobody else’s, no one can create your life or dreams for you. Other people will never understand your vision.