Your business is so unique — how did you come with the concept?
Thank you! After high-school I had become an on-location manicurist to get through college and my Masters in Psychology and my work was mostly with celebrities, editorial, and ad campaigns like Victoria’s Secret. When I was finishing my Masters I got engaged and was getting married at an estate in Palm Springs which is a couple of hours outside of LA so I wanted a makeup artist, hairstylist, and manicurist to come and take care of me and my ladies the way someone like Reese Witherspoon would have done. Even though I had a beauty agent and a large network of beauty contacts, no one in the editorial/celebrity world liked doing weddings!
At the time the offerings in the wedding world were horrendous, purple shadowed, tendrilled situations that had horrible business practices. There we’re no good on-site beauty options for the bride who wanted modern, fashion-forward, red carpet looks and to be treated like a priority instead of an afterthought and I knew I could bridge the two worlds. There were lots of amazing artists in LA who would love to find clients appreciating their talents and there were lots of clients (myself included) who needed a one-stop-shop for amazing artistry by people who cared.
Was there a moment when the light bulb went off and you just knew what you were going to do?
Well, I was just entering the world of psychology and had worked hard to become a therapist but I just knew that Fiore needed to exist and that I could make it great so I was torn between “Plan A” and “Plan B” for a bit. I did both until Fiore was clearly viable and taking a whole bunch of my time and then I had to choose.
Once you knew you wanted to have your own beauty business, what steps did you take to make that a reality?
Yikes, there’s SO much to do when starting a business! It’s overwhelming, such a learning process, and so much fun. First I had to think of a name. That’s so hard when you don’t even have a real business yet but a good name is crucial! It defines your business but also shouldn’t limit it because you don’t know how you’ll expand it’s hard to imagine that at the time you’re naming it.
I also had to find a team of artists that I adored, who were exceptional, and who I could count on.
The branding! My gosh, I loved the branding process but it was really hard to find someone to do a great job. I can’t talk enough about fantastic branding on a business. I read a lot of business books too. I think there is something unique about being a woman in business and so I read a lot of woman business books. Books about feeling good about selling (in our case services), being a boss, networking, etc.
What lessons have you learned along the way?
Oh my gosh, I’ve learned a lot of lessons! Getting an assistant and an intern was the best thing that ever happened to Fiore. I got lucky and found fantastic people that we’re perfect matches right off the bat. It was scary to bring someone in and make a financial commitment to someone else (I did this in the first year) but it made HUGE difference in how much we could get done, the progress we could make in the business, and then eventually it allowed me work/life balance. Once I made the commitment to my assistant I never looked back, it always worked out. We also used to work until 9pm every night and now we’re off at about 5pm and don’t email on the weekends unless it’s urgent. So I learned how to do that along the way, to work normal hours.
Also, I benefit greatly from having a few other ladies who own their own businesses, who I trust immensely and who I can ask for their advice on situations or bounce ideas off of. Sometimes you need someone else’s opinion on what a good way to handle your biz is. Also, I’ve learned to be okay saying no and setting boundaries in order to have a business and be happy. People ask you for crazy inappropriate things sometimes, like for me to share the businesses proprietary info we’ve worked hard to build so they blatantly compete with us, or for free offerings just because they like free things. Or I have to say no to less obvious things like giving my time away or a client with unreasonable expectations. I have to learn to say no in the nicest way possible but no nonetheless, which can be hard for women especially because I often want to accommodate or not offend but you can’t do things resentfully either.
What has surprised you about owning your own business?
Owning a business gets easier and less time consuming as time goes on but the beginning is the most exciting! You also have to learn about a million unrelated things to what your business actually does to run the business (graphic design, accounting, credit card processing, etc.). This at times has been overwhelming but is also fun and has made me a more well-rounded, knowledgeable person.
What hardships have you had along the way?
Managing a large team of people is just hard. We have a great team but it’s large and people are inherently complicated with all different needs and ideas. Also, I hate taxes and keeping track of the finances but what’s new, who does like that?
What have you found works for you as far as organizing your business and time?
I need to have my to-do list in written form in my notebook. Teux Deux is a fabulous app and I use it as well when I’m being super specific about what gets done when but nothing is as motivating to me as writing down all that needs to be done in the day and crossing each item off one by one and seeing what has gotten done that day (or that I need to hustle way more the next). I write my to-do list in 3 columns: personal items, business items, and places I need to go, so that it’s a bit more organized and I’m tending to each category. I use white composition notebooks so I can reference any notes or phones numbers from previous days. I know it’s old school to be carrying around paper but it just works better for me.
I have Fiore on Google Apps so we can use the Gmail interface with our URL which is fabulous. I take advantage of all the “labs” in the settings like “undo send” for when you’ve sent your email and forgot to add or delete something from it (it gives you a 20 second leeway), the canned responses because we have to reply a variance of the same thing to client inquires so many times a day it makes life a lot easier, and many more. I love Google Apps.
I also love EchoSign for sending our all of our contracts to clients. It’s a e-signature service so the client can e-sign their contract and then all parties get a signed PDF. We can see when they open it and send reminders, and it’s so easy for them.
Highlight of your career so far?
It’s difficult to say a specific highlight but overall the highlight of owning Fiore is all the amazing women I’ve met, become friends with, and learned from. The other business owners, my artists, our clients, they’re all amazing and it makes me so thankful for my job.
Best advice you’ve been given?
There’s no much great advice! The clever ladies at Sage Wedding Pros (very useful to all small creative businesses, not only wedding related, see their blog) taught me to think of things as they relate to my bottom line. “If I invest X amount of time and money in to this project/advertising, do I expect it to bring back twice that much back? If not, what will it (or did it) bring back for my investment? Is that worth is?” It seems so obvious but there are so many ways to spend your advertising money, do collaborations, etc., that it’s easy to think you have to say yes to everything or think that everything is valuable to your business which is just not so and your goal is to make money not to be popular (I think).
“Dress for the job you want.”
I know this one is predictable coming from me since I’m in the image industry but it’s amazing the difference being intentional in your presentation is. Given the choice between dressier or casual, I always go dressier and I’m sure it actually makes me money.
“It’s better to be nice than cool.”
This makes dealing with people so much easier. I would way rather make the mistake of being overly friendly then have people not like me because they think I’m cold, unapproachable, or rude. If people aren’t receptive to friendliness people there is something broken in them and it just feels good to be open to others.
Behind the Biz takes a deep dive behind the scenes with business owners and entrepreneurs.
Don’t miss my other Behind the Biz features with Sugar Paper Los Angeles, Margaret Elizabeth Jewelry, Plum Pretty Sugar, Hattie Sparks, Cape Nanny, Elizabeth Mollen of Stone Textile Studio, Abbe of Studio Ten 25, Mandy of Waiting on Martha, Karin of Crane & Canopy, Lee Kleinhelter of Pieces, Emily of Elva Fields, Rochelle of The Shirt, handbag designer Blair of Blair Ritchey, and Jess Levin of Carats & Cake.
Tweet along with me at #behindthebiz and @megbiram.