Having your own skin care practice has its benefits—flexibility and an opportunity for a much better income, but is your head really in the game? It takes more than a cute space to get clients in the door. Kim Trent, licensed esthetician, spa owner, and creator of The Solo Esthetician, a private Facebook group, shares her advice and resources on starting and keeping your skin care business.
Kim Trent is the owner of Skincare by Kimbella spa and boutique in Atlanta, Georgia, and the creator of The Solo Esthetician Facebook Group. The Solo Esthetician is open to licensed estheticians only. If you are a student esthetician, check out the So You Want to Be an Esthetician Facebook Group.
00:00 Tracy Donley: You are listening to ASCP Esty Talk, where we share insider tips, industry resources and education for aestheticians at every stage of the journey. Let's talk 'cause ASCP knows, it's all about you. Hi guys, and welcome to ASCP Esty Talk. I am your host, Tracy Donley, Executive Director of Associated Skin Care Professionals where as always, I hope to inspire you with insights and soundbites from entrepreneurs, influencers and experts inside and outside the professional skin care industry. And today, we are joined by Kim Bella, and she is the creator of "The Solo Esthetician." This is a Facebook group, and if you guys haven't checked it out yet, you better get out from under that rock 'cause it is amazing. She is also a licensed aesthetician and owns Skincare by Kimbella. So welcome to the show.
01:00 Kim Bella: Thank you. Thank you. I'm glad to be here, of course. [chuckle]
01:05 TD: Well, it has been a while. I know that we've been chatting and time is flying so fast during COVID-19. I feel like when did we first talk? Like two months, three months ago?
01:17 KB: Two, yeah. I mean it's about to be September. I'm like, I turned around and I'm like, "Wow, okay, we're here though."
01:23 TD: You know that we're gonna be getting out like Christmas trees and stuff, soon. It's crazy.
01:28 KB: Bringing out the pumpkins, yeah. [chuckle]
01:30 TD: I know. I know. Did you see... I saw the other day that pumpkin spice lattes are out, so...
01:35 KB: Oh they are?
01:37 TD: Yeah. All the pumpkins spiced up. It's out, so here we go Kim. [chuckle]
01:42 KB: Okay.
01:43 TD: You're not gonna believe this, but Kim has also been a ASCP member for how long?
01:50 KB: Since 2005.
01:52 TD: Oh my goodness. So she's been with us since the very beginning people. So she's seen it all, all the versions.
01:57 KB: The very beginning. [chuckle]
02:00 TD: Yes.
02:01 KB: From start, from the beginning.
02:03 TD: I know, I love it. Okay, so let's just jump into it. First, tell us a little bit about your background. What led you into aesthetics?
02:12 KB: Well, I started out in this industry as a manicurist. And I owned and operated a small nail salon with a modest staff of about... I wanna say about six employees. And so it was called Uptown Nail salon, and then I sold that and decided to pick up and move to Atlanta. So once I came to Atlanta, I started working for a spa, a well-known spa here, and I just met a few different friends in the industry. And I always had a love for skin, but it was just my passion with cam and nails, and so I says, "Well, you have to be licensed to do skin," so went to school, got that under my belt. Here in Georgia it requires 1000 or so hours.
03:02 TD: Yeah. It's a big one. Yes.
03:04 KB: Yeah, yeah. So I attended school at Atlanta School of Massage. I truly, truly loved it. It was the best decision I could have ever made.
03:17 TD: So you graduated from school and now were you an older student or a younger student?
03:23 KB: I was an older student.
03:25 TD: Okay, okay.
03:26 KB: Yes, that's fine. That's fine. That's okay, yeah. But that's why it was definitely a... It was a challenge, but that's me. And it was like, "Let's go and do this." I don't think I've ever aced tests the way I aced them in esthetics school.
03:42 TD: Did you feel at that point, were you equipped to go right out there and be your own boss? I mean you had owned a nail salon before and ran a successful company, which had even... Had employees. So were you ready to do that right out of the gate?
03:57 KB: No. No. Not at all. So like I said, I was still working for a spa and I just... I stayed there, and I really didn't go... I went into esthetics maybe six months after graduating there, and I ended up staying for 13 years.
04:12 TD: Wow, okay. So you liked it. You got comfy.
04:16 KB: Yeah, so it was 13 years that I was there. It just was that time. It was just time for me to just go out on my own, and so I prepped and planned and prepared for everything. And it took me about a year or so to get everything together, and then I just made my move and went out on my own. And so I've been on my own since 2013.
04:42 TD: No, and I can't remember. So it is just your space or do you rent out some space to another esthetician too?
04:48 KB: No. I work alone. Totally alone.
04:50 TD: Just you.
04:51 KB: Yeah, I have office space that I...
04:54 TD: I know I saw your space. It was so cute. I love it.
04:56 KB: Oh, thank you. Thank you. Yeah, so it's just me. I work by appointment only and referrals, and I must say, I mean, I enjoy every bit of it. I really do. I mean this COVID has put a damping on things, but other than that, I truly love it.
05:16 TD: So let's talk about that a little bit, just your clients. So you're appointment only. And, do you have regular... A few questions for you. Do you have regular office hours where your clients know that that's when you're there or... And I know COVID has changed things too about that, but... And were you able to take some of your clients that you had when you were working at that other spa? How did you build that business?
05:39 KB: Yes. Okay, so yes, I built the clientele over the years, and so most of my clientele did come with me. And then I also work by referrals so that's how I was able to gain new clients and more clients, it was from having the clients refer people to me, and I don't take walk-ins. So it's all by word of mouth.
06:06 TD: I love it.
06:07 KB: Yeah. So that's how that works. And I do... I work... Actually, believe it or not, I work seven days a week.
06:14 TD: Oh my gosh, you do?
06:16 KB: Yes. I do.
06:18 TD: That's amazing.
06:18 KB: Yeah, and... But the thing is, it's not like... I'm not putting in eight hours a day. Some days I'm there four hours. Some days I'm six. There have been days when it's been an hour, [chuckle] you know?
06:33 TD: Yeah.
06:33 KB: So that's why I'm able to work like that. Now if I need to take off, I will, but this is my life.
06:41 TD: So talk to me a little bit to... Have you built your business? It sounds like definitely your service and your treatment speak for themselves, especially if a lot of it comes from referrals. But what are some of the other ways that you have built your business?
06:58 KB: I advertise. I'm a die-hard social media fan.
07:04 TD: You are? Go you.
07:05 KB: Yes. Yeah, it's all about Instagram for me. It's just... That's where I also do get a lot of biz. I mean, I damn everybody's like, "Hit me up," and they're like, "Oh, you do this. I see you do that. Oh, I like that facial. I like how her skin looks." And so I will say that. Others besides the referrals, Instagram has really worked in that area for me.
07:31 TD: So what advice... So I know I've talked to some, you know, maybe older estheticians like myself, older ladies.
07:39 KB: Okay. Be nice. Be nice [chuckle]
07:40 TD: Those of us who are getting up to the 50-year mark. What advice do you give to them? When they say, "I know my kids. They're all on the Instagram and Facebook. How do I even get started? Like, where do I start? What do I do? Should I get on it?"
08:00 KB: Yes. You have to. I mean, that's where it's at. And you just have to be committed to making sure you stay relevant and getting your information out there and posting and showing pictures of your services and things like that. Instagram at first, it definitely was intimidating at first, but I just jumped in there. And I'm not gonna say that I'm an expert, but I'm steady.
08:33 TD: Well, this is a nice segue into talking a little bit about The Solo Esthetician. So why did you create that? And tell everybody a little bit about it.
08:44 KB: Yeah. So The Solo Esthetician was born when I decided to go solo. And so I got to thinking like there's a lot of people out here like me. And there's really nothing for us. We're solo. We're alone in the treatment room, nine times out of 10. You don't have that other person there to turn to, at work, and where you can ask that question or talk about the new line of products and what you may or may not be able to mix with this or do that. You're by yourself. And so it just came to me. It was like The Solo Esthetician. And so I started that group, not with the hopes of much, just thinking it would just be a place where people like myself would be able to just come together again and just share, vent, learn, teach, whatever it might be, just a place for the solo esthetician. And before I knew it, it just took off. And so now we're about 20,000 members now. And it's... The group is two years old, because...
09:57 TD: That's so crazy that it's only two years old at 20,000 members.
10:01 KB: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. At 20,000 members. And so it was really always... It was always something that was written down. I had the name, I knew what it was gonna be, and then I finally just decided. I just hit the click button on the Facebook for the group and started it, and it just kinda... It just went from there. And it blows my mind to this day every time I look at it. I'm just like... Because not only is it just 20,000, but it's 20,000 engaging members, you know?
10:28 TD: Wow.
10:29 KB: And they're from all over. And so it's just a place... I call it the Esty hang out, kind of. It's just where we can all come...
10:37 TD: I love that.
10:38 KB: Yeah. You can just... Like I said, just come together and share ideas and learn something new, maybe.
10:46 TD: I literally almost... This was like a month... A couple of months... Three months ago I suppose. One of my team members came to... We were chatting and they said, "Hey, you've got to check out The Solo Esthetician on Facebook." And I said, "What? What is this?" And I literally almost fell off my chair. I was like... I started looking at it. I was reading the comments and the posts and everything. I said, "This is crazy. This is exactly aligned with everything that Associated Skin Care Professionals is, right?" 'Cause we are all about the independent esthetician.
11:21 KB: And wait, and what about the pink and black? [laughter]
11:23 TD: Oh my gosh. And then that was crazy. You guys listen to this, just a side note. So Kim and I jump on this call, and we're looking at websites. And I look at her website, and I'm like, "This is... " It is literally the same pink, the same black, everything that our ASCP site has been re-branded to. That was like three years ago. And I'm like, "This is just... This is crazy. People are gonna think we were part of each other." They are.
11:52 KB: Right! When I went on and I was like, "Look, this beautiful." I was like I could not believe this. I was like, "It's the same exact pink and... " I mean the same exact theme.
12:00 TD: It's the same. Yes.
12:03 TD: It was crazy.
12:04 KB: Crazy guys. Yeah.
12:06 TD: Well I'm just so excited because... I think that just to your point, to underline that some more. When you go out and you just make that decision to be an independent or solo esthetician and you rent that suite and you make that commitment, financial commitment, that tenure commitment, tenure commitment, it's scary. 'Cause like you said, you don't have that person, in the back room that you're like, "Hey, you know what? So-and-so just came in and they have eczema or so-and-so, you know, or "Hey, I don't know what to do, I think I need to get some kind of insurance for such and such, or does anyone know a good form for COVID, for treatment intake forms?"
12:51 KB: Yeah.
12:52 TD: I mean, like if you don't have that person, what do you do?
12:56 KB: Exactly. What do you do? And I will say about 99% of the questions that even come in or the posts that are made in the group, it's... Everything is, where do I get this? Where do I find that? What line should I do this? How... This happened while I was in the treatment room. Has this ever happened to you? It's...
13:15 TD: Yeah.
13:16 KB: Yeah.
13:17 TD: Yeah, and so it's like you've got this virtual colleague. There is that nice feeling of being like, "Hey... " I can say, "Hey, this happened in the treatment room." And be real honest and not feel super judged or... You're with a group of friends who wanna help you. Hey guys, stop. Let's take a quick break.
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14:28 TD: Let's get back to the conversation. What advice would you share with maybe any of those listeners out there who are saying, "Okay, I'm working for someone, I'm an employee, I feel comfortable in my craft, I feel comfortable in my education and doing the services that I perform, but I'm thinking I wanna make some more money, I wanna make a really nice livable wage. And so I think I wanna go out on my own and start my own business." What's some advice you would give them?
14:57 KB: Well, I will say that's one of the great benefits of being solo is that you're able... It does allow you to create unlimited income for yourself, and so I just try to tell the person... Some people just think, "Oh, I just wanna go open up a place and I just wanna get all the pretty things, and I want the pretty room and I want the mirrors and I want the sparkle and the glitz and all that."
15:29 TD: They just want to decorate?
15:29 KB: Yeah, yeah they just... Exactly, and no clients. And so I just say, do your homework, be diligent about that, know your market, know where you're going, know who you're going after, so that you know how to target the market that you're after. Some people think... I know of a certain individual, and she just went in and signed this lease for this huge space inside of a shopping center. And this is coming right out of school. But she asked me for advice, so I was just honest with her.
16:06 TD: Good for you. Yeah.
16:09 KB: Yeah, and I just was like, unless, you know something I don't, kudos to do, but I don't know if I would have made this step and she's not even in business anymore. And so I just try to tell people, Just start off slow. Start small and build. See my... The whole thing is I never... I wanted something that was just comfortable enough for me to be able to focus on my craft and growing my business, I didn't wanna have to have the worry of the overhead and just knowing that I have to make rent, I didn't wanna... That's not what I wanted.
16:44 TD: You don't wanna work for making rent.
16:46 KB: Right, no...
16:48 TD: Yeah, so smart.
16:48 KB: Yeah you can't... Yeah, you can't do that. And so I think when you start there and you take that approach, again, it allows you to focus on the business and the client, which is most important.
17:03 TD: So now that I just dug in deep and I picked your brain... [chuckle]
17:08 KB: What's next?
17:09 TD: Now we can have some fun. Okay, So first things first, my favorite is, I'm always asking our esthetician this question, What is your morning routine? So your skin care routine and just putting your feet on the floor, like your alarm goes off and then give us details, what is your routine in the morning?
17:27 KB: Oh, now, this is too funny.
17:29 TD: It tells so much about people... And you have to be honest, okay.
17:34 KB: Okay, okay. I'm gonna be honest. I'm gonna be honest. So I start my morning, I do... First of all, skin care morning and night for me. So when I wake up in the morning, I get up, and I have a cup of coffee. After my cup of coffee, then I head into the bathroom, and then that's when I pull out the... I'm a double cleansing girl, so I'll start off with...
18:00 TD: Oh, you're a double cleanser, I like it.
18:00 KB: Yes I am.
18:01 TD: Even though you do it evening, you do double cleanse in the morning?
18:05 KB: Yes, I still... Yeah. In the morning, I still do, I double cleanse and then I'll follow with the water-based cleanser after that, and then it's just really protection for me, I use the old... Some days I alternate, I'll wear a vitamin C serum, and then I'll put a...
18:22 TD: Oh, Vitamin C.
18:22 KB: Yeah.
18:22 TD: Oh I love it.
18:23 KB: And then I make sure I put a protection on, and then in the evenings for me, it's more about treatment, so I categorize it that way, evening is...
18:32 TD: I like that.
18:33 KB: Evening is treatment. Daytime regiments are protection. So really not... Oh, and I'm a toner girl I have to have my toner so after...
18:41 TD: Oh, you're a toner girl, what kind of... What's the toner base... What's the base of your toner?
18:46 KB: It's a cucumber toner...
18:47 TD: Okay.
18:48 KB: That I cannot live without, but they're so... I just... I love toners. There are so many out there that I love...
18:56 TD: So are you a spritzer or do you put it on a cotton pad and wipe?
19:00 KB: No, I actually like to spray some in my hand and then I just kinda...
19:05 TD: Blot it in.
19:05 KB: Go over and just blot it in and yeah, I just rub it in and... Yeah, and I tone in between each day.
19:13 TD: Oh, wow, okay. Well that sounds fresh I like it. Especially if it's cucumber.
19:18 KB: Yes, and that's what I do and then I'm good to go. I'm good to go. In the evenings, I wear a hyaluronic and then I wear a cream on top of that.
19:32 TD: Okay.
19:33 KB: So that's my... Hyaluronic I can't go without it. I love hyaluronic.
19:38 TD: Oh, couldn't you just go through bottles and bottles so fast? I just actually turned on my 23-year-old son to it just recently too. He's like...
19:49 KB: He loves it.
19:51 TD: He loves it. He's all about it. Yeah. Tell us a resource. It could be a book. It could be a podcast. It could be a blog. It could be a Netflix movie. It could be anything. It could be personal or professional, something that you just are a huge fan of that our audience definitely needs to check out.
20:12 KB: There's a podcast, I wanna say it's Bff.
20:17 TD: Oh, Beauty Biz Bffs?
20:20 KB: Oh, I just love them.
20:20 TD: Aren't they hilarious? [chuckle] I love them.
20:23 KB: I came across them and then I invited them to come on into the group and speak to the members, and they just loved them. They're just so honest and just on point about everything. I just can't get enough of them. [chuckle]
20:40 TD: I know. They're partners, one of our partners just like the Solo Esthetician is and I love them. We met up with them about two years ago, and I finally, right before all this shutdown happened I went out to LA to meet with them in person. And they're just so... They're so sweet and they also too, did you catch our Readers Choice Awards? They co-MC'd it with us. Did you see that?
21:09 KB: No. Did they?
21:10 TD: Yeah.
21:11 KB: No.
21:11 TD: Yeah, so I think they're gonna co-MC it with us next year too but then hopefully that'll be a live thing, like actually in Las Vegas at the IECSC show. So hopefully we can all be in-person again someday. [chuckle]
21:27 KB: Yeah, some day. Oh okay. Okay, I didn't know that. And then I will say, along with ASCP, you guys are phenomenal. I mean really. Like I said, I've been with you guys since 2005. You have it all.
21:47 TD: Well we're trying. We try. We're trying, yeah.
21:51 KB: It's the truth. You do. It's the first step. I tell everybody, "Okay, so once you decide this is what you want, this is the first step you need to do. You need to get on here. You need to become a member, get your insurance. This is the first step in business. First line of business, you have to start here."
22:07 TD: You are so sweet. Thank you.
22:08 KB: Yeah, and I mean it, and I'm not just saying that because I'm here. Because like I said I've been a member since...
22:12 TD: No, I didn't even meet you until a few months ago and you've been a member forever.
22:18 KB: Exactly. Exactly. So yes it would be the ASCP, in my opinion, and the Beauty Biz Bffs. Those are mine.
22:27 TD: Those are good ones 'cause I totally agree with you.
22:33 TD: Well Kim just tell us a little bit where people can find you. So tell us about the Facebook groups, about your business if they wanna reach out to you, if they wanna follow you on Instagram. Give us some of your details.
22:48 KB: Sure. Okay, so if you're a licensed member, check out the group The Solo Esthetician. You will have to answer a few questions and provide documentation on that you're licensed and then you will be granted permission inside the group. And then we also have a sister group called So You Want to Become an Esthetician.
23:07 TD: Oh that's right. I love this.
23:10 KB: Yeah. So that's a great group too. That was started just not too long ago, but it's on its way. There's a lot of members in that group, so it's definitely growing.
23:18 TD: And who should check that out? Who's the perfect member to check that one out? Like students or anyone?
23:24 KB: Yes anybody. Yeah anybody who's thinking about going into esthetics. Yeah, that's the place for you, and it's called So You Want to Become an Esthetician.
23:33 TD: Say it one more time.
23:34 KB: So You Want to Become an Esthetician.
23:38 TD: Perfect. And you guys, we are gonna have all this in the show notes too.
23:42 KB: And then for my personal Skincare by Kimbella is called, my Instagram is bookkimbella.
23:51 TD: Perfect. Book.
23:51 KB: B-O-O-K. Yeah.
23:55 TD: Perfect. Well, it has been a pleasure. I could sit and just chat with you forever, and I am super excited for the day where I pop down to Atlanta which I go to at least once a year and come see you.
24:09 KB: I know. As soon as we get through all of this, that would be so nice.
24:13 TD: I love it.
24:14 KB: And it was nice chatting with you guys.
24:16 TD: Yes, thank you so much and everybody, I'm telling you, you're missing out if you do not go check out The Solo Esthetician, and So You Think Want to Be an Esthetician. That's a great place to start.
24:27 KB: There you go. There you go. Alright.
24:29 TD: Alright, have a good one. Thanks so much.
24:31 KB: You do the same. Bye.
24:35 TD: Thanks for joining us today. If you like what you hear and you want more, subscribe. If you wanna belong to the only all-inclusive association for estheticians that includes professional liability insurance, education, industry insights, and an opportunity to spotlight your sick skills, join at ascpskincare.com. Only 259 per year for all this goodness. ASCP knows it's all about you.