For some, the dream of going solo and starting a skin care business never becomes a reality due to fear, uncertainty, or self-doubt—and the added pressure of making the business successful doesn’t help. But fear can be a great motivator, and when channeled correctly, it may indeed result in a successful business. In this episode of ASCP Esty Talk, Maggie and Ella discuss going solo and what it takes to start the business of your dreams.
ASCP Esty Talk with Maggie Staszcuk and Ella Cressman
Produced by Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP) for licensed estheticians, ASCP Esty Talk is a weekly podcast hosted by Maggie Staszcuk and Ella Cressman. We see your passion, innovation, and hard work and are here to support you by providing a platform for networking, advocacy, camaraderie, and education. We aim to inspire you to ask the right questions, find your motivation, and give you the courage to have the professional skin care career you desire.
About Ella Cressman:
Ella Cressman is a licensed esthetician, certified organic formulator, business owner, and absolute ingredient junkie! As an educator, she enjoys empowering other estheticians and industry professionals to understand skin care from an ingredient standpoint rather than a product-specific view.
She has spent many hours researching ingredients, understanding how and where they are sourced, as well as phytochemistry, histological access, and complementary compounds for intentional skin benefits. In addition to running a skin care practice, Cressman founded a comprehensive consulting group, the HHP Collective, and has consulted for several skin care lines, including several successful CBD brands.
Connect with Ella Cressman:
About Maggie Staszcuk:
Maggie has been a licensed esthetician since 2006 and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stephens College. She has worked in the spa and med-spa industry, and served as an esthetics instructor and a director of education for one of the largest schools in Colorado before coming to ASCP as the Advanced Modality Specialist.
Connect with Maggie:
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About Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP):
Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP) is the nation’s largest association for skin care professionals and your ONLY all-inclusive source for professional liability insurance, education, community, and career support. For estheticians at every stage of the journey, ASCP is your essential partner. Get in touch with us today if you have any questions or would like to join and become an ASCP member.
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0:00:00.7 Speaker 1: You are listening to ASCP Esty Talk, where we share insider tips, industry resources and education for estheticians at every stage of the journey. Let's talk cause ASCP knows it's all about you.
0:00:16.4 Speaker 2: Hello and welcome to ASCP Esty Talk. I'm your co-host, Maggie Staszcuk. I am ASCP's advanced modality specialist and education specialist. And joining me is co-host Ella Cressman, licensed esthetician, certified organic formulator, ingredient junkie and content contributor for Associated Skin Care Professionals. We've talked a lot on Esty Talk about going solo, starting the business of your dreams and how to market yourself. But for some, the dream never becomes a reality out of fear, uncertainty, or self-doubt. In a recent survey, one-third of Americans are more afraid to start their own business than to jump out of a plane, and new business creation is down 65% since 1980.
0:00:58.6 Speaker 3: I'm scared to do both. [laughter]
0:01:01.0 S2: I'm with you, Ella, for real. You've been in business for yourself for quite some time, how did you know it was time for you to go solo?
0:01:10.7 S3: I came out swinging. [chuckle] I came out of esthetic school and went solo because I was in an industry, I just felt like that's what I wanted to do. I'm an entrepreneur at heart, I've found, but I knew I didn't wanna work for anyone, I didn't think so. And also an opportunity presented itself, it was almost the perfect storm. So an opportunity presented itself for me to work in a salon, renting a room. And so that was quite an adjustment where I had this cushy job that I got paid, period, frequently, regularly and they had benefits. You know, I had a 401k had health insurance. I had stability, in other words. And from that I went to paying to work somewhere, and that was an adjustment that I don't know that I completely understood. [laughter] I didn't evaluate it completely, and I found it was shocking right before the economic crash of 2008. So I started my business, and then there was all this external turmoil. And so it created an environment, again, another opportunity for me to learn how to thrive in those kind of conditions. So I'm grateful for all of my experiences that way. If I had to do it all over again, I'm happy to share what I would do different.
0:02:31.2 S2: I hear a lot of estheticians, or I should say recent grads and students, where they're doing what you did, they come straight out of school and go into business for themselves. And I really admire that because for me, my greatest fear is I don't have clients, I don't have pay. So how do you just go into business for yourself, put up the sign and thrive?
0:02:46.9 S3: I think you jump. I think you have to understand you have to set realistic expectations. And I think in today's climate, it's a little different in that it was before social media, so you have a different reach, a different audience, a different marketing opportunity than when I started. My marketing opportunity was I was renting a room in a salon, so there was an audience, a potential audience. So I think getting creative with who that audience is, that target audience and not spending... Understanding where you might wanna spend your money, some of the things that I've done is these neighborhood magazines, direct mailers, who've tried everything. My brother and my dad owned a construction company and they actually paid one of their employees to go door to door and put my flyer on people's door in the rich neighborhoods thinking that that meant, "Oh, you're rich. You must want a facial." [laughter] But that wasn't the case. What I found is, no matter your economic status, you wanted corrective skin care, you wanted to fix something. And so, "Ooh got that. [laughter] I can do that." So it's really my area of focus, whether the fixing your eye brows, fixing pigmentation, acne or... That's where I focused.
0:03:57.0 S2: Yeah, so there's a lot of thoughts coming to mind here. First is one about the flyers, not just in all of these podcasts and blogs and articles that we do, but even just having been in school, you always hear, "Don't do flyers." How do you confirm that you're actually getting positive result from that? Number one. And you said that was before social media. So we've also talked about, should you do social media? Do you need to update that Instagram page regularly? And so coming into this new age of social media, how important is that to really build your business. And I think going out hunting for that job and the employer saying, "We wanna see the estheticians before and after pictures, it's like before and after what of this facial." Right?
0:04:47.1 S3: Right, yeah.
0:04:47.2 S2: Yeah, and that's... Both of those things are two dichotomies that are kind of crazy for me.
0:04:51.8 S3: Yeah, I think what I would not do is flyers [laughter] because... And if you do decide to do something, whatever you do, put a specific discount on there or a specific call, like a free lip gloss or an eyebrow wax that goes in this category, so that you understand where your clients are viewing or asking how did you hear about us. I got zero people from that fruitless... I would call it fruitless effort. Now, I've also ran Facebook ads and I've had zero people, but I have Facebook exposure, whether it's people seeing what I'm doing and then some other people reaching out. "My friend X Jane comes to you, and so she thought I should follow you." Okay, great. So my success has really been built on the word of mouth. And so what that means now is that word of mouth include social media, whether I like it or not. [laughter] So there is some kind of activity on social media to understand is this a good fit. Are you the esthetician for me. I think is different, and it also depends on the age group too.
0:05:57.2 S3: I think younger clientele, which was different, before we were serving a population that was 35 years and older, that was the demographic that needed facials or the perception of this socio-economic level. You're either rich or you're old, and that's when you get a facial, but now it's like normal. Skin care is normal, getting treatments is normal.
0:06:20.2 S2: It's mainstream.
0:06:20.2 S3: It's self-care.
0:06:20.7 S2: Yeah.
0:06:21.6 S3: It's part of your must-haves. And so those clients are younger, are seeking out on social media. So defining your... And there's millions of... There's, A, millions of faces in the United States, in your city alone. There's a face for everyone. So a matter of finding the right clientele is the other key part. I will mention, when starting a business, owning a business, is when I first started I'm like, "Yes, I will do you, and you, and you, and you." And what I've come to realize, and it happened again yesterday, and too differently and I'm like, "I don't think this client is a good fit for me. She's a referral, so I'm gonna take it in." And sure enough, it wasn't the right fit. It wasn't the right client. So not just getting clients, taking them. Go ahead for the volume, but then really refining what you do and understanding where you put your effort is what's going to be returned.
0:07:12.3 S2: Yeah. That really resonates with me because when I was practicing, I had a mentor who always would say... And she was very, very successful as an esthetician. She would always say, "I am not the best esthetician, but I love my clients. And that's what counts. And there is plenty to go around. There's no need to be competitive." And I think that is so true, especially today where esthetics is so popular, you easily could find an esthetician on every block. It doesn't matter, because there are clients for everyone. And so you don't really have to have this fear of setting up-shop and not being successful and finding a client base, because there is a client that's a perfect match for you.
0:07:55.4 S3: Yes, and then they'll tell their friends.
0:07:56.7 S2: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
0:07:58.6 S3: In my shop, it's in this little shopette and two doors down is another esthetician. And she had reached out, like "Do you know any spaces for rent?" I go, "Yeah. Two doors down from me." She says, "You won't feel that's competition?" I said, "No, it's a complementation."
0:08:12.5 S2: Yeah.
0:08:12.8 S3: "'Cause it will compliment because I can refer my clientele to you." My overflow or those not... Those ones that don't fit me very well, but she does services I don't do. And I can hope that you'll return the favor but if not, at least there's somebody right next door. And I do. I refer her eyelash clientele. I refer her those ones who want a 90-minute facial, 'cause it's not what I do. And she's great. And then people really like her. But not everyone's gonna like both of us. [chuckle]
0:08:44.0 S2: Yeah, oh entirely. And I think that's another point too in building your business, is defining your niche.
0:08:50.6 S3: Yes.
0:08:50.7 S2: And knowing what you're good at, rather than trying to be good at everything.
0:08:55.7 S3: That is something I did wrong in the beginning. Do you know that shirt that says, "I'd wax that." That was my mantra. I'd wax that. I'd peel that. I'd microderm that. I'll tint that. I'll spray tan that. Anything in the esthetics world, until permanent make-up and micro-blading got really a lot more popular, and I was like, "Should I?" And then I'm like, "Whoa, girl, hold on. What do you really want to do?" Because I would see a eyelash tint on my schedule for the day and I would shiver with disgusting anticipation. I hate eyelash tints. I hate them. They're messy. I look like a cheetah when I'm done. Can I do it? Yeah. Do I do 'em well? Of course. But I hate them. This is making me miserable. I don't wanna be miserable in a place that's supposed to bring joy. I took it off my menu. I hate half leg waxes. I hate arm waxes. I'm taking that off of my menu. Because the clientele that is seeking those out is not the clientele for me. So, I really refined it. I do still do brows. It's not on my menu or online. But the rest of it is just skin. Just skin.
0:10:02.5 S2: Yeah, that's your thing. And you do it well and your business thrives for it.
0:10:05.6 S3: And my business is thriving. I sell a ton of retail because I'm focusing on what I really want to do. And I am complementing other estheticians by sending them those people, lifting... Everybody's boat rises, right?
0:10:19.1 S2: Yeah. Oh, totally. What would you say to that person who says, "I've always wanted to start my own business, but I have fear in doing so."
0:10:26.8 S3: Everybody has fear in doing so. That's good. That's healthy. If you don't have a fear, then you should be scared. [laughter] If you are fearless, then you have a problem. Yes, you're scared. That fear is healthy. That fear is normal. And that fear breeds... That fear gives you a choice to succumb and to sit in a corner and rock back and forth, or to thrive and overcome. And so, setting yourself up for those, you're gonna have challenges. There's going to be challenges. And you're gonna win some and you're gonna lose some. And just understand that. And have that be part of your... Have that be part of what is gonna happen, your expectations. You gotta set up your own expectations of what a business is. A business is not a Monday through Friday, 8:00 to 5:00. Having a business, starting a business is a lot of initial work. And then there comes a point where you can back off. Understanding that and knowing that is key. Setting expectations, knowing that you're going... There are going to be failures. And how to triumph or how to come out of those is a victory, just like a sporting, you know, team sports. You're gonna win some, you're gonna lose some. But you can still win the championship.
0:11:37.8 S2: Setting those attainable goals and going with your eyes wide open.
0:11:41.0 S3: Setting attainable goals, but also resetting it, like having flexible attainable goals and evaluating. Well, another thing that I did wrong is I stuck my head in the sand concerning... And I have a business degree. I did not look at my books for a long time to know exactly where I was to pivot switch. I was just like, "I don't wanna know right now. I'm just gonna keep on keeping on." And that was because I couldn't handle to... I told you I was coming from stability. I couldn't handle the visual evidence of instability. So, I just didn't. But at least you're going to be in the red for a little bit. There's other people who are profitable within a year. That's not normal. That's okay. You'll still find a way to make things work. Another thing that I will say is delegate. I think that's something that we don't do enough of, that I waited too long to do. So, delegate those tasks. Social media, and we talked about social media, for example, if social media is not your bag, which it is not mine, find someone. It's money well spent. That is worth it. And it's a write-off because it's part of your services. Then delegate it.
0:12:47.9 S3: If it's cleaning your shop, delegate it. If it is answering your phones, having a live person to talk to and reach out to clients, I have a... I'm very aware of that now as a business owner. So my physical therapist has somebody that she pays part-time to make rescheduling of calls or confirmation calls. Do that 'cause you're not gonna have the time. Take your laundry to a laundry service. I drop it off, it feels great. I say, "Hi, how you doing," and I love them. But delegate some of those services because those are tedious and those are exhausting. And that's one thing that you don't want to do. The other thing is, I see a lot of people like, "Anyone wanna share a room? I wanna start out, but I'm really scared until I get more clients I want a half of a day on Mondays. Anyone wanna share the other? Can I get 13 more people to split the rest of the rent?" Which is fine when you're starting out, but don't be afraid to expand. So set those benchmarks that you know. I would suggest no less in three days a week, full days, and have a one late night and one earlier day and one weekend day. So setting at least three days and then expanding from that.
0:14:00.2 S3: It makes sense to go part-time and to work for someone else until you build your clientele, but make sure that you have room to build your clientele. Another thing that I find interesting is they... A lot of people say, "Oh, you... Just go work for a chain and then do yours part-time." You've seen that. And that translates to, "Suck them dry for everything that they have and then go do your own thing." So I think understanding that if you're going to do that, if you're gonna work for someone and have your own practice, you're saying, "I'm gonna learn everything I can from you and then I'm gonna take it and I'm gonna be... " And it's hard to say competition, 'cause we just said that there's no such thing, but then I'm gonna take that from you. And a lot of times that translates to taking clientele. So I would seriously consider that, and if that is your plan, being respectful on the exit plan and not using someone else's business to build your future clientele. You know what I mean?
0:14:53.0 S2: Yeah, and that's not the same as what we're saying when we say there's no competition. The girl who's two doors down from you is not competition because you guys have different business plans. But if you're going to that franchise and then telling all of your clients that they are marketing and building the business for, "Come follow me," that is a competition issue and a conflict of interest.
0:15:19.6 S3: I would say business ethics.
0:15:22.1 S2: Yeah. Yeah.
0:15:23.3 S3: Unethical. When you're in business for yourself, it's a different relationship with your clientele than when you're, say, working for a large chain or a corporate 'cause you're bound... That's one thing I'm grateful, that I am a solo esthetician for... Having trained a lot of corporate franchises or whatnot, you have protocols, protocols that you stick to, and that includes, "This is how we do a facial, and these are the products you can use on this facial." And then when you're on your own, you get to customize. You get to really work in a lot of different kind of way, and that freedom of expression and that freedom of professional... I don't even know the right word, but that freedom of professional, that fluidity, but whatever. Fill in the blank. Yeah, it gives you enthusiasm and sparks passion, and that passion is felt by the person on your table and that encourages product sales. [chuckle] So it's really a good thing. Another thing to think about, do not skimp on retail.
0:16:21.8 S3: I think that's something that people who start businesses don't... They're like, "I did this a lot when I was a product rep." They're like, "Oh, I just need enough to be able to perform facials." And I'm like, "No, no, no, if you're going out on your own, you need enough to sell them home care, because that's where you make passive income." When I turned 40, just a couple of years ago, I went to Portugal for a couple of weeks and I walked the Camino. It was fabulous. But it was my 40th birthday, so I offered a discount to my clients and had a receptionist at the time. I was in Portugal earning money, because I had all my clients used to buying retail and then I had this sale going on. And so that passive income, while I'm walking the Camino, having a blast, I'm still making money.
0:17:03.4 S3: And so that's something that you don't hear enough about, you don't put enough emphasis on, enough consideration, but please consider adding retail, whatever that depth is. I used to go par three, like I'd have three of certain select products, and then I would add. And now my shelfs are about eight to 12 deep because I don't wanna place an order every week, which is what I was doing. But you can start out slow and just replenishing. Don't dropship because there's a disconnect with your clients. Have it available immediately that day when they are wanting, when they're at the end of their appointment. I think those are some key things.
0:17:40.9 S2: That's a really interesting comment about dropship, because I think especially during 2020 and COVID, dropship became so big. A lot of manufacturers who didn't offer it before started offering it, and people were doing things like virtual consultations or whatever they could to make money when they couldn't see that client in person, and then would start drop shipping products, and I think it's just continued on. But you make a really interesting point that you're losing that connection with the client. And so something to consider if you are in business for yourself or even if you aren't, that now that you can go back to seeing your clients, maybe pull back from that, start bringing them into the treatment room again and have that consultation or revisit again, re-assess the products that you're retailing, maybe it's time to change it up and add to the regimen.
0:18:31.6 S3: Yep. Seasonal switch up. No, I think that's brilliant. That's a really great way to keep them back in for treatment, but also to update that. And it's a pain in the butt to go to the post office. Don't me wrong. But if you are the one doing that, you're the one writing the personal note. I added Hershey's Kisses or something in there that was for my... My business colors are green and orange, and so I would have Orange Salt Water Taffy, and you know, that's what... People walk in, that's what it is. So those are all part of those little branding experiences that if I dropship, they're losing the connection, because the other thing that happened is a lot of these companies are going straight to consumer. Even though they're charging a little bit more, there's an opportunity for your clients to go right to that dot, dot, dot, dot com and order from them because, "Oh, it's easy, I can't get in a hold of her or him." So if they have that connection with you and you keep them on that seasonal switch up, then they were gonna be like, "Wait, is this the right product for me still should I still be using this?" If you impress that, then it also impresses this long-term loyalty.
0:19:36.8 S2: So for these estheticians who are going solo and thinking about starting their own business, and maybe this is something you did or something you don't suggest... I hear about business plans, and I've read business plans, especially when I was that educator, we always had this assignment in school. It was dreaded. Do you take out that business loan and write into your business plan that you're gonna pay yourself a particular salary when you're initially starting that business and building your client base before you get to the point where you have a full book of clients and a steady income?
0:20:13.0 S3: Oh, that's a great question. I think if you're getting a business loan, that is awesome, because then you're sustaining. And if you're sustaining, you're able to put more energy and more focus into your business. And that would be the difference between part-time, like a toe in as a business owner versus jumping in as a business owner. That makes... Even though those are dreaded... I think the name of our project was like Le Facage or something, really French/Italian together. And our business plan was horribly written, which is probably why I didn't write one. [chuckle] I did everything wrong. But it all turned out great. I would definitely add a salary for one to two years. At least two years, actually.
0:20:54.8 S2: How long would you say it takes to build a client base?
0:20:58.2 S3: Ongoing, but I say a steady one, three years. I know that sounds super scary, but that's about the average.
0:21:06.1 S2: No, that's good. I would have said five years.
0:21:08.1 S3: I think it keeps going, you keep... It's always in flux because one will move away or one will get busy with the kids, and so you're constantly needing new fresh blood. You're needing the new clientele. You do need that referral, but you'll get to a point where, I don't know, some people are booked and they're done. But you'll get to a point where you aren't as thirsty, but I would say three years. For me it was a little bit longer 'cause I was towing in, pulling back. I ended up diversifying and adding different things, and they're all esthetics related, but it continues today.
0:21:48.7 S2: Now, listeners, we wanna hear from you. Are you thinking of going solo, starting your own business, achieving business success, but perhaps you have a little doubt and that's okay. Share with us your dreams and aspirations, or tell us your success story on social media, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or by emailing get connected at ascpskinare.com, we wanna hear from you. In the meantime, thank you for listening to ASCP Esty Talk. For more information on this episode or for ways to connect with Ella, myself or to learn more about ASCP, check out the show notes. Stay tuned for the next episode of ASCP Esty Talk.
0:22:26.2 S1: 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.Page Break