My name is Kemi and I am 23 years old. By day between the hours of 9 and 5pm, I am a HR Advisor for a really cool shoe brand, and outside of these hours I run 2 beauty businesses. I have a makeup artistry business where I do women’s makeup for all types of events; I have been doing this for around 5 years now. I also have a 2 year old beauty cosmetic brand called Kem Beauty where I sell my own brand high end beauty and skincare products to ladies that love to feel and look great.
Up until March 2018 I was MOSTLY self-employed – which came with its highs and lows but was an awesome experience. I was studying up until January 2018, when I completed my masters’ degree in International Business Management at the University of Kent. I graduated with a Distinction in November 2018. Being self-employed wasn’t really a choice, I have known since I was in secondary school that I wanted to have businesses of my own and work building my own brand. When I realised that I was good at makeup and decided to pursue it I almost fell into it as people would book me through word of mouth. Eventually I made an Instagram account and it did its own thing from then. For the next 4 years, I would travel from my uni town to bookings every Friday night for weekend bookings. This is how I survived in university and made money outside of student loan and I thank the heavens that it worked out that way. Because now that gives me access to a type of income I didn’t imagine or anticipate.
The second business – cosmetics, was a very conscious decision, I decided in late 2014 that I wanted to start a cosmetics line and worked on it from there. I initially wanted to start a cosmetics line because I love makeup and I couldn’t find an inclusive brand that I loved that had real pretty black-girl friendly lip glosses and highlighters in the shades I wanted. Mac was my go-to, but I was limited in the highlighter and lip gloss shade category. So, with that in mind; I sourced some labs and factories, planned what I was going to do, saved around £3000 and successfully launched in November 2016 with a sold-out launch party in an art gallery in Battersea. As my business has developed, my vision and ethos has developed also, Kem Beauty specialises in inclusive high quality beauty products for all women, all shades and skin types. We believe in real beauty, with and without makeup. The first year of business was amazing and the second was a real learning curve, both years have prepared me for this year. It’s very easy to romanticise the idea of being self-made, being an entrepreneur, self-employed or even a business owner. People often assume that what I do is easy, and it is very far from that, in fact some days it is the last thing I want to do. I have never been one to sell a dream so in accordance with the title of this blogpost, here are some losses have taken over the past few years, some lessons learned and some major keys I wished I had known earlier.
THE DOUBLE L’s: LOSSES AND LESSONS
- Manage your money effectively; Open a business savings account, separate your money and get an additional stream of income.
I have always been a see-it -do-it type of girl, things manage to work out for me regardless of how much effort I put in. I have never had a retail job for more than 2 months and I have had 2 retail jobs in my life. I say this, so that you can understand how much my makeup businesses were keeping me afloat whilst I was in full time education. My student loan was crap and it barely covered my university rent. The good thing is that I got a lot of client bookings, I also got an impressive number of orders when I launched the cosmetics business. The issue with getting a lot of money frequently is that you don’t always know how to manage money effectively, especially as a makeup artist where I can look at my calendar and see that I am booked out the forthcoming weekend, its easy to spend because you know you’ll make it back. That saying about getting fast money and blowing it even faster is very accurate. I took several losses because of inadequate money management and making bad business decisions. So, upon reflection I would urge business owners to:
- Open a business savings account and separate your money
This will separate your business money from all your other money, I have two accounts: one for each business so that I know exactly what I am working with and how much profit I have made, what’s mine and what’s the businesses etc. Its easy to spend the money you need to reinvest and that is such a bad move because you will find that you have to save all that money again and make the profit again- it’s a trap and a setback, no growth will occur if you keep doing this. The money is not yours- it’s the businesses, therefore my next point is:
- Get an additional stream of income.
If you can, try and get job. If you can’t commit to a full-time permanent job then explore your options with a part time job, or a contract/temp role. There are many good contracted and temp roles out there that give you contracts of 3-6 months at a time. They are low commitment in the sense that you know that you are there for a fixed term and you don’t have to accept a contract extension once you have fulfilled your time. The idea of having an additional stream of income is great because it guarantees that you have a solid income coming in monthly or weekly for YOU and your upkeep, this can alleviate the pressure on the business to make money for you survive because trust me there will be silent times in business and it can be extremely frustrating if you rely on your business or personal expenses. It also means that you have money to live off for yourself as opposed to living off the business – because as aforementioned- things can get messy really quickly if you don’t manage your finances correctly.
- Take care of yourself and take time out when necessary
Sometimes I would overwork myself to the point that I would burn out and lose interest in the artistry business for 2 months at a time. I didn’t understand the importance of self-care for business owners, in a setting where we literally serve our customers, its easy to forget self, especially when there is money to be made! So, it is important to check in on yourself so that you don’t because drained and undo all your hard work because of neglect.
I was super down at the beginning of 2018 which affected my cosmetics business for most of the year. I was sad from life, going through that post-graduation blues, and I was going through my ex relationship issues. This really affected me and my work outside of my 9-5. I was unmotivated and unbothered, it was a bittersweet feeling when people would email asking when I was putting products back on the site or when I would be taking bookings again. I knew I was not in the correct mental space to do so and I needed to get back on my feet. When I did come back it was better than ever, I had mostly sorted out all my issues and my creative juices were flowing.
- Dedicate a fixed amount of time frequently to grow the business – maintain and grow don’t stay stagnant.
Work on your business daily, this means that you will complete existing tasks quicker, and start new tasks quicker. Have a to-do list and a monthly plan for your business, have a financial plan, creative plan, marketing plan and if it applies, an inventory plan. Look at these daily so you know the next step to take. Try new things, business is about growing upwards as it is about maintaining. Looking at the plan once a week is not a serious mindset to approach your business with if you are serious about making things happen. To stay in your bag, you have to constantly remind yourself of what you are doing and why. The amount of money I made when I worked on my business daily, was significantly more than the amount I made when I worked on it once a week. An hour a day sets you so far ahead because that is 7 hours a week of work dedicated to your brand, if you can give 8 hours a day to your 9-5 then you can give 1 hour to your biz.
- Invest in your craft and business monthly.
I learnt this the hard way, and this lesson as further reiterated on a personal finance page I follow called @thepennypal. Have a list of things you need to do to improve and do one thing monthly. It is important to invest in your business and self monthly. For yourself you can read a book, take a mini course, book meetings with people in your field sector, meet up with friends in related industries, go to business events or talks, learn new things that can help your brand like design etc. I have always been a DIY person so I always learn new things on Adobe, I taught myself how to build my sites from scratch and edit videos etc.
For your brand have a list of things you want to do to improve it- there are always things to do. For me, quality packaging was always a priority and its didn’t happen until I invested in it, I had to sit down and design it, source accredited suppliers and liaise with them for two weeks before I was happy. It was such a relief getting it ticked off my checklist. I was comfortable without box packaging for 1.5 years before I prioritised it. It was always a want, but it didn’t come into fruition until I made a list and turned it into a need to take my biz to the next level. Invest in new products and designs if it applies, invest in photoshoots for content that you know you have been needing, invest in storage, invest in someone to help you with operations or social media, invest in a better online transaction service. Invest! All in all: this improves the customer experience which will in turn improve customer satisfaction and retention.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief insight into my journey as a business owner and can learn from some mistakes that I have made. 2019 is all about the bag if you want it to be! Stay growing and creating!