Small Business Interview: Tiwa Lawrence, Makeup Artist
Meet Tiwa Lawrence! Tiwa is a makeup artist (www.TiwaLawrence.com) who is based in North Carolina that considers herself to be the bride's makeup artist. Her brides hire her to create a precise bridal makeup look that they have envisioned their entire lives. Her work has been featured in magazines, such as Essence and numerous other bride publications. With a background working for MAC Cosmetics and a degree in Accounting, she has the tools it takes to both be talented at what she does, while also running a successful business. We all have a lot to learn from Tiwa. Enjoy!
"Your purpose will be the “WHY” to keep you going on the days when your passion doesn’t carry you"
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services / products do you offer?
My name is Tiwa Lawrence and I consider myself to be The Bride's Makeup Artist. My brides hire me to create a precise bridal makeup look they have envisioned their entire lives. I offer luxury makeup services for my brides. I would describe my brides as discerning as well as trusting. I am blessed to work ladies who I call have coined as #DreamBrides.
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
I have always been into skincare…and makeup was a natural progression as I got older. I loved how with makeup there are no rules. I also loved the temporary nature of makeup. While I was learning, if I did not like a look, I could just wipe it off and start again…no pressure. In 2005, I was approached to do makeup for a bride at my church. I thank God for her, because she trusted me at a time when I didn’t really know what I was doing. After that, I started doing makeup for more and more brides.
When I was planning my wedding a few years later, while looking for a makeup artist, I fell in love again with the idea of makeup as an art and as a career. I was passionate about all things beauty related at the time so I gave myself one year to master my craft and before that year was up, I knew I had made the right decision because of how things just aligned. I was able to land a job at MAC cosmetics and I worked with the company for years…all the while working a full-time job.
I quit my job recently and it feels so good to give my business the full attention it needs. In just these few months, the growth of my business has been significant. It has opened up doors I would have never dreamed. Shifting the time I was spending at my full-time job, into my own personal goals and business has been truly satisfying.
Do you have any special training?
I have received extensive training with makeup mentors and some amazing makeup brands. While I worked at MAC Cosmetics, I became a Certified MAC Makeup Artist. I also have a background in Accounting (BS in Accounting with Financial Analysis Concentration), which has been great for managing my business and thinking about the financial implications from a more analytical standpoint.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
Wow… I have to think about this one. I have had a few events that have really shaped my ideas about relative accomplishments as a business owner. Being able to profit doing what I love and the fact that I have worked with so many amazing women has been a dream in and of itself.
Every Bride or person who has trusted me to do their makeup and to be part of their special day (since I did my first wedding in 2005) has been an accomplishment. My goal is to be the Best Bridal Makeup Artist to the Amazing Brides I work with. What I love love love the most about what I do is meeting brides from different walks of life and hearing their stories. It makes each experience a unique one.
My first year (which I talked about earlier) of taking makeup artistry seriously, my work was published in Essence Magazine. That was a big accomplishment for me at the time, because it was a physical manifestation of the goal I gave myself that year, to see if my path as a Makeup Artist was feasible.
More recently, some other accomplishments have been having one of my favorite brides’ wedding featured in Brides® Magazine and working with brides who chose me to share their special day with them, while providing my services at their destination weddings. That has been an amazing journey.
How soon after you started did you start seeing profits? Or when do you project to begin earning a profit?
Within 2 years of my business being open, I started seeing profits. However, that type of profit would not have allowed me to leave my full-time job. Many years into my business, my business is now earning profits that have allowed me to make the decision to work on my business full-time.
How did you decide how to price your services? How did you determine what your services were worth?
In my case, it was simple at first. I worked for MAC Cosmetics for years… so I used my experience in retail as a starting point in my very early days. I quickly realized that in order to sustain a thriving business, I would have to increase my prices. I realized I needed consistent work and a price point that was aligned with the type of personalized services I provided. I started with figuring out what I thought an hour of my life (in my passion) was worth. Once I determined the amount, I was able to assign that amount to the different services I provide my clients. I have found with my pricing, I am able to work with my ideal clients.
What mistake(s), if any, have you made with your business? What have some of your biggest challenges been? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?
Mistakes??? What are those? Lol. But seriously, I have made many mistakes with my business. In the beginning, I would offer my services at discounted rates or for free to friends, acquaintances, and family. I quickly found out that some people who received my services for free or at a discounted rate did not value my services. It made sense because they were not my ideal clients. Those who paid for my skills were more appreciative of my services and understood the true value that I provided.
Not knowing how to let go was another mistake. In the beginning, I found it difficult to let go of clients who were not a good fit for my business, because my natural instinct is to help everyone. Once I was able to figure out and narrow down who my ideal client is, it made it easier to turn down clients who I knew would not be a good fit for the type of services I provide.
Last but not least, making sure I am present at all times… time flies by so fast and I don’t want to get to “a destination,” only to realize I forgot how I arrived. Working on tracking my processes and progress also falls into this category. If I had tracked my processes initially, I wouldn’t have had to spend time explaining it to others how I arrived at an answer. Also, with tracking my progress now, I am able to see where I have come from.
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful small business?
In my opinion, the most important elements are:
1) Commitment to your decision to run a successful business (don’t give up)
3) Faith in God
5) Passion pushed by your purpose for your business goals. Your purpose will be the “WHY” to keep you going on the days when your passion doesn’t carry you. It will help to keep you committed and consistent with your business goals.
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
If you are still reading to my words, if you have an idea for a business, PLEASE START YOUR BUSINESS TODAY…Pleaseeeee!! Today…Please! Just start!! Don’t think about it any longer. Don’t over-analyze your idea! Don’t ask anyone for their approval. Don’t question yourself any longer. Just start! If you are like most people you have done your research, you know what your end goal is, so over-analyzing and over thinking your business ideas is only going to lead to regrets. Just jump in… it doesn’t have to be perfect at first, but you will have a head start and you can always improve and figure out things as you go. Test the market with your idea and see if your business is sustainable. Once you have done that, you really have no excuse not to give it a good ‘ol try. From my life experiences, I have found that if I had started on some of the ideas that I had years ago, I would be further along today with those ideas. Time waits for no one. I usually give myself a year to see real progress with larger goals, like starting a business. It is a long enough time to see real progress but short enough that you can always go back to your old life if you think nothing positive came from your efforts. Chances are if you give 150% to your new venture, you will succeed.
For more practical advice, visualize where you would like to be a year from now in your business in a year from now and work backwards from now. This blog, Clever Girl Finance, is such a great resource for new business owners. Take in as much information as you can about starting your business. Decide on the legal entity you would like your business to function under…then implement. Take business classes at your local small business centers. Use Google to find out when the classes are held. There are free classes to help with taxes, legal questions, accounting software, marketing and much more. Just think outside the box.
Do not be scared of entrepreneurship. Not letting your fears lead you on this journey will be the best thing you can do to keep yourself on target. I would like to encourage anyone reading this to pursue their passions, leading with purpose in mind. Owning a small business can seem like a daunting task, but as I am realizing my dreams, and I am loving every step of the way!
Responsiveness to your clients or potential clients should be a big part of your business model and it says a lot about your brand. I have had brides tell me that they booked me because I was the first to respond or because I was so responsive to their needs, questions, and concerns. I remember reaching out to a very popular artist years ago about a class and she sent me a detailed response within 15 minutes. It really made an impact on me. I thought to myself that if someone as busy as her could get back to me so quickly, there is no excuse for anyone to wait 3 days to respond to a simple email. If you are unable to respond fully, explain your situation and let the person know you will get back to them as soon as you can.
Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
Separation of finances is key. You have to keep everything separate. Open up a bank account that is dedicated to your business expenses. Having a small business, it's easy to intertwine one's income, since you tend to invest your personal funds into the business initially. I set up a different bank account, which I use for all business-related expenses. Also, make sure you track all your expenses, revenue/income and the time spent on business-related activities. You might be surprised how much you are actually spending, compared to how much you are bringing into your business. It will be a clear way to figure out what changes you have to make in your business and how to be more efficient with how you spend your time and money.
How do you balance work and life owning a small business?
I am not sure there is such a thing as balance when it comes to running a small business. I will say, knowing when to let go of control and perfection will lead to a more balanced life. You cannot be on top of everything at all times, it is impossible. Figure out the top 3 things in your business and the top 3 things in your personal life that matter to you the most and put 100% into those things. If not, you will drive yourself crazy trying to find perfection and balance in your life.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, I see my business and brand expanding, including increasing my reach as an educator, working and collaborating with other brands, having a successful business with a thriving team and expanding to other cities.
Please share a fun fact about yourself
I definitely make up words and I am a dancing queen.
How can readers find you?
I am based in North Carolina but I travel worldwide to provide bridal makeup services. For more about Bridal Makeup Services, Bridal Business and Makeup Education and to follow my work, please visit my website at www.TiwaLawarence.com. I can also be reached via email: [email protected]
Thank you so much for such an amazing interview Tiwa!