Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Akiyo Koyama, Owner of Akiyo Hair and Makeup, located in Brooklyn, NY, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I am a Japanese Hair & Makeup artist, and my business is on-location Makeup & Hair styling services for weddings, photo shoots, special events, or any occasion where my client needs to look their best. My specialty is flawless, camera-ready makeup and hair that enhances natural beauty and lasts all day.

I've been a Hair & Makeup artist for 20 years. I first worked for TV shows/ celebrities/ Advertising Campaigns for hair and makeup in Japan. After I moved to NYC, I started getting many inquiries for natural makeup from mostly Asian clients. As I started to establish my ethos, I started to also get inquiries from all kinds of beauties who want to feel like themselves, someone special and beautiful for their special occasion. I still do some production/fashion shoots, but my business just naturally grew into bridal or everyday women who want to feel beautiful, elevated best versions of themselves without the heavy makeup.

Tell us about yourself

I'm from Japan, and I graduated from Meiji University in Tokyo with a bachelor's degree in business; however, having a strong interest in makeup and hair styling. After graduating from Meiji, I enrolled at Make-up Designory in Los Angeles, CA. There, I completed the Makeup/Hair Master program. In 2002, I went back to Japan and started out as an assistant to some accomplished Hair&Makeup artists and also worked on and received my cosmetology license. I did a lot of production/media work like TV shows, campaigns, editorials, fashion, and celebrities in Japan. After a decade of experience, I relocated to NY in 2014 to explore more options, and now, I'm based in Brooklyn.

I always loved doing hair and makeup when I was a teenager. It just gave me more confidence and was a statement of me being myself. I was interested in being Hair & Makeup artist when I was in high school, but I never felt like I was artistic enough to become one, so instead, I went to Meiji in Tokyo because I had admission based on the recommendation that was not easy to get. I had a great experience during my university time; I traveled to other countries and learned a lot from people I would encounter both when I traveled and those who attended my school.

Having met other people living their ways inspired me so much, so I decided to pursue my dream to become Hair & Makeup artist and live in another country. I decided to pursue my dreams after I graduated from University and enrolled at Make-up Designory in Los Angeles. Now I get to help other people feel beautiful and confident, not only by their outside appearance. When people are comfortable or have confidence about how they look, their inside beauty will also shine thru. That positiveness brings more happiness. So many clients have messaged me or left me beautiful, long, detailed reviews saying how much they loved their look or how perfect it was, which really makes me happy and keeps me motivated! I also love surfing and snowboarding. I make time to go surfing a couple of times a week, and Surf trips or Snowboard trips for the vacation that really refreshes and recharges me. Being in nature always inspires and motivates me! So I believe Hair & Makeup brings great energy to make people happy, and I'm grateful that this is my job.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment is having a hair and makeup team in New York, one of the premier cities in the world, helping other people to feel more confident and happy. I'm from Nagano, Japan. Where I grew up is the countryside surrounded by mountains. I was a girl who was dreaming about living in Tokyo. That dream came true, and in Tokyo, I established a Hair & Makeup agency, "," in 2014 for media production. Now I'm based in Brooklyn, NY, where I have established Akiyo Hair and Makeup. It was a dream I followed without any sense of where I might end up. Currently, my weekends are almost booked out with weddings. After moving to NY, I met a loving man, who eventually became my husband, and I am able to pursue my Akiyo Hair and Makeup Business in NYC. My life is beautiful and full of love.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

A lot of admin stuff!

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Never stop exploring, and always keep a fresh mind. I have 20 years of experience, but I still find new and innovative techniques and skills. When I see new and exciting answers to questions I might have, I take some classes from those who inspire me and learn new skills and techniques that might or might not have practical uses in the field. It is like having tools in the toolbox. Always stay curious and always keep your mind fresh. It doesn't have to be classes but could be inspired by nature, other people, and new places. Learning and seeing anything new can be inspiring!
  2. Be humble and have compassion and listen to what clients really want.
    It is not personal artwork, but actually, it is a collaboration between the client and myself. I have been blessed to meet many new and wonderful clients who trust me and my experience to understand what their target is for our relationship. Listening to others as well as listening to myself has been a challenge that has let me grow to make a success of my business.
  3. Keep doing what you love. When I started my career, I could never think I'd hire people to work for me, much less work in this industry. In the beginning, it was a struggle. I doubted myself and my decisions. I used to think, am I wasting my degree from a university? I've also questioned if I am not artist enough to be in a creative job, that maybe I should switch my career to a more structured job using my university degree. But those doubts and questions creep up, especially in the beginning. Instead, I kept going and never gave up on my dreams. Today, I made it to Tokyo, and now, I am making it to NY!

Where can people find you and your business?

Wedding Wire:
The Knot:

If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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