Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in beauty and cosmetics but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Natalie Contrera, Makeup Artist, based in Philadelphia, PA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am a commercial hair and makeup artist. My customers are production companies and photographers (although I still take on private clients for events). I love commercial work because I like the entire process. I love watching something that we see later on come to life. I went to film school and, funny enough, also launched a digital marketing company in 2021. I see commercial, e-commerce, and beauty photography in a different light than the average makeup artist. I come on set with many hats.
Readers should want to support my business because I'm an open book. I'm constantly writing chapters as I go through life. I'm giving as much as I'm receiving. I'm always willing to share. I don't believe in competition. I talk about that often. Competition is irrelevant. There will always be something out there for you if you rely on your integrity, hard work, and reputation.
Tell us about yourself
Wow, this is going to be long-winded. Lol. I was obsessed with Mac Cosmetics when I was in high school. I think, maybe even in middle school. There was a man at the counter who was honestly amazing. I loved the way he did makeup, his outfits, and how he talked to me. It made me feel seen and heard.
I used to work at Mcdonald's, and I'd spend all my high school money there. I'm middle eastern, so my parents wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer. I ended up in college for film school. During Film School, I worked on short films. I then transitioned to cosmetology school and got my first job with Stila Cosmetics. The rest of the book has written itself with so many ebbs and flows.
Motivation is funny. Some days I'm motivated and inspired by my coffee in the morning. Some days are a lot harder, and I need strong pep talks. I suffer from anxiety and depression, so motivation constantly changes. I'm motivated by education. I love education, and I love teaching others. In fact, I was a National Education for Japonesque until the pandemic. I also would be lying if I said the money wasn't a motivator. Money is the key to doing all the other things we love in life…like buying more makeup.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Oh god, I don't know. I'm really hard on myself. As soon as I accomplish something, I'm like, "bet, what's next?" I've worked for huge brands, worked on large campaigns, had some recognizable clients, started a second business, and had viral videos. They all seem so important at the moment.
This may sound cheesy as fu*k, but the fact my parents root for me is an accomplishment. My mom is my plug. She'll be like, "ya, I told someone about your marketing business," or like, for instance, we went to Chanel one day, and the saleswoman was talking my ear off. She was low-key rude and treated me like a child. I'm 33, and this woman is like, "when do you graduate?"
Anyway, she sees me pick up the Chanel, blushes, and goes on an entire rampage about how great they are and how big makeup artists use them. I'm quiet. My mom goes, "she's a makeup artist herself." The woman goes, "oh, how cute! Do you do weddings and proms, or are you in a salon?" I said, "no, I primarily work in NYC on e-commerce and production gigs." It felt good. Like my inner child, Natalie, the 6-year-old Arab with really bushy eyebrows, stood up for herself. Shit is really powerful.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Everything. Remembering to be organized with my taxes. My accountant wants to kill me every year. I even have QuickBooks, and it's still a mess. Continuously pushing myself when it's only me to push. I don't work a 9-5, so I have to constantly work on promoting myself. I have to be my walking billboard on and offline. I have to win someone over on set to want to hire me again.
I need to make a client who never met me sit in my chair, trust me, love me, and love how they look. That's probably the hardest. Dealing with everyday people's insecurities.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Have money or an angel investor. An angel investor can be your current job that provides resources or education. Make sure you have multiple savings accounts. Put money away.
- My mentor, Crystal Wright, drilled in my head, "Save for a rainy season."
- Which was brilliant. It's not about one day; it's about the season.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Point blank: being your own boss can be exhausting and make you feel really lonely. I'm thankful for my digital marketing company; I have an amazing business partner. But, not everyone is blessed. Find your support and run with it.
Where can people find you and your business?
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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