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Boss Ladies: Black women making it as entrepreneurs!

Updated: Sep 11, 2021

Ladies, welcome to part one of this four-part real-life series on Black women building empires. Each woman’s story comes from a different industry to inspire those in the game and aspire others to get started, Onyx YaYa’s presents: The Make-up Artist!

Behind the label Glam by Dutchess is this beautiful powerhouse, Wumni.

Wunmi has a degree in psychology but Masters in all things Make Up, yes you heard me correctly, this university graduate chose passion over qualifications. Enough of me, I will let her speak for herself:

Well, when I wake up every day the choices are mine, from what time I wake to how many clients I see, ultimately my ability to make money is within my control.

Don't get me wrong there are challenges, things I wish I knew earlier and things I know I would never do again, but hey, don't you feel that way too, only you’re taking on that stress and pressure for the benefit of someone else.

Make up, was my thing before I even knew it could be a business. I spent hours beautifying myself my friend's and their friends, yeah why not...making people happy seeing them transform and know their night out or photo shoot is on point because of me, my ability my talents it’s such a good feeling.

I have a natural confidence and self-belief but as my business has grown, so have these attributes in me. I like positive people, and so do others, so in my industry my personality works.

If I could go back, I would tell my younger self three things that would have got me off to a flying start:

1. Head ties, I wish I thought about headdress and what it would add to the made-up face.

2. Make up as art, there is so much more than meets the eyes lol!

3. Bookings- reservation system. Knowing where you’re going and that you have already been paid, is selfcare, time is precious.

Any of you sistas that are looking to this industry for a future, trust me, and listen to these three things. There are some areas of the trade that I have had to pay for until I built my skills up and learnt new things. Head wraps aaahhh these I would have someone come and do for my client's but then I had to pay them for what they did. Imagine you’re making money and losing it at the same time!

But do you know what I did, I learnt how to do them myself and now it's money that stays in my pocket, my business, and building towards my future.

Not having an effective booking system is like madness lol. I used to be everywhere getting nowhere. Traffic, clients requesting changes, and non or under payment is not for us. Learn from my own mistakes, get a system that works for you that is easy for your clients to use when booking paying requesting something more and early cancellations.

Another great lesson learned was knowing what you have and understanding how many different ways you can use it. Honestly, I could be without a single item of make-up say for instance a lip liner and because I didn't have it or know an alternative, I was stuck. My vision just would be blocked, and I would focus solely on what I did not have. But now, now I have made improvisation an art. There is no tool I cannot adapt to use for something else. The other thing is I use such great products that putting them on another area of the face has no adverse effects, so know your products, people are not experiments!

When I say people are not experiments, I mean it, there is definitely a need to learn and grow your skills and this will require some models, but be conscious, those with skin conditions you need to be careful of or maybe avoid in the beginning.

I am self-taught, I started on myself with products, colours, and techniques. My capabilities grew with the size of my make up bag, quickly, I had so much make-up. Everyone was telling me why not make some money, your so good why don’t you start a business and I thought, I can and so I did. I needed the word glam, for me it meant glamorous and getting glammed up BIG time, I am a Dutchess, regal like a queen. So that was it, I created @Glambyducthess.

Having a business grew my need to know more, I attended make-up masterclasses, yes, invest in yourself, invest in your business. Its not every dime that will go in your pocket, some will have to be spent to grow your ideas and business, while others will be wasted, because of your own actions. Funny story, I drove a long way to meet a client, this was a big shoot and as usual traffic was unnecessarily in my way. I arrived, I made it and was ready to get going when I realised, I had forgotten my brush set, nooooooo… What can you do without your whole brush set? For me I had to think fast and talk slowly, I quickly rang a cab to go collect the bag of brushes while I calmly and slowly talked with the client all about herself, her day, her life, her ideas. Distraction was a useful technique that allowed the brushes to arrive and the shoot to be fabulous! So, you see my industry is make-up, but my skills and capabilities are life.

This moment and others in my career have made me realise how much psychology and make-up have in common. We both sit people in chairs where we want them to see themselves transform and receive a positive uplifting experience that takes them go from tired to fantastic!

Make up done well enhances beauty, relaxes the client, builds self esteem, and shows them how Glam looks different but they are still themselves. Its great to hear and see reviews of your business.

When I hear people talk about @Glambydutchess I am reminded that I made the right choice by going into business for myself. It’s been such a positive experience and I am constantly looking for more and better ways to do things.

Now I am always with another person, either my personal assistant who goes everywhere with me, they follow my lead but also know how I like to get things done and so we are an effective team. Sometimes I have student make-up artists, they have done the education and are looking for work experience. These girls are ready, they know the order of things like what order products go on how the service is provided so they are a big help on shoot, and they bring their own creativity too. I am able to express myself well, I know what I want, and I am confident, so I encourage support and respect that in others. I feel so blessed to be able to offer them this experience because when you first start it can be tough. They may start work at 4am and get back home at 10 or 12 pm.

But this doesn’t deter many, my studio is not far from the uni I attended and so many people come to me either because they know me or have heard great things about me, and this keeps [us] in a steady pace of regular custom.

My customers want Glam, for a party that night or for a personal photo shoot like a birthday or for a more formal shoot for their career needs. Those photo shoots will often lead to creative collaborations. I collaborate with stylists, jewellery makers and sellers and hairdressers/makers. On these bigger shoots having an early understanding of what the client needs, is a must.

Some pre-booked clients will bring their own products for the Glam because they want to achieve a look that they can redo. We have a lot of home service clients where I go out to their homes, this is at an extra cost, but they want their convenience met as well as stunning photos. There will also be walk in clients who have a menu of looks to choose from on the day.

Me, I love looking beautiful and I love compliments and I think as women, we all do.

So, when my clients look in the mirror and they light up, they are happy, they are their normal selves but still they see themselves differently, this is powerful this is my why!

Your why, will stop the challenges you face bringing you down. Things like your prices, know your worth, don’t let people hustle you just to have clients. The difficulty in this industry is it is competitive, but this can also be a benefit. To minimise losses, plan your day around what you need to earn, then how many clients will get you to your goal and match locations, if possible have them come to you reducing transport costs and time lost between bookings.

If you are stuck in traffic or running late for any reason, call, call and call again, people like to feel valued and losing custom because of lateness does not look good. So, work on your chat and keep your clients on your side. Last challenge is when it comes to your products, learn how to improvise, like a said before knowing how to adapt will make your work easier and reduces the amount you have to carry to create an amazing look.

Sistas I cannot leave you without offering you some advice on starting your own business and mine is work with your passion, be consistent, work hard on your craft and stay calm, it takes time to build a business. Don’t be afraid to be unique and do things differently this is your business its an extension of you so be competitive by showing your individuality. Oh, and Pray!

Thank you for listening to my building up of @Glambydutchess, good luck!

OY: So Wumni who inspires you?

W: Oh, wow there are a few I could talk about, but from my beginning I was looking at @banksbmpro. She has shown me so many useful tips and ideas and she has her own make-up brand. I met her and I am not going to lie I was star struck! I would love to make her over myself, but only after I have my own make-up brand. I would be using my own products to Glam her profile and explaining how I created such luxurious products.

Wumni’s Tips -

Every woman needs these five basics:

1. Beauty blender

2. Brushes

3. Foundation

4. Eye liner

5. Lipstick

You can also find Glam by Dutchess on Facebook

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