I had done a science degree at Melbourne Uni but I knew that the science world wasn’t for me. I also did a Diploma of Business & Marketing because I was always interested in the idea of having my own business – I didn’t know what type of business but I had that drive. At that stage I just wanted to make some money and so I worked in various roles within the fashion industry, but I knew there was something more waiting for me.
Makeup started as a hobby. An artistic side runs through my family. My grandpa in Italy was an artist, he painted murals. My two brothers are graphic designers, my father paints houses and I paint faces! I wanted to learn how to wear makeup so when I was 22 I did an eight week course with Napoleon, and I loved it so much that I quit my job at the time and joined the Napoleon team. Whilst working at Napoleon I had become really good friends with Andrea, who is now my business partner. We had the same drive and the same ambition. We’d catch up for coffee and write our business plan and throw ideas around. While I was organising my wedding – we just celebrated our five year anniversary – my husband and I went to New York and I was so inspired that I decided I wanted to be my own boss and have the flexibility that comes with that. When we got home I told him that I was going to quit my job and he was supportive from the very beginning. He runs his own very successful business and he believed in me. We set aside some funds to get my business started – which I earned back within the first year. Andrea and I opened up a studio in my home and decked it out with Napoleon products so we had a retail side to the business. We both knew we could make it work, and we did.
The foundation of Makeup With Me was bridal. We established a clientele and offered them redeemable makeovers. Marketing was our focus, on-selling products to our clients. We then started doing nails – we went to Expos and became nail technicians, learning how to do shellac which was becoming huge at the time. I don’t really love the nail side of the business but we wanted to offer the whole package and women love having their nails done. Being made up is a luxury, and turning that into a business was our goal.
We’ve now worked with over 2000 brides and we work all over Melbourne from the Yarra Valley to Sorrento to Torquay. We’ll drive anywhere for our brides and we look after everything and offer them structure from the first point of contact, which they love. We always get back to any enquiries within a short space of time, with a really reasonable price and a plan, and it works. Andrea and I work separately so we can maximise our time and the number of brides we can work with, however if we have two large weddings in one day we’ll do them together to ensure we’re on time. In peak times, like November, we can do five weddings in a day. It is exhausting, but it’s fun. We thrive during our busy periods, from October to April.
From the beginning we focused on our marketing strategies, and we worked with some great bloggers and personalities, and created an online seasonal magazine with a cover image and lots of great offers. Our audience loved what we were doing. Gradually we saw that our target market was slightly older – 30 plus – so we focused our attention on that age group. At that stage we had outgrown our home studio, so we opened a shop in Carnegie and it was an amazing fit out. We got two hairdressers on board, and five makeup artists including Andrea and I. We had such a great team, and we were always evolving.
We had the studio for two years and we built up our clientele with spray tans, nails and makeup – and we were still on the road doing the bridal makeup. Then we realised that what we were doing had taken us off track from what Makeup With Me was about, so we really needed to take the business back to where it all began. While the studio was amazing, it also came with a lot of overheads and expenses and while we were making a really good income our goal was to love what we do and have a flexible lifestyle, rather than being caught up in feeding something that wasn’t our passion. With 99% of small businesses failing in their first year, when we made it to year two we really felt that we had created something special, and now in year five we have maintained the level of business we need. There is so much competition in this industry, but it’s our planning and professionalism that has been our success.
And then I decided I wanted to have a baby, and everything changed. We had a difficult time and had to do IVF, so 2013 was a really big year. I fell pregnant with our daughter Milana, so in February 2014 Andrea and I decided to close the studio and go back to working freelance, focusing on our bridal work. Milana was born in May 2014, and I worked up to about four weeks before she was born. I was so sick during my pregnancy, and was hospitalised a few times, but I was so committed to my brides and was always there for them. We also decided to relaunch the brand with a new website and we changed our branding to black and white from what was pink, black and white. We really focused on the bridal industry with a photographic format, and I love the simplicity and elegance of what we have created.
When Milana was born I was scared about what would happen to the business, but Andrea took everything on board and looked after the admin side of the business for the first few months until I got my feet back on the ground with a new born. Whilst Andrea doesn’t have a family yet, she understood the demands, and when her time comes I will be there for her. I worked with my first bride eight weeks after Milana was born and got back into life and I wanted to be as normal as possible. I have met a lot of mums over the years who felt the need to tell me that life stops and turns to crap after having a child, but I just don’t think that’s true. I’m a driven person, not an over achiever but a quiet achiever – and it seemed so natural to go back to work as soon as I felt strong enough. Of course I get tired, but Milana slept for 12 hours a night from the time she was two weeks old, so I was also very lucky.
I have clients who come to my home every Thursday, and every single Saturday I work with my brides. We juggle requests from 20 to 30 brides a week, so during the week there is a lot of administration to take care of. There’s a lot of emailing, quotes, trials and follow up – and there’s so much organisation behind the scenes. There are a large number of makeup artists out there, people who have done an eight week course and think they’re ready to take on clients, but it took us a good few years to be ready and confident. Standing out amongst all the competition is the only way to succeed.
Combining motherhood and running my own business of course has its challenges, I love both so much but I had to step back from the business a bit. Milana is my number one priority but Makeup With Me is always in the back of my mind. The business is our future, and Andrea and I meet each week and we are so focused on continuing our success. We just put another makeup artist on board, which is no small thing and we are so excited about it, because we have to find the right DNA for our business in terms of work ethic, responsibility, loyalty and respect. In this industry some people want to steal your clients or they can damage the brand. We are clear about the direction we are heading and our five year plan is for Andrea and me to run Makeup With Me behind the scenes and have our staff look after our brides. While the brides we work with do want Andrea or me, if we train our staff in all of the facets that are important, our brides will trust them too.
Doing a Diploma of Business was so vital to our success. It was the most motivating course I have ever done, especially learning about marketing and doing a business plan. I loved the course so much that I turned from being a quiet achiever to being a high achiever with high distinctions for my work. I knew what I wanted to do and I understood that the education I was receiving would help me get there. If it wasn’t for what I learnt I wouldn’t be where I am.
I really believe that if you want to start your own business you have to have a sound knowledge of how to run a business. You can’t just jump in and think an idea’s going to work. You might know what you want to sell but you have to understand how to market your product or service and who your target audience is. I believe you need a plan.
Makeup With Me is a Melbourne-based mobile makeup business with over 15yrs experience in makeup artistry for bridal, fashion, glamour, runways and photo shoots. Makeup With Me aims to bring a client’s vision to life, using only the best products on the market for long lasting, flawless results.
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Copy: Melanie Quirk Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios
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