Beauty might only be skin deep, but there’s a plethora of business opportunities just beneath the surface. Entrepreneur Jenny Patinkin recognized a market void in makeup education and founded Dollface Beauty School in Lincoln Park. By channeling her attention and energy into a field of personal interest, Jenny has built a business that puts its best face forward. Here, she explains how.
What motivated you to create Dollface Beauty School?
Jenny Patinkin: Dollface Beauty School evolved out of what I saw as a need for a pared down makeup experience for regular women who just want to get out the door looking and feeling great. Shopping for makeup can be confusing and overwhelming, and knowing how to put in on can be even more so. I started Dollface Beauty School so I could demystify the process and promote my “Lazy Perfection” mantra: If you understand your skin, learn about your features and stay true to yourself, the whole makeup process becomes much simpler and more rewarding.
How did you translate a personal passion into a viable business?
Jenny Patinkin: I have always loved makeup but after having been home with my kids for 11 years, I was anxious to get back into the workforce. Creating DBS was an ideal way for me to continue working with makeup while still having control over my schedule.
Where did you turn for advice on building a business? What was the most helpful?
Jenny Patinkin: I have to admit that I’ve really been winging it: following my instincts, taking risks, and kind of making it up as I go along. I’m so fortunate to have an amazing husband whose business insights are spot-on and who is unfailingly supportive, and I have a wonderful network of friends I can call on who have a tremendous collective business experience.
How did you lay the groundwork for starting your own company?
Jenny Patinkin: In 2008 I was vetting a totally different business concept, related to makeup but not actually applying it on other people myself. While I was putting together my business plan, I met a makeup artist who recognized my artistry skills and encouraged me to do professional training. I did an intensive course here in Chicago and then two weeks later got signed by Artists By Timothy Priano, which is a big international agency for makeup, hair and fashion stylists.
After doing several test shoots for them, I quickly realized that what really got me enthused was working with everyday women and being a beauty advocate for them. My Dollface business plan emerged from there with a focus on the "curriculum" I could offer. I came up with a core set of classes with fun, non-intimidating names and a don't-take-it-all-so-seriously approach and then hung out my shingle in the form of my web site. It caught fire pretty much immediately.
How important is social media in growing your business and attracting clients?
Jenny Patinkin: Most of my business comes from word-of-mouth or referrals, so social media have not been a significant part of my business growth so far. I’m intrigued by the marketing opportunities social media can create and the way in which it could help define my brand, but I’m not quite ready to go there yet. I use it now as a way to push out product reviews, opinions and insights and technical tips mostly to people who already use or know of my services.
What were the specific challenges you had to overcome in creating DBS?
Jenny Patinkin: The biggest challenge in creating DBS has been more about what I can't do vs. what I can. I'm still a mom and my kids still take priority in my life, so I have had to turn down a lot of jobs for wedding and/or event makeup because it's conflicted with my kids' needs. The wedding market is huge, and I missed out on having that avenue as a way to build more name recognition in Chicago. But it was a conscious decision in the best interest of my family and I don't have any real regrets.
What are your long-term goals for Dollface?
Jenny Patinkin: I have many long-term goals for DBS! After a year in development, I am about to launch my own line of makeup brushes. I’ve just begun work on a book about makeup that’s framed in a very unique and practical way. I’d love to see Dollface turn into a storefront brand -- a combination event and education space -- where women can come to learn and experiment in a safe, non-threatening, no-pressure environment.
If you could do it all over, what would you have done differently?
Jenny Patinkin: At heart, I think I'm a frustrated beauty editor. I get such a thrill out of discovering new products, new lines and new techniques, so if I could go back 20 years and start my professional life all over again it would be on that side of the industry. In the more immediate past it probably would have been great for me to focus some of my time and energy on writing a blog and building industry contacts that way. I love having inside information or product previews that I can share with my clients, and they love feeling like they are "in the know." Now I am slowly but surely building a broader range of contacts.
By making a hobby into your job, has it changed the way you feel about it? Do you still find the same sense of enjoyment now that it’s also your occupation?
Jenny Patinkin: I have always been a makeup junkie and don’t see that ever changing! The biggest difference I find now is that when I talk to people socially, I turn off my professional eye so that I can really focus on them, and not be distracted by their makeup. But my biggest occupational hazard is feeling pressure to always look good -- my concealer and I have developed a very co-dependent relationship!
Rachel Gillman has an insatiable appetite for dining out and an obsession with the restaurant industry. She's also fascinated by entrepreneurs and enjoys uncovering the story behind building a business from scratch. You can follow her on Twitter @RachelGillman.