June 30

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Passion for Make-up Turned into Hollywood Beauty Collective

By Mimi MacLean

June 30, 2020


Tara Dowburd Image 1
Make-up Therapy founder Tara Dowburd

Tara Dowburd, Founder of Make-up Therapy

The First Episode of the Badass CEO podcast is LIVE!

Tara Dowburd is the founder of Make-up Therapy, a luxury, on-location business that boasts an award-winning team of 18 high-level make-up artists and hairstylists. Tara and her team’s work has been flaunted down countless red carpets, viewed on numerous TV shows, and featured in dozens of magazines and beauty & fashion blogs. Based in Los Angeles, they are a preferred vendor for some of California’s finest venues & luxury properties.

Tara became an entrepreneur, turning her passion for make-up and fashion into a go-to Hollywood Beauty Collective, and she shares her lessons learned in this episode.

What does it take to become an entrepreneur?

Number 1, patience. It will take some time for your idea to take off. It took Tara two and a half years to be like, “okay, this is good.” Believe in yourself and know all the hard work is so worth it.

Not everything will always go your way. You need to be willing to fail and have the tenacity grind through the tough times.

Find your passion. In a perfect world, you are passionate and excited about the business you start. For Tara, doing people’s make-up was a hobby. She didn’t realize that it could become a career as a make-up artist and then lead to having her own company with a full team. You never know until you try. Make your passion happen.

Networking in a nutshell

Think about networking as making lasting, personal connections rather than just collecting as many business cards as possible. Try going into networking events to meet three people. Tara’s trick for remembering people is making tons of notes on her phone about something that stands out or something she has in common with them.

Building your team

Tara started her team with two make-up artists she had worked with for years before that she trusted. This piece is critical! The people you hire are a representation of you and your brand. Once you hire the right people, you need to step back as more of an observer, as Tara said. If you are too controlling, then people won’t have the opportunity to be creative. It’s also helpful to build a team with different skill sets. For example, Tara isn’t super tech-savvy, so it was a quality she looked for when hiring a studio manager.

Being your own boss

Making your own schedule is a blessing and a curse. It is on you to be accountable for finishing your work. Some people might assume you can get lunch in the middle of the day or happy hour at 5 pm because you are an entrepreneur. But the truth is, Tara said it perfectly, “When you are working for yourself, you have never worked harder.” Tara stays organized and on track by blocking out her schedule and focusing on one thing for a set amount of time. For example, I set a timer for 45 minutes and go through my emails, and then another for two hours to plan out my social media for the next two weeks. But don’t forget to give yourself breaks and don’t feel bad about taking them. Like everyone else, you need time for yourself. As a mom of 5, taking a walk is my favorite way to reset, get my steps in, and escape the noise for a bit.

Last two pieces of advice

Having a mentor to guide you as you start your own business can help you avoid mistakes is more valuable than you might think. Tara loves it when people reach out to her for advice. She kind of wishes she had a mentor, and even after 12 years of having her own business, Tara thinks there is still more she could learn. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone. You don’t have to do it alone to be a success.

Lastly, set boundaries with your clients in the beginning. If you answer questions at 9 pm on a Friday repeatedly, your clients will expect you to do so every time. Even though you are probably on your phone and email regularly, try to set business hours when people can expect to reach you. Your clients will understand, and you will be able to have more balance in your life by setting these boundaries.

xx, Mimi

Find Tara Dowburd and Make-up Therapy

 

Mimi:

Tara, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m really excited to talk about makeup therapy. Um, it sounds like you had a passion in makeup and fashion since you’ve been a little girl. So, um, obviously you’re going to go into that as your livelihood, but what made you decide to be an entrepreneur and start your own company?

Tara:

Um, I think to be honest, it probably started around like the age of six years old because my sister and I would play clothing store, like truly play clothing store and she would come in and she would shop my closet and she’s older than me and I, you know, I would show her clothes, and we would switch and then she would be the store owner. So I think I always just loved the idea of like having my own thing, and always knew it would definitely be beauty fashion industry. Just, I didn’t know the exact story was going to be.

Mimi:

Oh, that’s great. Right. So what do you think the most important characteristics at this point, like, to be an entrepreneur or to be a CEO, would you look for in a person.

Tara:

I think patience is probably number one. You really patient because to really build a great business, it doesn’t happen overnight. So patience is huge and tenacity. So even when things, you know, may not go your way, which will definitely happen. Um, no matter how long you’ve had your business, it just happens. And that’s just how it’s just like life, how that works. But being tenacious and sticking to it. And, um, I, in a perfect world, the business that you start is something that you’re passionate about and excited about. For me, fashion / beauty, it was like, it’s like, it was more of a hobby, especially doing makeup. That was a hobby. I didn’t really know. You can have a well-respected career being an actual makeup artist and then actually having a company where you can offer a team. I mean, this was all kind of just in my heart. I knew I could do it, but I didn’t know how it would be received. So being tenacious and people would say me all the time, I’m like, you’re such a cute little makeup artist. Like, no, no, no on the business, like correcting them. And like I said, in sticking with it, um, I would say, and you know, not afraid to take chances. You have to take a lot of chances. You have to be willing to fail. Um, and then take that, learn from it and pick yourself up and figure it out.

Mimi:

That’s awesome. That’s awesome. How long were you doing being a makeup artist before you switched? Like, to actually starting your own?

Tara:

So I’ve been a makeup artist over 20 years, about 23 years, I’ve been a makeup artist and my company, this March turned 12 years old. So the entire time I was working with brands and I worked with Bobby Brown and Shu Uemura for total of about 10 and a half years. And the whole time I freelanced on my own. So I always, because I took opportunities that would come in, whether it was for an award show, cause I did a lot of great fashion shows and a lot of really cool things with the brands. But someone would ask me to do say a cool photo shoot or a wedding, and I wanted to do it. So that I guess started me freelancing on my own was a little bit of, you know, obviously it is being an entrepreneur. And then I got to the point, I think, where I just didn’t want to turn down amazing opportunities to flex my creative muscles any longer. And I also recognize that I’m one person, so I can only do so much on my own. So when I started my company, I brought on me and two makeup artists that I’ve worked with for years that I trusted and you know, anyone bringing on the team, making sure the best representation of your brand and what you want to put out there that’s extension of you. Right. And so, um, my first year of just me and two artists, my second year, I added two hairstylists cause I realized that was a piece of the puzzle that really needed to happen. It’s just always figuring out how to meet the needs of your clients that are the moments where like, of course it is like almost common sense. I feel like we’re the most successful. We just don’t realize.

Mimi:

Right. That makes sense. But as you kept growing, how did you make sure that you were, um, brand or your look like, do you train new your new employees or how did you make sure they didn’t kind of do something different than what you want to see in a brand?

Tara:

As artists, as hairstylists, I don’t ever want to take away from someone’s creativity. So I feel like when a brand, if it’s too cookie cutter, you’re, you’re not really empowering your people, so you give them guidance. But I’m kind of an observer that’s the word I was looking for I’m an observer. So over the multiple years that I had been doing with the brands, I would be on bookings. And I would notice really amazing people, make little notes, make little notes. And so, as I wanted to grow my brand, I would ask, so I had my tried and true, right, the first two makeup artists, the first two hairstylists and then, um, few people on my own that I knew would want to reach out to. And then I would ask them, do they knowing how we are knowing our clientele, knowing our aesthetic, do they, and our personalities, do they know someone who’s great? And then I would meet with them and talk to them and really versus me just jumping in and telling them everything, I would really just listen about what they were about and their style and their aesthetic and the way they work and timing and all that. And when I listened to that, I didn’t have to tell them really what I was looking for. They were telling me not knowing not being schooled ahead of time. And so, and personality, cause what we do is so intimate, personalized that it was like, that was a huge part. So I’m always about meeting people in person. This is what was going on right now. A little different.

Mimi:

That’s super smart. Yeah. That’s really, that’s really interesting. Is there anything that you wish you knew before you started your business? Any big surprises?

Tara:

Where do I start? There have been so many, there have been so many, I mean they say it’s not worthwhile if it’s not a struggle, that’s what I’ve been told. I wish I would have had a mentor. I wish I would have had someone, I didn’t know. It’s never too late. I mean I’m 12 years in and I still feel like it would be nice sometimes to have a mentor cause I’ve been kind of winging it since day one. So I, I love when people reach out to me to ask me for help. I love being, I love to give advice and help because you know, maybe they could avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve made or the choices I’ve made, but then also they do need to make some of those bad choices and mistakes because that’s how you learn from it. It’s empowering. And it just makes you stronger in your boots to really be an expert in what you know. So I think maybe just one of the things I guess I do wish is that I just had a little bit of help. I wish I reached out because for some reason I was like, Nope, I got to do this myself. It’s tough love.

Mimi:

Now, has it been, has it been what you expected? Like, are you glad you did it and it’s been what you expected as far as like running your own company

Tara:

I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ll tell you… I remember the first couple of weeks. Um, once I left the brands and I was on my own, I remember it was a Monday and I pulled in I had to pick up my dry cleaning because whenever I work, you know I wear a lot of black. I’m even wearing black right now, but um, you know, you have to dry clean black because otherwise it fades easily. And I remember I was pulling into my dry cleaners. It was on a Monday, it was like 11:00 AM. And I sat in my car and I sobbed because I was like, who am I to have the luxury of picking up dry cleaning at 11:00 AM on a Monday. But then what I realized it was like, okay, but I had to check myself and say no. And that hardworking individual who is pounding the pavement 24/7, like, what we do is a luxury, but to have your own company on here, what kind of a company it is, you’ve never worked harder in your life. And so I had to get rid of that guilt that it was 11:00 AM picking up my dry cleaning on a Monday when I should have been at work. I’m like, okay. But then I’m working 12 hours in that day for my business. And I’m networking, I would go to like the three or four networking events every single week for almost two years where my accountant was like, stop sending money. You need to earn money.

Mimi:

That’s so true. That’s true. But everything takes twice as long and twice as much money, like building a business, like people go in and they’re like, Oh, it’s that? I’m like, Nope, it’s going to be twice as much and twice as like twice as much money, as I said, twice the amount of time. Right. That’s kind of my go to, yeah. So you, as you were saying that there’s always tough days, right. So what do you do on those tough days? Like, is there something you listen to? Is there a book you turn to, is there a person you call, is there a podcast? Like what, what gets you out of like kind of drops on your boots again and get out the door on those bad days?

Tara:

Number one, I would actually say I’m really grateful I learned really good coping skills. As a kid, I had enough trials and tribulations young that really genuinely taught me. If I get in those moments, like I sit with myself and get perspective, I think about the bigger picture. So it’s not, I mean, I definitely have those moments, but I do, I force myself to get perspective. Music for me is one of the best outlets ever. I don’t necessarily have a specific kind of music or just depends. Like I’ll literally go through like Pandora and I’ll be like, yes, this is it. And I’ll put it loud and I listen to it loud. And it really, um, it just, it, it brings me like a joy or a peace or whatever that mood is that I need to take me out of it. And I also go for a lot of runs and walks and whether it is a podcast or whether it is music or honestly, whether it’s just talking to a girlfriend who, especially it’s helpful when to have other entrepreneurs in your life, other female bosses, girl bosses because you’re, you’re that support is priceless. Um, even if they’re not in the same business, it’s just, we know what we’re going through, to have a businesses is to have a business. So talk that same language and, you know, again, help with perspective and stuff like that.

Mimi:

That’s totally true. That’s really true. So, I mean, as you were saying before running your own company is definitely totally time consuming. So how do you manage your work life balance? Like, do you set yourself like, okay, I’m only going to work from eight to seven and only on the weeks, or do you kind of just, is there any rhyme or reason to your day?

Tara:

That’s a really good question. So really, really good question. So the first years, cause you’re starting out, you’re like, I’ll do whatever, whenever I’m a new business, I got to get myself out there. Um, and then I realized it was like a Friday night at like 10 o’clock at night. And I got this email from a client asking me about like matchings of lipsticks and lip liners. And I was at my best friend’s birthday party. And I couldn’t answer the emails Friday night. We were out at a restaurant and I got a scathing email from the client the next morning. How could you not get back to me and honestly, and I’m not a big crier at all, I kind of cried and I, and I felt like kind of gutted because I care so much and I don’t like to let our clients down. And then I got perspective and thought, wait a second. It’s Friday night at 10:00 PM.

Mimi:

Yeah.

Tara:

So I can’t be expected to, but then I had this whole conversation with a friend of mine and he had said to me, but you, you have returned late emails in the past. So if you don’t set boundaries, you’re going to keep getting those emails. So I picked up the phone instead of emailing, I called a client, I explained to her, I said, you know, I was at a friend’s birthday. I said, I’m really sorry. I said, of course it was emergency. I would have gotten right back to you. And she’s like, but I basically gave her perspective and she, it totally shifted. She apologized, she was horrified with herself that she reacted that way. And it was really helpful because that taught me again, like me doing that and not having boundaries I learned from my mistakes. And so I absolutely have learned and I’m always learning, right. I mean, that’s just how it is to be human. We’re always learning. And we should always be learning and getting inspired and having those aha moments. And that was a big one for me and saying, okay, so going forward, whenever I speak to clients, the first time I would let them know 8:00 AM until about 6:30/7PM. You got me, you got my studio manager. She helps me because operationally I’m a working makeup artist as well as running the business. So I’m not just sitting on my computer or my phone hanging out, waiting for things I’m out there with clients taking care of them. And I’m never on my phone when I’m with a client. So just burning those boundaries and telling the clients. And when you tell them, they’re like, Oh, okay, thanks for letting me know. So I think that was a huge thing for me. And I just, I have someone in my life that helps ground me and be like, all right, let’s see, I’m a bit of a workaholic because I love what I do. He’ll be like, okay. You know? And so it’s, it’s really wonderful to like come back and keep the boundaries. So it’s really how I thought boundary was a bad word, but it’s actually a great word and positive word.

Mimi:

That’s great. And I love the fact that you love what you do and that’s because, so is that being a workaholic, right? Like when you do something that you love what you do, but you also have to do it in limited amount of time, otherwise it’s becomes unhealthy. So is there anything that you, any other like productive productivity hacks like that you could offer up? Like anything that you do during the day? You’re like, okay, I use this app. Like I just started using asana, which is like an app for my to do list that I do with my assistant. So like, is there anything else that you like, anything you do that makes your day faster, streamlines it that you found.

Tara:

Two things that I do. So I’m not the most tech savvy. I’m really not tech savvy at all. Let’s be honest. But try and surround yourself with people who, you know, maybe are stronger at things that you’re weaker at. So it helps, you know, collaboratively to be able to really do a great job. I will say the way I do my day, I actually try and do blocks. So that really helps the day stay on course. Three things I would say one is I do that. So I block out my time. I will say, from this time to this time, I’m doing emails from this time to this time I’m doing this from this time, even putting in like a walk for myself, I’ll be like, from this time, this time. So that way, if I actually schedule it, it gets done having that balance. And another thing using Planoly for when you’re doing Instagram posts, that helps quite a bit, because that way you don’t feel like you’re rushing to get a post done. You have it.

Mimi:

Are you doing it `once a week or once a month? How often do you do this finally?

Tara:

Um, it just varies to be honest with you, it depends on like what kind of month it is for me. I mean, in a perfect world would be great to do a month in advance that doesn’t really happen. So maybe it’s like biweekly sometimes it’s once a week. It just depends on how it goes. Especially like, cause typically me and a team of 18 makeup bars and hairstyles and a studio manager. And so typically, especially during this time of year, wedding season, the time is not mine. Right? So usually, I mean, it’s like, I’m lucky to sneak in, but if I put it in my calendar that block of time, then it gets done and then maybe I’m doing it, putting it in like once a week, a week ahead so that I can make sure that I’m being as proactive as I can be.

Mimi:

Right. That’s good. You have on your website and you have amazing press coverage that you’ve received. So do you have any advice as to how to get that for people who are starting out that are looking for press coverage, like you have.

Tara:

Press didn’t happen when I started out though. So press when you’re starting out. Um, if you align yourself with like a great PR company that helps, or if you know people in that industry for me to be really honest, um, I started ground up. It was just getting recognized or work, getting recognized. Um, we’ve done a lot of stuff for the bridal industry. We’ve done numerous magazine covers. That really came from, from someone seeing our work or meeting someone at an event. I think networking is the best way to go. So you can be not obnoxious and not in people’s faces and don’t hound people because nobody likes that, but if you’re at an event and you meet someone, but I’m all about the organic relationships. Cause I feel like when you push too hard. I don’t know. It’s just not my personality. I like things to be more organic. So I couldn’t even have more press, to be honest with you. I just, it’s not something I’ve ever really gone after. It’s just kind of meeting people and them recognizing our work, liking us and then asking us to be a part of a shoot or getting products, you know, information recommendations, things like that.

Mimi:

Yeah. No, that’s good. That’s good advice. So when I invest in companies, I look at two things. I look at the CEO like the management, which is covered, cause you were just like, I want to make sure they have grit and they’re going to like not give up. And then the second thing I look for is like their channels, like their customer distribution or how they get clients. So I think you get the best idea and if you don’t have those two things covered your idea is not going to take off. So, um, how any recommendations to decide, like, is it the networking? Like how did you get your clients?

Tara:

Because of what we do is a luxury we’re not in and we’re service out of product. I am such a huge, huge, huge believer on personal communication and relationships. And that is truly the word of mouth for us, for our business. Like when I, when I started out again, you have to do certain things just to try them out, see if they work. So I did like a bridal show, right? Where you set up a table and you were there and it was a luxury high end and vendors that you hear about in the press. But I realized for makeup and hair, they’re not hiring us there. They’re like, that’s not where they’re going to find us, but I had to do it in order to find out I’ve done like ad space before, because you figure got to try it. You don’t know, never did anything for us. And so really it’s our past clients. It’s how we really get our business, our past clients and then just networking and networking. I can’t tell you enough that made all the difference because the relationships I’m not even kidding you. So I started my company March was 12 years. I started my company. So many of the relationships of the people that I met 12 years ago, still in my life, still working with them, not even kidding you. So that’s powerful but you have to be that person you have to be. And again, my first networking event, I’ll actually say this. I remember I came home with like 50 or more business cards. And I looked at these cards and I thought, I don’t even know who these people are and you have that name tag. I’m about getting yourself outside your comfort zone, but that was just awkward. Hello. So-and-so and very forced. And I didn’t go to another event for six months because I thought they’re a waste of time. This is a true story. And then I’d had a planner say to me, you know, Tara, you are a business. And if you don’t get yourself out there, there’s a lot of makeup artists in LA. Like people aren’t going to know you. And so I had my big girl pants back on and tell myself, I’m not going to leave there this event with more than five cards, I’m not. And so what I realized was, um, I wanted to get to know people. That’s who I am to my core. I’m not, uh, five minutes, five minutes. And some people might tell me I’m totally wrong and different strokes for different folks. Things work differently for different people. But for me, when I would meet someone and I felt like it kind of clicked that I genuinely wanted to know more. I realized it’s not about them. Oh my God, how are you going to help me? How are you going to help my businesses? Like, tell me about yourself, tell me about your company and how could I even help? And that felt so much better because that felt real because that’s the person I am. I love helping others. So that felt organic and amazing. And like I said, so many of those relationships, I’m still friends with and work with 12 years later. So it’s powerful.

Mimi:

I agree with you. It’s always about giving and providing value to somebody before you’re expecting something back now. How do you, like, just when you get those cards, like where are you keeping them in your contactt?

Tara:

So it’s different now. It’s different now because cards aren’t being handed out as much anymore. So back in the day, it was card central and like we would put it in our computer. We would just have like, maybe we weren’t super tech savvy, but we would like put the person’s name and their email address and their phone number and their company name and have like an Excel spreadsheet. Now it’s like, you know, you can go on your Instagram and you can, like, I forget what, I don’t know what the proper word is, so I’m sorry, but it’s like, you basically tied to each other and Instagram, you can find each other, um, and DM’S on Instagram. So it’s more like, Oh, you just follow me on Instagram. And that’s how it becomes, like instead of business cards.

Mimi:

Right. And you remember their names? Are you good to be like, okay, I remembered her name from like the network from two times ago. And I know, I always forget to like, like remember sometimes whoever I friended on Instagram, I’m like, Oh, what was her name again?

Tara:

So I screenshot lots of things. What I do is I make a lot of notes in my phone, a lot of hits on my phone and certain key things that stand out to me, especially if something like I went to University of Arizona. So if they said they to University of Arizona, that I’m like, Oh, that’s super cool. Like it’s nice to have things in common, just organically, again like that, I’ll make a note like, Oh, like Marcy went to U of A and is from Maryland. And then it just those few key things organically. I’m like, okay, I’ll never forget Marcy, because she went to U of A and she should Maryland. I’m from Philly. Like, and it’s just, again, organic stuff. I just realized for me, quality over quantity, hands down, because that’s, what’s maintained us for being in business over 12 years and will keep us, you know, even longer. The relationships it’s all about the relationships. That’s really good advice.

Mimi:

So is there any networking events or organizations that you would recommend or are they specific just for your industry or a specific just for sthe hairstylist and makeup artists?

Tara:

So when I started out in the events, I would go to, I used to go to so many different ones. I couldn’t even tell you half the names because I was like, why would I say no? Why, why don’t I just show up and see like what it feels and if it’s the right fit great. Because stuff. So like our clientele, the people that we work with, it has to be the right fit, you know? Um, so I, I went to so many different kinds being open. I would say where I started, my first networking was an organization called Ladies Who’ve Launched.

Mimi:

Mhm. I know that one.

Tara:

So I did that probably like 13 years ago. And not to be funny, I’m assuming that they’re like still around. I was active with them for quite a while, but then I just stopped. And I still, I made some amazing, one of my very best friends of life. Who’s a fashion stylist. I met her there. So it was amazing because I met like-minded women who, you know, were go getters, tenacious were the traits we were talking about earlier. And so I felt like that was a very good support system, because what that really did for me was just showing me that like, we’re all from different places. We all have different backgrounds and we’re all entrepreneurs. And just having that little, that support system, cause they would do this thing incubators and they were small groups. I think it was like groups of 12. And we would meet a couple of times a month on like a Wednesday night and it held you accountable and it would give you work to do. And I felt like that was really wonderful. And so I was, I was definitely a part of that for many, many years. Then more so for the networking that I do now, it’s more with, because I have a lot of private clients and stuff. So for the business there, 75% of what we do are weddings. The wedding industry, I go to like a company it’s called Wippa, it’s an organization for wedding industry professionals. And they’re known all over the world and um, I go to this conference called, Engage that I go to once a year and they do it in different parts of the world. Um, and again it’s with like the high end wedding and event in Chevelle. So it’s just aligning yourself with people who make sense for your brand for each other. So it’s win, win.

Mimi:

That’s great. Now, is there any last question, is there any last minute advice or last advice that you would give somebody who’s starting out or thinking about starting or going off on their own that you would offer them?

Tara:

I mean, I definitely would say because I remember when I started my business and friends used to always ask me to go for lunch and I’m like, I’m working. And they were like, what, tell your boss to give you a lunch off. I’m like, no, when you’re working for yourself, you’ve never worked harder. I can’t stress that enough. You’ve never worked harder, but the best piece is that you’re the one who benefits from it. And if you love what you do and it’s like, if it’s something that’s like a hobby, it really can be a career. It really can earn you money to have your living. And you can be really successful at it. If you’re doing something just to do it, you’re going to burn out. But if you’re doing something you’re passionate, something makes you excited to be a part of, and you’re willing to do the work. It is so worth it and just stick with it. Don’t be afraid. You’ll have people on the sidelines, hopefully they’ll be cheering you on, but there will be the people who don’t get you and might discourage you. Um, but just believe in yourself and know it is so worth it all the hard work it is so worth it, it took me like two and a half years to be like, okay, this is good. This is good. And aligning yourself with amazing people. That’s all like, just stay as positive as you can push through. It’s worth it.

Mimi:

This has been amazing, so much fun. I’ve totally enjoyed it. And thank you so much for your time.

Tara:

Thank you. I appreciate it.

Where To Find Tara and More About Her Businesses

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