Lavonne Wood is on the move. Her roles as a celebrity makeup artist, licensed esthetician and head of a mobile luxury bridal beauty team often take her from her home in Little Rock to both coasts and beyond, while her work has caught the attention of Condé Nast, ESPN, Pat McGrath and everyone in between.
We caught up with Wood for the latest installment of our Small Business Talk series highlighting and demystifying the world of women in small business.
Elevator pitch time. Tell us about Lavonne Beauty.
LW: It’s "The Check Up From The Neck Up" — been using that tagline for over a decade. I began my career as a makeup artist 25 years ago this November. Throughout my career, I have been in the fashion, TV, film, commercial and bridal industries. Then during the pandemic, it was transitioning into aesthetics, building the LB Bridal team and focusing more on being an educator and trainer in all things beauty and social media.
Did you have a lightbulb moment when you knew this was what you were supposed to do?
LW: I was at the MTV Video Music Awards as a talent escort in 1998. I was in the bathroom standing next to Tori Amos, and even after I fangirled on her, she offered me front row tickets, backstage passes and an invitation to her after party. It was at that moment I knew I was changing careers from being a preschool teacher getting my degree in early childhood education to working with celebrities. I dropped out of college that Monday and enrolled in makeup school.
What is it like to manage jobs that can pop up anywhere across the country?
LW: It can be challenging because I really have to maintain and update multiple calendars. I try to schedule my life out at least two to three months in advance — sometimes longer if it’s for a bride — but also be flexible with knowing that anything can change or a job can come up. There’ve been times where I’ve already been booked for a job and a better job comes along, but I have to decline or give it to my team because I let my yes mean yes and my no mean no. My integrity and reputation are valuable to me, so that isn’t a challenge. When I commit, I commit.
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What is something you wish you'd done differently when you launched?
LW: Saved at least six months of income, mastered QuickBooks, hired a virtual assistant and gotten a Google Voice business number.
Since then, what was a moment that felt huge to you, but might not look that way to others?
LW: Being booked to do makeup on the Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Lanvin shows in Paris during fashion week on the team of Pat McGrath.
How have your goals evolved since you first started?
LW: I have evolved into becoming more of an entrepreneur and leaned more into education and training, as well as putting more focus on spiritual goals and my volunteer ministry. Since getting married, my priorities have changed. I was so independent for so long, and now having a partner who supports me has given me the balance I never knew I needed. My husband Curtis and I work very well together and he supports all of my endeavors.
What are the best and hardest parts about working for yourself?
LW: The best part is being my own boss and not having to request PTO. The hardest part is time management and never wanting to say no. Also having to delegate to get work done, but it not be to my aesthetic standards or my voice. Creating a branding kit truly helped me so that my virtual assistant is able to create content and know exactly what I want when it comes to color, fonts and overall style.
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Does being a woman affect how you do business or the way people do business with you? If so, how?
LW: Not really. The majority of my clientele are women and we get each other. The majority of men respect me once they realize my experience.
What do you wish people knew about small business owners?
LW: We work 24/7, but only want to answer calls and texts between 9 and 5!
What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?
LW: Get a mentor and ask seasoned pros for advice. Hire a bookkeeper, count the cost, make a plan and get legal lined up correctly (EIN, LLC, insurance). Use Facebook and Instagram advertising, and don’t hesitate to start selling retail and having an e-commerce site. Lastly, have at least one virtual service in case the world shuts down.