Susan Kesler's Total Image Studio

Home Business Report - Building a Beautiful Business

Homebusiness Report

Building a Beautiful Business

Susan Kesler, dressed in jeans, a lavender sweater and sport shoes, sits among a dozen 12-to-14-year-old girls also dressed in jeans and T-shirts. The girls have fashion magazines and Kesler has asked them to examine the ads. She throws out questions like, "Which ads catch your eye? What are they selling? Which ads do you like? Why?" Excited and anxious to contribute, the girls toss back answers. Then Kesler delivers the punch line: "How many people do you know who look like this? Does your mom look like this? Do any of your neighbors look like this?" Silence. The girls look confused.

Kesler asks the next question, "Tell me about someone you have met, not a Hollywood celebrity, who you admire." After a pause, names are tentatively offered. They are all celebrities. Undaunted, Kesler presses on with the point that she will make again and again throughout the six Healthy Beauty sessions these girls have enrolled in.

We are constantly surrounded with images of beauty that are not real. Most images in fashion and beauty magazines have been touched up. For Kesler, a certified image consultant and makeup artist, looking good is about being healthy, strong and joyful rather than attempting to copy a digitally enhanced image. She believes that caring for ourselves, projecting confidence and working with our strengths is an essential part of beauty. This is a message these girls will hear over and over again in the next six weeks as they learn about skin care, makeup, nail care, posture and self-confidence.

How did Susan Kesler go from a master of nursing degree and a career as an intensive care nurse to teaching beauty basics to teenage girls in her basement studio? The transition started over a decade ago when Kesler saw a colour draping demonstration and thought, "That's for me." Upon investigation she found that she could learn colour draping by flying to the United States and paying $10,000 for a short course. Looking around a little more, Kesler found that by becoming a distributor of BeautiControl products she could receive colour draping, image consulting and certified makeup training for a fraction of that cost. It wasn't long before she completed the BeautiControl training and had her own home-based business.

Ten years later, Kesler's business has expanded to include makeup artistry for the film and video industry, executive workshops on image, "Beauty Boot Camps" for eight-to-12-year-olds in the summer and Healthy Beauty classes for older girls year-round. The business will also include a makeup academy offering certified makeup training soon. The combination of having products to sell and a service to offer works well for Kesler- she has held the position of top Canadian sales director for BeautiControl for the last five years.

When Kesler started her business, she knew that 80 per cent of businesses go bankrupt in their first five years of operation. Knowing she didn't want to be one of the casualties, she marketed her business carefully, always evaluating the effectiveness of her marketing efforts. She quickly discovered that her best marketing tools were a prominent Yellow Pages ad, personal distribution of her business card and brochure, and a healthy dose of community involvement.

A strong advocate of community service work when she was in the nursing field, Kesler continued in that vein, switching her focus slightly to activities that complemented her business and made use of her new skills. She found that teaching courses at a local beauty college helped extend her reputation in the community. One year Kesler donated a large supply of beauty products to a local food bank. In 1996 her concern for abused women led her to found an organization called "Women Making Changes Association Charity." The organization is dedicated to helping women in need improve their self-esteem. Through her work Kesler has seen the positive impact that working with an image consultant can have on the self-esteem of women who have been mistreated.

Kesler offers her courses and personal image consulting in her basement studio or in the elegantly furnished office at the front of her home. Other services, such as makeup for film and TV as well as bridal makeup, are done on site. "Think about it," she says. "Would you want to drive across town for makeup on your wedding day?"

Visiting Kesler's Healthy Beauty class, conducted at her home on a Saturday afternoon, I was struck with the seemingly smooth integration of work and family life. Kesler's teenage daughter graciously answered the door and directed students her own age downstairs. At one point her husband wandered through the house to pick up something he needed for a Saturday afternoon errand . When I asked Kesler if he integration of home and work had always been so effortless, she laughed and talked about the adjustment it was at first.

Having a business at home was unsettling for the whole family at the beginning. Having people come into their house felt like an intrusion and the whole family had to get used to it. Kesler took a number of steps to make things easier for everyone, including locating her office at the front of the house where it could be closed off from the rest of the dwelling. She also taught her children how to answer the phone in a professional manner and how to take accurate messages for her.

Even though Kesler is a big believer in not needing a corporate office with high overhead to be a successful businessperson, she also recognizes the importance of taking her business seriously. She regularly attends training sessions and workshops, familiarizing herself with the latest techniques in areas like special effects, film, TV and bridal makeup.

While teaching self-confidence is key in Kesler's classes, she stresses that believing in yourself is only the beginning in building a successful business.