Wednesday 9 October 2013

2Inspire business profile: Samantha Mercer, Makeup Artist and directer at The Dollz.

Samantha Mercer is a professional makeup artist and founder of TheDollz, a website that offers online bookings for freelance hair and makeup artists. She offers a service that years in the industry showed her many young women were in need of,read her motivational story.

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?

As Dollz is based online, our location for most of the day is the computer(s)! We have orders to process, emails to answer, live chat, website maintenance, blogging, social
networking…basically anything with an Internet connection we have open.
We also like to keep in touch with our ‘Dolls’ and find out what they have been doing, admire
their latest work, share it with our customers and hand over any jobs we have. 
As we are in the beauty industry things change all the time so we have to keep on top of all
the latest products and trends. Social networking is a big part of Dollz as a lot of our clients
connect with us through Facebook and Twitter. Let’s face it, this is where all the big news hits
first nowadays!
Being a Mum too, I also have the school run to do in the middle of the day. You can usually find me in the school playground on my phone making sure I don’t miss any emails or
tweets…or my daughter coming out of school!
Our days rarely end at usual office hours. We can usually be found up beyond the early hours
researching and networking, it’s a little quieter then too!

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
 I had previously been a sole trader and I loved it but always knew I wanted something a lot
bigger. When I started off as a makeup artist I was very computer literate and knew the online fashion and beauty industry inside out which really helped me build up contacts and find jobs. I acquired 90% of my clients online, providing access to my portfolio and CV at the click of a button worked really well and the shots I had worked tirelessly to achieve had the clients sold before they even knew my prices.

After three years I found myself stepping away from the fashion side of things, as I wanted to work on weddings and events. That’s when I discovered what I wanted to do with my training and talent. I met my partner who is an amazing web designer (and not because he is going to be reading this!) and as I went on more and more jobs I found that clients had the same problem over and over again. They couldn’t find their perfect makeup artist, beautician, etc.…anything for that matter. I had brides booking in with me last minute due to makeup artists cancelling and a recent bride having three previous wedding makeup trials that she felt weren’t up to scratch. I kept going home and telling Jonny (my partner) about my clients problems and after listening to me a thousand times (well he listened the first few times) he said "lets do something about it then" followed by "or just give it a rest!". From the start we had in our heads what we (well…I) wanted. An online service, no matter where you live in the UK you can log on, select your treatments, tell us when and where you want them, pay (by card unlike with most freelancers), job done! We researched all over the web for something similar and nothing exists, yes there are directories but this is not what I wanted. I wanted people to have the security of booking with Dollz in knowing that the quality of work was amazing. Not just choosing somebody from a directory because they had paid to be at the top of the list. From the customers’ point of view, they shouldn’t need to worry about anything.

With Dollz being Internet based, the website was key. We like to think it sells itself with the modern day generation. I used to go to bed at 2am and wake up in the morning to find the website had transformed and there was another cool animation or artwork on a page.
Unfortunately there is no website fairy, the bags under Jonny’s eyes every time I saw him gave it away. Kind of like when you learn the tooth fairy isn’t real! I found he'd been working till 7am through the night by the time on the emails he would send for me to read in the morning! 

I like quirky things and being different, looking across the board especially when it comes to makeup artists’ websites. The same black, white and grey colours are everywhere so I knew Jonny would have to pull something out of the bag with this one. I drove him mad with examples, colours and animations but now looking at the website it is everything I had in my head, with a little persuasion of calming certain aspects down! And somehow we have managed to stay together!

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?

As we are fairly new what we feel are our greatest accomplishments will most probably be small to other people but as I keep saying… 'baby steps'!  Seeing the website up and running after 5 months of graft is the biggest accomplishment so far. To hear the incredible feedback from industry professionals and clients makes the hours spent on the little details worthwhile. I still get giddy reading the comments.

Also, we have 65 girls on our books who are all truly talented. To have secured the best
creative from each region in each area of treatment is no mean feat and I can tell you the number of portfolios I have vetted to get there would be pushing 4 figures. Originally, they had nothing to go off but my obsession with the Dollz business idea. Their enthusiasm was refreshing and told me I was onto something.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Our biggest challenge has been the 5 months of research and development in developing the website. It’s the heart of the business. We have had to learn a lot along the way and being the first of its kind in the UK we didn't really have anything to go off except for other businesses’ shortcomings and a lot of trial and error. Things you don’t even see as a customer take a lot of research like the web hosting (not my favourite part) and choosing the right payment gateways. Covering the whole of the UK we also had to look into the pricing of treatments It’s shocking the gulf between what somebody can charge around London compared with up North.
Press releases and media distribution is our next big challenge, we have to make sure we target the right audience and brand Dollz in our own enthusiastic, excitable way! 

What are your future plans for the business?
Our future plans for Dollz is to grow the business sustainably making sure we never compromise on our impeccable standards. Beyond that, who knows! One thing for sure is that my enthusiasm and drive will not change. There is something special about starting a
business. You almost consider it your baby and each milestone gives you a feeling of satisfaction like nothing else, whether it be the smallest thing like your first booking (even if it
was just £40...get the bubbly out!) or securing lucrative contracts with brands you see daily on the television.
 If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Nothing! Genuinely.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
I didn't know what I wanted to do for so long. That’s why I left school and went straight into full-time work. Then I had my little girl fairly young which meant my career had to be put on hold. I was (semi) happily plodding along in an administration role for 5 years and changes at work gave me the shove I needed to start afresh in something I loved. I have always been
obsessed with makeup but never thought about becoming a makeup artist. After meeting the owner of an academy in Manchester I then knew that was what I wanted to do. It's going to turn a little cheesy now! Becoming a makeup artist was the best thing I ever did.
Not only am I doing my dream job everyday, it’s changed me as a person too. I was forced into situations I had previously avoided (meeting new people being the biggest) and now when I meet new people everything just comes naturally. I would encourage anyone not to rush into anything. Have time out, travel, research, then when you are ready take the plunge and do the job you've always dreamed of. If you want something enough and are prepared to work for it, it will happen. There really is no better feeling than loving what you do. Granted my Dad, being a stereotypical tradesman thinks I just paint faces all day but showing him my name in his favourite newspaper one Sunday made me smile from ear to ear. Even if he does still think I just socialise all day!

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
Be prepared to graft! On my course there were around 12 students only 3 are still working in
the industry including myself! It’s a tough industry to crack but if you are dedicated you will get there. I worked for nearly 2 years with 80% of my work being unpaid. It's really hard for
people to understand why I, as a qualified makeup artist, and all others I know do that but it’s just the way it works in this industry. While working for free I built up my portfolio and a list of contacts. Every unpaid job eventually leads to a paid job!
What or who inspires you in business and why? 
This is the easiest answer for me. My Dad. I watched my Dad take a leap with his business growing up and it is still paying off to this day. He works super hard for everything he's got. Throughout the birth of Dollz I had concerns and worries and Dad was always there to tell me the same thing over and over again, "You don't get anywhere Samantha without taking a risk and working bloody hard". I want what my Dad has, not in a materialistic way but more to do with a sense of satisfaction and pride. I am patiently waiting for the day that he turns round to me and says "You did it". Some day soon…here’s hoping anyway!

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
"Screw it, Let’s do it!" Sir Richard Branson

Contact Details
07454 164 235

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