Headline: Business on Fleek!
Byline: Izzy Herrera
After graduating from high school, students find themselves questioning, “what now?” Some go straight to college, some take a gap year and others don’t go to college at all.
Kaylee Arriaga took a semi-different path. She started up her own lash business straight out of her home while being a full-time college student at City College of San Francisco. Eyelash extensions are when artificial eyelashes are glued onto your real eyelashes to create a fuller and thicker look.
The 19-year-old lash business owner started up her business on the social media platform Instagram under the username @getlasheddbykay. After growing a liking for eyelash extensions, she got motivated to buy her own lash extension kit and start to open her business.
“I came across an advertisement on social media about a lash course,” said Arriaga. “I was thinking about taking it so I bought myself a lash kit on Amazon and I played around with it at first. I ended up taking the course and started practicing on models. And once I got the full hang of it, I started taking actual clients.”
Arriaga’s services include the application of eyelashes, washing, and drying them.
“What I offer is a beauty service,” Arriaga said. “This includes having to put one single lash on one single lash which depends on the style. It could be six lashes on one single lash which ends up creating that fuller look. Lash strips could last around a month if taken good care of.”
Things in life never come easy. For Arriaga, her clientele started very slow from having around five clients per month mainly consisting of family and friends. Arriaga stayed consistent in advertising on her Instagram to reel in more customers.
Through word of mouth and her low service fee, her social media marketing caught the eye of customers. An average eyelash extension service could cost around $80 to $140; Arriaga’s starting price is $40.
The clientele was not Arriaga’s only issue. Starting up a business during a pandemic is another; the last thing on people’s minds was getting their eyelashes extended. When things started to cool down, Arriaga made sure that not only would her clients get great service, but feel safe as well.
“It was really hard starting a business during COVID because of how limited it was,” said Arriaga. “You can not really control what people do in their own time nor do you know where people have been.”
Arriaga followed all protocols by requiring negative COVID tests and proof of vaccination during the surge of the omicron variant. COVID deeply affected Arriaga as she caught the virus herself causing her to cancel multiple appointments.
The client’s safety is important for Arriaga, but so is protecting her family at home. Her concern made her cautious of the people who reach out to avail of her service. As most correspondence is done with Instagram, Arriaga makes it a rule not to entertain followers with no pictures and little to no followers as she’s suspicious of them being fake accounts.
“Since my business is offered in my home, I do everything I can to make sure I do not put my family and myself in danger,” Arriaga said. “It is very scary, most of the time I do cater to people I know, but there are some clients who I do not know.”
Being a full-time college student and business owner at times can get overwhelming for Arriaga. Currently, Arriaga is attending school for her cosmetology degree so she can become a licensed esthetician.
“I try to make my schedule to my fitting,” said Arriaga. “I am taking virtual classes currently so it helps me be very flexible. On the days I have class I try to take clients before and after class. It usually is like a go-go-go day for me.”
As COVID-19 transmission gets curbed, Arriaga’s clientele grew and she’s had times where she’s fully booked for the month with multiple clients in a day. Holidays and prom seasons ring in a lot of business. With more business, this lets Arriaga expand her services to brow laminations, which is a process of straightening and raising the hair on the eyebrows using chemicals.
“I wanted to start offering brow lamination because I saw how popular it became and many of my clients were asking for a new service,” said Arriaga. “I saw an opportunity to grow my business and took a course. I thought it would be a good idea to add a new service after a year of lashing, I felt like it was time to add something new so my clients and others see that not only am I dedicating myself to one thing but I’m learning and growing.”
Feedback to Arriaga is always key. When reading feedback Arriaga takes in positive feedback which makes her feel proud of herself. Arriaga also comes across negative feedback but, rather than letting it discourage her, she takes it into consideration and applies it to her work.
“I’ve been getting lashes consistently for almost three years now and by far Kaylee has been the easiest lash tech to book with,” said Jianna Ico, one of Arriaga’s customers. “Kaylee responds quickly since the first set I got from Kaylee. She exceeded my expectations and make all my sets look beautiful. I live 45 minutes away across the bridge from Daly City, and I still make the drive because Kaylee’s work is worth it!”
“My main reason for my constant bookings with Kaylee is because of how efficient Kaylee is with her work,” said Salwa Saleh, another customer of Arriaga’s. “Not only is Kaylee caring and form-fitting, but she is also good to her clients. Kaylee seems to make everyone feel not only comfortable but knows what would work best for them while also giving them what they want!”
Starting a business is hard, especially when you are just a teen fresh out of high school. Arriaga gives some advice of her own for people out there who want to live their dreams and start their own businesses.
“The advice I would give to people is to not give up on yourself,” said Arriaga. “It does take a lot of time and practice to do this. I personally am not perfect but I still keep going and keep practicing.”
“Do not get discouraged when you are not perfect because practice makes perfect. Practice! Practice! Practice!” Arriaga added.
Although it felt just like yesterday to Arriaga that she had her first customer, she is now prepared to take the next step in her journey and tells us what is in store for her business.
“In the beginning, I had no goal. Now that I officially started my business, I set goals for myself” Arriaga said. “I eventually want to open up my own studio to work out of with employees of my own. I also want to open my services up from just eyelash extensions and brow laminations to facials and makeovers. I also want to finish school to get my degree to become a licensed esthetician. I am really excited to see what the future holds for me!”