The Art Of Overcoming All Odds
An Interview with Kaleena Cooperwood
I knew in my heart that if I sacrificed a couple of things in the beginning, I would gain it all back in the end.
Hi Kaleena! Tell us what you do.
I own a lash and brow salon here in McKinney.
How long have you been in business?
I started doing lashes full-time in 2016 with only a lash bed, a lamp light, and a handful of lash supplies. One year later, I ended up getting a sponsorship with the Texas Legends Dance Team!
I had just finished school and I had no place to accommodate this many girls; at the time I only had about 6 consistent clients. I started saving up my money to self-fund my own lash and brow salon. I found a space and, together with my two cousins, we gutted the salon completely. Laying new floors and painting walls took us an entire week to complete! It’s true when they say it takes blood, sweat and tears. I sacrificed so much to get to this point. I gave up my luxury car, moved into a tiny 600 square foot apartment with my two daughters, and started eating noodles and meal prepping everyday to feed my kids.
I didn’t buy many clothes, but when I did, I only went to thrift shops.For 11 months, I was going to school, working full time, and caring for two small children with little help from friends. It was really rough on me.
I don’t care for the material things anyway, I’ve never had flashy taste. My main goal was (and is) to create generational wealth for my children and future grandchildren.
What are some things that make your brand unique?
When people ask what I do, I simply tell them I enhance the eyes by giving them flavor. I came up with my business name by taking the word “flavor” and dropping the “r” to get “Flavous!” I wanted to give my clients a taste of beauty; which is also my slogan and hashtag #JustGotFlavored.
Tell us more about your salon!
I used purple (along with black and silver) in my salon since it's my favorite color.
Purple is often used to represent royalty. The salon has a touch of “bling” with several chandeliers, an ornate couch, and armchair. Plus two big barn doors that remind me of my rural hometown in Kensett, Arkansas.
What advice would you give to others entering the beauty industry?
I have a deep passion for the beauty industry; BUT it is always evolving so you have to make sure that you are keeping up with it. I have learned it's important to continue my education and never stop learning. Also, you don’t always have to work in the same field you were first licensed.
It’s about being in tune with our mental, physical, social, financial, and spiritual self-care.
What does being self-employed mean to you?
I struggle every day with attaining certain goals that I set for myself. I try to do a self-evaluation at the end of each day to see what I could have done differently. This is a must; especially when you’re an Entrepreneur! When I worked in the corporate sector, we prepared PDRs (performance/development reports) every quarter. Now I understand the value in doing them so I do these for my own business.
Where do you see your industry trending in the future?
It’s a billion-dollar industry and that number will keep rising in the future!
Have you always had a passion for lash extensions?
In a way, it chose me. In 2011, I was at a friend’s house and she told me she did eyelash extensions. I had never heard of eyelash extensions. She invited me to her salon, and she applied my first set of lashes. I fell in love with how they turned out and how they were applied. I asked her if she could teach me how to do this on others. I got my TDLR Eyelash Extension Specialty license the following year. When I started, if you didn’t have an existing clientele with deep pockets, it was really rough to get started. It was probably not the right business for you. I learned this too quickly. The prices back then were anywhere from $250 to $400 depending in which state you lived. My business took a downward spiral because I didn’t know how to market my business properly.
It was then I decided to hang up my tweezers and go find a “real” (corporate) job.
One day, after 6 years had passed, I had an epiphany: Could I really see myself working in this tiny cubicle for another 20 years?
NO! It was then that I chose to live and follow my true passion.
How inspiring! What advice would you give to other young women in a similar situation?
Evaluate your current situation. Whether you take a few steps back or a big leap forward, make sure it’s your best move. Being a single mother of two younger children and living in a state without any family nearby has been a real struggle. But you can overcome a lot of difficult obstacles in your life when you have faith. Trust me: when you think you are ahead, a trial will come along that makes you feel like you hit a brick wall. If being an Entrepreneur was easy then everyone would be successful.
One day, after 6 years had passed, I had an epiphany: Could I really see myself working in this tiny cubicle for another 20 years?
If I would have listened to them, guess what? I would have been just like them, running on that hamster wheel only to make someone else’s dreams come true. I would advise any Entrepreneur to do some deep soul searching. When they say, “birds of a feather flock together,” it’s the truth. Network with other Entrepreneurs with similar goals. This is one of the best ways to grow. If your circle consists of like-minded people, you will not lose.
Dealing with Fear
Every day, I deal with fear. Especially since my business is still in its infancy. Having this feeling will kill, steal, and destroy you mentally and physically. Some days I feel like, “What did I just do?!”
How could I just walk away and go back to my former corporate job?
But that feeling of fear goes away when I think back on those years. I remember how mistreated I was and everything else I had to put up with. I think about how I saw a therapist every week. About how I was losing my hair and losing weight. I couldn’t sleep at night and I had frequent anxiety attacks. It was so bad that my body would break out in hives. I told myself I had to make a change so I started putting pen to pad. I have at least 4 to 5 journals I’ve kept since 2016 that are filled with research and strategies to make my next move.
Make a plan! Even if things don’t go as expected, try your best to execute your plan anyway. I've heard it takes 10,000 hours to master any skill. Until you have completed 10,000 hours or more, you still have work to do!
Being able to be a full-time mother to my kids is so wonderful now.
Name a few advantages of being self-employed
Being self-employed gives you freedom to work at your own pace but you still need time management to keep you focused. I created a calendar for daily, weekly and monthly goals and tasks yet to be completed. I also keep a small, yearly planner in my purse. Plus, the calendar on my phone. I have dyslexia and dealing with numbers, reading, and writing is the death of me. But having all these calendars really help me stay organized. Being able to be a full-time mother to my kids is so wonderful now. I get to take them to school, eat lunch with them, and just be there for them. In the past, I was always on a time crunch and I felt people at work watched my every move.
How do you feel about self-image?
Self-care is very important. If you don’t have many outfits, go to thrift stores. I’ve bought a lot of black tops and bottoms at Thrift stores. Make sure to wear lip gloss, carry breath mints, and groom yourself well. Just be cute everyday because we live in a world where appearance is everything. When I approach people, I know they are measuring me up and down.
Whatever you are selling, wear it, breathe it, walk, and talk it.
Since I am in the eyelash business, you better believe these lashes bat like crazy when I’m talking to someone about my business! This is my brand so I must wear it well.
Name a few disadvantages of being self-employed?
When I first started out, I felt like I was going to take over the world. But in reality I had a bigger bone to bite: working for myself. Having no consistent paycheck like I did in my corporate job made me have to really beat that pavement and have 3 or more streams of income to live better. If you aren’t a people person, good luck to you! In this business, I had to learn how to talk to other people that were already successful. There are times I acted like I knew more than I really did. I smiled and took notes to study for later.
Feeling alone is another issue that I faced before I started networking. I thought if I just read a lot and studied, "Who needs to talk to anybody?" If I just posted occasionally to my social media about my business, who needed to buy into marketing?
Wrong, wrong, and more wrong!
This is what I faced back then. Today, I have invested hundreds of dollars outsourcing companies to put my business out there. True, in social media you can be an overnight success or fly under the radar; either way, you have to market your business to stay relevant.
You mentioned marketing, did you hire any other business consultants?
I studied a lot about business law and business ethics in general because I knew I would need it. But I also have a lot of friends that are in different fields such as a CPA, Lawyer, etc. When I have a question, I just send them a message on Facebook or Instagram, and they are glad to answer my questions. If you aren’t already equipped with people who can help you, I would highly suggest getting some help. You simply can’t know everything.
What did you discover about your business that was unexpected? How did you overcome it?
I thought I was only going to be applying eyelashes. Never in a million years did I think I would become a therapist, eye doctor, lawyer, politician, rolled into one. I found I would have to be all of these occupations because it was how I could relate to all my clients. Funny, but true! Some of them are lonely and need to talk to someone outside their circle. I enjoy talking to my clients, it makes them feel like they have a place to come and relax. Sometimes they are stressed and just need someone who will listen. I love every one of my clients because they are one of many reasons why I love my job! My work gives them a sense of confidence when they get compliments on their lashes from other people.
Never in a million years did I think I would become a therapist, eye doctor, lawyer, & politician rolled into one.
Tell us about NEXUS Recovery.
Nexus recovery center is a program for young women and girls that are trying to get their life back on track and recover from substance abuse. They have several partnerships within the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. People can come to volunteer in their free time. They are always looking for willing individuals to come help at the center. These girls and women are so sweet, and it was a pleasure to give back to them.
When did you decide to get involved?
In 2016, I volunteered at Nexus for “Day of Caring” through my former employer. I was taken aback by their stories; I had tears in my eyes when I saw all the young girls with their little babies. To get to be there, to help them get back on their feet, was so humbling. I felt like this could have been me.
I was enrolled in Esthetician courses at the time, but I kept wondering how I could give more of myself to help them and the community. One day in class, I thought about all the people I had met at different networking events. I began to write down ways I could give back my time and knowledge.
Tell us about the work you've done with the girls so far!
I reached out to the director and she approved my request to host a facial and confidence building event. I was so excited! I had hosted small events in the past, but this was a large event for about 100 women. I put together a schedule to track the day's activities and brought along two of my classmates to assist. We taught them how to make their own face and body scrubs from natural products be provided. My favorite part was teaching them how to do a winged look with eyeliner. When I first started talking, it was clear they weren’t very interested. But as I continued to share my story, all eyes were suddenly on me.
I shared everything about myself and spoke candidly about how going through difficult things will inspire you to help others get through their darkest moments in life. I told them how I climbed the corporate ladder and later became my own boss. I spoke to them about generational wealth, self-care, and the importance of loving yourself unconditionally. At the end of the day, we had a dance off. They even showed me some new dance moves! Being able to share my downfalls, failures, and mistakes gives me even more strength in my life.
By the end of the day the eyeliner was all over their faces, not their lash line.
Why did you decide to mentor young girls?
I created my mentoring group called “Lashing with Confidence” because I knew deep down in my gut that there was more to my story. That I needed to share with others (who were dealing with similar issues) what I had experienced as a teen. I am too familiar with teen pregnancy and falling in with the wrong crowd. I dealt with an abusive relationship for most of my young adult life and I took pills to cope with the pain. As a teenager, I overdosed on pills and tried to kill myself. I hated my life so I could relate to them completely.
Tell us about your group on Facebook!
I was sitting in class one day and I decided to create my own eyelash group on Facebook. It’s called “Beginners Eyelash Extension Group”. As of today, it has a little over 6.7K followers and is growing rapidly. There is an engagement rate of about 17k posts, comments, and reactions in a 28-day period. It started to grow so fast that I had to get seven moderators from all over the world to help me moderate the group and translate content into other languages. There are several different countries represented in my group which include the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Asia. My heart just melts when I get private messages from people all over the world asking for help or advice. I created this group to be informative, motivating, and uplifting and to share our good and bad days with one another. In this group we laugh, cry, and praise one another.
Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story! Any last thoughts?
As a god-fearing woman, I believe without faith and works my business would not be where it is today. We come from different walks of life so I have learned to be a servant leader in everything I do.
I have confidence great things are sure to follow me!
About Nexus Recovery
With the assistance of the surrounding community, our organization strives to assist local women, improve living conditions, and raise funds.