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Community Highlights: Meet Amber Kwong of Makeup Memories

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amber Kwong.

Hi Amber, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Hi, my name is Amber Kwong. I started my career in the beauty industry 17 years ago as a makeup artist in California. When I had a fire in my apartment and lost everything, I decided to move back to my home state of Maryland, where I discovered my main market to be weddings and quickly grew a loyal following. I started having brides inquire if I offered lash extensions. I had never heard about eyelash extensions before. I researched and quickly realized that lashes were the next big thing!

As a salon manager and makeup artist, I prepared a PowerPoint presentation to deliver to the salon owners, asking if they would support me by paying half of my tuition to get certified. They told me no. They did not think it would be successful. I respected their opinion but told them I was still going to get certified and start doing lashes on my own.

With the support of my husband and family, I got certified on November 14, 2010, and I started taking clients in the kitchen of my one-bedroom apartment. I fell in love with the craft of lashing. It was more than just making clients look good. It was about making women feel good. I saw the confidence in each client blossom as they left after their appointment, and I loved that.

I left the salon in December 2010 and decided to go “all in” and open my own business. I have never looked back. I now have been lashing for over ten years and have created a beautifully renovated studio in the home of my dreams. I am also coming into my 2nd year of being a Bella Lash educator. When Bella Lash approached me about becoming an educator, I knew this is what I was meant to be doing.

When I first got certified, I felt like there was a huge lack of knowledge given during my training. I had a lot of questions with nobody to ask. My lack of expert training is hands down the reason I wanted to become an educator. I wanted to help teach my students things that I wasn’t taught. Every experience they would go through, I have been through. I did not want them to take a 2-day class and have that be that. I wanted to share all my experiences and answer their questions so they would be capable, confident lash artists following training. This is my way of giving back and being grateful for everything this successful lash business has given to me. Through believing in myself, dreaming big, and following my love for lashes, I started small, hustled hard, became a Bella Lash educator, and always strived to be the best version of myself—for my family, friends, and clients.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Being an entrepreneur will never be a smooth road. Heck, there’s not even a road map lined out to be a successful entrepreneur. You will hit bumps along the road and sometimes even causing you to do a U-turn.

When I was in California working at Stan Winston Studios, I thought I had made it. Little did I know how quickly everything can be taken away from you overnight. When I experienced my house fire, losing everything and not having renters insurance, it was like the carpet had been pulled from underneath my feet. I lost my whole kit, which was tens of thousands of dollars, my airbrush machine, and three prosthetic arms, which had already been paid for, for a movie I was working on as a Special FX Makeup Artist. Not to mention all of my personal belongings.

After my fire, I had spent all night in the studio, asking favors of friends to help me recreate the prosthetic arms so the movie could still stay on schedule. I stayed in a hotel for two weeks while we wrapped up shooting and I needed to take a time out. When I moved back to Maryland, it was a very humbling experience. I went from working with celebrities and well-acclaimed studios to doing makeup for 70yr olds at the salon. I was depressed and didn’t understand how in a flash, things had changed so drastically.

But here’s what I’ve learned. As entrepreneurs, you need to learn how to pivot. Sure, I could have drunk my sorrows away, but what good would that do? I needed to pick myself up and learn what my market was so I could tap into that. I instantly had more experience than others did in my area. Once I realized that the market for makeup in Maryland wasn’t commercial or movies like I was used to, I was able to jump into the wedding scene, where I grew a very loyal following.

That pivot then turned from doing wedding makeup to doing lashes. Even that pivot wasn’t a smooth ride. The salon owners who I worked for, for a few years turned me down when I asked for their support in getting me certified in lash extensions. But guess what, that was the best thing that could have happened. That caused me to take a leap of faith and go all-in on myself and my business. With risk there is the reward. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. Every challenging experience I’ve gone through, I’ve learned a valuable lesson. All of these lessons combined have made me into the businesswoman I am today, and for that, I will always be grateful for my journey.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am a 3x certified lash artist and a 2x certified Bella Lash educator with over ten years of experience. I offer classic sets, hybrid sets and volume sets in my studio. I specialize in creating a customized lash set for each and every client that comes through my door.

What sets me apart from others is my genuine connection with my clients. I genuinely care about my clients. They are not just a number to me. I have been there through joyous occasions of marriages, job promotions, the birth of children, buying their dream house. And I’ve also been there through challenging times in their lives, loss of loved ones, unfathomable medical prognosis, infertilities. The point being is, I invest in each one of my clients, and in return, they’ve done the same for me.

My customer service is also another thing that sets me apart. From confirmation text to consultation to the smell and feel you get when you walk into my studio. From the ice-cold water I hand you after your appointment on a hot day and the follow-up text making sure you love your lashes. To the new client gift bag, I give after their initial full set of extensions to the month of my anniversary date of having my business where clients receive handwritten thank you notes and little goodies. I strive to be the best in customer service because, without my clients, I wouldn’t have a successful business.

There are two things I’m most proud of. One, the way I make women feel. Having somebody look at themself and feel beautiful is the best gift you can give. I get to empower women in their own skin. How amazing is that?

The second thing I am most proud of is to see the success of my students. There is enough work for everyone. My way of giving back is sharing my knowledge, experience and expertise to my students and helping them on their journey of becoming successful lash artists. Seeing them build their own businesses and being a part of that journey is really beautiful too. When my students are successful, I am successful.

I take lash clients Monday- Friday, and I offer Bella Lash certification classes once a month. You can find my class schedule on the Bella Lash website underneath training locations or in my Instagram bio.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
What I have learned going through Covid-19 crisis is you need to make sure you have good bookkeeping so you can get financial help through programs like PPP loans and PUA.

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