Lashes & Lessons with Brooke Ornelas

I first met Brooke, the owner of Haute House Lash and Beauty Bar when she was introduced to me by a mutual friend. We met up over coffee to talk about how she got her business off the ground and she was so generous in giving me advice and sharing her own experience with me. In starting this business, one of the most precious gifts I’ve found is getting to know other women who have started their own businesses and overcome the difficulties that go along with it. Today, I wanted to share some of Brooke’s wisdom and inspiration with all of you. She also shares some of the FAQs we get asked about lash extensions from our own clients.

Tell us about your salon, Haute House Lash and Beauty Bar

Haute House is a boutique niche salon that focuses on the eyes and brows.  Our desire is to be the best at Eyelash Extensions.  We want to give the ladies of Austin, gorgeous and perfectly applied lashes. We really take pride in a precise, clean and beautiful application.  We believe in educating ourselves and our clients on all things Lash.  We also do Lash Lifts for the more natural looks which lifts and curls the lashes.  Add a dark black tint and this is an awesome low maintenance service.  Of course, we have to finish the lashed look with well maintained brows!  We offer brow shaping through waxing or threading, brow tints, and even brow extensions.  Brow extensions are so cool for people that have gaps or have over-tweezed and need that very natural and filled-in look for an event. Beyond our services, it’s just really a great place to work. Everyone here is very loving and happy with their lives and jobs.  This makes it such a nice place to work and the clients feel that and love coming here.

Haute House Lash Bar

Why did you (Brooke) go into this business?

Truly, this is a long story.  It all started in the business school at UT.  I spent 3 years in the McCombs School of Business before fully knowing that I hated it there.  I didn't want anything to do with corporate America.  I transferred to the Art College and finished with a BA in Art History.  I felt so at peace surrounded by art and discussing humanities.  Of course, after UT, I went directly into corporate America. Go figure.  After several years in sales and banking, I quit corporate America and headed to beauty school. When I became an Aesthetician 10 years ago, my goal was to open a spa.  When Eyelash Extensions hit the market, I was smitten.  I had the shortest and straightest lashes around.  It didn't matter how many coats of mascara I put on, my eyes were still non-existent.  And as someone that has always felt like I needed to do extra to beautify, I felt like I needed them! I feel like so many women are so hard on themselves.  They look in the mirror and are just not happy.  And I was one of them.  My eyes felt tiny, my nose was huge, I didn't fit the general ideas of beauty.  Yet, lashes seemed to fix all that.  All of sudden, everyone thought I had beautiful eyes and my flaws (or the ones I thought I had) weren't so noticeable.   I asked the owner of the Spa where I worked if he'd pay for me to attend a premier lash training out of town.  He said no, which in effect set the ball rolling.  I took a loan from the bank, left my newborn with my parents, and headed to Houston.  In a random turn of events, I ended up working part time at a very busy lash place on the Northside.  When my marriage fell apart, I knew I needed to save myself.  Honestly, I needed to find a way to survive. So many of us have had challenges in our lives and we just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep working to survive.  So, I worked. I worked 7 days a week, every single day for nearly a year.  After a couple years, I was renting a private space and was 100% booked, 5 days a week.   This really wasn't good for business because it didn't allow any room for rescheduling or emergencies or new clients and I knew I couldn't do this forever.  And so Haute House was born.  

What was the hardest thing about starting your own business? What was the best?

When I was opening the salon, I worked in my private space doing lashes 5 days a week, 40 hours a week.  After work, I'd pick my daughter up from daycare, feed her some version of fast food, leave her to play on the floor of the new salon and I'd start painting, putting furniture together, ordering and organizing.  It took 3 months to open the salon.  My daughter slept on the floor, surrounded by paint cans, drop cloths and drywall. So, I think the hardest thing was just how much work I had to put in and how much time it took away from my daughter.  It was all day, all night, everyday.  I couldn't have opened it without the help of my parents, of course, my investor, and toward the end, JC, the current manager of Haute House.  However, compared to the other hardships that I’d already overcome, this was my outlet.  The prospect, the hope, and the expectation of new things to come was so exciting.   The knowledge that I could control my own destiny and have more time to spend with my daughter, something that had felt so elusive over the past few years, was so exciting.  This has definitely been the best part.

Why do you think people get lash extensions? Who do you recommend them for?

Lash extensions really can make you feel more beautiful.  They fill the beauty need that so many of us have and make your eyes more noticeable. We are more glamorous, more polished, finished.  Lash Extensions allow us to look great upon waking, the middle of the night, even when we're sick; we still look awake and fabulous.  It's such an awesome beauty service.  Lashes are for nearly everyone! The only people they aren't for is someone that has no natural lashes since you need to have lashes to get lashes.  We have stay at home moms, busy professionals, teachers, nurses, newscasters, attorneys, entrepreneurs, party girls, retired grandmothers, everyone! Because we carry 10 different lengths, 4 different curvatures, and 8 different thickness, we customize the look for each person to suit them best.

Any tips for first timers (both in business AND in getting lashes)?

When it comes to lashes, DO YOUR RESEARCH! Every day we do repairs from other places.  A good stylist practices their craft, this isn't easy.  It takes diligence, practice, an eye for precision, and the desire to be great.  Remember, you get what you pay for.  Read the FAQs and ask a lot of questions.

I have a ton of small business tips that I could share but I think the most important are to not lose focus, to think pragmatically, crunch the numbers, and really understand your market and the need for your business. If you are starting small, take it one step at a time.  And don't overplan, at some point, you just have to do it.  Make the list, check things off, open the doors.  It takes hard work and luck, so go for it!

If you are interested in learning more about lash extensions, don’t forget to visit Haute House Lash & Beauty Bar. If you’d like to learn more about starting your own business, subscribe today and stay tuned every Wednesday where we combine our love for beauty and business!