Kelsey: An Autistic Beauty Specialist
Kelsey provides beauty and wellness services with her business Moon Kitties Studios.
She is talented at what she does and has worked hard to get where she is with her business now.
Kelsey shares her story and wisdom with us from London, Ontario in Canada.
How did you think of the idea for your business?
I created a business to provide beauty services offering makeup, lashes, brows and reflexology. The initial idea for my business was to build a space that I would have control over to suit all of my needs and provide a healthier work environment, since your average Monday – Friday, 9-5 does not work for me.
Once I found out that I was Autistic at age 30 (diagnosed at 31), it only made sense to me that I incorporated that into my business and provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ and Neurodivergent communities to receive beauty treatments in an accommodating environment. Of course, everyone is welcome, but my main focus is making sure that these communities are cared for since they are often left out.
How did you fund your business in the very beginning?
In the beginning I was still working part-time at a restaurant. I would put my money towards schooling and building my kits so I would have products ready for clients. I would practice on friends in my home and once I felt comfortable, I quit the restaurant job and rented a small room in a salon. Also, credit cards are useful!
How long have you been running your business?
I took the leap to create my own beauty studio in 2018.
Did you have any previous experience in your field before you started your business?
Yes, I started as a freelance makeup artist in 2007. I worked on feature films, short films, commercials, photoshoots and weddings doing makeup.
Now that your business has been running successfully, is there anything you wish would have done differently in the beginning?
Not really, I don’t like to have regrets. Every mistake I’ve made was a learning opportunity. I started out an undiagnosed autistic, not having any clue what was actually going on with me. If I would have known I was autistic earlier in life I wouldn’t have continued to force myself to work on large projects, like the films I worked on. I couldn’t understand why I kept getting so sick all the time, having daily meltdowns and experiencing such difficulty on the sets. At the same time though I wouldn’t take it back because I met some really amazing people and I have always been so proud of the projects I accomplished. I’ve got a better understanding of what my body’s capabilities are now and I’ve learned how to work with my boundaries more.
When your business was merely an idea, what steps did you take to make it a reality?
My first step was getting more schooling. I completed a makeup course in Toronto early in my early 20s but I knew I needed more than that in order to have a fully functioning business. I started by taking a course at a small business learning center in my city, which also provided free counseling with a business advisor. Then I took a course on reflexology so that I could have a balance of wellness and beauty treatments. I signed up at a local beauty school for courses on lash extensions and lash lifts. At that point I felt like I had enough services I would be able to offer clients, so I rented a room in a salon and eventually added in brow tinting/waxing services to the menu. Getting the proper education was step one and then calling salons to ask if they had rooms to rent was my next step. I spent just over a year in the salon to gain enough confidence to grow on my own and move my business to my home.
How has being autistic helped you succeed with your business?
I feel that because I am autistic, I am able to see patterns more easily. I was able to see what kind of business models others in my line of work were using and know how to adapt them to what I wanted to do. My ability to hyper focus definitely aided me in being able to apply myself fully to my work.
My autism has gifted me with an immense amount of creativity and empathy. I can visualize how something will look on a client with full colour imagery in my head and know how to create it on them. I feel like my high empathy has also been helpful since clients often just want to be listened to and feel that someone gets them. And let me tell you, I feel EVERYTHING.
Has being autistic created challenges for you? If so, what helped you overcome or cope with the difficulties?
My autism has definitely created many challenges for me. I have a terribly difficult time networking. It’s a rather crucial element of running a business but thankfully we have social media now. I’ve managed to be able to share content and gain new clients through platforms like Facebook and Instagram which is much easier for me then trying to talk to people in person. I had a very difficult time working at the salon as well, there is a lot of background noise (hairdryers, people talking, loud music), bright lights, and social obligations (often in a group setting). It was really hard but I knew I needed to start there in order to gain clientele. Making the decision to move my business to my home has helped me to love my job so much more. I have control over the environment now and since I am catering to other neurodivergents the adjustments I’ve made to traditional salon setting for myself is also appreciated by my clients too. ….Plus, I get to hang out with my dog and cats all day as a bonus.
What advice would you give a fellow autistic person who is thinking of starting their own business?
Do your research. There are a lot of perks to having your own business but there is also a lot of nitty gritty behind the scenes work too. It’s important to have a fully realized understanding of the industry that you want to open a business in. It’s also important to have a good support team around you to be able to bounce ideas off of and help you along the way. You’re not going to be good at everything and that’s okay! Get help from others in the areas you need it.