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Many entrepreneurs are fearful about taking the plunge and starting their own business. It is a big commitment, and given the harsh economic times, a valid concern.
For Suzanne Smith, however, the fear of financial ruin is a hurdle in her blossoming career’s rearview mirror.
Approaching the make-it-or-break-it six-month period, Smith is very optimistic about the future of her new business located in Hillcrest.
Ascuar offers skin and body services inside Genesis The Salon, and Smith specializes in body sugaring hair removal, skin peels and treatments, and therapeutic massage for both men and women.
Although she is working twice as hard as before, she has never been happier.
She is successful not only because she is building a steady stream of clients, but also because Smith kept her day job. From 7 am to 2 pm, Monday through Friday, Smith is an Executive Assistant at an engineering firm.
"I worked in offices my whole life," Smith said. "I am great at it, and being anal-retentive is good for things like filing. I have stuck it out because part of me has always been paranoid about money. I am 33 now, though, and once you hit a certain age you realize that following your passion is more important than dreading work every day. I decided to stop caring about what anyone thinks and to go for it. If it doesn’t work out, fine, but at least I will know I gave it everything I had."
For Smith, her passion is skin, and giving it "everything she had" involved hundreds of hours of education, much of which she maintains today through her active memberships with the Associated Skin Care Professionals and the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.
When she set out to accomplish the necessary requirements to obtain her esthetician’s license in 2007, she fell in love with other aspects of skin and body treatments, and in the process, also became a state certified massage therapist & holistic health practitioner (HHP), and then obtained a certification in chemical peeling and advanced treatment protocols.
"I have been honest with my employer about my career goals, and I have been fortunate that they like me enough to work around my schedule," Smith said. "Ideally, I will eventually quit the day job. I am very realistic though, and the idea is to wean myself off by slowing decreasing my hours as I continue to build a steady stream of clients. I’ll be ecstatic if I achieve that by June."
Up until May of this year, Smith ran a mobile service and provided San Diegans with skin and body treatments in their homes. "I came to realize a mobile service was mostly a waste of my time,” she said. "To pursue my passion seriously, I needed to stop being scared and start a business; and nothing achieves that, or motivates you more, than getting a brick-and-mortar location.
"So far I have really enjoyed the marketing side of things. I have been learning a lot," Smith added. "Overall, being in business for me has been very exciting. The most challenging part has been finding time to work a personal life into my schedule."
Raised by parents who worked for the U.S. Coast Guard, Smith traveled all over the country as a child. As a young adult, she settled in Las Vegas for a few years before making her way to San Diego, where she has been for more than a decade. Establishing a location in Hillcrest was a natural fit.
"I live in University Heights, and love my neighborhood, and the surrounding ones like Hillcrest and North Park. I really love the diversity, it is safe, and we have everything here. We have the best food in the world and people of all races and genders, living peacefully.
"Even going to Starbucks is a fashion show -- who would have thought?" she added with a laugh.
Smith only uses products she has personally used on herself. When it comes to hair removal, waxing had always been her first choice.
"In addition to Brazilians, I used to get my legs waxed the traditional way," she said. "I have sensitive skin, though, and even though waxing was worth not having to shave, it was a horrible experience for me. Sometimes my skin would be burned or highly irritated for days and I had to use a lot of Neosporin."
While living in Vegas, another woman turned her on to body sugaring hair removal, known to industry professionals simply as "sugaring." Sugaring is an ancient Egyptian method in which a paste made of three natural ingredients – sugar, water, and lemon – is used to remove unwanted hair.
"The difference is amazing," Smith said. "If you have sensitive skin, you are maybe sore for a day, as opposed to dying for a few days. There is never a risk of burning your skin, there is less hair breakage, the results are smoother, and you only need about 1/8 of an inch of hair growth, compared to a one-quarter or one-half inch for traditional waxing. It’s worth the extra expense."
Smith explains that that the extra expense is predominantly due to the higher cost of the sugar paste. "As an esthetician, you also have to go through extra training," she explaiined. "It is not just a matter of simply applying the sugar, you have to know how to control the environment and work with the product. There is a reason a lot of people don’t offer the service."
A perfectionist at the core, Smith spent five months practicing on herself to to familiarize herself with the paste before she attempted to remove hair on anyone else. "I used to get nervous at first, which only made things worse. If you are nervous, your body heat can rise, and that can in adversely melt the sugar. It is completely water-soluble, so it's not a big deal, but it can be a big mess."
It is been a long time since Smith has been nervous, though, and having worked only with the Alexandria Professional Advanced Body Sugaring brand, she feels extremely comfortable when handling the paste. "The Alexandria brand got it started in the U.S. They are the industry leaders, and the only one I use. There are others, but they can be unpredictable.
"If you are waxing, especially if you have sensitive skin, you need to stop," Smith said. "There is a superior and gentler way that is great for areas such as the face and/or genitals. Most people who try sugaring, never go back to waxing."
Although applied slightly differently, Smith explained that sugaring is a common method widely used in the Middle East today. She does a good job of making you feel comfortable and walks sugaring "first timers" -- such as myself -- through the process.
Because the sugaring paste is a 100 percent natural, the one thing you immediately notice is the lack of chemical aromas in the air. The paste has no scent, and although Smith uses gloves to apply it, there is no heat sensation.
"People who are used to waxing are used to having it applied in the direction of hair growth and pulled off in the opposite direction. With sugaring, I apply the paste in the direction of the hair growth, and then pull it off," Smith explained. "This keeps your hair follicle intact, allowing the hair to slide out rather than rip out. Doing so also allows for the hair to be removed at the root, for longer lasting smoothness."
Although it is less painful than waxing, Smith is upfront about the pain factor. "Most clients find the most painful body parts are the underarms and of course, the Brazilian,” she said.
Upon hearing that, I wasn't sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing that those were the two areas I was about to have sugared. I was slightly reassured, however, when Smith explained that about half of her clients are men, and that they generally are more sensitive about the pain factor than women.
We began with the underarms. The paste is rolled up like a ball, and in some ways resembles silly putty. You do not feel very much as it is applied, but yes, it hurts coming off. Definitely less than waxing, and because of the paste’s natural elements, if need be, she can repeat an area without irritating the skin; if she goes over an area, it hurts considerably less than the first time around.
For a few of the stubborn stragglers, Smith used tweezers to ensure that both my underarms were smooth. I personally experienced no irritation or sensitivity to pain afterward.
A Brazilian, as anyone who has had one can attest, is going to be somewhat painful no matter what. I braced myself for the worst, but was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the procedure went. It really is over before you know it, and I can honestly say that the results lasted much longer than with waxing.
The most disappointing thing about enduring a waxing hair removal treatment is often how quickly some of the hair returns. With sugaring, it was well over a week before I saw some (noticeably less-coarse) hairs return. They were even sporadic enough to tweeze, as well. Two weeks after the procedure, my hair was still sporadically growing at a much thinner rate than I have experienced with waxing.
According to Smith, most clients who sugar often won't need to visit the salon for four to six weeks, and that over time, the hair loses its thickness, and the procedure becomes less painful.
"The biggest compliment I receive is when clients tell me they love their face, or whatever body part I have just sugared. It often makes them feel cleaner and when you feel and look better, you feel sexier," she said.
"I don’t know why, but I have been shocked by the amount of referrals I have been getting,” Smith added with a slight laugh. “Call me a bit ignorant, but wow, you hear about people referring other people, but I just never knew it could be like this.”
I for one would highly recommend that if you wax any part of your body, to give Smith a chance and try sugaring the next time you are due for a procedure. I feel that she was completely honest about the entire process as well as what to expect afterwards. In the video below, Smith provides a quick demo of the process:
Although walk-ins are welcome, an appointment is highly recommended. Smith is available Tuesday through Saturday. For now, morning appointments are available on Saturdays only. Use the contact information below to schedule, or submit a request via Smith’s website.
Be sure to also follow Asucar on Facebook in order to keep up with Smith’s daily deals, such as 50 percent off a variety of services.
Schedule with the Salon: (619) 295-4166
Contact Smith directly: (619) 212-3544 – or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Genesis The Salon is located at 320 W. Washington Street in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego.