Tiara Calhoun-Smith of Sugar Suite Lounge
December 23, 2020 6 min read
The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur’s contributors are their own.
If Tiara Calhoun-Smith can’t find what she needs, she has no problem creating it. Case in point: your beauty school, the SSL Skin Institute in Dallas, Texas, was a natural addition to your Sugar Suite Lounge cosmetics practice.
Calhoun-Smith wasn’t always a beautician. Her initial training was in nursing. She worked as a pediatric oncology nurse for seven years before taking a career break and starting a family with former NFL player Shaun Smith. But ultimately, she wanted to do something that would provide fulfillment and create a future for her children.
So Calhoun-Smith continued her education as a beautician, although she went in a completely different direction after completing her training. Starting with eyelash extensions, Calhoun-Smith soon switched to facials, and then she entered the market that set her company on the path for future growth.
“I became popular because I specialize in skin care for men and women of color,” she explains. “People were very drawn to taking care of their skin and I was able to tell them about it,” she says, adding that she knew exactly what to do to help with skin discoloration, cystic acne, acne scars and other problems that affects the black community.
A family oriented beauty school
Beauty education soon became an integral part of Calhoun-Smith’s business, leading to the creation of the SSL Institute. “A lot of people were interested in me and asked which school I went to,” she says. “I didn’t want to send them to this school because I didn’t feel it would give them what they needed, so I started a school next door.”
While Calhoun-Smith could easily fill the class many times over at her popular location, she says, “I take pride in keeping it small, intimate, and family-oriented.”
And it’s really a family business with her mother working as the admissions director.
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The training school also works seamlessly with the cosmetic services it offers through the Sugar Suite Lounge. SSL Institute graduates can apply for Calhoun-Smith’s paid apprenticeship program, which allows three people to benefit from on-the-job training each year. This also means that she has staff to help her expand the beautician’s practice.
Building a Successful Beauty Business
Calhoun-Smith understands that there is no overnight success in business and that one has to accept that there will be some sleepless nights and move on. “You have to be very practical,” she encourages. “You have to be hectic and grind. You have to be ready to stand the test of time. You can’t give up at all.”
Says her husband’s support was also crucial, adding, “You need to have a strong support system. It is so important that those by your side believe in your dreams and visions as much as possible.”
Calhoun-Smith admits that it took her two years to start her cosmetics business and make a regular profit, even though she was able to cover her expenses in just seven months. An early lesson she learned was to always get deposits from customers so they cherish their time and not cancel appointments at the last minute.
She was also happy to do her own research and not follow the norm. The result is valuable partnerships, such as one with the PCA skin care line. She has also traveled extensively to watch what is happening in the industry to stay ahead of the trends and to build relationships.
Relationships also play a role in their aesthetic practice. Calhoun-Smith attributes her success with customers ultimately to the fact that she is relatable, personal and, above all, honest. “I’m very honest and transparent from the start,” she says. “I’m not here to sell you a line of products. I’m here to help you create healthy skin.”
In doing so, Calhoun-Smith feels that she is confirming that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to skin care. Or as she puts it: “I don’t follow any protocols, I make my own protocols.” She created a vitamin C serum and is currently meeting with chemists to develop a full line of skin care products.
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Calhoun-Smith remains motivated by the changes she can bring to her clients, like the 21-year-old who had third-degree burns on her face and is now practically flawless. But, she says, the biggest effect of these outer transformations is inside: “I’ve seen people cry because they’re depressed about the way their skin is, and what I do actually helps and motivates them and creates that whole self confidence, which is absolutely beautiful. “
While her business was closed for four months during the pandemic, her customers were dying to come back. Since the beautician services are performed individually, she believes that people were comfortable and their business was able to flourish.
Planning for the future
Calhoun-Smith is far from finished. She believes in lifelong learning and goes back to school to qualify first as a medical assistant and then as a medical doctor. This means that she can expand her beautician practice by prescribing medication for conditions such as cystic acne.
However, your general motivation remains the same as when you started your workout. “I come from a household with just one parent,” she recalls. “I feel like I have to leave something for my girls. It’s not the norm for black Americans to grow up. I think it’s very important that both the school and the spa are left for my girls because the beauty industry never goes anywhere. It’s something they keep doing, or have later in life, or pass on from generation to generation. “