Boss Lady Monique Biven’s Talks What It Takes to Be A Young Entrepreneur With A Striving Business in The Beauty Industry
Name: Monique Bivens
Business: Brazilian Babes LLC
Monique Bivens is the owner of Brazilian Babes, a luxury beauty boutique specializes in Brazilian Waxing, Skincare/Specialty Services and Makeup application. Located in the center of Harlem, Brazilian Babes is next door neighbors to Art2Ink (one of Harlem’s premiere tattoo shops) and serves a community who has been waiting for unique upscale services to be available in their backyards. Being a Harlemite herself, Monique used her knowledge about her community and her passion for beauty to create one of a kind experiences for women. Opened in May of 2014, Monqiue managed to turn Brazilian Babes into a fully staffed 6-figured business within it’s first year.
We sat with Monique as she shared what inspired her to start her business, what has been some of the challenges she has faced as well as what advice she can she lend to other aspiring entreprenuers.
The Cool.: You’ve been in the beauty care business for over 10 years. What first prompted you to get into that industry?
Monique Bivens: I was 19 and I really needed a job. I used to wear makeup and stuff so someone suggested that I try to get a job at Sephora. So I went to Sephora, this guy named James took a liking to me and hired me in the middle of a group interview. I started working there at the cash register but I ended up staying there for 5 years. After about a year and a half I moved from the register into fragrance and eventually got into skincare. I became really good at skincare where I sold products and created skin regimens for customers.
After I left Sephora I went and got my aesthetician license. I began waxing at European Wax Center on the Upper East Side when they first opened. I started getting a good following there. I was their top waxer for about 2 years and a trainer as well. It ended up not working out after about 3 years but I had clients that wanted to follow me. The only problem was I didn’t have a place to work from. I started working from home but I knew that wasn’t really great for business especially since I wanted to grow. So I started to look for spaces and my friend told me about a small space that was on 114th Street. I rented it for about 3 months and saved up. Then I went on Craigslist and found this space and went from there…
I named it Brazilian Babes because I wanted to focus on Brazilian waxing since that was my specialty. With aesthetics and waxing you can pretty much do anything in beauty. With waxing you can do legs, arms, underarms, brows etc. but I wanted to be specific about the service I felt was special to me.
The Cool.: What prompted you to open a business in Harlem?
Monique Bivens: I’m from Harlem so I know the streets of Harlem. Harlem is kind of small so it makes it easy to identify when it’s changing and what’s necessary for the area. The demographic that I had at European Wax Center is the demographic that Harlem is changing into. So for me it was the perfect place to be. Nothing like it was here. It’s like the middle ground for people to meet from The Bronx, Westchester and Yonkers to the Upper East Side, Midtown and Brooklyn. Everyone can make it to Harlem. It was a central area for so many other clients that I already had. It just made sense. Plus I’m comfortable here, I know the neighborhood, I know how it’s changing, I know what clientele is here so I just knew it would work.
The Cool.: What are some of your services and how would you describe your clientele?
Monique Bivens: At Brazilian Babes we offer anything innovative from vajazzling to vajaycials (which is what we like to call our facials for your lady parts). I try to be innovative with everything we have going on because I want to offer a lot of services here that aren’t really available in Harlem. Along with the vajazzling and vajaycials, we do full body wax, of course Brazilian waxing, we also do brows and brow tinting. A lot of people don’t know we do really good brows. We also do facials. We’re adding luxury facials like 24 karat gold facials and platinum facials because I want to go in the direction of skincare services. I want to let people know that we’re not just waxers, were aestheticians and we’re really good at skincare. And then it brings me back to my time at Sephora where I was able to teach people about their skin but here I can add the service part along with it.
The Cool.: As an entrepreneur, what has been one of your biggest struggles?
Monique Bivens: I think my biggest struggle has been marketing. I think marketing is one of the hardest things to deal with when you’re in a neighborhood that isn’t necessarily used to what you’re offering. The challenge is trying to convince someone that this is a great service for them. With our services we also have to make sure we’re putting it out there safely. You can’t just throw a vagina on Instagram. So the challenge is how do I make this fun and intriguing but still let them know this is what we do. That’s where the diamond vagina picture came from (see photo below). I had it in the window for a while and it caused some controversy. However it did what it was supposed to do. But then I took it out the window because people starting thinking we were a vajazzling store. But yea, marketing is the hardest thing. I’m always on Instagram like “so what happens now?”, “how do I write this?”. I see so many other brands like hair companies or hair stylists and they post so much. They’re frequently on social media and I’m trying to keep up.
The Cool.: What has been one of your biggest accomplishments?
Monique Bivens: Making it this far. Actually still having 5 stars online and having a great referral program like we have. Our clients really appreciate what we do and I get majority of my clients from referrals. We haven’t done any big advertising yet so I certainly count our growing clientele as a success. If people didn’t like what we do they wouldn’t tell they’re friends to come. I just signed on for another 5 years to rent this space so that’s another success I’m happy about.
The Cool.: What’s one piece of advice you would give a young entrepreneur who wants to open their own storefront business?
Monique Bivens: I would tell them to stick to the script. Have a list of things you want to do in the order of when you want to do them and try your best to stick to it. Everything comes in your way when you’re working on trying to start your business and you don’t want to get confused or thrown off about what comes next.
Also be confident in your plan and also in what you’re offering. People are more comfortable when they see someone is confident in what their doing.