We all begin from somewhere. Entrepreneurs and even those who are still in the process of becoming one go through levels of progress that takes them from one job to the next until they have what they dreamed of. Co-founder and Creative Director for WarPaint International Beauty Agency, Jessica Mae, is no stranger to this narrative. As a boss to be reckoned with, she started her business while running after her full-time job. She shares her own journey towards creating her own business as well as the lessons she got along the way. Jessica lets us in on what made her successfully transition. She also touches on the beauty industry and how she got into it while sharing the best advice she heard as an entrepreneur.
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From Full-Time Job To Entrepreneurship with Jessica Mae
I am so blessed and so honored to have one of my dear friends and such a phenomenal entrepreneur and she has honestly saved me multiple times. I want to give you some phenomenal highlights. I'm not even doing it justice, everything that I'm going to share here. This boss to be reckoned with, she started her business while she was going and she was running after her full-time job. When she jumped out in faith and started her own business, the amount of media and press that she received from it was through the roof because she was different. She launched a beauty agency, which I am on a regular basis utilizing, which is amazing. She founded WarPaint International. Just a couple of highlights, she produced Rumble on the Runway. She launched a couple of different locations, one of them being New York, which I'm going to be utilizing for some of our different fun things. She had produced New York Fashion Week, a component of it. I am extremely proud, honored, and blessed to have my beautiful dear friend, Jessica Mae, with me. Thank you for coming on.
Thank you for having me, Stefanie. Speaking of saving, you've saved me in multiple ways too so it's a mutually beneficial saving relationship.
Iron sharpens iron. I need to give you guys the background of how I met this all-star. I was launching my book back in 2016 and I had this vision and dream that I feel was downloaded from the main man upstairs to make this book launch. Not only a book launch, but an experience to change women's lives and change the way that they see themselves and step into their God-given potential. One of the things that I asked myself was, “What do women love?” Women love fashion. They love fun. Will they love a fashion show? That sounds amazing. Long story short, I had it all lined up. We're ready to go.
Probably about two weeks out and the gal who was going to be running the fashion show, she messages me and she says, “I'm having some family issues so I can't run the fashion show.” I'm like, “What? No, I've already landed Calvin Klein as a sponsor, Fabletics with Kate Hudson, all these different amazing sponsors. You can't just not show up.” She's like, “No, I'm not showing up.” I'm freaking out. I go to this women's event that I'm speaking at. I meet this beautiful angel that is extended from above and I'm freaking out. I said, “I don't even know what I'm going to do.” What did this beautiful human being say? “I'll take care of it. I'll do hair and makeup and I'll coordinate all the songs.” She was my saving grace. I don't know what I would've done without you.
It was such a fun event. It was a great growth opportunity for me as well because there were a couple of little hiccups behind the scenes that you had to take a deep breath and breathe through and say a little prayer. It all turned out so amazing and I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to work with you.
Thank you. It definitely was such a beautiful partnership from day one.
The feeling is mutual.
It’s cool how God works because after the whole event happened, you hit it out of the park. I couldn't have asked for more. I’m so thankful. You read my book when you were out in New York. Why don't you share a little bit about that experience?
When I met Stefanie, we met before that event but it was more just in passing. When we connected, it was definitely divine intervention. I completely believe that with every molecule in my body. During that time in which you didn't know, I was going through a rough time as an entrepreneur. I had been in my business for a couple of years. I was feeling like I was spinning my wheels and wasn't getting anywhere. I felt stuck. I had some other personal things going on in my life at the time that were challenging as well. My mom and I went on a trip to New York the first weekend in December of 2016. I brought your book with me and I started reading it and it was like the clouds opened up. It was like speaking new life into my soul. We landed, literally weren't even at the gate yet. I was texting Stefanie saying, “I'm reading your book. I'm not even a quarter of the way in yet and it's changing my life. I would love to have you be a business coach and mentor for me.” She was elated and excited. It was a game changer, definitely a point in my life that I'll never forget.
I have to say you have been such a game changer. That's the beautiful thing of when you specifically look for or you pray for divine interventions, you can't figure it out on your own, but God orchestrates it. That's what you've done for me. Thank you, Jess. It's been so fun. Let's dive into your backstory. There are a lot of people that we call them wannabe entrepreneurs or people that are trying to make that side hustle work. I want you to share your backstory and how you transitioned from a full-time job to creating your business.
When I started WarPaint, I was working at a salon at the front desk. My husband and I started it together because he was the first person in my life who said, “You have a major passion for this. I believe in you. You're amazing. This is what you were put on this planet to do. Let's start a business.” Lying in bed one night, we drafted up the concept for WarPaint International and realized at that point that I needed to transition into a full-time job that was more steady, Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. The thought of that made me feel a little bit inauthentic because at the time, I had long red hair. I wear black. I wear spiked heels and a little bit more edgy. The idea of going into a very conservative office was a little bit off-putting. I thought, “I'm going to rock this. I'm going to make the best of it. I'm going to learn whatever I can out of this experience,” and I did. About two and a half years after that, we’ve grown WarPaint to a point where it was time to either kiss or get off the pot. It was time to dive in and take that leap of faith and say, “We're going at this full time because if we don't, I'll regret it the rest of my life.”
You were like, “All bets are off. Let's just go for it. Let's make it happen.”
It was growing exponentially and was demanding more and more of my time. I was doing my full-time job a disservice by being distracted mentally while I was there. I was then doing WarPaint International disservice by being not available for the growth that it was requiring of me. Finally, in May 2014, I just said, “It's time.”
What were the feelings? Even a couple of weeks in, did you have any feelings of like, “What did we just do?” Did you feel like there was a lot of faith behind what you were doing?
I would say it was definitely a mixture. I was super excited but also scared because I had no idea what I was doing. I had never worked for myself full-time before and I had no concept of what it takes to run a business full time. To be quite honest, for the first six months, I wasted a lot of time because I was having coffee and lunch with my girlfriends and sleeping in and going into happy hour and just like, “This is great. I can do whatever I want when I want.” Then Sam, my husband, being twelve years older than me, was trying very much not to manage me, but say, “Let's tweak our schedule a little bit.” I was like, “I got this. It’s fine.” At the end of that six months, I went, “You're right. I wasted a lot of time.” I had to find my own footing and stumbled my way through it, but we eventually got there.
Talk about a power partnership. You and Sam, I have fallen in love, #relationshipgoals. You guys definitely are such a beautiful couple and you complement each other extremely well. That's great that he called you out in a very caring and loving way. Tell me if you were to start all over again, what would you do differently?
I would have hired a business coach right off the bat. I struggle with time management. It's an area of opportunity for me. I would have introduced some of the skills and techniques that I've learned from you over the last couple of years immediately. I know that it would have made a huge difference. It's also one of those things where you go, “I would have done that differently,” but at the same time would I really?
Sometimes we do have to hit real life and sometimes learn those lessons that you can't learn any other way. Both of us are very similar. We can sometimes be stubborn like, “It's my way or the highway.” We drive our agenda, but once we do hit that rock bottom moment, then bringing someone in that will guide and direct you, it was better received. It all happens for a reason. What would you say would be one of your biggest struggles along the way as an entrepreneur and how do you overcome it?
There's been a lot of high peaks and a lot of low valleys and I know that there's going to be more. It's the way it goes. I definitely think that making sure that I have the right people on the bus has been one of the biggest challenges because it's like what they say. If you have one rotten apple, it spoils the whole bunch. If you don't have the right person in the right seat, that does not necessarily mean that they're a bad apple. It's just you're not going to have the type of growth that you need and/or want. Due to some of that, it has created some different struggles and challenges along the way and has gotten us stuck a few times and has caused some cashflow challenges. Emotional and personal challenges too because it is a small business and it is like a family. You do as much as you try to keep it business is business and friends as friends. It does get mingled in there. That's definitely been a big challenge. To overcome it, to be honest, it's been continuing to surround myself with amazing strong people like yourself. Just rooting down in faith has been a huge component. I've definitely noticed that when I have a good relationship with God, things are going in the right direction. When I start to stray, it’s when things start to unravel.
I even remember us going out to Peoples Organic. It’s one of the last times that we got together over lunch and I opened up and shared my heart of how there was this specific person in my life. I felt so extremely close to this human being. When I had to create a healthy boundary for myself, I felt like a fish out of water because she was a part of my life on another level. I was so blessed and grateful to even share my heart with that inner circle around you. It meant the world to me, that when we went out, when I walked away, I was like, “Thank you, Jesus, for such an extremely wonderful human being in my life.” It's the truth. That's what helps us go to that next level. We have other people that challenge us, and I was thinking about this even when you came out to the lake. You called me out on some stuff. I called you out on some stuff. Both of us were probably a little bit frustrated that we both said different things. It was so good because looking back on that, that was a game-changing moment for both of us and both of our lives.
It's creating those, as my therapist would say, no-edges relationships where it's calling you out, but it's coming from such a place of love. It’s like, “I've realized X, Y, and Z. How about thinking or doing it this way?”
Pushing the boundaries of how we think about things and shifting the paradigm makes all the difference in the world. I was sharing with you before we got this podcast started. I'm like, “I'm in a 90-day blitz. This is hard and some of this sucks,” and you're like, “Yes it does, but what are you learning from it?” I'm like, “I love it. You are so awesome.” How cool is that? We can have girlfriends and we can have that tribe around us that it's like, “This is hard, but how are you going to grow?” That's the way you have to strengthen that mental muscle and that's how you up-level.
Growth is uncomfortable. Sometimes flat out it’s not fun, but it's in those uncomfortable moments when exponential growth happens.
It’s leaning into it and being okay. It’s getting into the nitty-gritty of like, “I'm not going to die. It's going to be okay.” Tell me what is the best advice you've ever received as an entrepreneur?
It would have to be continuing to surround yourself with positive, uplifting people, but also incorporating people into your circle that are a step ahead of you that is going to motivate you and push you to go even farther than you thought you could. You had told me to come with a favorite quote, but this is from your book on being “Be bumped for a minute, not a month.” That is seriously some of the best advice I've ever received. Putting that into practice, however, is a totally different ballgame. That is definitely amazing advice.
If you could go back in time to the day that you started to become an entrepreneur, what is one piece of advice that you would tell yourself from day one that would help?
Learn QuickBooks. Take a class on QuickBooks. I dove into that like a fish out of water. I had no idea what a P&L was. I had no idea what cashflow meant. I'm a makeup artist by trade learning the business side of things. I definitely have the intelligence and the wherewithal to do it, but it was a lot harder teaching it to myself than if I would've just said, “I'm going to be humble and go take a class.” I literally thought that a write-off was a discount.
I don't judge. I've thought some pretty crazy things too.
If you've seen the Seinfeld episode of when Kramer smashes Jerry’s stereo and he's like, “The post office just writes it off.” He's like, “Write it off what?” He goes, “You don't even know what a write-off is.” He goes, “Do you?” “No, but they do, and they are the ones writing it off.” It was like that.
Life is not that serious. Just enjoy the journey and laugh through some of those moments. When you're in that place of maybe not feeling good about things. You're in that low vibe space, how would you say you get yourself to a high vibe? How do you shock yourself to get there?
There are a couple of things. I, in the last months, have started gratitude journaling. I get up every morning and make my coffee, put on some nice classical music or whatever I'm in the mood for that morning. I sit down and I think about what am I grateful for now. I physically take out a pen and my journal and write them down and date it. Then I spend some time in prayer and doing some devotions to just ground down for the day. Going back to the gratitude piece, when I start to feel like a negative thought is starting to enter my head or things start to get a little bit out of control, I take a moment and I pause even if it's just 30 seconds to go back to what am I grateful for now. Most of the time that works. If I still find myself feeling down or discombobulated, I call a friend. I phone a friend as they do on whatever TV show that is. A lot of times it's been you. I'll call other business mentors that I look up to or other women that are in my tribe that can give me that truth, especially the learning grace with yourself of like, “I'm going to allow myself to feel this, but I'm not going to get stuck in it.”
That is so good because if you don't let yourself feel those emotions, whatever you bury doesn't die. Have that good cry, cleanse it out and then give yourself that time and then onward and upward. That's such beautiful advice. I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about how you entered the marketplace. The cool thing about your business is you didn't come in like everybody else and that's why you got that media. That's why you got your press. Talk about the different type of angle that you came in, jumping in with your business with. Tell them what it is. I utilize this on a monthly basis. I'm obsessed, it's amazing. How did you come up with the idea? I want to hear all the things.
Taking it a step back. We started WarPaint without any startup costs. We did not take out a business loan. We did not seek investment dollars or anything like that. Sam and I started our business with a whole bunch of dreams, a whole lot of Jesus, and a couple of hundred dollars to get the domains hosted and things and just hit the ground running. Outside of that, it was a lot of creative brainstorming. In that, we came up with the concept of a beauty membership. I'm somebody who doesn't spend too much time looking at the competition. I do a little check, a little side eye like, “What are they up to? That's cool.” How can I turn that around and make it my own and make it better? I'm constantly looking for ways to be different because I do not want to be a me-too business. I want to be WarPaint International and original.
We concepted the idea for a beauty membership. Our company is based on doing makeup applications and hair styling services on-site. We go to the client's home, office, hotel, event venue. We have been known to one occasion do a backseat of a car if there's a need for somebody to get their services done and they don't have time to do it in their home. We decided, “How do we take that a step further and focus on retention?” Especially with weddings and photo shoots, that's one-time. We come in, we do the work, it's amazing. Most of the time we're not then retaining that client because they don't have big events all that often. We concept with the idea for the beauty membership to be a monthly membership like the gym or other places that have different memberships where you get two services per month. We come on-site. Stefanie now is one of our amazing VIP members.
It's amazing if you are in the twin cities if you're in New York. What're the other locations?
San Diego, Los Angeles and Charlotte, North Carolina.
This is a game changer because a lot of times as entrepreneurs, sometimes we will put ourselves on the back burner. We don't go and have fun and put ourselves out there and do something for ourselves. I feel like this can be something that can make yourself a priority. Have some fun. When you look better, you feel better. You exude more confidence, I feel. For me, this has been one of the most fun things that I splurged on for myself in the last year because it's something that you do for yourself. It makes all the difference in the world. It's a blast that I'm sharing it. I talk to my girlfriends about this all the time. I'm even giving some different fun lens away because it's a fun gift to give away to girlfriends as well.
Still to date, we've had the beauty membership. We're coming on our five-year anniversary in May and there's different businesses and salons around the twin cities specifically that do different memberships. I have a membership at Waxing the City for my brows and different things, but there's still no one doing something quite like what we are. That's exciting because it's different.
I am extremely busy so having them come to my house and everything A to Z and then I can just run out the door. That is worth its weight in gold to me versus having to go to the salon and try to figure all the things out. I love the simplicity of the membership. Thank you for creating it. You were helping the masses. You've been in business for years, give or take. What are the next five years look like for you?
We're excited about the next chapter of WarPaint International. We are going to be franchising the business. I'm very excited. I'm actually in the midst of reviewing this 80-page long document from our lawyers that I need to review to make sure that all the T's are crossed, I's are dotted, and I understand what's in there. I'm going to be spending a few long nights here getting through that. It's very exciting and then along with franchising, we do have a mobile app that's in development. Right now, we have an online booking which is mildly convenient. You can hit the website, hit the book now button and you're good. Pretty soon there will be a mobile app to download where we're just a couple of clicks away.
The thing that inspires me about you and Sam, you’re content but you're never satisfied with the status quo. You're always challenging yourself and you're always looking to grow. You always have a business coach. You always are enrolling in courses, in education, always stretching yourself to go to that next level. If you want to realize your potential inside, that's the type of environment that you want to put yourself in. That is extremely inspiring to so many people. Thank you for being who you are.
I see a personal therapist now. I've been seeing her for about a year for no better reason than to dig in and do that personal growth outside of the business. Learn more about my psyche and doing the check-ins and just making sure I'm healthy and that I am, as a person, is growing. She says to me in our sessions, “If we're not growing, our soul is dying.” It's the same thing with business. If your business isn't growing and you're not continually pushing the envelope, it's going to stay stagnant and eventually your competition is going to outgrow you.
Even in our last coaching session, I give people the option of, “Do you want to have solely business coaching or do you want to look at your life as a whole?” You didn't even think for a second. You said, “I want to see it as life as a whole,” because you know when you're filling the buckets in all different areas outside of the business, that helps the business on another level. That's cool. You make your yoga a priority, you make your prayer time a priority, your devo is a priority and that's such a beautiful thing. That's why you are growing at the level that you are. We're going to be shifting again to lightning round with Lady Boss. When you aren't crushing it in business, what do you love to do?
I love to drink wine. I love to spend time with our two adorable little baby puppies. They’re not baby puppies anymore. They're two and five. Spend time with my husband. Yoga. I love this new workout called Solidcore. It's everything.
If you wouldn't have started what you did with WarPaint International, what would you have gone into?
When I was going to college I was majoring in elementary education, so who knows, maybe I would've continued on with that. I would have ended up back in the beauty industry in some level or another. Maybe not a business owner, but definitely something in the beauty realm.
Chipotle or Chick-fil-A?
What’s your favorite way to spend downtime?
I love to read. I'm a huge reader. I love to go to church. It fills my soul and grounds my spirit and spending time with family and friends.
What are you absolutely addicted to?
That's why we connect. Cheers to coffee. What are you reading right now?
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
The first thing that comes to mind is when I was in eighth grade and I was a softball player. I had a front close bra on, and I was up to bat and I took a swing and miss, and the bra came unsnapped. I had to call time and I was like, “Sorry everyone.” I announced it. I don't know why. I felt the need to do that, but I announced it and I was like, “Sorry, everyone. My bra just came unsnapped.”
What’s your favorite food?
Who inspires you and who do you aspire to be like?
There are so many lady bosses that I'm inspired by. I know it feels cheesy, but you're a huge inspiration to me. May she rest in peace, Kate Spade was a huge inspiration to me, and I look up to her. This might not be popular to say, but I adore Ivanka Trump. Just on a personal level. She's a class act. She's incredibly intelligent and I love the empire that she's built. Unfortunately, she's got the last name that is probably not too popular with a lot of people right now, but as an individual, as a person, I adore her.
Describe yourself in one word.
You're such a beautiful human being. You exude authenticity and you care, and you have so much compassion for people. I thank God that God brought you into my life. If you could swap lives with one person for a day, who would it be and why?
It would be one of my besties, Jamie Yuccas. She's a correspondent for CBS. I've been with her when she's had different shots and things to do. Her job is so interesting and the cool people and stories that she gets to bring to light are so amazing. Our relationship has grown so much over the past couple of years. Being able to step into her life for a day and see the things that she comes into contact with her job, bring us even closer.
If you would be a superhero, who would you be and why?
Hands down, Wonder Woman.
Have we had any other answers?
She is such a badass.
I have all the memorabilia of her.
She's amazing. She gets in these epic battles and comes out and she flips her hair and it's perfect. If I could even channel that element, that would be fantastic.
That would be fabulous. We're on the home stretch here. If someone met you and said, “I want to become the boss of my own life and call the shots, what's my first step?”
Firing your fears and letting go of all the lies that you tell yourself. Get grounded because you got to have both feet on the ground and stand firm in who you are in your truth in order to do those things.
What is your definition of a boss?
Somebody who's extremely resilient and has a lot of grit. If you hear 100 noes, you're going after that one yes. Someone who doesn't give up and is willing to throw punches but also roll with them. It's important to be kind and have compassion but also set healthy boundaries so that you're not getting taken advantage of.
Any last words of wisdom?
Just echoing everything we've already talked about. Surround yourself with positive and supportive people that are going to help challenge you and help you grow. Stay true to who you are and stay grounded in faith.
This was such a fun episode. You made my day. How can people connect with you? I know so many of my audience that are in the areas that the beauty agency is in and the beauty membership is in. They're going to want to take advantage of this. How do they get ahold of you and all the things?
You can email me at Jessica@WarPaintInternational.com. You can visit our website, which is WarPaintInternational.com. You can find us on Instagram, @WarPaintBeautyAgency and then my personal Instagram is @MUAJessicaMae.
Thank you so much. I want to acknowledge you, Jess, for being such a beautiful light in the world. For caring so deeply for so many people and making the impact that you're making through your business and being who you are. You are an incredible human being and you make me better. Thank you. For the audience, you heard it from Jess and I'm going to echo that as I say at the end when I challenge you. This is your time to fire your fear, build your faith and become the boss of your own life. Get after it. Let's make it happen.
Instagram - @WarPaintBeautyAgency
Instagram - @MUAJessicaMae
About Jessica Mae
Jessica Mae is the Co-Founder and Creative Director for WarPaint International Beauty Agency, alongside Sammy J. Koza.
Makeup & beauty have been a lifelong passion for Jessica Mae. She has been working as a professional makeup artist for 11+ years, getting her start as a counter manager for Benefit cosmetics. Jessica quickly fell in love with the industry and her thirst for knowledge and growth in her career took precedence over all else.
In 2010 she shifted her focus away from the retail side of the industry and set out on a mission to create a unique agency of talent. Once "Makeup by Jessica Mae", operating in the consumer markets, Jessica launched WarPaint International as an on-demand mobile agency. WarPaint represents high profile artisans specializing in wedding day beauty, editorial hair and makeup, hair design, trend development, special FX and day experiences.
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