Faye Smith never planned on becoming a superstar beauty entrepreneur in Vancouver. In fact, if it weren’t for a fortuitous Google search in the English Midlands a decade and a half ago, she might never have even created a life for herself in Canada.
“I typed ‘Makeup University’ into Google,” she recalls. “Blanche Macdonald turned up near the top. I instantly loved the web site. I had a great conversation with a Director over the phone and I was instantly sold. My Mum tried to convince me to study somewhere in London but I knew I wasn’t a London girl.”
I typed ‘Makeup University’ into Google... Blanche Macdonald turned up near the top. I instantly loved the web site. I had a great conversation with a Director over the phone and I was instantly sold.
Britain’s loss was British Columbia’s gain. Today Faye owns and runs her own Beauty Salon, Primp and Proper, in Vancouver’s fashionable Gastown neighbourhood and a Hair and Makeup Artist Agency that has already expanded from its Van City roots to Toronto. The Faye Smith Agency has twice been named Makeup Artist of the Year at the British Columbia Hair and Beauty Awards, and has been a finalist and winner at the BC Wedding Awards multiple times over the past few years.
Faye still loves doing Makeup but an even greater pleasure for this beauty entrepreneur comes from helping other creative professionals launch their own creative journeys.
“My favourite part of this is finding work for other artists. When I graduated from Blanche Macdonald I remember thinking, ‘How do I do this?’ It’s easy to give up. I love being able to give people a career and inspire them to keep going.
I’m looking for artists who are driven. Personality, passion and reliability are absolutely essential. They go hand in hand with the actual skill.
“I’m always looking for people with a range of skills. I have Makeup and hair Artists who specialize in dark skin tones, Afro hair and curly hair. I have a specialist in East Indian weddings. I have Asian makeup specialists. I want someone special for everybody. I’m looking for artists who are driven. Personality, passion and reliability are absolutely essential. They go hand in hand with the actual skill.”
Running an agency was never part of Faye’s original career goal. She wasn’t planning on becoming a beauty entrepreneur. But when the opportunity to create a professional creative community arrived, Faye quickly realized she was onto something special.
I knew so many fantastic Makeup and Hair artists from Blanche I figured I’d hire them and take a commission for doing the marketing and scheduling.
“It all started with my very first bridal booking. I was only halfway through the program at Blanche when I met a woman at a bar that was getting married. I insisted that she booked me! Seven people needed Hair and Makeup. I knew I couldn’t do it by myself so I hired a classmate to help me. That was the beginning. It soon reached a point where I had so many inquiries I couldn’t do them all. I knew so many fantastic Makeup and Hair artists from Blanche I figured I’d hire them and take a commission for doing the marketing and scheduling. It kept building until it reached the point where we had 150 weddings a year and we were able to expand to Toronto. Makeup Artists love doing the creative work but they don’t always love the admin or collecting payments. I can do that part! Now we’re so busy I hire people to do that. The whole idea is for me to keep doing the things I love and hire people to do the things I don’t!”
Faye was adept at creating a life for herself long before she arrived in Vancouver. The first step on this journey was acknowledging that creativity was going to be at the heart of her future.
“By the end of my time at school in Birmingham the only thing I really liked was art. I was very emo back then, which led to a lot of makeup and some interesting hair designs. I was trying to come up with jobs you could do as an artist. Photography and makeup were on the list of things you could learn at college, so that was an easy decision. My Makeup teacher asked me to work with her on a few opera and theatre sets but things weren’t kicking off for me in England. I decided to go learn Makeup somewhere else.”
Even though Faye’s only previous Canadian experience had been on a skiing vacation in Quebec, that was enough to convince her that her future lay in the True North Strong and Free.
“Blanche had set up a Facebook group for students starting their courses at the same time so I was able to reach out to see if they wanted to roommate with me. That’s how I met Carmen, my best friend ever. She found us a place to live. That made coming to a new city really easy.
“Makeup School was amazing. The course gave me a taste of everything. For my prosthetics exam I created this half glamorous, half reptile girl. It turned out so well teachers would use it as an example of great work for years after. All my instructors were real life Makeup Artists. They provided me with so many career opportunities. They basically put everything on a plate for us. If you really want a career in Makeup, they give you the way to get started.”
Makeup School was amazing. The course gave me a taste of everything. All my instructors were real life Makeup Artists. They provided me with so many career opportunities. They basically put everything on a plate for us. If you really want a career in Makeup, they give you the way to get started.
The blossoming beauty entrepreneur was busy straight out of Makeup School. In less than a year she had enough photo shoot and bridal clients to relinquish her part-time position doing Makeup for guests at Vancouver’s Absolute Spa.
Talent runs in the family with headshot photography by Faye’s husband, Brandon Hart Photography.
“I dabbled in TV and film but it didn’t mesh with my personality. At the same time I found that I loved bridal Makeup. It’s a role where you have to be very patient. Clients can ask for one thing and it turns out they have something completely different in mind. You have to be a people person and receptive to feedback. A lot of what you’re doing is customer service. It’s about making your client feel how they’d like to feel and meeting their vision. You have to realize that brides and their families can be going through a very stressful time. Sometimes they can’t sit still.”
It’s not just clients who can feel the pressure. Five years ago, the British-born beauty entrepreneur reached reached a point that she was so busy, the only sensible option was to open a Salon.
“It kind of happened,” she laughs. “I had a Makeup station in the house and began offering more services. It kept building to the point when I realized I didn’t want a salon in my home so I decided to get an actual store.”
Unafraid of taking her career in new directions, an unplanned detour (for this beauty entrepreneur and the entire beauty industry) arrived with the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was definitely an initial freak out when I heard that personal services had to be shut down.
“There was definitely an initial freak out when I heard that personal services had to be shut down,” she admits. “I have three employees at Primp and Proper so my main goal was to generate income so I could keep them employed. We decided to focus on selling product and do online lessons for kids. The lessons were more to entertain kids and help moms than anything else. The message I like to share with kids is that less is more. You don’t need to wear a lot of makeup, although funnily enough I wore a lot of makeup as a kid. I talk about ingredients too. Kids normally end up putting on the cheapest makeup they can afford, but they need to know that there are great cosmetics out there that are all natural and gentle on your skin.
“Both businesses are open again now, although so much has changed this year. As the situation developed people started making last minute decisions to elope or do micro weddings. Normally we’ll be booked for an entire year ahead. Almost everyone cancelled initially, but then we started receiving inquiries for just a few weeks in the future.”
It turns out the benefit of running your own agency is that no matter what the world throws at you, there’s always someone available to make it a little more beautiful.
“I always thought that the more people on our roster the better,” laughs Faye. “That way we could accommodate last minute bookings and big groups. Sure, COVID has changed things, but the industry is still here and always will be.”