Today we’d like to introduce you to Kassandra Aitken.
Hi Kassandra, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
Lash Narrative is an LGTBQ+, Woman-owned lash lounge, education facility, and professional product line. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where to start, I have always been a creative person and always wanted to pursue a career that allowed me to be myself and as expressive as I’d like. The beauty industry was always of interest. However, when I was coming out of high school it was when the economy was crashing and my logical mindset in and accepted that the beauty industry wasn’t the most “secure” option at that time. So, I like to say I tripped and fell into the medical field. I just so happened to be good at it and stayed in for about 10yrs. I worked my way up within a medical group I was with for 8+ yrs. from medical assisting to clinical practice management. Eventually, I left because it was time for a change, and went on to teach medical assisting. I truly love teaching. Giving someone a practical skill that can not only give them a career but in turn, allows them to support themselves and their families is really rewarding. Seeing the look on another person’s face when it clicks and they realize they can do something is so awesome! However, I wasn’t thrilled about certain things within the school I was working for, that led to that job ending and me having a lot of time to really figure out what career path I wanted to go down. I worked on and sold some of my artwork, that was fine, just not consistent. I had been getting my lashes done for some time and it really interested me. The details involved were very intriguing, so I asked my friend who had been doing my lashes for some insight. She expressed how I would probably enjoy it since it’s so tedious and meticulous. The more I looked into it the more I wanted to pursue it. So, I enrolled into an aesthetics program back home in Las Vegas, NV to obtain my license so I could become a lash artist. I completed the 6-month program in 5 months, got my license, and on the same day applied for license transfer to Illinois and Missouri. At the time I was in a relationship and just a couple weeks prior to me completing my program they had accepted a job in the St Louis area, and we haven’t figured out what area we would be living in. We moved to the Illinois side of the river, and I went on the hunt to find somewhere to lash out of. By total fate, my insurance rep had mentioned her friend owned a salon and had a room open. I went to check it out that same day! the owner showed it to me, asked what I did I proudly proclaimed that I was a lash artist, and quickly had to give some more information and details. At that time lashing was not as common service here as it was in Las Vegas. Very few cosmetologists offered the service but there wasn’t anyone I found in my immediate area that specialized specifically in lash extensions. At that time, she offered me to rent the space, totally taking a chance on me. I didn’t know a single soul in the area, let alone have a clientele, but I knew I was about to make something big of this small start and told her I had big goals and I wouldn’t be there for more than 2 years. Just under 2 years later, what had originally started as Lashed by Kass in a tiny 10×4 room had expanded into a larger portion of the salon, and was about to take a major step forward even in the midst of a pandemic! I’m sure we all can recall our circumstances in early 2020 and so on, for me March of 2020 started with ending the relationship that had brought me to the area, moving into my own place, then two days later going into lockdown and having to close my business. I was faced with major decisions to make. I initially thought of going back to Las Vegas, but I had worked so hard to build my business, and the thought of just giving up wasn’t appealing. Things were so uncertain at that time. it was supposed to be a two-week closure that turned into 3+ months of no income, not to mention being nowhere near any friends or family. To say it wasn’t challenging would be a total lie. But somewhere between the emotional and mental toll of a breakup and the pandemic, I found my tenacity to keep going for my dream. Coming from the medical field the moment I learned to lash I immediately saw so many flaws and issues in the training, and sanitary procedures for a practice that is dealing with a mucus membrane, I knew very early into my lashing career I wanted to get established, and then build a lash lounge, education facility, and a professional product line. So, I made the most of the time, risking the little money I had left, and completed my training with NALA (National Association of Lash Artists) for my international accreditation as a lash educator, and developed my training program. I renamed my business, filed for a trademark, registered as an LLC, and took the first steps to starting my product line. I had no idea what the future held but I knew when the time came to open back up that I wanted to hit the ground running. And I’m so thankful I took the risk. I was extremely fortunate that I did not struggle one bit to build my schedule back up to fully booked. I realized I needed to consider my own space where I could have room to conduct my apprenticeship program and allow for those artists to rent space. I began looking, considered purchasing a building in downtown Belleville, IL but something in my gut suggested I wait, shortly after I was presented a space for lease on State St. in O’Fallon, IL. I looked at it, it wasn’t my big dream ideal space, But I saw the potential for a great stepping stone on the way to the big picture. I signed the lease in late October and began renovations in November. Between working a full schedule, I renovated the new location for Lash Narrative all on my own. I painted, laid the floors putting literal blood sweat, and tears into this space. Jan 2021, I welcomed my clients into my new space. It was still needing some furnishings and final touches, but I was still so proud to start seeing clients in my own space. I’ve worked towards building the space up little by little and started to realize that more space was definitely needed. Fortunately, just 3 months into it I was given the opportunity to expand into the unit next door. So, for the past couple months renovations have been underway! And with that has come challenges, setbacks, lots of memories I’ll cherish forever and now unfortunately the loss of my father has come into play. He had been helping me with this round of renovations, and now I’m accepting that I’ll be finishing the rest without him. I wanted to give up. If I were to say I hadn’t thought of totally throwing in the towel I’d be lying. But sitting here sharing my story has me reflecting on one of the things I live by. “Be your own inspiration.” I constantly tell people to stop looking for inspiration in others. What about your own story inspires you? I know sharing just this little piece of my story here and now has got me ready to take on the next steps. It’s okay to be tired and to take time to rest, but tired does not mean defeat. I am my own inspiration, and with that my flame is ignited once again and I’m ready to take on this journey and all it has in store for me. My only hope is that anyone reading this does the same! You can literally do anything, even with all the odds against you!
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
As I had mentioned previously, there were many hurdles, setbacks, and obstacles that have come along, but not one has caused me to quit. Maybe redirect, change course or simply just learn a lesson, but not give up. I have appreciated every roadblock because it helped me navigate and learn.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I feel I’m a combination of artist and business entrepreneur
Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
Know and hold your boundaries from day one. For example, if you have a no-show fee, enforce it for everyone! Don’t be afraid to fire clients that aren’t aligned with you or continue to disrespect you or time, there’re always two better ones waiting to have the privilege of being your client. Don’t take shortcuts. research the laws, licensing, and training requirements for your area. Don’t skimp on training. taking chap 1–3-day training from an unreputable source can really cost you in the end. Know all your metrics! doing lashes is more than just making people feel pretty, you are running your own business. You need to know all the ins and outs of your business and finances, fixed costs, variable costs and so much more. You’ll owe taxes, be sure to save for that! Take time for yourself. Self-care is important and will keep you performing at your best.
- Email: LashNarrative@gmail.com
- Website: www.LashNarrative.co
- Instagram: @Kass_of_Lash_Narrative