The Key to Being a Successful Solo Esty with Pro Leah Simon-Clarke

Stories of Success… Leah Simon-Clark
The seasoned veteran is celebrating 25 years of working in esthetics and has an expansive set of knowledge and endless positive experiences to show for it.
Photo courtesy of Shari Fleming Photography

Leah Simon-Clarke, esthetician and consultant, knows that there is no easy path to success in the esthetic industry. If you want to be a recognized business owner and industry professional, you must be able to put in the work physically and mentally. The seasoned veteran is celebrating 25 years of working in esthetics and has an expansive set of knowledge and endless positive experiences to show for it. The esthetics pro sat down with Skin Inc. to discuss a brow trend that is always in style and why having a mentor is vital for any solo esthetician or business owner.

Skin Inc. (SI): How did you get started in the industry?

Leah Simon-Clarke (LSC): As a pre-teen, I used to massage my immediate family members. Knowing where to find muscle tension and how to move the hands came very naturally to me. To this day, I use that same intuitive touch. I treat body work similarly to a musician playing a musical instrument. Where the body is the instrument and “music” comes through in the form of energetic frequencies or a sense of vibration felt physically, emotionally and on a soul level. I find this to be one of the greatest expressions of love and my greatest form of being able to give to another human.

SI: What inspired you to go into esthetics?

LSC: It was my understanding of the power of healing through touch that put me on the path of choosing to become an esthetician in my very early 20s. Prior to accomplishing my esthetic certification, I spent two years working my way up from a customer service role into a supervisor role at a reputable salon and spa. This allowed me to work for a full year in the industry prior to making the decision to start the esthetic program. After a year of getting this hands-on experience, I knew the industry was for me, and I started going to school for esthetics on the evenings and weekends. Because I moved into a leadership role during the stage when I was getting trained as an esthetician, I was able to hone skills that would later contribute to owning and operating my own spas.

SI: What does a typical day at work look like for you?

LSC: I would say there isn’t a typical day for me. As an entrepreneur and someone who needs to evolve to not lose interest, the most unique aspect of my long career has been my ability to create opportunities where I am able to ebb and flow. There were many years when I was running my own spas, and I was unable to perform facials because I was busy with so many roles within my company. During those years, I would perform 50 service hours a week jam-packed with faster eyebrow shaping and tinting services. After merging with another company at the end of 2015, I was able to get back to a place of zen at times and offer skin care treatments again. I currently take my clients for services on a rotation or in bursts. This allows me the time to share my knowledge through writing for skin care magazines and consulting, and training companies or individuals on the days and weeks when I am not with customers.

SI: What is your favorite brow trend you’ve seen come up recently?

LSC: Fads will come and go, and for that reason, I am not a professional that boasts trends. I put the time and research into knowing what is beneficial for our customers in the long run and not what might sell in the short term. This mindset has been paramount with building trust with my guests. A full brow where the esthetician can see the natural curvature of the arch based on the individual's bone structure and natural peek of the eyebrow is always what will look best on everyone. It is remarkable what our tried-and-true esthetic methods can accomplish. If we are looking at any trends that have come up that I believe are effective in the long run, I would say the invention of brow and lash growth serums. I have always fully tested products out to verify their effectiveness before considering making a recommendation or choosing to carry a specific product. As it relates to skin, I believe the most beneficial treatments will accompany knowledge of how lifestyle choices affect our aging process.

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SI: What is your greatest accomplishment?

LSC: Running my brick-and-mortar spas and salon through the economic collapse of 2008 as a new business, having just expanded from one to three locations. Running a business that provided a livelihood for upwards of 20 employees at any given time for many years. And, before deciding to close, finding a partnership with another salon was a win-win-win. This benefited my employees, the company we were merging into, as well as myself. Five years later, I trusted my intuition just before the pandemic and recommended and consulted that salon business through a similar transition with another, even larger company. Some days, months and even years will be outstanding, but no-one makes it through a 25-year time frame professionally or personally without hitting times where there are road blocks and challenges that seem insurmountable. I would say the thing I am most proud of is how I was able to get through the difficulties while innovating.

SI: What is your favorite part about the spa industry?

LSC: Our customers are without a doubt what I appreciate the most about our industry. Of course, we love everything beauty and wellness; that goes without saying. But, without the people who choose us and their trust in us, we wouldn’t have the joy of being able to do what we do. For that reason, I never rest on my laurels. I feel that we have a responsibility to show up fully for them.

SI: What is your best piece of advice for new or aspiring estheticians?

LSC: Do your due diligence. Study the industry and your craft significantly. Being the first to do anything can be exhilarating, but it can often lead to roadblocks when there isn’t a well-laid-out path forged by someone who has not already made the mistakes that you can learn from. For this reason, it is important to align yourself with leaders that you can learn from. At every stage in life, both personal and professional, I have been fortunate to have at least one key mentor in my life. Don’t underestimate the benefits of working for a busy and reputable spa and salon. This is the easiest way to align yourself with mentors and have a support team of people around you that you can learn from and grow your clientele with. If being independent or going into business for yourself is truly for you, don’t rush it. In the last decade, it seems everyone wants to go out on their own. Doing so because you want to make your own hours and not have a boss is entirely the wrong reason to do so. It takes dedication and putting the work in for many years to be successful at being independent. Even for me, after 25 years.

SI: How do you keep your knowledge of the industry fresh?

LSC: From the beginning of my career, and something I still do to this day, I have traveled to other larger cites to research and experience new and unique services and products. I do this to stay on top of what’s new, and then bring the best treatments and products into my work.

SI: What is your favorite hobby?

LSC: I spend a lot of time being an active aunt. I love my nieces and nephew, and it gives me great joy to spend time with them. I also love to play tennis and attend comedy, music and theatre performances.

SI: Where do you see the future of the spa industry headed?

LSC: Recently, there have been initiatives to bring technology into spas including no-touch services, virtual reality and such. Although I appreciate and believe in many technological advancements and use some professionally (e.g.light therapy), we can never replace human interaction and touch. And the more technology advances, the more high touch we need. I don’t just blast a face with red lights in my facials. I accompany it with a soulful foot and lower leg massage that not only feels outstanding but puts the guest into a deep state of relaxation and often sleep. I can guarantee you a person will always choose modalities in tandem with high-quality touch services when given the choice. I also see it being advantageous to have a basic knowledge of nutrition and an overall wellness practice that allow professionals to not only recommend what is good for our skin, but what is also important for overall health. The more dynamic approach an individual or a business takes, the more successful they will be.

SI: Any parting words?

LSC: Everything done well is art, be an artist.

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