Melissa Lekus had a job many would lust after as an assistant director on TV and movie sets. But, she found that life was hard on her body, and she was looking for that next career path that would reinvigorate her feeling of career bliss. She knew working the traditional 9-to-5 job didn’t fit her personality, and after life on set she couldn’t imagine working in a traditional office at a desk every day.
She knew that she liked providing women with a break from their often hectic lives. She also loved the fulfillment that came with helping others look and feel amazing, so she launched a new career as an esthetician and skincare expert. “As I studied skincare, I really fell in love with the science,” Melissa says. “I was amazed at what skincare could do for one’s appearance and self-confidence. It can really transform people.”
Read on to hear how Melissa brings out the very best in women by giving them her best—whether through a quiet and relaxing facial or one fueled with hot-topic gossip.
What was your very first job ever? What is a lesson you learned in this job that still sticks with you today?
I worked at The Video Shop it was our local video rental store. I applied when I was 15 years old so I could start working there the second I turned 16. I yearned for the independence of being an “adult” with responsibilities and a paycheck. I really wanted that job. I would constantly stop by to say hi and remind them that I was going to work there. It never even occurred to me that I might be annoying. I was laser focused, persistent and determined. I was also strategic. I had a dream, and I put a plan in place and was willing to work the long game. It paid off and it still does. I have many dreams. I plan and strategize and I don’t worry that it takes time to get there. Anything good never happens quickly.
Goodness I really feel old looking back on this memory!
How did you get your start in this field?
Toward the end of my esthetician program I was assigned a research project that required interviewing people that currently worked in the industry. We had to talk to three different people that had different specialties as a way of getting a sense of what opportunities were available. It was fabulous to talk to people and see how the industry worked. After I met with each person, I sent them a thank you note and mentioned that I would be graduating soon and was looking for a job and if they were hiring or knew of anyone hiring I’d appreciate them thinking of me. Genuine follow-up has always been my key to getting jobs.
What prompted you to start your own business?
I have worked for a spa for the majority of my career. I learned a lot about running a business and what clients expect from their service provider. There came a time when I wanted to be in charge. I started to have strong opinions about services, products, my target client and pricing. I wanted to create an environment that I would be comfortable in and to offer services at a price point I could afford. My ideal clients tend to be similar to myself.
What does your work involve on a day-to-day basis?
My day varies, but my priority is always the client. Once I know how many clients I have for the day, I can then schedule the other things to do around that time. I work best with a schedule, otherwise it’s easy to lose track of time and not get anything done. I have an enormously long To Do list that never really feels any shorter.
I am a team of one, so I try to stay really organized. And sometimes I’m even successful at that! No day is “typical” and building the business is constantly the priority at hand. If I’m not actually in treatment, I am taking an action to get more visibility for the business. I am writing blog posts, guest blog posts, or my newsletter. Or, I might be preparing for a Tuesday Tutorial Live video. I am a huge list maker. I often schedule my day hour-by-hour so nothing gets forgotten.
What is the most rewarding part of the work you do?
I love being an entrepreneur. It’s not easy, and often if feels very lonely, but I love working with my clients and knowing that I am taking really good care of them. I enjoy spending the time with each and every person that comes in. We often go over our allotted time because we are laughing, or telling stories, or pondering some big philosophical topic.
What are some of your go-to skincare resources?
I have a lot of them depending on what I want to know. I really love the Beauty Brains Podcast. They talk all things cosmetic chemistry. Unfortunately they recently stopped adding more shows, but they have a fantastic library of information for people who are interested. I use Lori Crete’s The Beauty Biz Club for industry support as there are a lot of women in the group all working as estheticians. I love Paula’s Choice ingredient glossary. I’m in a lot of Facebook Groups that focus on either skincare or business building. Instagram is also an amazing resource for networking and exposure to skincare products and science that was impossible to find before.
Having spent a lot of time with a lot of different skincare products, what are three that stand out to you that every woman should own?
I’m not necessarily brand loyal, but I do think every woman should have:
- Vitamin C Serum
- Glycolic Exfoliator
- Eye Cream
What is something surprising someone might not realize about your work?
I actually spend quite a bit of time trying to stay on top of current events and pop culture so I have a working knowledge of most subjects so I can converse about any topic. My clients are often very chatty, and they tell me a lot about their lives and relationships. Often times the subjects get very deep. For example, we might chat about politics, or personal opinions about children and animals.
What is an accomplishment on your resume that you’re particularly proud of?
Becoming an entrepreneur. At one point I had a friend tell me I couldn’t be an entrepreneur because I was afraid of risk. At the time it was true, but I am proud to have overcome that fear. Letting it go has allowed me to learn and grow. I take responsibility for all my success and all my failures. I can’t tell you enough how hard and rewarding it is to be my own boss. I truly feel part of the #BossLady tribe.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit?
I used to think skincare was only for girly girls who like makeup and dresses. But in the last 10 years the industry has changed. Skincare is for everyone, and because of that it feels less judgy. Being beautiful means so many different things to different people. You can wear combat boots and still want healthy glowing skin. You can drop f-bombs, or be a feminist, or be a crazy cat lady and still want clear skin. Those are my people—my ideal clients–the people that feel “different” but still want healthy, glowing skin.
What is a mistake you made starting out that you hope others can learn from?
I am dedicated and hard working. I will always go above and beyond. You can count on me to show up and go the extra mile. As a result, sometimes that enthusiasm can be taken advantage of. I have learned valuable lessons from working somewhere too long, or for a boss I didn’t care for. While I gained lifelong friendships with people I met at those jobs, I will never again allow someone to take advantage of my dedication or to speak to me in an unprofessional manner, whether that person is an employer and or a client. It’s hard at the beginning to value one’s own worth, but know your boundaries and stick to them.
What advice do you have for fellow women aspiring to work in the beauty industry?
The skincare and beauty industries have become incredibly saturated with information. Be sure you know what’s true and what’s marketing. When you are learning about the skin and skincare products:
- Ask a lot of questions.
- Do your own research.
- Don’t take anyone’s information as fact.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
This industry is vast. Many people spend a lot of time and money getting their esthetician’s license and then find getting a job and earning a living challenging. But don’t let that deter you. There are a lot of options for specialization. Figure out what you love to do. Try lots of things. Don’t give up. If anyone wants to discuss what options are available to them as new estheticians, I would be happy to help them brainstorm.
- I’d love to grab coffee with: My mom. There’s just never enough time to tell each other all the things we need to talk about. (And we talk a lot!
- The books on my nightstand are: Lady Chatterley’s Lover (for book club), Lazy Perfection by Jenny Patinkin, The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant, POP! by Sam Horn, It’s Ok to Have Lead in Your Lipstick (the list goes on and on)
- My favorite quote is: “In with the positive, out with the negative.” -Lori Crete
- My favorite place to travel is: The movie theatre … or Paris … or a movie theatre in Paris!
- I can’t live without: My adorable dogs and my fabulous husband. (In that order. Is that bad?)
- My favorite way to unwind is: Instagram. I love spending time scrolling.
- I feel my best when: I get up early and accomplish just one thing before the rest of the beings in the house start to stir.