written by: Zanne Lamb-Hunt
Nicole Knight has spent her entire life right here in Frederick County. She has two sisters and one brother. Her father was a school teacher and her mother was a stay-at-home Mom. “They were amazing!”
She shares, “They always taught us to just be the very best at whatever you do and the sky will be the limit. To live your life with integrity and character and all that good stuff.”
She earned a degree in Education at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. She has been married to her husband, David, for twenty-four years.
Natalie, their daughter, is twenty-one and just made them grandparents! Their son, Justin, is a Senior at Linganore High School.
Nicole made the leap from being a school teacher to being an entrepreneur and she’s proud to offer three benefits that set Smooch! far apart from the run-of-the-mill makeup stores and the average makeup lines.
The 3 Top Benefits of Smooch!
“Customization is just an amazing option to have and it’s very affordable.”
#1 “In customizing makeup, we can look at your skin and figure out the right shade. We can influence the skin care benefits of your foundation.
“The foundation feels and looks like its part of your skin instead of sitting on your skin because of the ingredients that we choose to use.”
Design your own lip color. They’ll help you with the process. And, add a flavored oil in there, if you’d like.
When you’re done, you get to name your custom shade and leave your Smooch! behind to go on the Studio wall! How cool is that?
#2 “We are very strict with our ingredient integrity. We use all clean ingredients that are plant-based and botanicals.
“What you’re putting on your skin absorbs through your skin in about forty-five seconds and literally goes through your blood stream. It’s really important to know!”
#3 “We look at girls from all ages, from 9 to 99!
“It’s age appropriate makeup. We sit them down and get a feel for their personal style, their lifestyle and we help them find a routine that makes sense for them.”
Nicole’s Path To Entrepreneurship
Nicole taught for a few years in the early 90’s. Then, she met Faye, “a really dynamic business woman who had her own makeup company.” At the same time, Nicole’s brother-in-law happened to be in the Salon industry.
“I was a young teacher with nothing to do in the summer. He asked me to bring some makeup into his Salon.” She introduced Faye’s makeup line.
Four years later, Nicole went from teaching full-time and working in the makeup business part-time to “leaving the education profession behind for good” as she went full-time with Faye.
A few years later, she went out on her own. “I had my own line in a few Salons in the Frederick area. It grew and grew and grew!
“Women really aren’t confident in what they’re doing with their makeup. So, I took my teaching talents to the makeup chair.”
Nicole’s business partner, Kendra, is also her sister-in-law. They went to lunch one winter day back in 2008 and suddenly made the decision to have their own storefront. They opened their doors in April of 2009.
The Lipstick Effect Goes Back To The Great Depression
Even though the economy wasn’t so great at the start, Nicole was sure that “women are going to wear makeup no matter what the economy is doing.”
She adds, “Research shows that when the economy is down and people are holding their wallets close to their chests, and not wanting to spend money, sales in small items like lipstick and makeup actually skyrocket.
“This is because a) it’s a luxurious necessity, b) it’s affordable and c) it’s a little pick-me-up.”
Defining Their Product Line And Market
They brainstormed ways to reach across all demographics to bring customers in to a custom makeup store. They didn’t want it to seem intimidating or expensive. Basically, they took the same model that Nicole had been using for fifteen years to a larger scale and added a custom lipstick.
She continues, “You find that lipstick and it’s a little too orange or it tastes funny or its a little too shiny.” Customization was the way to go!
They did their research, found a lab with the clean ingredients and started the ball rolling. Her sister came up with the name Smooch!
Biggest Challenge of Entrepreneurship
“There’s a saying in the retail industry that too many SKUs will kill you. We do have ready-to-wear products. The two things that are customizable are the lipstick and the foundation.
“It’s really a delicate balance between how many products to carry to keep our line exciting, new and fresh for our customers while not carrying too much product so that all of our revenue is eaten up by the inventory that we have to constantly restock.”
Advice Nicole Would Give Herself If She Could Start Over
“Don’t let your guard down. Just when you think you have it made in the shade, things are going great and your store is running like a well-oiled machine, you get a curve ball. There are millions of curve balls out there.
“You get your feet knocked out from under you,” she said, “and you have to get back up and try something different. So, never let your guard down.”
Making A Heart-Touching Difference
“We get very close and personal with our clients.” One particular time sticks in her mind.
“A mother of three boys came in. She said she had never learned how to do her makeup. She had no idea what she was doing.
Nicole continues, “She was probably late 40’s…early 50’s maybe. She wanted to start taking time for herself.
“So, we went through everything, picked out some products and taught her some techniques that would make sense for her life.
“In the end, when she looked at herself in the mirror, she started to cry. She said “I have no idea why I didn’t do this sooner. I can’t even tell you how I feel.”
Nicole responded, “Don’t cry, you’re going to mess up your makeup!” It definitely touched her heart.
“Our business just absolutely inspires confidence. Our mission is to empower women to see themselves as beautiful both on the inside and on the outside.”
She advises women to “wear your face everyday. We don’t care who you are. Everybody has skin.
“You need to learn how to take care of your skin and protect your skin. And, everybody has a face. Everybody wants to look pretty.”
What’s The App or Resource Nicole Can’t Live Without?
She doesn’t skip a beat to say, “Without a doubt, it’s my Remote Desktop Connection to my system at the store. I’m working all the time, even though I’m not on the floor or in the store all the time.
“It enables me to get into my system live. I can see what’s going on with the day, I can book an appointment from wherever I am. I feel like I’m always connected. It’s amazing!”
A Book And A Quote
Nicole likes the message in The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen. She’s inspired by the potential for small efforts to have a big outcome. “You do something to grow your business — something small — every day.
“The slight edge is that little bit that you do every day.” It’s going to result in a big success one day!
She also likes the message behind the quote “The best exercise for a person is to reach down and lift another up.”
“We have women coming into our store every day. I always tell my staff that they’re bringing you the best that they’ve got.
“Even if they’re grumpy, not in a good mood, whatever — love on ’em, welcome them, smile at them.
“You don’t know what they’ve experienced that day, that year, that month. They’re bringing you the best that they’ve got so always try to lift people up.”
Check out the awesome products and services at Smooch! Studio today for your own uplifting, empowering makeup experience! Leave YOUR Smooch! on the wall!
* Gluten-Free Products Are Available * Ask about the Skincare Refill Program
8 North East Street
Contents Provided by Frederick Advice Givers Podcast Episode #065: Eric Verdi Interviews Nicole Knight