How Alana Howard Went From Broke Beauty Consultant to Six-Figure 'SHE-E-O'
In this series called Member Showcase, we publish interviews with members of The Oracles. This interview is with Alana Howard, founder and SHE-E-O of Cosmopolitan Lash & Brow Academy, an upscale beauty academy. It was condensed by The Oracles.
Who was your biggest influence growing up?
Alana Howard: My grandma, Grace, was my biggest influence growing up. Everyone gravitated toward her. She was just so full of love and radiated kindness. I really valued her advice and opinions.
She is the reason I named my daughter Gracey. They were both the inspiration for my first brand, Graceful Lashes and micropigmentation.
What is one of your proudest moments?
Alana Howard: For every 10 students enrolled in one of our courses, we send one woman from a shelter through our eyelash extension course. This gives them the independence to provide for themselves and their children when they need hope the most.
This initiative is dear to my heart. When my brother and I were young, my mom found herself in a shelter with us. The first woman we put through the program was from that shelter. That was an extremely proud moment.
Being nominated for Academy of the Year by the National Association of Lash Artists was extremely humbling as well.
How did your business get started?
Alana Howard: While I was in high school, I went to the Sylvie Hennessy Academy of Esthetics & Spa Therapies after school and on weekends. I started doing nails when I was 16 years old and began working in spas when I was 17.
But I went to college for marketing and started working as an executive assistant in the automotive industry after I graduated. I was commuting an hour and a half to work one way, with my daughter in daycare from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. every day. I was truly depressed and felt guilty for putting her there for a career that barely paid the daycare bill.
I knew that my happiness was worth more than my nine-to-five job. I wanted to rejoin the beauty industry, so I took an eyelash course and quit my job. I couldn’t afford to rent a salon, so I offered mobile eyelash services and drove to my clients’ houses and offices. I couldn’t even afford a portable table, so I had to use whatever I could to make it work. Sometimes I even had clients lie on their kitchen tables!
What did you learn from your favorite mentor?
Alana Howard: Dale Carnegie is a personal favorite. “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age,” an adaptation of his 1936 book, inspired me to start Cosmopolitan Academy’s initiative for women. It talked about giving back authentically and told the story of Toms Shoes, which gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold.
I had goosebumps when I read that chapter and knew I wanted to give back in a similar way. That night, I decided to send one woman from a shelter through our eyelash extension course pro bono for every 10 women who sign up for one of our courses.
What was your biggest challenge starting up? How did you overcome it?
Alana Howard: Getting clients was a struggle when I first started. I learned everything I could and found a coach to help me overcome this obstacle, which scaled my business to levels I couldn’t have imagined. Coaches are like a GPS for your business. This helped me get where I was going in no time at all.
How do you define great leadership?
Alana Howard: Leadership is being an active part of your team. It’s not a position or a title, but an action and example. Pumping up the team and offering inspiration is my biggest objective. It’s never about my role — it’s always about the team’s goal.
How do you hire top talent?
Alana Howard: I look for character and personality. I want to work with down-to-earth, happy, smiling people who are confident enough to make eye contact and gentle enough to have an easy conversation with. I can teach the business but I cannot change your attitude.
Which single habit gives you 80% of your results?
Alana Howard: Once I built a solid business foundation, I identified my next goal and gave myself the building blocks to reach it. Once I achieved my next goal, I made another. I’m always working toward something, never sitting stagnant. Mindset and consistency are key.
What are you working on right now?
Alana Howard: I’m working on a course for women who are just where I was: tired of the daily grind, financially strapped, and confused about their next steps after becoming certified in the beauty industry.
Everyone teaches the techniques, but no one teaches how to scale your business after you learn them. It’s definitely a void in the industry. So many women are confused about how to retain clients and market their business in this fast-paced industry. My course will create clarity and become a gateway for certified beauty professionals to make six figures quickly.
What is the most exciting question that you spend time thinking about?
Alana Howard: How can I use my expertise and experience to help and inspire others? So far, I have created an initiative for women and launched a coaching course to help others. I’m excited to see where this takes me in another year or two. I truly feel blessed to be in this position.