This month I’ll be celebrating my 10th anniversary as a full-time MUA. I can’t quite believe that so much time has passed since I did my first ever wedding, but here I am! My anniversary got me thinking about all the events and milestones that led me from my very unlikely beginning – a new mum with a completely different job and no makeup or wedding contacts – to where I am now. It’s been quite a journey! So I thought I’d share it with you all.
23 Aug 2008 – My wedding day.
I have the most beautiful bridal makeover at a stunning makeup studio in Lithuania and have that ‘a-ha!’ moment – making people feel beautiful, confident and radiant on their special day is the job for me! It feels crazy. After all I’ve worked in a corporate environment for the last 8 years and am a new mum. (my son was 6 months old when we got married.) Even so, as the days pass and the excitement of our wedding starts to fade, I feel more certain that I’ll use the rest of my maternity leave to retrain as a bridal MUA and change my career.
Two months later, I fly back to Lithuania and spend two months studying with my bridal MUA, whose unique training methods set her apart from any other teacher I’ve come across. I throw myself into my studies, taking 3 intensive courses in parallel and complete training in colour theory, bridal makeup artistry and styling before returning to the UK. I spend the rest of the year researching bridal MUAs, working out my pricing, building a portfolio and setting up a website. All while taking more courses here in London and honing my makeup skills. I’m working flat out and the winter months fly by.
May 2009 – My website goes live!
My son has started nursery part-time, so I have a bit more time for that final push. My website – made with the help of a kind friend – is clean, simple and clutter-free. It’s just what I wanted and it means that Kristina Gasperas MUA is in business! A week later, I get my first enquiry. Woohoo! I was told that I’ll always remember my first paying client and it’s true. I remember her as if I did her makeup yesterday.
The Summer’s a different story. I find myself waking up and rushing to open my emails. An empty inbox brings frustration and fear. A new enquiry brings ecstatic joy. I find I can’t bear the constant feeling of desperation as I wait for queries, so I research ways of promoting my work. (there was no Instagram back then.) I also immerse myself in practising my skills, giving makeovers to anyone who’s willing to model, offering my services at test shoots for free so I can get photos and fill my portfolio.
January 2010 – From Cosmetics to Cameras.
My MUA tutor – who also happens to be an international award winning photographer – advises me that if I really want to be in control of my portfolio and my success, I need to become a great portrait photographer. On her advice I begin photography lessons with Lithuania’s best fashion and portrait photographer and attend every portrait photography education event/seminar I can. Not long after, I get my first DSLR camera: the Canon 7D. I literally have the camera attached to my hip for the next few years as I learn all the necessary functions that will help me master Portrait Photography. It’s hard work but knowing I’ll never have to wait for photos or be let down by poor quality images makes it all worthwhile.
That same year I team up with a local photographer to offer makeup & wedding photography packages. Together we cover more than 20 weddings in 18 months with me often acting as a second shooter. My own bookings start to increase and I find myself doing more weddings as an MUA too. This continues into 2011. Bookings are more consistent, and while I still have occasional ‘dry’ spells, I notice that they’re becoming fewer and far between.
2012 – Bring on the K-Team!
I’m receiving more testimonials from happy brides than ever before and word of my work is spreading. I notice that I’m turning down way too many brides, especially on popular dates. It becomes clear to me that I need someone to pass my work along to. Just as the number of brides I’m turning away reaches 50 per month, along comes Ausra! She’s introduced to me by my own makeup teacher who also happened to be Ausra’s bridal MUA and wedding photographer. It’s a perfect sign and she becomes my first K-Team member.
Later in the year, I discover the Wedding Industry Awards and with only 3 weeks to go before the dates for entries closes, I take a chance and enter myself. At the end of that year I get the news that I’ve won the award for ‘Best Regional Bridal MUA for London and the South East’ and am automatically entered for the National Award! If you’d told me that this would happen four years ago, I’d have laughed at you. But this is happening for real and I’m delighted to end the year on such an unexpected high note.
January 2013 – A national award winner!
I begin the year filled with excitement and nerves. When I scoop the National Award for Best Bridal MUA, I’m overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, and I don’t sleep a wink that night, from the buzz of my win! The following months pass by in a whirlwind of queries from brides who have seen that I’m an award winner and want my services. I often stay up until 1.00 AM, sometimes I’m up until 3.00. This can’t continue so I advertise for a PA, asking the universe to send me the perfect one. The universe sends me Jurate and once again, my life changes for the better.
June 2013 – My extreme business and lifestyle makeover.
As brilliant as the success is, I realise that I can often work for months without a single day off and I’m not seeing much of my family. I practically live in my car, driving from one bridal makeup trial to another. I’ve also begun teaching MUAs 1-2-1 at my house which means it looks more like a beauty parlour than a home. Something has to change. I need to expand and get proper studio space so I can accommodate the increasing demand for trials and lessons. I find studio space within an existing salon, and not long after I find myself in need of a hairstylist for a photoshoot, so I book a certain Kasia. We hit it off immediately and become inseparable. So much so, that she joins the team as both a bridal hairstylist and teacher. By the end of the year, I’ve succeeded in growing the K-Team family of MUAs & hairstylists. Almost all of them are students that either I or Kasia have trained.
2016 – The Kristina Gasperas Beauty Academy is born.
Business is growing steadily and the launch of the Academy means we can move into a small but private studio in Central Richmond.
2017 – Judge Kristina!
I get invited to join the judging panel for 2017 Wedding Industry Awards. I’m blown away and honoured to be recognised by my peers in this way.
2018 & 2019 – Business continues to grow.
As a team, we’re doing more weddings and bridal makeup and hair training than ever. We’ve even started to do more courses and weddings abroad. In fact, Summer 2019 is the busiest we’ve ever been.
Ten years of constant hard work has brought about two financially successful companies as well as an incredibly rewarding career, that has given me opportunities I’d never have dreamed of before. I’m incredibly grateful for my success, but I never take it for granted and am always looking for opportunities to learn and develop so I can maintain my success. I’m also incredibly grateful for all the support I receive from my friends and family. Particularly my mum for taking care of my son so I could train all those years ago in Lithuania, and of course my husband who’s always at my side and is a huge part of my business!
So that’s my roadmap! I hope that anyone out there reading this thinking of taking that first step towards a new career as a bridal MUA/Hairstylist, or perhaps are in those first few tricky months of business is inspired by my own journey.