Local Beauty Business Focuses on Service Side of Industry to Find Success in Competitive Market

Image of Crystal Carmen via SCORE Chester and Delaware Counties.

Crystal Carmen’s motto is “to provide big-city glam to America’s hometown.”

At her Vanity Image Studio on State Street in Media, Carmen specializes in microblading eyebrows and other long-lasting beauty and skincare solutions. Through Carmen’s experiences applying makeup for celebrities over the years, she found that often the makeup was really covering up something people didn’t like about their skin.

She realized she wanted “to address the core issues, so her clients can feel good about themselves without makeup on – fixing what they are trying to fix with makeup.” She went back to school, earned her esthetician certification and focused on her goal to “become the expert in skin and eyebrows.”

The Path to Success

Where you land is not always where you started in a successful small business. It was 2015 when Carmen was working on a retail business she called “Pink Stiletto Beauty” that marketed makeup and cosmetics. She was considering many different market channels for her products, including retail and online sales and even buying a trailer to sell from at community events. This was a competitive market accompanied by costly inventories and the complexities of working with large national retailers. Carmen realized she was “focused too much on the product and the actual manufacturing.”

What really mattered to Carmen? She “loves beauty and working with people” and, with good business guidance, followed that passion to focus on the service side of the beauty industry. Today, with her Vanity Image Studio business, Carmen offers microblading for ideal eyebrow shapes, eyelash extensions and lifts, body waxing, and more. Her services require the combination of experienced technical and artistic skills.

The business is well known for the special “Crystal Carmen Brow.” Vanity Image Studio clients tell her many inspiring stories. The result is overwhelmingly rewarding, from the “joy you can give your clients as well as the opportunity of changing someone’s day, today.”

How SCORE Helped:

Carmen met John Lippman, a mentor with SCORE Chester and Delaware Counties, in the spring of 2015. With Lippman’s mentoring, Carmen could see that specialized beauty service offerings were potentially more valuable to clients and more profitable than manufacturing cosmetic products.

In her discussions with Lippman, Carmen concluded that simplifying her retail efforts would allow her to focus on profitable services that are more aligned with her strengths. This business model enabled her to make money through hosting upscale events with clients who value her services and buy larger quantities of her products at one time. SCORE also helped Crystal better understand her cash flow and funding sources for the business expansion ideas she had.

In 2018, Carmen reconnected with Lippman when she was growing her microblading service. Microblading is a tattooing technique in which a small handheld tool made of several tiny needles is used to add semi-permanent pigment to the skin. The effect can be like that of embroidery, feather touch, or hair-like strokes. The service work had really taken off, and Carmen was facing yet another set of decisions around locations and hiring.

Carmen moved to Media with immediate success. She developed a team of specialized beauty consultants to provide the services her clientele requested. These contractors either rent the space from Vanity Image or are paid for the time they work in the shop. Managing contractors was initially a challenge for Carmen. With Lippman’s support, she learned how to engage with the contractors to assure Vanity Image was offering top-quality services from the top people in the area.

Carmen is very proud of her business and its offerings.

“I am able to not just grow the business financially but holistically,” she said.

Carmen will share her success story and be honored by SCORE Chester and Delaware Counties at its virtual awards celebration on Thursday, Sept. 24 at 12 PM. Click here to register.

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