We had the good fortune of connecting with Krystal Lepine and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Krystal, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
From a young age, I was always a leader! I worked in the corporate world for about 7 years. There, I learned the type of “leader” I want to be and the type of “boss” I DON’T want to be. I knew I wanted a flexible schedule while raising my babies and also I wanted to have a team to lead, inspire, and grow!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I was on the fast path to becoming the next great news anchor! I was attending Louisiana State University in hopes of obtaining my degree in Mass Communication. However, my heart and talent lied within the beauty industry. I knew I had a strong passion and talent for makeup artistry, but 12 years ago, that was a far fetched career plan. My parents couldn’t understand why someone, given the opportunity of a lifetime at LSU, would throw it away for a career doing… makeup. But I did it anyways. At 19, I dropped out and enrolled in the Aveda Institute for esthetics. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know what a facial was back then! My parents just told me I needed some sort of trade or license. While there, I knew I needed to find a job within the beauty industry. The HR team for The Roosevelt Hotel (a Waldorf Astoria property and very iconic New Orleans Hotel) attended our career fair. They were trying to recruit nail technicians for the hotel’s spa. I remember saying, “Well I can’t do nails but I can answer phones and fold towels.” I was hired as a Spa Front Desk Agent that week. A few weeks later, I WAS PREGNANT! 19, unmarried, a part time job & still on my parents health insurance. I knew my parent’s would disown me. My entire world came crashing down. But I never fail. I never dwell on the negative. Instead, my pregnancy pushed me to work harder and prove myself to EVERYONE. My parents, of course, did not disown me but they did tell me these words that I’ll never forget, “Every baby is a blessing. But you just made your life a lot harder than it ever needed to be.” And they weren’t wrong! I worked every shift I could at the spa; we were shorthanded so I took every overtime shift I could get. After completing the esthetics program, I applied for full-time front desk as there were no esthetician spots available. Eventually my hard work paid off and they opened an additional esthetics position just for me, WITH NO PREVIOUS ESTHETICS EXPERIENCE. That was unheard of! But I was eager to learn, easy to work with, and wasn’t scared of long hours and weekend/holiday work. None of that would have been possible without my mother at the time. She did everything possible to help with my daughter, Adelyn, while I juggled being a new mom, post-partum depression, and a time-consuming career. I lost my mom suddenly when Adelyn was just two years old. Some people would have given up. I persevered. And my HR director, Melissa, noticed. She promoted me from esthetician to HR Coordinator giving me a Monday-Friday schedule, full benefits, 401k, and work-life balance. By 24, I was the youngest employee promoted to manager for the hotel. My new director, Angela, pushed me when really I was lost from losing my mom and overwhelmed at juggling it all. When I had to go toe-to-toe with executives and directors on employee relation matters, Angela made me stand up for myself. She would say, “It doesn’t matter your age. You are a professional and you demand respect and you will get it. Never let someone talk down to you or walk all over you.” Shortly after that, I received a great opportunity to work as an HR Generalist for a large local health care system making a great salary and a supposed great “work-life” balance. It was there that I realized not all HR Directors were like Melissa and Angela. I had a leader that was not eager to mentor me but rather she was intimidated by me. I won’t dwell too much on that terrible experience, instead I will focus on the positive: I learned I wanted to lead a team and I learned exactly the type of leader I would NEVER be. At this time I was newly married with two small kids. I wanted freedom and work-life balance so on a whim, I cashed out my 401K, asked my dad for a small little loan (shoutout dad) and quit my “amazing” healthcare job to start my own little esthetics studio in my small hometown. My husband at the time was absolutely not supportive and thought I was nuts. I knew I could do it and I knew I could do it well. I read books, listened to podcasts, learned about social media marketing, financed a $25,000 Hydrafacial machine (that everyone discouraged me to do) all while raising now THREE small kids. And I killed it. Don’t get me wrong, I made like $300 my first month and didn’t know how I was going to pay our light bill. Still had an unhelpful, unsupportive husband… but I kept going. I would never fail and prove him right. I knew my kid’s lives depended on it. I grossed over $100k in my first year. I wanted to EXPAND! I knew I cornered the market and my industry was in demand. So again, on a whim, took out a loan and leased a 4,000 square foot space to have a full-service day spa. Everything was going great, and then…BAM…. Covid hits. The world shutdown and there I was left with bills, kids at home, and business expenses to pay. I remember selling skincare out of my house and pushing it all over social media. I think my clients felt bad for me but I ended up selling $6,000 in skincare out of my house within two months while everything was shut down. Soon I was back up and running and hired an amazing team of estheticians, massage therapist and even teenage staff to host Kid’s Spa parties. I learned a lot about running a business through trial and error. And I still am learning every day. But my biggest take away is the importance of hiring the RIGHT team based on work ethic, passion, and good energy! I have since divorced my then husband because let’s be real, if it’s toxic, unsupportive, and draining… ADIOS! That goes for family, friends, employees, business endeavors, etc. I learned real quick you will only survive as an entrepreneur if you surround your self with motivated, like-minded, positive people in your life.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
New Orleans is … NEW ORLEANS! Fun, crazy, full of culture. So we could of course do the obvious- Bourbon Street, drink a Hurricane a Pat Obrien’s, eat beignets at Cafe Du Monde, and take a street car to hit the boutiques on Magazine Street. I, however, would get a little more “hometown ” than that. I would take them down to Plaquemines Parish where I live. I’d drive us down to the Venice, LA (known as the end of the world because literally you can’t go any further South, you hit the gulf of mexico) and I would take them fishing. The greatest fishing in the world is out of Plaquemines Parish. After that, I’d have my boyfriend boil them a sack of crawfish because, I may not tell him this, but he makes the best crawfish in the world.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
A lot of strong people mentored and molded me into who I am today. It started with my parents. My mom and dad always stressed the importance of hard work. They reminded my brother and I often to be grateful, kind, and work hard for everything you want in life. They weren’t given handouts in life, they were high school sweethearts who started off their adult life with nothing to their name. They always stressed the importance of money management and “living within your means”. My parents went on to lead very successful careers while at the same time always putting family first. My mom passed away 7 years ago at the young age of 47. I strive everyday to be half the mother and woman she was and work hard everyday to make her proud. I then had very strong women through high school and early 20’s take me under their wing and mentor me. Mrs. Lisa was the mom of my high school boyfriend. Even after her son and I split to go to separate colleges, she remained a very important mentor in my life. She seemed to balance a very demanding, successful career and “mom life” effortlessly. I then had two phenomenal HR directors while working for the Hilton brand. They gave me opportunities at a young age that I didn’t believe I deserved, but they did. They pushed me and made me believe in myself. To this day, I can pick up the phone and call any of these three woman for any sort of life advice. My hope is to one day pay it forward and be an influential role model for future leaders that come after me.
Facebook: The Southern Belle Spa or Krystal Clear Esthetics
Jennifer Hebert Photography