Mariam Saprichyan is our next industry expert and with that introduces the booming industry that is cosmetics. As co-owner and esthetician of Kariné Kazarian, Mariam and her mother lead one of the top skincare boutiques in New York City. With a client roster that boasts names from New York's elites, this is your chance to get a glimpse into this fascinating industry. Having made a career transition from healthcare, Mariam's experience and business acumen will give you invaluable knowledge for those interested in starting a new venture or diving into skincare and beauty.
Mariam Saprichyan: Many things were going on at the time, and one of the biggest was Occupy Wall Street. I remember it vividly. It was a movement that happened after the 2008 financial crisis. I was intrigued by all of it, and I had always been interested in politics/social issues because I moved around a lot. Eventually, I studied political science, but unfortunately, I didn't like how it was taught in school. I still love it; it’s still something that I binge on today.
Mariam: Yes. I was working for two doctors at one point. One of them was a psychiatrist whose patients needed more attention. Patients would get loud or verbally aggressive at times. It taught me proper phone & email etiquette; I learned how to de-escalate certain situations. I was in charge of some of their finances and billing. All of these skills helped me when we opened our own business.
Mariam: Quitting my job was the easiest part. I was in limbo, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college. I knew being in the healthcare industry was not forever. When my mom decided to leave her previous workplace, she said let’s do it together. I already had the experience of running someone else’s business for a long time. But I didn’t have experience in the wellness/beauty industry. I decided to go back to school and get my Esthetics license. I was already so familiar with the brand we carry Biologique Recherche, but I needed to learn about the science of the skin, formulating products, ingredients, etc.
Mariam: If you’re working closely with a family member, and it’s a family business, trust is the most important thing. One of the hardest things in business is finding people you can rely on and trust. And my mom and I found that in each other. I’ve learned so much from her and vice versa. In terms of cons, I would state the obvious that she is my mother, and I am much younger than her. At times, it was hard for me to gain the amount of respect I deserved in some ways, and as much as it's a business, the boundaries can get blurred. The relationship between two business partners and then a mother and a daughter, so I would always bring it back to business; we have to speak a certain way, and that’s it. It shouldn't be taken for granted.
Mariam: It depends where you are. For example, in the U.S., every licensing program can be different. Some, you need 600 hours, others you need a thousand hours. Every state is a little bit different, but in New York, it was a 600-hour program. You could do it full-time in about four months and take a state board test, a practical exam, and a theory exam. Schooling itself could have been much better; it was very superficial. Had I not been trained by Biologique Recherche or my mom, I would say the school training wasn't enough time. You need to be passionate about it if you want to be open to working with different brands or different estheticians to gain experience.
The financial investment you make depends on the person and where you live. In New York, there are financial programs to help you pay for the schools. Specific schools allow that, but usually, the cost of the school is between 10 to 12 grand.
Mariam: I would say making a difference and helping others with their skin. Our skin is the first thing that people see. The gift of helping someone through their whole skincare journey in itself is so rewarding. For example, my mom loves her job; she loves people. She loves meeting new people and the connection she has with them. It’s something that took me time to immerse myself in it so much that I was like, oh, this is amazing. It stopped feeling like work.
Mariam: The first thing that comes to mind is routine. As dancers, they have to focus, prepare, and learn a dance from start to finish. Dancers have obedience, and with skincare, it is the same. It's being diligent but also taking care of yourself.
Mariam: As an owner, it doesn't matter what business you're in; you're never going to stop working. I hate to say it, but I check my work emails as soon as I wake up, even at night. I'm lucky I have employees who take care of all these things, but I still need to check that things are being taken care of properly. I look at it as if I was trying to connect with a place I haven't been to or have been going to forever; I would expect the same service. I would expect them to respond to me. That's common courtesy, and the service complements who we are.
Mariam: It's been tricky, but I have been able to entrust one of my employees to take on more things. I still work on the backend, such as managing our website, accounting, and payroll. Being an esthetician is the easiest part because I love it.
Mariam: If you're doing it on your own, learn to manage your time well. Take your time when making final decisions on hiring new employees, etc., and always have team meetings to make sure you are all on the same page.
Mariam: I never went to school to learn how to run a business, so this entire journey has been akin to getting a master's in business.
You can't be afraid of failing, and if it happens, then you restart and try again. If it's thriving, that's amazing, and you can look into expanding. I'm not a very competitive person in that way. I don't look at other businesses and feel the need to compete. I believe you've got to do your best on your own, and then you'll be rewarded. You don't need to look left and right constantly. Things like social media and all this stuff get in the way. Realistically, if you focus on your own goals, good things will happen to you.
Mariam: It's because it's the best. It's a cosmeceutical brand, meaning it's not a commercial brand. It is a brand with a higher concentration of active ingredients, so it's more effective if you start using it and you realize you're saving time and money. It's effective. It doesn't have any synthetic preservatives, fragrances, or anything like that. It smells like the earth.
Mariam: One of the things that we did during lockdown was virtual consultations. I had started the summer before, and it was complimentary. I did it because I wanted people to have the best results when they started with the line.
When the lockdown happened, everything went on social media and online. I had to revamp the website and put myself more on social media. I made videos to connect with my clients and one-to-one FaceTime appointments with clients going over their skin concerns. I think that alone helped me connect with many people. To build trust, you have to give it your time. In my mind, it's about the human-to-human connection. I like to give my time and to be able to get people the right results.
Mariam: Holistic is the whole idea. When you think of the skin, it's not just whatever is happening on the superficial layer. It's communicating what’s happening in our gut and hormones; everything is connected. It's a mirror of what is happening inside.
Conventional doctors have to do a better job at educating their patients. If someone is experiencing skin issues in America, they go straight to a dermatologist, and the dermatologist is normally prescribing them a drug to treat the symptom. When, in actuality, the patient should be tested for certain allergies/intolerances such as gluten and dairy. They should be educated on what is right to eat for hormone support. Or even discuss their sugar intake which causes inflammation in the body. I always try to inform clients of things that they should be aware of without being pushy. It goes both ways. If clients want us to help them with their skin, they also have to do their homework. And sometimes, it is going to take time, but it’s better in the long run. You learn so much about your body!
Mariam: Skincare is blowing up, especially “clean cosmetics” & cosmetic procedures/injections. I've noticed women and men are starting more invasive procedures at a very young age. There needs to be more transparency about “preventative” procedures like Botox because, over time, the muscle atrophies, and the product becomes less effective. More transparency about ingredients and long-term influence on the skin and body is also needed. At the same time, people are also learning how to look after their skin using more natural alternatives. Social media is influencing women and men of any age at this point.
Top Image: Courtesy of Kariné Kazarian