I remember clearly when I first got out of the military. Disoriented, unsure, and with only $5000 in the bank, I found myself at a crossroads. No one really prepares you for life after the military, and so, I was faced with the daunting task of figuring out my next steps.
I decided to go to esthetics school, not necessarily because I had a specific trade or skill I wanted to learn but because I needed an income. Life in the military, particularly as a young soldier, can feel like a whirlwind of training for war, going to war, coming back, and then doing it all over again. In the midst of all that, I hadn't had much time to think about what life would be like when I finally got out.
Fortunately, the GI Bill offered a lifeline. This program provides military members with funding for college and a living stipend, effectively giving me a modest paycheck. It wasn't much, but it was enough to cover my rent and living expenses.
Interestingly, a hobby I had picked up out of boredom while in the military ended up becoming a significant source of income. I had learned how to tattoo, and when I went to aesthetic school, I found that my classmates were curious about permanent makeup. Eventually, I began teaching others how to do permanent makeup, a form of cosmetic tattooing, and word quickly spread. This side gig became a pretty good income source.
Despite this unexpected success, I still didn't think permanent makeup could be a full-time career. So, I continued with my college education, attending one of the top technology schools in New York. As graduation approached, I heard whispers of starting salaries around $60,000 or $70,000. But when I did the math, I realized something surprising. By teaching or doing permanent makeup, I was making around $300 an hour, which could amount to about $78,000 annually if I worked just 10 to 15 hours a week. In contrast, a job in tech would require at least 40 hours a week for less money. It didn't make sense.
So, I decided to make permanent makeup my primary focus. By working part-time in the industry, I was able to earn as much as or more than a college graduate from a prestigious college. And if I doubled my hours, I could double my income while still working less than 30 hours a week. It felt like I had stumbled upon a hidden gem of a career path.
As I invested more in learning permanent makeup techniques and honing my skills, my income soared. I found myself making around $400,000 to $500,000 a year working only 30 hours a week. This success made me realize that permanent makeup could be a fantastic career option for veterans or others who don't have the luxury of time to invest in traditional learning.
Many military members, used to hands-on, physical work, find the prospect of spending years in a traditional educational setting draining. Yet, the beauty industry offers a chance to learn a trade quickly, with courses ranging from one week to nine months. It's a fast-paced, flexible field that many veterans find satisfying and enjoyable.
However, there's a disconnect. Many veteran support groups and associations push for careers in business or contracting, roles often confined to an office setting. But not all military members enjoy that environment. Unfortunately, the beauty industry isn't often presented as a viable option, and there's a distinct lack of funding or support for veterans looking to enter this field.
That's why I helped create the Veterans Beauty Professional Organization. We aim to support veterans, military members, and their spouses who are interested in joining the beauty industry. It's a fulfilling and flexible career path that can provide financial stability and a sense of purpose. More importantly, it's an industry that doesn't require years of schooling, but rather, encourages hands-on learning and creativity — something many veterans can truly appreciate.
My journey from the military to the beauty industry may seem unconventional, but it's a path that's brought me immense satisfaction and financial success. It's my hope that by sharing my story, more veterans will consider this field as a viable and rewarding option after their service. As I've learned, sometimes the most unconventional paths can lead to the most fulfilling destinations.
Through the Veterans Beauty Professional Organization, we aim to bridge the gap between the military and the beauty industry, providing the resources and support veterans need to flourish in this dynamic field. Because everyone deserves the opportunity to discover their passion and find a career that not only pays the bills but also brings joy and fulfillment. The beauty industry gave me that chance, and I'm committed to ensuring that other veterans get that chance too.