|Nicole Knight helps Lisa Herndon through the process of making custom lipstick at the Oct. 26 opening of the Smooch! Studio location at Market Station in Leesburg. -Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Ben Hancock|
Starting a business during a recession is not something most business advisers would suggest, but with a vision and a few credit cards in hand Nicole and Kendra Knight started Smooch! Studio in 2009 in a small space they called "a closet" in downtown Frederick.
The custom makeup shop expanded to a new location Oct. 26 next to Tuscarora Mill on the second floor of the Market Station complex in downtown Leesburg.
Before opening the Leesburg location, the Knights had tripled their staff in Frederick and twice moved into a larger space, financing everything with savings and credit cards.
They did well enough to quickly see results.
"We paid ourselves back within a year," said Kendra Knight.
How could they be doing well when the rest of retail was struggling in the years following the 2008 market collapse?
“We knew about a phenomenon called the lipstick effect,” said Nicole Knight, explaining their decision to start when they did.
Investopedia.com calls the 'lipstick effect' "an indicator based on the theory that a consumer turns to less expensive indulgences, such as lipstick, when she (or he) feels less than confident about the future."
A study done by Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, backs up the theory with a different explanation: “Findings revealed that recessionary cues decreased desire for most products. However, these cues consistently increased women's desire for products that increase attractiveness to mates.”
Makeup sales went up nationally from 2010-2012 according to various media outlets.
They knew however that having the 'lipstick effect' on their side wasn't enough. If they were going to compete in a business with giants like Sephora and ULTA they had to bring people something new and unique.
Having worked in the cosmetic industry for two decades, Nicole Knight felt there was a desire from women to have makeup they had control over.
She says that she always had people come into a salon she used to work at and want something tailored to what they had seen before, but with a personalized touch.
Some of the women would say there was a lipstick they liked but it was "too glossy or it was too orange," so she decided to open a business where every bit of the lipstick a customer bought was made right in front of their face to their exact specifications.
The plan for the new business also called for them to be different than other chain makeup stores. The Knights wanted to make going to Smooch! Studio an event.
"This is a destination store,” said Nicole Knight.
The Knights wanted to create a location where grandmother, mother, and child could all work on buying their makeup at the same time in a party atmosphere.
They specially fitted a room to be a party room and the open space allows people to walk around and discuss what they see. Make-up is desired by every demographic and socioeconomic class.
"We have doctors and lawyers and bus drivers and school teachers and stay-at-home moms that come in," said Nicole Knight.
People came into the Frederick store wanting to know if there was another store open near them, according to Knight.
The fervor for a new shop prompted them to expand their operations.
"We’ve done really well with the dynamic of downtown Frederick, and the demographic there," said Nicole Knight.
So they "went town shopping" for a new location they could use to replicate their success in Frederick.
Rockville, Ashburn and Bethesda were all considered, but "Loudoun kept popping up," Nicole Knight said.
The decision was ultimately made when Kendra Knight and her husband drove through Leesburg and thought it had a similar vibe to downtown Frederick, where they have already seen a good deal of success.
As the two expand and look to the future they move closer to their ultimate goal for Smooch! Studio.
“Our big vision is to become a national brand,” said Nicole Knight.
|Wish Lewis applies makeup to Vanessa Villar-Revello at the Oct. 26 opening of the Smooch! Studio location at Market Station in Leesburg.-Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Ben Hancock|
|Nicole Knight pours the liquid that will eventually be custom lipstick into a mold. -Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Ben Hancock|
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