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Life & Work with Kenniya Harper

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kenniya Harper.

Kenniya, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Back in 2016 – Freshman year of college, I wanted to learn how to fill my eyebrows in. That led me into doing full face makeup. I would sit in front of my laptop watching YouTube tutorials following along with them. I kept practicing, I would literally do this multiple times a week. I knew I was improving because I would do my makeup before going to the mall and I started getting compliments on it. That’s what gave me the okay to keep going.

In 2018, I dropped out of college and went back home. I started practicing makeup on my mom and I had a friend that would let me practice on her. Coworkers would come over so I could do their makeup, just for fun. I started taking pictures and posting my work. People actually started reaching out to book appointments here and there. That’s when I knew it was something I should actually take serious and invest in. I got booked to do homecoming makeup, prom makeup then, an engagement photoshoot. 2019, I was booked for my first bridal party! From there, things started to take off for me. I was working a full-time job as an inside sales representative. I would call/ request off anytime someone wanted to book with me. I decided to take a leap of faith and eventually quit my full-time job to do makeup full time.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
No. It hasn’t been easy at all. I quit my full-time job knowing I had bills to pay and no steady clientele. It was a risk I was willing to take. It’s been very rocky for me and even still. I initially started to build my clientele in Columbus, Ohio where I was living at the time. September of 2020 I moved back to my hometown Cleveland, Ohio. I was able to start off at a loft located downtown. I literally had no clientele back in my hometown, so, I was trying to figure out how to put myself out there to let people know about my services. I had no more than 5 clients come to me the couple of months I was there. I wasn’t bringing any money in really. I was basically just taking up space.

I was told the previous person wanted their spot back. I had to pack everything up and figure out what was going to be my next move.

I relocated to a barbershop and had an upstairs room to work out of. I explained to the owner that I didn’t have clientele and I was in the process of building up.

Also, at that time I was back and forth between Cleveland and Columbus. That’s where family was and I still had people booking appointments with me in Columbus.

At the barbershop, it was agreed that I would only pay $50 weekly. With me hardly being there during the week, I would usually pay him $30/$40 for the couple days I would come in.

That lasted a few months. The owner calls me one day and tells me that basically, I’m wasting his time and he has someone that wants to get in ASAP so I needed to come get my belongings.

I was devastated because once again, I was back in the same predicament. I just couldn’t understand why no one was willing to be patient and work with me. I just needed time.

I started taking clients at home so that I could still bring some type of money in. I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

StyleSeat was helping me bring in more clients, also word of mouth. I was bringing in new faces finally. I did have to cancel a lot of appointments due to my living situation. As I’ve said previously, I was back and forth between Cleveland and Columbus. I almost settled with sticking to living in Cleveland since business started to pick up for me.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am a makeup artist. I specialize in eyebrows. Majority of my clients tell me they come to me specifically because they like the way I do eyebrows. I am most proud of my growth. I’ve came a long way. I’ve stayed determined and focused and I never let up. I take breaks to remap things as necessary but I never give up. I’ve invested so much of my time and money into makeup. I’ve watched plenty of tutorials. I flew to Miami, FL for a 101 makeup class. I’ve paid to listen in on other makeup artist seminars and classes. Although I offer a variety of services such as hair, eyelashes, waxing, facials, etc. I chose to let makeup be my main focus instead of trying to master them all at once.

What were you like growing up?
Very very shy. Stand-off ish. I’ve always been the type of person that stayed to myself. I’m not the one you’ll find in a crowd mingling with people. I was never the person they have a lot of friends or any of that. People would always call me stuck up, boujie, funny acting all of that. I wouldn’t refer to myself as that. They just never took the time to get to know me. I’ve always been very self reserved and in my head.

I played t-ball around the age of five or so. Other than that, I never played any sports, never did any activities. My life was strictly school. My brother played football so everyday I was at the football field doing homework in the car and on the weekends at his football games.

I never got to explore and actually see what I like and what interested me so I think that’s why I’m so passionate about makeup. It’s something that I actually LOVE to do. I feel free. I can express myself through that.

I’ve always loved to color. Even now, I keep coloring books and crayons and markers.

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