Stefani Altieri was one of the first lash educators to be published in Lash Masters Volume I & II. Below is an excerpt from Lash Masters I, Ch 5. Chrysalis House Publishing, 2014. This excerpt details the beginning of Stefani's growth and success in this industry.
My name is Stefani Altieri, and I am so proud to be the owner of New Jersey’s first continuing education program, Skyn Lash Academy in Howell, NJ. It has been a long road, full of ups, downs, successes, failures, and many mistakes along the way. I was able to learn from my mistakes and climb a ladder to success. I feel incredibly honored to be able to write my life story to share with all of you. I truly believe we can all learn from each other, and grow as a team.
My first job was at 14 years old at McDonalds. I have been working hard ever since. I feel like I have had almost every job possible. Working as a shampoo girl, to corporate america project management, as well as many jobs in between. I was always creative and good with my hands. I attended West Virginia University from 1990-1994, studying both nutrition and business management. I always had an artsy side, willing to try anything. I was always waxing or doing my friends nails! I developed good business sense from working as a headhunter in a personnel agency as well as working managing schedules and trial prep in a large law firm in NJ. But it was my last job at Wireless Communications Company as a Project Coordinator and Manager that convinced me that the corporate business world wasn’t for me. It was my dream at the time to one day have my own business, I just wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I got married in 1996 and had a beautiful son Jake in 2003.
In 1999, I left the corporate world and worked temporarily at a friend’s hair salon at the front desk. I decided to purchase a busy tanning salon named Sunquest. Sunquest was in business for 8 years before I decided to buy it. When I first purchased Sunquest, the salon was dated and as I like to call it a “hot mess”. I opened a business line of a credit and purchased all new updated equipment and poured my blood, sweat and tears into transforming Sunquest —giving it a much needed “makeover". Since I took over Sunquest, I was able to quadruple the earnings in 4 year period.
In 2005, I purchased a tanning distribution company “Sunflow” in a 7000 square foot warehouse in hopes that it would make enough money so that my husband can leave the construction business and help out with the distribution company. It was also at this time that the tanning industry took a huge financial hit. The negative media attention, and the new tan tax on top of the generalized economic state of the country at this time made business extremely difficult. Long story short, the people who sold me “Sunflow” sold me essentially a non existent business. It was here that I learned the most valuable business lesson and ended up in the middle of a large lawsuit— with my lawyer who did not do his due diligence in representing me. Tanning is a very seasonal business. It was always the top priority for me to carry and utilize the best of the best in the industry (This still remains a priority of mine). I decided to begin spray tanning and attending the tanning trade shows. I met someone at a Tanning Trade Show in Nashville, who recommended I attend ISPA (International Spa Conference). ISPA is where I went and fell in love with the spa industry—it was a trade show like no other—it’s basically where I fell in love and found my calling. It was at this time, still 2005, I was determined to turn Sunquest into one of the best combination Day Spa & Tanning Salons. In order for me to make this work, I had to turn Sunquest into a much more serious day spa. I felt it had to look like a day spa ,not a tanning salon and get serious products for results as I’ve seen almost every single beauty salon that added spa services fail in that department. I felt that the physical environment was most important in order to create the right atmosphere for people to want to get a facial or a massage in a tanning salon.
Eventually, I hired a massage therapist, an esthetician and acquired a reputable & serious skin care line and business was going well. This is when I was first introduced to Lash Extensions. In my quest to find a good esthetician, I had someone respond to my ad asking if I would be interested in bringing lash extensions to Sunquest. She was a hair dresser that just got started doing lashes. This is also when I first started to get lash extensions on myself and have had them ever since ;) It was at this time I was going through a divorce, and instead of falling into a depression I decided to take all my energy and started to build Sunquest Tanning and Day Spa. I was always a very hands on owner and passionate about everything I was doing. Eventually, I expanded the Day Spa business to another location.
Skyn the Day Spa was born and I took this opportunity to grow. In the long run, it did bring me much more success in the spa business but the tanning industry was going downhill. After being fed up and frustrated relying on other estheticians and employees, I decided to attend school myself and get my skin care license. As a single mother, running 2 businesses, going to school was not easy. I attended school 5 days per week (9-5), and straight from school to do clients at the spa in the evenings, and still had a son to raise as well as 2 businesses to run. It was the longest most grueling 6 months of my life, but also my most rewarding. I acquired my license. I learned more than I can imagine and this is where I actually developed tremendous respect for education in this industry. It was also around this time, the esthetician that was working for me trained me in lash extensions. I was unsure whether I would have the patience to sit there lashing very tediously. In just one day, she showed me the technique and I was thrown into lashing. I have to say, lashing came very naturally to me and I picked it up very quickly. My first time trying I was very impressed with myself! I was also surprised by my skills and the fact that I actually enjoyed lashing. I also think my being a lash client every 2 weeks for 2 years made a huge difference on taking to it instantly. Being a client was actually very beneficial to my learning lashing so quickly. I actually found lashing therapeutic. After a few years of lashing, I then decided to pursue my certification. It was at this time I realized that trainers in the lash industry leave a lot to be desired. Education was always a priority for me. I loved attending various trade shows, and always enrolled for classes on the newest skin techniques, and this passion for education spilled over to lashes.
I always had the utmost respect and admiration for my father, Lawrence Liebowitz. He was loved and respected as a boss, a partner, a friend, and most of all as a dad. He was my mentor, and I always consulted him for support and guidance, and sometimes even financial support. In 2010, I suffered the greatest loss I can imagine. I lost my father. It changed my life in the blink of an eye, and ruined my family. It also taught me many life and business lessons. My father would always tell me, that I should stop killing myself working 24/7 and go work for someone else so I can be a better parent, better family member and enhance my personal life. After my father died, that is simply what I did. I locked the doors of all the business, and decided to take a step back and go work for someone else. It was important to me that I work for and upscale successful salon & spa. So………..
Once upon a time I went to work for a ruthless, evil cold-blooded Salon & Spa Owner. The owner of this salon that I went to work for literally reminded me of an evil stepmother. For the purposes of this story we will use the fictitious name “Buddha”. She treated her employees (Cinderella's) like garbage, yelling, screaming and very cruel. She only cared about the money coming in, and not concerned with the best interest of her employees or the clients. For example….I could not comprehend if the client came in for a “Skinceutical Facial” —we were not given all the Skinceutical products to perform the facial. We had to use low quality generic products for most of the facial, and only a few of the promised Skinceutical products. I found it both fraudulent and unethical. The day to day operations of that salon and spa were so unethical and inhumane, I was actually shocked at the employee retention. Truth be told I actually made a lot of positive changes for “Buddha”, especially when it came to lashing. They were actually using lashes and tools from a very well known company, however they were somewhat behind the times and not up to date with the industry. I was able to bring the best high quality products and tools with me to use on my clients at the salon. I slaved for 2 years too long at “Buddha”…we fought constantly because I had a difficult time being forced into dishonesty…..it simply is not in me. I pride myself on being honest and straight forward, something I felt I was not able to do working at “Buddha”. It was during this time that taught me that there are both dishonest and unethical business owners and employees. It was quite an eye opening experience. Once I left "Buddha" I felt my suffocating bag over my head was released and I was able to breathe again and get back to my creative motivated self. The possibilities were endless. It came time to follow my dreams. I tried on a new pair of shoes, and the glass slipper fit…..I was off to start my own business….again.
I took courses offered by the BAALA (Be an Amazing Lash Artist) and the Lash Mastery Group in December 2012. These courses gave me the tools and education to help become a certified Master Lash Educator and Trainer. During the time that I participated in many classes and seminars on both skin and lashes, I realized that there was something missing. I felt that there was a tremendous lack of continuing education services being offered to professionals in the business. I then made it my personal mission to develop a Training Academy in an effort to help others further their education and training. This Academy would also house an actual studio where the students can always return -- for either support, guidance or more continuing education.
In an effort to continue my education at the highest of levels, I also attended the Lashboom Conference in Chicago of June 2013. I wanted to learn the newest technique in the lash industry which was then Volume Lashing. It was at this conference that I met Adele Sutton, and fell in love with Adele’s products. During her training, Adele asked me to be the Master Trainer and Distributor for Lashcoat in the United States. I was so honored by this gesture that I decided it was time to expand my business to a larger training studio in order to ensure success in these new and exciting ventures. I was also trained and certified (Hands On) in the latest trend of Volume Lashing by Olga Volkova, the original creator of the “Hollywood Technique” head of Lash Art University & LashMaker Magazine from Russia, Kiev, & Ukraine. Nadia Afanaseva from X VIP Lashes in Russia, & Teresa Smith, Master Lash Artist in London the author of The Lash Bible from the United Kingdom. I have also been certified in the Advanced Technique of Volume Lash Extensions as well as Brow Architecture Design from the Lash & Brow Design Academy (Moscow, Russia) from Irina Levchuk, President. I also hosted Irina’s courses at my Studio in Howell, NJ and was able to spend 5 full days with Irina which gave me invaluable experiences with Irina. I was able to develop great insight into this challenging technique and helped me really grasp the concept and skills needed to achieve the perfect volume.
Every time I completed a class or training, I would come back to the studio and begin to implement the new techniques I had learned. I would always wish there would have been a way that I could go back to my“trainer” to ensure I was utilizing the techniques that were taught to me effectively and correctly. Most classes that I attended required me to travel outside of New Jersey. In most cases, it was the “trainer” that traveled from city to city in order to educate the students in that area. As a matter of fact, there was no real Advanced Schooling in and around my state of New Jersey. There is a big difference between properly and improperly applied eyelash extensions. In order to increase consumer confidence and to help other Lash Artists in the industry, I became certified with ADFEE (Association for Damage -Free Eyelash Extensions) as an Exam Proctor & Master Lash Artist. I am honored to be the first Master Esthetician/Master Lash Artist in the State of New Jersey to hold this respected certification. ADFEE is “an independent association of advanced lash technicians who are passionate about proper application and delivering the highest ethical standards in the industry of Eyelash Extensions”. ADFEE Exam Proctors personally evaluate each lash extension is applied to a single, natural lash and that applicants are delivering the highest quality and safety standards in eyelash extension application.
Skin and Lash Studio & SkynLash Academy was born in late 2013. My vision had come true. The continuing education classes that were lacking in this industry can now be right around the corner. We offer training courses in Lash Extensions from the Basic to Advanced/Design to Volume, Lashcoat and Spray Tanning. My goal for the future is to incorporate advanced skincare and Laser/IPL classes at my facility as well. Its been a very rocky road with a many speed bumps...but I just keep moving full speed ahead. In November 2013 I flew to Hong Kong and attended Cosmoprof, the Biggest Beauty Trade Show in the world with a goal of seeking the best lash supplies. I asked myself where else am I going to get an opportunity to physically touch, feel, and see so many lash suppliers at once to find the quality products in person? It was also important for me to be able to meet the suppliers of these products and begin developing a positive relationship with them. I also have become a distributor offering a wide variety of all high quality lashes and lash supplies. In all my years of lashing, I felt there were several really important features missing in the lash products. It is taking a lot longer than I had anticipated because I won't just settle on anything that has my name on it. I have to only use the best of the best. It's extremely time consuming to do this the correct way, and it's back and forth experimenting, researching and physically trying and using almost every brand of lashes, adhesives, eye pads, and tweezers. I am very detailed and OCD with things that I am very passionate about. I am proud to announce my newest baby Stella Lashes. I am so excited and cannot wait to launch my new brand lash line around the world. I should also mention that I offer medical esthetic services for clinic corrective skincare for visible results. Skin care is another passion of mine and I find great enjoyment in correcting and transforming my clients skin and making women feel beautiful. I offer dermaplaning, microderm, chemical exfoliation, IPL Laser treatments for corrective skin treatments to hair removal as well as spray tanning in addition to the lash and brow services. Brow courses is next on my agenda to offer as I have recently completed an online most intensive Brow Course, BAI. This has made me look at brows in a whole new way and absolutely love doing brows now, as it used to scare me ;)
The last thing I would like to discuss are my inspirations and my greatest motivations in this business. Inspirations include but are not limited to Olga Volkova, head of Lash Art University & LashMaker Magazine from Lash Boom. She runs a salon, trains, and distributes a first ever Lash magazine. She also has her own lash line that I seek to emulate. She has also Judged many Lash Competitions, which I am getting the honor to be a First Time Judge at this year's Lash Wars in Vegas in June 2014. I find Olga very well respected, sweet and kind. She doesn't have a mean bone in her body. Olga is very intelligent and has the same passion and work ethic that I have. My goal also is to help build a better lash industry and help the industry get a more positive reputation by raising the quality of the industry standards.
I also would like to give some advice to new lash artists just starting out in the business. My greatest wish is that new lash artists would learn that slow and easy win the race. In my opinion, the biggest mistake made in this industry is that new lash artists want to be trained so quickly. Everyone is looking for a one day, short, inexpensive trainings. To be honest, lashing is an art and highly skilled technique that requires much skill and takes time and a lot of work---training should be spread out over a period of 3 to 5 days for Basic and some Advanced artistry can be 1 day for seasoned Lash Artists. However, Volume lashing is definitely not an easy technique to perfect and grasp and I do believe at least 2 - 3 days of training are necessary in most circumstances. In almost every single one of my courses offered, whether it be 2 or 3 days in a row of training, there is always an additional day built in to the course for the opportunity to return to the studio for the last day of training. This last day of training should occur, either a month or 2 later after they have been out on their own practicing their new skills/technique. This gives me a chance to now see what they have been doing, their progress and help critique and correct any issues that come up. This also gives my students another hands on day with me to go over any questions and concerns that they are having. This is one thing I am most passionate about as I wish I was offered this opportunity so that my trainer can now correct and help perfect my technique to make sure I am doing it the proper way. The best lash artists are those that have taken their time to learn correctly. You simply cannot be prepared to lash clients after receiving a couple hours of training in one day. I also believe it is important to revisit techniques and trainings to refresh or perfect skills necessary in this industry. I strive to make that a benefit of the Skin & Lash Academy. Students are always welcome to come back to the studio to practice, correct, or refresh their techniques and have questions answered. I am now so excited that NEESA, National Eyelash Education & Safety Association has been born and much needed for this Industry. I am proud to be nominated as a Board Member and hope that I will be selected to assist the Board in making the necessary positive changes in our industry. I feel so strongly about Continuing Education and know the need to have a higher Quality of training is so needed in Lash Industry.
I am also beginning to develop a business aspect to all of my trainings. Each training will have time set aside to discuss business do's and don'ts, and I will be there to support my students looking to launch their own business. My success is their success. I highly recommend that all lash artists/technicians and anyone in this industry get as much Continuing Education and Training from many different Educators & Trainers in order to become a well- rounded professional lash artist. I want to help my students be the best that they can be. If you say you can’t afford continuing education, the truth is, you CAN'T AFFORD NOT TO!!!! I would not have been able to develop my successful business without the help of some of my family members. I already mentioned my father, without his support and guidance I am not sure if I would have gone down this path of practicing what I love. My mother also continues to support me in so many ways, and I can't thank her enough for supporting me in achieving my dreams. I Thank God for my mother in law who is always there for me to help me with my son in order for me to make my business a success.
I believe education and knowledge are the keys to a successful business in any industry. I am passionate about teaching, strive for excellence and I am determined to keep up with the latest and greatest trends in this industry without compromising quality. I hope to keep all of my students one step ahead--while providing them a platform to return to a professional environment of education & practice, whenever they may need it.
"Being able to help other people & to help achieve their personal goals gives me great pleasure!"
-- Stefani Altieri
Keep up with Stefani on Instagram, @stefanialtieri