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  • Courtney Jette

Not in Vain

April, 2020 Since the publishing of this piece in 2020, Vanity in Kennewick was forced to make the sad decision of closing permanently, right after fully staffing the location that served 400 local and out-of-town clients. They hope to reopen again in Kennewick sometime in the future, but for now they are trying to save the new Spokane location they were opening when the shutdown hit.

Vain is the last word I think of when you bring up Leigh Wick, owner and operator of Vanity Makeup and Skin and her new, developing branch, Vain. First to offer up solutions and a plan, Leigh is a go getter who won’t be stopped by anything. She’s fierce and has a passion for going for what she wants. You can’t help but be set on fire for future endeavors and doing what you were meant for while being around her. I can only imagine being one of her clients, but I don’t have to imagine her new Spokane space, because I visited it. Once you enter the new Spokane location of Vanity, you are pulled into a tall, light-soaked, cozy, elegantly soft, demeanor, setting up on the 8th floor of its downtown location. The views are urban and you’re just tucked away from it all, but somehow still right in it.

She’s also the woman who made it possible for me to connect with enough Spokane businesses. First planning to visit with her in Kennewick, we realized I’d need to visit her in Spokane. I had wanted to take the project to Spokane, but was not confident in my connections there. Within an hour of finding out I had been wanting to, and was willing to, if I had enough places to visit, she messaged me with info for 6 downtown Spokane businesses interested in being visited for the shutdown project. Leigh is not just a power house when it comes to getting things done. She’s even-minded, and I guarantee every second her mind is putting things together for the next item on her list of goals. She started her business in Kennewick, WA. Fast forward a few years and a very strong and steady clientele support system, and you find her and her family moving to Spokane for personal reasons, finding a space, remodeling it, and planning to launch her Spokane branch right as the shutdown reared its head.

*What concerns you most about this shutdown? Business related/personal.

“The weight that many small businesses are being asked to carry with the category of “non-essential" vs. “essential” in determining what stays open or has to close.” “At first, it was obvious - okay - we touch people - literally - so obviously that bears more contact risk than another non-touch service-related business. But, as time went on, it became increasingly obvious that the burden on small businesses was much greater than that of larger box-stores, and the titles of Essential vs. Nonessential seemed to fall to a who’s-who of a lobbyist group or the bigger players on the Westside of the state making all the rules.”

I Hear that Loud and Clear. Watching businesses over the last couple months it has been glaringly horrifying as certain places were forced to close their doors for a “quarantine” while others stay open delivering things door-to-door. DOOR-TO-DOOR.

What could have been a complete shutdown for 14 days has now been drug out, and lingered on.

Coffee shops are open? Essential??? If America can’t make its own coffee in the morning, then we have even bigger problems than the obvious. And that’s just how much of a joke this whole shutdown continues to be. I could stand up and speak with businesses afraid to speak, but I’ll save that for my own write up. Leigh is unafraid to talk ‘real’ with me, which I appreciate her vulnerability and the useful information she shares, as a lot of owners have been vulnerable but unable to speak on the nitty gritty subjects of the shutdown. Her strength, I’m sure, comes from a lot of different places. She’s a fighter, and she’s a risk taker. She is traveling at a speed none of us can hope to reach, and I’m trying to keep up with her for the ride. But mainly just for this interview.

*When did you first have the idea to start your own business?

“The idea for Vanity Makeup and Skin wasn’t really an idea at all, but more of a manifestation of all of the work I had put into myself as a woman up to the point where I realized I had created something special that I could offer to clients. Being a wife, mother, friend, makeup artist, (for 15 years) paralegal and whatever else I was challenged to be throughout the various seasons of my life, had really taught me to be unapologetic about who I am. I knew that my wheelchair set me apart in the beauty industry and made me “more approachable” to those that may have reservations about reaching out. My confidence helped them tap into their confidence.”

*What drives you; what keeps you going for it?

“We have many, many generations of entrepreneurs on both sides of my family and my grandpa, Noakes, was a huge gambler. So, risk was something that every fiber of my being was comfortable with, and thrived on. I’m not the risk taker, adrenaline junkie, roller-coaster or skydiver type…I’m the ‘gets bored and wants to start a company’ type. Vanity by Leigh became Vanity Makeup and Skin after months of prayer and preparation and it’s just continuing to expand. We have huge goals. And I’m going to go for it.”

*What has been the hardest obstacle to overcome in building your business?

“The hardest obstacle to overcome was my own mindset and having to OWN my business, rather than BE my business. I let go of my fear. That was a wild concept for me to grasp, but it was SO freeing once I fully UNDERSTOOD.” “When you start a business, every waking moment is poured into that business - it’s getting all of your moments, your life, your soul, literally everything is just poured into a business that isn’t yet breathing on its own for a long, long time. It is brutal, and you often think you can’t do it. You wonder what the hell you even started for, but it’s your passion so you keep going. Then suddenly, it gets a heartbeat, it’s an actual entity that you have created. …you are babying it and babying it and still feeding it, and it’s still ingrained in YOU. It is YOU - you’re proud and exhilarated and excited and terrified, and it’s still solely dependent on YOU to be fed. You take ownership of every single success and failure, and it’s YOU.”

Then, at about the 3rd year mark, she realized that this entity, known as Vanity Makeup and Skin, had NEEDS that were bigger than she. “I couldn’t do it on my own. I had created something MUCH bigger than just ME. Those were GREAT problems to have. Realizing that I had created something outside myself that was now BIGGER than me …I absolutely needed to expand, to feed it what it wanted or it would fail. I had flown so high that it was not doable by myself for a stable landing. That was when I set my own ego aside and realized that I was a business owner. But. The business wasn’t me. I started it. But it was bigger than me.” “That was when I got the confidence I needed. I expanded to a second location, hired staff, and put everything on the line to make this dream happen. My husband joined about 6 months ago, fulltime, as the Operations Officer. Then we got to a wonderful point where we thought we were a tiny bit comfortable.” Cue the shutdown...

“We will keep going because now we will never work for anyone else ever again. Once you fully grasp how to start a business and go for it, it’s addicting. That’s where I listen to my spirit and hear my grandpa Noakes telling me to ante up.”

And ante up She did. *How has the Kennewick branch and Spokane branch been affected differently?

“Vanity Spokane wasn’t really off the ground when the shutdown occurred. I had been renting a small room in the back of a gift shop, downtown, that helped me build a tiny clientele. But my demands in Kennewick were so great that my time there prevented me from focusing on Spokane the way I needed to. When we hired staff in Kennewick, I was able to shift my time and be more disciplined with Spokane appointments, and we expanded to a larger commercial space downtown that was fit for a queen.”

Seriously, it's jaw dropping. Vanity Makeup and Skin Spokane was set for a grand opening, May 15.

“We are still waiting for an open date in order to pick back up where we left off and see what happens in the new economic climate.”

Spokane Vanity is very different from the Kennewick location as she doesn’t have a big clientele there, yet. Vanity Kennewick has over 400 clients. Spokane has about 10. (Duh, grand opening spoiled by covid shutdown.)

“Now that I’ve hired an absolutely wonderful team to help me keep Kennewick stable, I feel confident that I can build Spokane into what it will be, while keeping Kennewick as the proud little flagship that we expect it to be.”

400 clients had me thinking that Vanity had been around for a good number of years, lol. Was I wrong. Vanity in Kennewick started in 2017, expanding into a stand-alone, commercial space in 2019, and recently adding Spokane. Like I said, she’s unstoppable. And she cares about her clients; that’s the real key to unlocking success, right? Having a quality service to bring people, and you care about their success, as well.

“Kennewick clients are the most amazing people ever. They have purchased gift card after gift card, they have prepaid for services, purchased retail, donated services, and have come together to show our small business more love than we could EVER have imagined. Relationships are so important to me - clients are sacred, and I really was touched to feel that mutual love during times of crisis for my business when they gave in such a tangible way to offer us help and keep us going. It’s really humbling and beautiful and I will always travel to Kennewick to see my clients. I love them, and I know they love me. I’m truly grateful. COVID19 has brought out a level of thankfulness I didn’t know existed until I felt that love from clients.”

*What is something that bugs you about people’s skin?

"As a skincare professional, I think the industry often assumes that everyone wants injectables, and that seems to be one of the first things people gravitate towards as a suggestion for anti-aging. This is simply untrue. Injections are altering. It isn’t preserving, in my opinion as a professional. There is a whole consumer group out there that will NEVER get any injections, so it’s my philosophy that we need to respect these consumers and stop trying to instill in them a false sense of non-invasive, anti-aging. Aging is something that happens. Not every woman wants to look like an avatar with the overfilled lips and the monotonous cheekbones of 12 other women in a room. Some of us want to be immortal, yes, obviously, but we want our faces to move with expressions and actually look like ourselves as we age. There’s nothing flawed in that thinking.” “In fact, my beauty philosophy is that we are THE MOST beautiful in our RAW and FLAWED form, because it’s our soul that makes us beautiful. Our skin just houses our soul. It should be cared for with sacred rituals and love, but it shouldn’t cover up your essence with a cookie-cutter face that looks nothing like YOU.” “That sounds harsh. I’m not meaning to be harsh. I am not against plastics or injections. At all. Many of my friends use them first and never get facials. But we are creating an entire generation where girls have injected lips, huge cheeks, lash extensions and pores that are so clogged they will absolutely look like a handbag when they are my age at 50. We should embrace women in all shapes and forms and NOT encourage a social media stereotype that is not realistic anywhere else in the world but the U.S. I’ve built my entire business on nurturing those who feel the value of the ritual and want to look exactly like who they are. They like how they look. Those are my people.”

Not only is she saving your skin and helping you keep it that way, while being a hero for natural beauty and health, she’s making it one step easier for you. I asked her about the next thing that she’s super amped to share with people. (Because there’s no doubt in my mind she’s got something cooking.)

“To offer many more skincare and makeup lines, as well as beauty tools for home-care; and we are working on some fun packages as well. The most exciting thing that I’m not really ready to talk about yet, is something that’s been in the works for a while. I am starting a private label skincare line. But that’s all the details we will disclose at this time - we are pretty excited and I know my clients will love it.”

I have no doubt they will love it, Leigh, and continue to show you how much they love and appreciate your insane drive to pull both your communities up and with you in this crazy race. You will continue to wow and amaze people with your never-ending ability to continue forward even in the face of a wall. I can’t even imagine how far you will go. I am relieved to have you on my communities’ team. It comes down to having nothing to do about pores, aging and complexion. Because the thing is, she’s fighting for something much bigger than her own business and success; she’s fighting for you as well.

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