Hey beauty! I am Tara O’Kelly, the owner of TOK Beauty.
Thanks for joining me! In this blog, I wanted to share a bit about my career path to becoming an entrepreneur, some mistakes I made, how I learned from those mistakes and three pieces of advice I can share!
I’m just a small-town girl, living in a beauty world! Did you read/sing that in your head like the Journey song? I hope so!
Really. I am a small-town Ontario, Canada girl, who has always had big dreams of becoming a singer or movie star! Any chance I had, I would get up on stage to perform my current favourite song. Likely something with Shania Twain, Mariah Carey, or Whitney Houston. Was I a great performer? Not really. Ha! But I loved doing it! If you asked me back then if I would be here today building a beauty business, my answer would be, heck no! But, I couldn’t be happier that life has taken me down this path. I am excited to be building a natural beauty product empire, while helping women feel beautiful on the inside and outside! How does a girl who dreamed of becoming a star get into the beauty world? It was in my blood.
ADVICE #1: FIND & FOLLOW MENTORS YOU TRUST:
I grew up in an entrepreneurial family where my dad and his brothers were all successful business owners. Watching them as role models helped guide the path to starting my own business. I went to Wilfrid Laurier University and received a degree in Communications and Business. Once I graduated, I began working for my dad’s company helping him in all areas of his business. There was no special treatment given for being the daughter of the owner. I started by filing every invoice in the accounting department, and insuring inventory of all marketing material and office supplies was counted and stocked. I then moved to the accounting department, and made calls to clients that had outstanding invoices. This position was not glamourous by any means, and I knew this was something I wanted to escape as soon as possible. My dad ensured me that it was a great learning experience and something I needed to learn. He was right. Once I paid my dues in accounting for over a year, I moved back over to marketing helping with website and product design. I was also apart of company promo videos (I had become a ‘star’!) This position was more my style, but something was still missing. I finally got moved into a sales role, and I knew right away that this was what I loved!
Sales was my favourite position because it was about people. I was able to attend events and interact directly with the clients. I believed in the products, so it was less about the pitch and more about getting to know people. I truly believe that’s what business is all about. Making genuine connections and friendships; some of those friendships I still have today
ADVICE #2: PARTNERSHIPS: GET TO KNOW THEM and GET AN AGREEMENT!
After five years and a lot of work, I was ready to chase my own dreams and pursue building my first company. This was a huge learning experience for me. You know how people say some of the most valuable lessons come from your failures? This was one of those lessons. I was building my business with a person that wasn’t a great partner. I’ll spare you the gory details but that’s my second piece of advice — if you’re going down the partnership route, make sure you know this person (both the good and the bad). And make sure you have a partnership agreement. No one likes to think about the end of relationships but protect yourself and your investment. In my case, the company wasn’t successful. I ended up losing my personal investment. But the experience I gained on the dos and don’ts of starting a company were worth far more. This girl doesn’t make the same mistakes twice. WHAT WAS NEXT?
What does a girl with big dreams do after a failed business? Take some time to get perspective and dust herself off. I headed west and visited some family in Calgary. Life has a funny way of working out because while in Calgary, I met someone who decided to hire me on the spot for a sales job in the oil and gas industry. Knowing nothing about oil and gas, I decided to take it! Ha!
Won’t lie, was a little terrified. New city. New job. A field I knew nothing about. But I was at a point in my life that I needed a change. My life had been turned upside down and getting a job in Calgary was a sign from the universe to accept that change.
I worked in oil and gas for two years. I met some amazing people in the city and began building a life in Calgary. I knew it wasn’t going to be my forever career, but it was a chance for me to get my feet back on the ground. Not sure if you know anything about the oil and gas industry but things haven’t been so great for a few years. In 2015, the oil and gas industry took a turn for the worst. I was let go. Again, another sign from the universe that it was time for a change, time to move onto something bigger and better!
Side note: One of the biggest things I believe in is Everything Happens 4 A Reason or EH4AR.
Once I got let go I took a couple weeks off and decided to start my second unsuccessful company. I had made all these friendships and contacts in oil and gas, so I tried to start a company in oil and gas selling used equipment. Remember those lessons from failures?
I don’t know what I was thinking! In my mind the industry was suffering, and I wanted to help my clients out by providing them with a used equipment solution. It honestly lasted a month before I changed my mind. Although my clients were loyal to me, it was too big of an undertaking with so many big players that had been in the used equipment game for years. But the biggest thing was it wasn’t something I really loved.
ADVICE #3 – DO WHAT YOU LOVE!
My third piece of entrepreneurial advice, and just life advice — do what you LOVE!
I took a step back and really dug deep into what I love doing. I had always done makeup on the side for friends and family, but I never really saw it as a full-time career. I loved sales and knew that I always wanted to have a ‘sales career’. Not selling people on random products, but making relationships, meeting people and introducing them to products and services that I truly believe in. If they like what I have to offer, they will trust me to purchase it because we have built that relationship. I started working at a salon in Calgary to gain experience in the beauty industry. It was a pay cut, but it was also with a salon that had two great and experienced owners. One owner has three businesses herself, and the other has been doing hair for over 20 years and had the most loyal clientele.
After a year of gaining experience, I got the itch again to start another business. This time I knew it was the one. Third time’s a charm! TOK Beauty was born in 2016. It started off with me doing makeup for clients. Then, I added distribution of other company’s products, but quickly shifted focus to designing and creating my own natural beauty products instead. April 2017, I launched TOK Beauty Silk Strip Lashes, IT TAKES TWO Magnetic Lashes and STUCK ON YOU Natural Lash Adhesive.
These days product design, marketing, sales and events keep me busy, so I only do makeup on the side for friends, family, and referrals.
SO NOW WHAT?
So, you might be thinking – Ok Tara, but I don’t have a family of entrepreneurs to learn from. You don’t need one! Yes, I was incredibly lucky to learn from some of the best in my dad and uncles. I’m thankful daily for what my family has done for me. But if you’re hungry, you can do this. Trust me. There are so many incredible resources and experts out there. Gary Vee is one of my personal favourites. And I promise to share more insights about my journey in my blog. If you’re interested, make sure you subscribe or stay subscribed as a member of the beauty list! I’ll also be sharing a bit more about doing what you love and loving yourself because who can’t use a little more love in their lives?
Got more questions? Got comments? Reach out to me! I love hearing from all of you beauties.