A person is painting with a brush.
Running a business

Lateisha Grant is painting her own path

Name: Lateisha Grant

Location: Toronto

Business: Lateisha Grant Makeup

Lateisha Grant is applying makeup to a client.

Tell us a bit about your business.

So I graduated from makeup school in 2019 and from there I networked my way onto sets for advertising, fashion, commercials, video, and still work. I was freelancing for a bit and now I'm agency-represented here in Toronto.

I feel like beauty is something that's always evolving. It's never the same. It evolves as time progresses. And that's something that I love because every time I'm working, it's a new challenge. Whether I'm just trying to successfully execute a look based on a client request or if I'm doing creative work, I can always challenge myself in a new way. And working on someone's face is literally a new challenge every time in itself. So I'm a person that needs a lot of change in life and this is the perfect career for that because I can never get bored. I love makeup for that reason.

What made you want to go out on your own and start your own business?

My mom would always tell me, "Never be afraid to be your own boss." She's very much an entrepreneur herself. She is a former Toronto officer and she has her own business now. She's been so successful with it. She's actually looking to sell and for someone else to manage her business and she wants to open a new business. So she's always encouraged me to be my own boss. I also just love having freedom of running on my own schedule, so I love being my own boss. Amazing. So it runs in your family.

When you first started as a business owner, how were you tracking all your finances and taking care of all the less creative parts of running a business?

So for this tax season, I really kind of screwed myself over just because I'm still learning about taxes and exactly what I need to be doing and the amount of money and percentages I need to set aside as a freelancer. I just wasn't aware of that.  I feel like if I had QuickBooks to help sooner, it would've been so much better if I had this a while ago. Everything just seems to be in one spot. You have your invoicing connected to your bank account and you could just right there decide, "Is this personal? Is this business? Is this split?" Which I really like. And then you can do it by percentage or by amount, which is also really helpful. 

I also really like the visualized profit and loss in QuickBooks. As someone who's such a visual learner, it helps me when I can see rent, travel, meals and entertainment — everything. It really helps just put things into perspective.

With QuickBooks, payroll and bookkeeping work hand-in-hand.

How does running your own business make you feel?

It makes me feel free and empowered. I always like having options and no limits. So I love being my own business owner. There's good days and bad days, that's for sure. And it's crazy because I've been offered stability a handful of times, and I'm just like, "Oh, do I take on stability and give up my happiness and creativity?" I don't think I can do that. I'm the type of person that I will always put my own happiness first, which is so directly linked to my creativity. 

Is there something that you didn't know about running a business when you started that you had to teach yourself? 

Taxes are definitely a big one because they don't teach us about it in school. Or at least I never learned about taxes in school. We're supposed to figure it out all on our own. So taxes are a big one for sure. Just saving for CPP, and then we have our provincial and federal tax. I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I didn't really realize how much money I have to save." I feel like I have to save more money as a freelancer than I would if I was employed, which is crazy. I did not know that.

Do you feel ready for tax season this year? 

I feel like finding an accountant is almost like finding a therapist because not all accountants really know how to work with freelancers. So it's been a journey. I feel like connecting with QuickBooks has really been a blessing. It's something I've needed.

A person sitting on a chair holding a cell phone.

What's the biggest lesson you would say that you learned in your very first year?

Recognizing an opportunity when it's there is a big one. Don't be afraid to ask questions and take risks. And I feel like having strong mentors in the creative industry is definitely key. You definitely need that guidance.

How do you manage to wear every hat that your business demands? Because at times you have to be the accountant and run business operations, but also be the artist. How do you manage to do all of that in one day?

Being an artist is so directly correlated with who I am as a person, genuinely. So I don't really look at it as wearing so many hats. It's just what I am. I just do it. I just function this way. I don't know how to function any other way other than to be my own accountant, be true to myself, be creative, be a content creator, be my own receptionist, be my own social media manager.

Has learning social media as a business owner been a challenge?

I find social media really fascinating. I don't know if I'm brainwashed because I genuinely like being on social media and looking at analytics and what hits and what doesn't and what captures people's attention. So I never get too stressed out about social media. I like creating content. So yeah, it doesn't bother me too, too much. I enjoy it.

What would you say is maybe the most fulfilling or gratifying part of having your own business? 

I love when I do someone's makeup and they're super happy. That feeling is always the best. I always come home feeling really fulfilled. It's a blessing that I get to survive off of doing what I love. And I think that's another reason why I'm so stubborn when I do get offered more stable jobs and I am super selective with my time and how I spend it, who I spend it with, and how I divide it.  I like to devote my time to what I love doing most, and just being able to do that is extremely fulfilling. And I know I'm lucky to say that.

How do you achieve a work-life balance? What do you do for yourself every day outside of work?

I feel like I'm a really chill girl. I love to just connect with friends — whether it's meeting up for coffee or having a girls night. But other than that — this sounds so boring — but I like doing errands and ticking things off a list. I'm a pretty independent girl. 

What has been your proudest moment so far?

Oh my gosh, that's so hard. My proudest moment so far? Oh, this is going to sound so cheesy, but I think it's just that I've developed such a strong support group. I really love the close creative friends I've made in this industry because it wasn't like that when I first started. I feel like when I first started, I was all over the place. I didn't know who to connect with or who to trust. But now I have a handful of really good, genuine, creative friends that help keep me going.  I can turn to them when I'm having bad days or when I'm trying to make a decision or something. I think that's my proudest moment — having them in my life. It doesn't really have anything to do with a particular job, it's just the people that have helped me get that job.

How do you do business differently? What sets your business and the way you do business apart from others in this industry? 

My work and how I'm perceived on camera is just really transparent and genuine. I always make sure that when I'm posting my work, I post the most authentic version of it. I really like showing the flaws in my makeup. Just showing that it's never always perfect because there's no such thing as perfection…especially when you're working on a face. So I always make sure that I display the most authentic version of myself, and I am able to connect with people that way.

I also show the variety of work I can do. I love painting a whole face blue. I love doing clean work and line work. I know I'm really strong at that, and I'm never afraid to be like, "Yeah, that's what I specialize in." I don't know if it's confidence or what. I don't think it's egotistical to say or to be able to identify your strong suit and not back down and be like, "Yeah, I can do that. No problem." And I know other artists can struggle with that, but I don't.

What advice would you give to other small business owners just starting out?

Never feel bad about promoting yourself. I think people are really shy about that. Believe in your skills, practice your craft. I think promoting yourself is the number one. Believe in yourself and grow a strong community and trust your gut because there are always people out there who don't want to see you succeed. I know there are, and I've experienced it, so just trust your gut. And that's why it's really important to grow that really genuine good community.

What did success look like to you when you first started and how has that changed over time?

When I first started, success meant stability. When I first started, I was like, "Okay, I'm going to get my own place in Toronto. I'm going to get signed with an agency and everything's going to be good." I have that now, and I almost want the opposite. I want to be able to travel and move around now. I don't necessarily want Toronto to always be my home base, and I don't know if I want to be with an agency forever. I just think success to me is happily being able to do my craft wherever I go. I want my craft to take me traveling, and I know I'll be fulfilled in that way. So it's interesting how that has changed.

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