Artist Spotlight: Independent Beauty Pros Founder Lynzie Smith
Meet Lynzie Smith, founder and CEO of Independent Beauty Pros! She launched IBP in 2020, seeking to foster community between solo beauty and barber entrepreneurs who, because of their independent status, struggle to make connections and mentorship opportunities in the industry. We sat down with Lynzie to get her take on going solo, the strength of relationships and her advice for new beauty pros!
Marlo Beauty: How did you get started in the beauty industry?
Lynzie: Growing up I never thought I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I thought “I want a 9 to 5, I want benefits, I want stability.” In high school, I went through a co-op program through an insurance agency and started school at community college. My plan was to go through a work training program with this insurance company, and I could become an insurance agent and get a business degree. I was in this structured job, in college, checking all these boxes, but I wasn’t excited about it. My job at the insurance agency was to do intake, and one day this woman came in and she was so enthusiastic and bubbly. She had just gotten a job at a salon and needed liability insurance. When I saw her I was like, “I don’t feel that way, I don’t get up and get excited to get insurance for my business that I’m starting”... I just didn’t have any of that. So I thought, “Okay, maybe I want to do something like that.” That day on my lunch break, I went to a Paul Mitchell school and I did a tour, and I literally enrolled that day.
That pushed me into coming back to the creativity that I have and the connections with other people that I love. I put in my two weeks and started my program. In 10 months, I got my license and moved to Chicago. I wanted more opportunity to grow in a bigger city. It was very clear to me that this is what I was looking for all along, I just took a little detour through the insurance company to get there.
Lynzie at The Colour Room in Chicago, the independent salon where she grew her entrepreneural career.
Marlo Beauty: Tell us about Independent Beauty Pros. What motivated you to start it?
Lynzie: I worked in a salon for my first job in Chicago. I wanted to feel comfortable in a big city so I found a four-chair salon.
I was there for four years, and then I became independent. I moved to a suite for the rest of my career behind the chair. Being independent was seen as something people who wanted more free time did to take time off, but that was not how it was at all. It wasn’t as common at the time to become independent, and there was very little support around entrepreneurship in that space. Access to education back then was way different because everything was through distribution companies, so if your product orders didn’t qualify you to receive free education, you were outsourcing education all the time, and again for a solopreneur (especially back in 2012), independent education didn’t even really exist. There were so many little things like that which nobody tells you. Plus, even at that time it felt like the industry was a lot more competitive than it is today. I couldn’t really ask questions without getting a half answer, and there was no mentorship. I felt like I was hitting ceilings, and I felt exhausted.
I started to think, “Why is this so hard? There have got to be more people like me. I know that we can all be successful together, and we can probably be happier and more successful if we all work collaboratively versus doing it all ourselves and being exhausted. What if we connect with each other and recognize that there are enough opportunities for all of us?”
The fastest and easiest way to be successful is not the way I did for my first 12 years in the industry, but instead finding other people to learn from and to teach. We all have something we can offer on both ends. That’s when IBP started to develop.
As an independent stylist early in her career, Lynzie found it was hard to find education and support. That’s when she got the idea for Independent Beauty Pros.
Marlo Beauty: What was your vision for IBP?
Lynzie: My original vision for Independent Beauty Pros was a local, Chicago-based meetup thing with some coaching, and that’s so different from what it is today. Because I chose to launch it in April 2020, during the pandemic, it shifted from Chicago local to virtual nationwide. I’m so grateful for that, because it would have taken me a lot longer to realize what it means for smaller communities. For example, I actually just talked to a woman from Alaska and we were talking about doing virtual events there. I didn’t see all these other opportunities that are now what our business has been built on.
Lynzie highlights the importance of making networking approachable, fun and unique.
Marlo Beauty: What has the response to IBP been?
Lynzie: The response in April 2020 was slim - I was sending cold DMs to literally anyone. But in that season between April and July-ish when I went back behind the chair, the response became overwhelming. I mean, we all wanted connection and community. I think COVID opened a lot of our eyes to the burnout process and how many of us were actually running on empty and needed a reset. Within six months, I knew I was onto something. Now, it has evolved past me, which is so crazy.
Marlo Beauty: What are some resources pros have access to once becoming an Independent Beauty Pro member?
Lynzie: Our format right now is a monthly/annual membership, so we structure it across the board (that will be changing), and you gain access to a full community directory, similar to a LinkedIn or Facebook. Everyone on our platform is independent and in the beauty/barber industry, and we are completely industry inclusive. We confirm people through a social media account, business card or a license.
We have downloadable resources, such as PDFs and contracts that are customizable to your business, so you can put your logo and words in, but it’s legally binding.
We also have downloadable social media content calendars we put out each month. We have one currently called “Post with Purpose”, and it's a 7-day content calendar where the goal is to build relationships on social media.
In addition, we host monthly virtual education hours around business topics. We’ll bring on a CPA or a lawyer or a marketing expert - anyone who can help with the brass tacks of your business. We also have virtual networking events with a variety of topics, and membership will give you access to all these events. However, if you’re not a member, we also sell tickets to these events individually. We also have started to host in-person events across the country. Most recently we hosted The Solopreneur To CEO Summit in Dallas!
Marlo Beauty: Yes! Tell us about your keynote at The Solopreneur To CEO Summit.
Lynzie: Well, wild, my keynote was on the power of relationships. It was awesome! I loved sharing the journey that led to me standing there. In Chicago, I worked with a woman named Kate, who was an independent esthetician. Our categories were adjacent but not the same, so it was really easy for us to talk about things together. We helped each other a lot, and once I left the salon where we both worked, she rented a space from my accountant. Again, it shows the importance of relationships. I got to share this story at my keynote, how this one person and I learned from each other and how my relationships helped her, and hers helped me. The greatest part for me was that Kate was there at the summit. It was a full-circle moment, and she’s still here in my corner.
Lynzie speaking at The Solopreneur To CEO Summit.
Marlo Beauty: What’s your favorite part about being in the beauty industry?
Lynzie: I think my passion falls in building connections with people, and that’s what I always loved about being a hairstylist. Some people won’t like hearing this, but I never really loved doing hair. Like, it was fun, and I liked learning new techniques, but what I really loved was learning about my clients. Hair was the modality that allowed me to build relationships. I think a lot of people resonate with that and feel the same, and we forget that we can have that all across our business - not just with the person we are touching with the service we offer.
Marlo Beauty: What has helped you find your success in the beauty industry?
Lynzie: I would say coaching and mentorship. Michael Jordan had a coach - I think about that all the time. It doesn’t matter how good you are, there is somebody who can support you, help you, coach you through hardships that come. I currently have two coaches, and they are my team. But even if it’s just someone like Kate, who you have a connection with and can ask questions to, find someone like that. The amount of growth I’ve experienced is because I’ve been coached on how to grow that way. No matter what goals you have, you’re going to get there faster with a mentor.
Also going solo! Entrepreneurship, I believe, is one of the best and fastest ways to learn about yourself and to facilitate personal development. This experience has been a big learning moment for me.
Marlo Beauty: What's the number one piece of advice you'd give to someone starting out in the beauty industry?
Lynzie: Don’t let your ego get the best of you! Ego has gotten in the way of us seeing that collaboration is the key. Say you don’t know, say you’re overwhelmed. People want to help you, by nature we want to help each other! The more you can admit that things are hard, the more people are going to offer to help, to share their own experiences and say, “That was hard, here’s how I did it.” Taking that attitude into working with a coach, you are going to quantum leap and learn really quickly.