Harlem-native Desiree Verdejo, spent seven years practicing law before she decided to take the leap from public finance attorney to beauty boss and founder of Vivrant Beauty, a go-to beauty destination, located in Harlem, for women of all shades, nationalities, and hair textures. “We are catering to a clientele that has never felt catered to and we are highlighting amazingly formulated and packaged brands that are not always on the shelves of well-known beauty retailers,” said Verdejo. “The breadth of our product selection and the amazing brands that we highlight—features a vast selection of indie brands, women-owned brands, and black-owned brands—this is what makes us a unique place to shop.”
The successful transition of Verdejo, from lawyer to beauty entrepreneur has undoubtedly been helped by her passion for skincare at a young age and love for caring for her natural, kinky hair. Black Enterprise caught up with the Verdejo to learn more about her career transition and lessons learned in business.
BlackEnteprise.com: Tell us about the moment that inspired you to launch Vivrant Beauty.
Desiree Verdejo: I had a few years of a-ha moments. “Before I accepted that I needed to open the store, it was just an idea that I dreamt about and wished someone would open. I realized that I was happier thinking of great ideas surrounding the boutique than I was when planning how to advance the career that I was in. That’s when I realized it was something that I had to pursue.”
Can you offer a few tips on navigating a career transition successfully or how to break into a career with no experience?
I would say talk to as many people as you can, save, plan, and then leap. Definitely take the leap. Be incredibly well researched and passionate about the subject matter. I talked to hair stylists, makeup artists, and YouTube junkies all day. People would know right away if I didn’t know the business and have an enthusiasm for beauty.
I also think it’s important to build and maintain great relationships. There are so many differences between being a beauty entrepreneur and a lawyer, such as event planning, social media, and merchandising. I am humble enough to admit what I don’t know and to ask for input from my peers when necessary.
Describe the most difficult thing you’ve faced in your career.
One of the greatest difficulties is one that I probably see as a blessing now. After practicing law for nearly five years with a prestigious NYC law firm, I was laid off. That was a huge blow to my ego and to my security. Of course, being removed from such a comfortable environment made me think about what I really wanted from life and what I really needed to be happy. I found another job in law immediately (NYC rent is high!) but I also started writing my business plan then.
Since launching Vivrant Beauty, what has been your biggest challenge? How did you overcome this challenge?
The cost of opening a store in NYC is extremely high so the biggest challenge was getting funding. My husband and I used our personal funds and then I spent a long time researching business loan providers before I found one that would loan to my new business.
What have you been most surprised to learn about yourself?
I’m surprised to learn that I’m a morning person. I spent so many years hitting snooze and dreading starting my day that I am always so shocked to see that now that I am waking up to go to Vivrant Beauty, I don’t even need an alarm clock.
What do you believe is your greatest achievement personally and/or professionally?
Going to college. I was raised by my grandparents who encouraged education but knew very little about the college application process, scholarships, or campus life. It was one of the first things that I knew I had to do but had to figure out what it was, how I would do it, and how I would pay for it. Ultimately, I was the first person in my family to go to college and I had a full scholarship. After conquering college, newer endeavors like law school and even opening Vivrant Beauty seemed more attainable.
What, in your opinion, is a huge myth about entrepreneurship?
People love the idea of the freedom that an entrepreneur has. There is something powerful about deciding what business aspect you want to focus on on any given day if any. With that being said, most entrepreneurs that I know have more work than hours in the day so the idea of this freedom to go to brunch versus spend eight hours working does not exist as people suggest that it does.
What daily go-to resources do you use to manage your business?
- Shopify- It’s great technology for DIY building an e-commerce site, serves as in-store POS system and keeps track of inventory.
- My iPhone- I can be anywhere and check into our camera system app and see the store, our POS system to see the sales for the day, into the cloud to grab a document that I’m working on, and my favorite, onto social media to communicate with our customers.
- My husband!- He’s Vivrant Beauty’s unofficial IT person, stock person, house photographer, and the list goes on. Most importantly, as a new business owner, every day is not an amazing selling day, and he keeps me positive and motivated through it all.
What qualities have helped you succeed thus far?
I think that I have three traits that have worked in my favor in life: ambition, optimism, and stamina. I have a lot that I want to accomplish and I’ve always been silly enough to think that all of my goals are attainable, but I realize that nothing gets done without work. I love sleep, but I could stay up for days if it would get me closer to living the life that I envision for myself.