THUNDER BAY -- When Carly Hughes went to CMU college of Makeup Art and Design in Toronto, she just followed what she loved to do - makeup. Since she had done the broadcasting program at Confederation College, she vaguely thought she might end up in TV and film makeup, but she realized she liked fashion and pretty things rather than “the gory stuff.” She came home to Thunder Bay after graduation and opened a mobile business; going to people’s homes and events to do their makeup for special occasions.
She founded Wink Beauty Studio in 2015, and by September 2017, business was good enough to open a permanent location on Court Street. Back in 2015, “there weren’t too many people doing makeup,” Hughes recalls. “There wasn’t a ton of competition, and that helped grow my business quickly.”
Her large salon on the second floor of the Ruttan Building has five treatment rooms, and she has three employees working for her, as well as friends and colleagues who rent her space. Wink offers eyelash extensions, makeup for special events and nails. (Wink’s nail artist is currently on maternity leave.)
“I don’t want to say I’m shocked, but I am kind of shocked that it worked out so well. I think it’s a mixture of luck and hard work, I’d say,” Hughes says of her success.
There is more competition in town now (“Sephora is doing so well; they train their people really well there,”) but also a growing demand for professional make-up artists. While it used to be quite common to do your own makeup (or get a skilled friend to do it) for your own wedding or a friend’s wedding, nowadays people want photo-perfect looks ready for Instagram and other social media.
“There’s a lot of people in town who do boudoir photography, lifestyle and family photography or portraits, so the photographers really help the makeup girls out, because people are getting done up for more events,” she adds.
The holiday season in December is a busy time for Hughes, as well as the wedding season from May to September/October. “It’s nice because in this industry you’re always seeing people when it’s an exciting day, so it’s really fun,” she says.
Wink’s lash extensions are all synthetic, with choices ranging from classic (one extension per lash) to volume (three or four extensions per lash) and Hughes avoids products that involve mink or real animal hair. (“I personally think it’s weird - you wouldn’t put cat hair on your face!”)
With ample space in her salon, Hughes hopes to offer a wider variety of services in the future. Being your own boss is “so rewarding,” Hughes says, “you really get a sense of accomplishment knowing that everything you get out of it, is what you’ve put into it. It (makeup artist) doesn’t always sound like a real job because it’s art, but it’s really rewarding to have made it into a career!”