Spokane Journal of Business

Studio a foundation for nonprofit

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-—Staff photo by Jessica Valencia
The Make-Up Studio LLC owner Julie Farley says the shop sees about 50 people a week—and double that during wedding season.

Julie Farley has worked as a professional makeup artist for two decades, but with the help of her 10-year-old makeup studio and a secondary business venture, she's attempting to paint a smile on the faces of those who struggle to make ends meet.

Farley owns The Make-Up Studio LLC, a downtown boutique that specializes in offering makeup consultation, bridal makeup application services, and lessons on how to achieve a natural look. In addition to her primary business, Farley heads Project Beauty Share, a nonprofit that provides beauty and hygiene product donations to shelters.

Both ventures operate out of an 1,800-square-foot shop at 216 N. Bernard, next to the Spokane Public Schools district offices. The shop features a waiting and retail area, vanity work area, and additional back office space.

The shop employs one full-time and one part-time employee in addition to Farley. She says an aesthetician also is subleasing space in the shop.

Before opening her studio, Farley was a model and a freelance makeup artist for about 20 years, working on movie sets and doing makeup for business professionals.

"My love was to do beauty and fashion makeup," Farley says. "I wanted to get back to my roots."

Farley opened The Make-Up Studio in June 2002. The business leased space at the Steam Plant downtown for four years before moving to its current location.

"For a small niche business, we're still here," Farley says. "That's something to applaud."

Farley says the business currently sees about 50 clients a week, but that number can jump up closer to 100 clients a week during the wedding season in summer. Farley says Saturday traffic is largely special occasion makeup appointments.

Farley says that of the services The Make-Up Studio offers, the most popular one is makeup lessons, followed by bridal makeup application. Clients bring in their own makeup, and her studio mostly works with the products someone already has, Farley says, adding that she might make recommendations on products.

Along with offering makeup lessons, and bridal makeup applications, Farley also offers consulting to the Spokane broadcasting stations when they hire or promote a new anchor.

She says she teaches them to use airbrushing to apply makeup, which helps skin appear flawless on camera. Airbrushing typically is a lighter makeup application technique for men, she says.

Farley says she cherry-picks from about 10 different cosmetic lines, most of them developed by makeup artists. The Make-Up Studio inventory includes Stila Cosmetics, Alison Raffaele Cosmetics, Blinc, Sara Happ, and Girlactik Beauty.

The Make-Up Studio works with fashion and jewelry designers here to showcase and sell their products in the shop. Farley says it currently is featuring jewelry from Millianna Design and Olive & Boone Custom Millinery, which produces hats and headwear.

Farley says she doesn't plan to expand the storefront, adding, "We just need to build on what we have."

She says she does intend to expand the store's online presence. The Make-Up Studio has had an online store since the studio opened, and features products there that are sold in the shop. She says she sees a lot of customer activity generated by that online store.

Along with running The Make-Up Studio, Farley heads Project Beauty Share, a nonprofit she started in 2009. The organization provides beauty and hygiene products to homeless women, women in transition, and the working poor. Farley says it currently distributes products to 12 organizations in the Inland Northwest.

She says the decision to start the organization stemmed from realizing food stamps don't cover hygiene and beauty product purchases. That led her, she says, to begin looking at how to make use of products that might otherwise sit on shelves and collect dust.

The organization accepts new and slightly used products, but Farley says used products are carefully selected and sanitized before being distributed.

"Anything is better than nothing? That's not our mantra," Farley says.

She says between three and eight volunteers help sort and sanitize donations weekly, adding that shelters don't have the staffing to do so. Donations are either delivered by volunteers or picked up by shelters, Farley says. The organization has collected almost 50,000 pounds of beauty and hygiene products since it began operating, she says.

Paul Fruci, of Fruci & Associates PS, a Spokane accounting firm located next to Farley's shop, donated space in the basement of the building for Farley and her staff of volunteers to sort products.

Farley says it's not uncommon for women to purchase a product such as lipstick, use it once or twice and then never pick it up again because they don't like the shade. She says the nonprofit provides another option to put those products to good use.

Farley attributes the birth of Project Beauty Share to The Make-Up Studio, particularly its clients who made her aware of a growing need for those products.

Although the studio has been content with its customer traffic and business space, Farley says increased challenges might be in store for the business due in part to a new competitor at River Park Square and tentative plans for a major new hotel near the Spokane Convention Center.

Sephora, a well-known beauty product store, is slated to open in River Park Square this year. The chain currently has locations at both NorthTown Mall and Spokane Valley Mall.

Spokane developers Walt and Karen Worthy hope to develop a 15-story hotel and six-story parking structure on land owned by the Spokane Public Facilities District across the street from Farley's business.

She says one concern she has is how construction of the hotel would affect access to her business, which isn't in the retail hub of downtown, but she remains hopeful that having the hotel there ultimately will have a positive impact.

"We're thinking that in the end, it'll be a good thing," Farley says. "With extra activity across the street, it'll be interesting."

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