Diana Ralys is the owner of Diana Ralys Skin Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., a business that offers facials and high-end skin treatments like microdermabrasion and oxygen infusion using only natural and organic products. Ralys has also developed her own line of skincare products that are available for clients to purchase to maintain healthy skin at home.
How did you get started with your business?
I always had a passion for skincare since I was in my teenage years. After I received my aesthetics license, I kept taking classes to advance my education to learn as much as I could about skincare and facial treatments. Then I started working for a very well known international skincare brand. I started there as an aesthetician, grew into a manager position, and then became global lead aesthetician. At the same time, I kept going for advanced education in the aesthetics field.
One day, I just realized there was nowhere else to go. In order to achieve my future goals and really stay with my passion, I needed to go out on my own. I had to depart from the company. It was a little scary to leave a job that paid well and that was really in my comfort zone. At the same time, it was very satisfying to incorporate everything I learned and everything I dreamed of into treatments I believed in.
Who was your first customer?
I had a bunch of loyal, wonderful clients who decided to follow me wherever I went. Some clients I’m treating today have been coming to me for over 10 years — as long as I have been in this industry.
How did you fund your business in the beginning? Have you taken on any additional funding since?
I didn’t take a big loan, but I had wonderful friends who believed in me. They loaned me a few thousand dollars that allowed me to lease the office space and get the basic equipment. After that, starting with the first month, I’ve reinvested my profits into the business.
This year, I’m expanding the business to a much bigger space, hiring more people and buying more equipment. Right now, I am looking into some loan options.
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Running the Business
How did you learn to run your business?
I’m kind of self-taught. I opened my first business when I was 26 years old in Lithuania, where I’m from. I used my logical thinking and intuition, asking, “What is missing in the industry? What can we bring in?”
I built my business plan more like a vision plan for myself. It included expenses, profits and everyday operations. I learned from Day 1 what works, what doesn’t work, what I have to change, what I have to learn … I advanced as I went. I’m still advancing. You know, you learn every day.
What’s the biggest mistake you made in the first year?
I can’t recall a big mistake. I was really ready to branch out and start on my own. I had a good plan. I just followed my dream and passion. I had a clear vision, so that helped me not make mistakes.
What’s the smartest thing you did in the first year?
I did not procrastinate. I evaluated situations and made decisions quite quick – Things like buying equipment, creating something new or bringing in new people.
Another thing I think really saved me was not taking on a big loan, cause that would add so much more stress. Growing as I was going was a smart thing to do.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running your own business?
I am an inventor, full of great ideas all the time. Working in the corporate world was frustrating and limiting my potential because I had to spend so much time preparing and pitching my ideas for improvements and then waiting for them to be approved or disapproved. Now, I’m in charge of making all my own decisions. In the industry where I’m working, that’s let me create facial product combinations that are natural and effective. My skincare line could have never happened if I worked for somebody.
And, of course, I love making my own schedule. That allows me to balance my work and my personal/family life.
What’s the most difficult/challenging thing about running your own business?
It can be difficult in the beginning when you try to do everything by yourself and work 24×7. That can be exhausting. Learning to balance and stop and take a breath has been difficult.
What’s the most surprising thing about running your own business?
I can’t say that I’ve had too many surprises. I expected what I got. I’d say my personal growth has been a little surprising – I’ve just advanced in all levels of my life since I started my business. I expected hard work, but I’ve gotten more than just that!
What business owner or entrepreneur do you admire most? Who is your role model?
I admire many people who are entrepreneurs. I’d say No. 1 is Jane Wurwand, the founder and owner of The International Dermal Institute. She also has her own product line, Dermalogica. I’ve met her a number of times because I’ve gone to classes by The International Dermal Institute. I admire her for many things, especially for creating a wonderful environment for professionally licensed aestheticians to advance their knowledge of aesthetics. No matter how big her company has grown, she looks balanced and happy and like she’s having fun!
What I’ve Learned
What advice do you have for others starting their own business?
No matter how big or how small the business is, when you start, it is quite crucial to know as many job operations as possible that are related to your business. I’m not saying that the business owner has to do all the tasks, but it helps to delegate and hire people for certain positions when you know what knowledge and what experience those positions require. That saves time, communication, frustration and, eventually, money.
An example: I never studied computer science, but I did invest a lot of my time to learn how to develop websites. I created my first website by myself. Now I have an incredibly talented website designer, but I still made sure that I understand the simple functions of the website so I can make changes and add information that’s constantly changing by myself.
I also recommend that people go for their dream and do what they love doing. Don’t try to open a business because someone else succeeded with it. Open a business to follow your heart and your intuition and your knowledge.
What do you wish you had known before starting your business?
If I knew how much fun it is, I would have opened my business earlier!
I gathered the most important information before I opened my business, so there are no regrets.
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About the Author — Ashley Sweren is a freelance marketing writer and editor. She owns her own small business, Firework Writing, located in San Jose, California.