Making over an informal enterprise

Little girls love to play with makeup, get dressed up and strut around the house with a new hairdo and a pretty face. Freshman Lindsey Brenner was the same way-only she took it a step further.

Brenner runs her own business at GW, doing makeup and hairstyles for Greek-letter life formals and other events at prices college students can afford. Her cosmetic skills, she says, are the product of experience combined with natural talent.

“I’ve had girls coming to me saying their hair is really difficult to curl and work with, and I’ve literally had it in perfect curls later,” Brenner said. “Some people have difficulty working with their hair, so I guess I’m one of those girls who figured it out early.”

After working at a family-owned makeup store in Princeton, N.J., Brenner came to college with her makeup belt and kit, and a passion for helping others look their best. Soon her creative energy, along with the training she received at the store, translated into free styling services for friends and neighbors on weekends in her Thurston Hall room.

As her craft attracted more attention, her schedule became more hectic, with back-to-back appointments leaving Brenner no chance to get herself ready to go out for an evening.

“It would be around 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night and I would still be in my pajamas, hair on top of my head, and I’m not ready because I just had just done everyone else’s hair and makeup,” Brenner said.

Spring semester she came back with a Facebook page advertising her services and a price list to compete with nearby salons and makeup stores. And the low rates are attractive – eye makeup is just $4, whereas a full makeover goes for $8. Brenner also does basic hairstyles, including hair straightening and curling, for $10. For those who want it all, a makeup and hairstyle combination costs only $25. So far she has brought in about $100 in extra income.

To spread the word about her business, Brenner, a member of Alpha Phi, reached out to other sororities through listservs. The method attracted many clients, including freshman Catherine Clare, a fellow Alpha Phi sister, who said Brenner is very in touch with current trends in fashion.

“I loved that it was a GW girl doing my hair, so she knows what is popular here and didn’t attempt to give me some outdated hairstyle,” Clare said.

When working with sororities, Brenner sets up shop in a common room like a Greek-letter townhouse basement. She is even willing to come to the client’s doorstep if necessary, but prefers to have all of her customers in one place.

At GW, she works mostly on fellow sorority girls but said her favorite assignment as a makeup artist was working with young girls at birthday parties at home.

“It was really cool to show parents how to do something as simple as putting on a little loose glitter without getting it all over themselves and the girls,” Brenner said.

As a self-described perfectionist, she said she is not willing to accept anything but flawless work from herself. Though her high ambitions can come back to haunt her, Brenner says they only motivate her further to ensure her clients are getting their money’s worth.

“My worst nightmare is to have the girls have their picture taken and there’s a bobby pin falling out of their hair,” Brenner said. “So I take the time to make sure their hair is more secure, the pony tail is a little tighter.”

Like any college student with a job, she feels the pressure of having multiple responsibilities. Although she does not receive a wage comparable to that of professional cosmeticians, she says she appreciates receiving a little extra cash for doing something she loves. And she plans on continuing to help people look their best in the future, even though it may not be a part of her primary career.

“I hope to eventually get my license at a cosmetology school, and hopefully will be able to do prom and wedding makeovers as a side business when I’m older and more settled down,” Brenner said.

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