Business owners and entrepreneurs often share important qualities like determination, focus, and courage. To chase a dream and build your own business requires these attributes, and for many entrepreneurs, the exhilaration of creating a company from the ground up is a driving force that leads to considerable success. However, there is another side of entrepreneurship that is rarely discussed: What happens when you reach the pinnacle of success and want to focus on a new dream? What does it take to let go of a business that you founded?
Leaving a business (either through sale or management change) requires an equal – if not greater – amount of determination and courage. And few understand that better than Ashlee Kleinschmidt, a serial entrepreneur and owner of Muah Makeup and Lash Bar and Luxe XII Lifestyle. With experience building multiple businesses, Kleinschmidt knows what it takes to chase a dream – and how to know when it’s time to pursue new interests. While successfully managing both of her current companies, Kleinschmidt remains focused on the future, and the possibilities that it holds.
Although she grew up with an interest in fashion, it was at a makeup counter that Kleinschmidt first discovered the impact that it could have – a discovery that would become a theme in her work.
“The first time I went to a makeup counter and had my makeup done was the first memory I have of feeling pretty and feeling empowered,” Kleinschmidt says. “That was the beginning for me.”
Kleinschmidt attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, maintaining her love for fashion while learning the nuances of the industry. She also took courses at a makeup program and began a whirlwind career, working with some of the world’s biggest brands including L’Oreal, Dior, and Maybelline. Wanting to achieve more, she owned Muah Makeup and Lash Bar, helping her clients experience the feeling that she had felt so many years ago: beauty, empowerment, and confidence.
“I don’t do makeup because of the makeup itself, I do it because of what it does for other people,” Kleinschmidt says. “I love doing makeup on someone and talking about their day, relating to them and making them feel beautiful.”
Already the owner of one successful business, Kleinschmidt felt compelled to do more. Specifically, she never lost sight of her love for fashion, and she began displaying and selling jewelry within her makeup bar.
“In one month alone, I made over $4k just selling earrings,” Kleinschmidt says. “Then we started to do necklaces and rings, and because I was modeling the jewelry and taking pictures, I started thinking about what I was wearing. So, one day, I looked at my assistant and asked, ‘Should we get into clothes?’ and she said, ‘Ashlee, you don’t have time to get into clothes.’ And then two weeks later, the COVID lockdown happened.”
Forced to temporarily close her makeup bar, Kleinschmidt shifted her focus to products – things that she could provide her clients online that would add value to their lives. Along with her line of beauty products, she began selling small fashion collections on Shopify – and sold out every two weeks.
When she was able to reopen her makeup bar, Kleinschmidt continued selling clothing and accessories online, which led to an unexpected problem.
“People would show up at Muah Makeup and ask to try on a dress from the website,” Kleinschmidt says.
After a trip to Napa and walking through a boutique fashion store, Kleinschmidt knew what she needed to do. When she returned from her trip, she opened a second space down the street from Muah Makeup, officially launching Luxe XII as a brick-and-mortar location.
Now the owner of two successful businesses, Kleinschmidt is in the rare position of having achieved two of her greatest dreams – serving clients with both exceptional makeup and beauty products and unique, curated fashion collections. The success of Luxe XII allowed Kleinschmidt to expand once again, recently opening Luxe XII Plus+, “a boutique catering to curvy women sizes XL to XXXL.”
In having the courage and determination to open multiple businesses, Kleinschmidt has refined her focus over the years. She knows that she will not always have the capacity to run three distinct businesses (and she has recently returned to school but hasn’t yet shared publicly what she’s studying), but she does know that with every company that she starts, she will have the same goal in mind: helping her clients look and feel their best.
“I am in that stage of my career where something has to give, but you know, as much fear as there is to start a business, there is just as much fear when you learn to let go,” Kleinschmidt says. “But for me, there is a connection among my businesses. Whether it is makeup or fashion, I have discovered that I understand customers and how to service them and make them feel good. That is my passion.”
Ashlee Kleinschmidt is the owner of Muah Makeup and Lash Bar and Luxe XII Lifestyle in New Jersey. To learn more, visit www.muahmakeup.com or www.luxexii.com.