For Chantelle Pahtayken, a Cree business owner in California and Canada, entrepreneurship requires confidence and taking risks. She’s committed to helping other women and minorities cultivate the confidence to move forward with their business dreams, too.
Pahtayken’s San Diego-based Second Look Studio offers eyelash extensions and brow shaping services. Her three employees at Second Look Studio are growing their own client-base under her mentorship, and taking steps toward building their individual brands and future businesses. Pahtayken flies back to her hometown of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada, regularly to teach her indigenous peers the microblading technique and how to apply eyelash extensions, in addition to offering advice about starting a business as a sole proprietor.
Native Business Magazine recently spoke with Pahtayken about the challenges she has encountered as an entrepreneur and single mom, and why minority entrepreneurs need to lean in and support one another.
How did you raise the capital to open your studio in San Diego?
I took out a $3,000 loan to cover rent and furnish the place. The rent at my first studio was very reasonable.
Why do you consider confidence vital to success, and how do you cultivate it?
You have to be confident going in, and part of that is knowing your stuff. For me, I choose only one or two services to specialize in and offer. People want to feel like they’re coming to an expert.
What challenges did you encounter starting a business?
The hardest part was gaining credentials in California. The second was promotion and drawing clients. I gained my clients by word of mouth. Another one would be going through the health department for microblading, which requires a separate license. One side of my studio offers services overseen by the health department, and the other side offers services permitted under the state board.
Why are risks necessary in business? What’s the greatest business risk you’ve ever taken?
The biggest risk I’ve taken is moving into our bigger studio. It’s super big, gorgeous and bright. It was super expensive. At the time, it was just me, but I already knew I wanted to hire employees. My friends kept asking how I was going to afford the studio and my rent at home. I just decided, I’ll make it work. I signed the lease and slowly started interviewing people. It’s going very well, and I don’t regret it at all. I think back to when I thought I couldn’t do it. This is my second home now. There are three beds in here—one for microblading and two for lash artists. We alternate days and times, and someone is always there now. I’m honestly looking for a bigger storefront right now, so I will be taking a risk again. If you want to grow, you have to take risks. Otherwise you’ll be stuck, scared and not moving forward toward your dreams.
What tools do you use or practices do you employ to stay focused, motivated and grounded as an entrepreneur?
The most important thing for me is to not overworking myself. I also tell that to my employees. It’s important to have you-time so you can come to work and enjoy your job. If I’m too tired, I’m not going to do a good job, and I want to do a good job. I try to be super organized and go to bed early. I go home and do our ceremonies when I can. The number one thing is not overworking myself, because then you become tired and overwhelmed, and you start having anxiety. I also like to schedule and plan ahead.
How can women or minority entrepreneurs support one another? Why is it vital to grow an ecosystem for women or minority entrepreneurs?
I have other friends who are business owners. We cross-promote; we trade; we swap. We’re all entrepreneurs; we’re all moms; and we’re all cross-promoting. My circle is 10 times bigger than it was when I moved here, because I’ve built that tribe. It’s very important to have that tribe, because when I can’t do something, they motivate me and get my head where I need it to be, and vice versa. I feel like that’s why it’s important to have those women in your life. Not only that—there are other women I know who have way bigger businesses. Seeing them in their success, it makes you want to get to that level as well. And they’re always there with an open hand, ready to help you as well. It’s nice to be around people who are constantly trying to help one another. I always try to surround myself with those type of people.
What values are important to you in business, and how do they advance your mission?
We’re professional. When clients come to us, we’re there for them. We try to give them the most comfortable experience. We also value providing that natural beauty look that’s not overbearing.
I hire people with the same values as me. I was raised by my grandparents. My grandfather, who played a big part in my life, passed shortly after I opened my first business, before I moved to this studio location. I try to live how he raised me. He was a hard-worker and believed you get what you work for. He was very talkative; he talked to everyone. He was a personable person and made everyone feel comfortable. When people come to our studio, I want them to feel it’s calm, peaceful, welcoming and comfortable. I want my employees to have that same attitude and same work ethic.
Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
In 5 to 10 years, I’m looking at having a bigger storefront. I want to hopefully franchise my business.
I want to be teaching more. Right now, I have two classes in Canada. They’re fairly big. I got hired by my tribe to come out and teach seven women in January, and I’m coming back in March to teach 12 of them. They’re hiring me to teach the skills and show them that somebody from where they’re from is doing this. It’s motivating them and teaching them a skill, so we’re opening their eyes to what’s out there and what’s possible.
What is your ultimate vision for your business or for yourself as an entrepreneur?
I want to motivate single moms and single dads. I also want to push people to become entrepreneurs if they’re passionate about it.