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A Passion for Beauty
By Cherise Ryan
Beauty products are not just a teenage fad for 17-year-old Jessica Lhota. They are her passion.
Homeschooled teen Jessica Lhota’s interest in the business side of fashion led to opening her own store, The Beauty Loft, in Gainesville, Florida.
“I’m one of the lucky people who always knew what I liked,” says Jessica. “I was the little girl who brought a pocketbook filled with my own makeup to school in kindergarten. I’ve always been interested in not only cosmetics, but the beauty industry at large.”
Not content to simply read beauty magazines and experiment with lotions, Jessica became fascinated with marketing, advertising, and the science of how people shop. In September 2006, she combined her twin passions by opening The Beauty Loft in her hometown of Gainesville, Florida.
“Her store has been open for about two months, and is just doing so much better than we had ever imagined,” says Ann Lhota, Jessica’s mother. “Her vision was perfect and her plan is really working!”
The Beauty Loft sells 18 brands of hair and skin care products not found at any other store within a two-hour drive. “My store is somewhat of a phenomenon because of how exclusive all of my product lines are,” says Jessica.
“It was something that Gainesville is desperately missing,” she continues. Jessica says the 50,000 college students who attend the University of Florida in Gainesville provide her with a solid consumer base. Many of the students hail from South Florida, where Jessica’s beauty products can be found easily. “Now there is finally a place where they can come for real makeup advice, and the products they know and love, without having to travel back home or buy them online,” she says.
“I was able to mix all of my favorite products together and sell only what I would buy myself,” says Jessica. She also gives one-on-one beauty advice, spending anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour making sure one customer is satisfied. “You never know what people want to buy until they start shopping, and they continue to surprise me with their choices, so right now keeping up with that is my goal.”
After two years of writing beauty columns for fashion and beauty websites, Jessica also decided to start her own website to expand her writing skills, access more beauty products, and connect with other people in the industry. Jessica researches and writes most of the articles for her site, beautydiary.net. She interviews company CEOs, compares similar products, examines beauty trends, reviews products she has tested recently, and maintains a “Beauty Wishlist” for her customers, among many other features.
“I hope that women who read it [the website] leave with more knowledge than when they first logged on. I also hope that I am able to help expose certain smaller, less-known brands to the public,” says Jessica.
Jessica has been homeschooled since 7th grade, after attending public and private school. She plans to graduate from high school in spring 2007.
“It’s a hard transition from regular schooling to homeschooling,” says Jessica. “But I have more time than I ever did in regular school to really pursue my passions. I was able to teach myself a lot, and learn the things that I chose to. There are times in life when you know what is best for you, what the right thing is, and without having the chance to explore yourself and your passions, you’ll never know [if you can do it].“
“Jessica and The Beauty Loft really prove how successful a homeschool program can be,” says Ann Lhota. “It is breathtaking to watch her grow and learn and experience real-life successes. That could only be done by homeschooling her, and we are thrilled with it!”
Learn about the latest in beauty trends on Jessica’s website, beautydiary.net.
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