How My Business Shape-Shifted for the Better



“We’re shutting down”. The text came through as I was closing my business for the day. It was a dark rainy day in Westlake Village and my final client for the day had left a few minutes prior. The rain drummed louder on the office window when another text came through. Something about toilet paper?


I’m a small business owner in the 805 area. My boutique, Skin Evolution, has a loyal clientele and a lot of those clients have turned into good friends. My business created its own bustling community that keeps me busy! I’ve never really advertised, because ‘word of mouth’ seems to work really well for me. I like to call it an organic algorithm. I sincerely love my job and adore my clients. I seem to attract a broad cast of characters: horse enthusiasts, actors, professional football players, acne riddled teenagers….they all walk out of my treatment room happy with their skin and the word gets out!


I haven’t always been an Esthetician. For many years, I was a union actress performing in national commercials and tv shows. I liked acting (and residuals), but I found auditioning tedious. I was never entirely comfortable with ‘the industry’. Twelve years ago, through a sequence of events, I found myself wearing black scrubs and attending Cosmo school and training to be an Esthetician! It was so thrilling!


For years, my brick and mortar business was located at Village Green across the street from the Four Seasons in Westlake Village. Sitting high upon a hill, the building hugged a eucalyptus grove which featured a 3 acre waterfall full of shimmering koi. The Boutique was comfy, chic, and so inviting that I didn’t mind spending 10 hour days there. It was my second home.


A week into the lockdown, I immediately understood that this was going to be marathon. I contacted my landlord at Village Green and told her that I thought it would be best to move my business out. We had a good relationship and my lease was up two years prior. I liked the location so much that I stayed on month to month.


“Are you sure you want to leave? It seems a bit premature?”


I appreciated her effort to keep me there. We’d had a good run.


“Yes, I’m positive.” My decision was based on a 'knowing’ feeling. A hunch. A strong undeniable wave of intuition.


A little backstory: Four years ago, I started practicing Liberation Breathing and the Self Realization Kriya Yoga Meditation techniques. My home is a busy household in Malibou Lake that is always humming with activity. My husband (actor Timothy Carhart) and I have 3 sons in their 20’s, two cats and a little Toto dog. In other words, no quiet place for me to meditate or breathe! Understanding my frustration, Tim built a quaint little cottage in our backyard as a sanctuary for me. It was a labor of love, complete with flower boxes overflowing with succulents as it perched perfectly next to our koi pond, waterfall, and ancient bamboo shoots. During the lockdown, I spent days in the cottage meditating and doing Breathwork and yoga with people all over the world. Thank you, Zoom!


When I moved the business out of the location and to my home, it felt natural to place everything in the Cottage and it fit perfectly. Although I couldn’t operate, it felt comforting to have all of my machines and products at home. Oh, yeah, FYI, I’m kind of a ‘mad scientist’ Esthetician who loves technology. I prefer to combine incredible machine treatments with top shelf holistic products. It’s an incredible combination!


During lockdown, clients started requesting virtual skin consultations and I started shipping products to enable them to do self treatments while stuck in their homes. I also started to receive requests for virtual Breathing sessions. Breathwork is perfect for anyone experiencing anxiety, depression & fear, which everyone had during the lockdown. A lot of people still have it. The Breathing sessions were such a blessing to me and calmed me as well! Have you ever heard this expression? “When you help others heal, you also heal yourself.” It’s the truth. During lockdown, I didn’t charge for skin consultations or Breathwork because it was a great way to be of service with everyone so anxiety ridden. People nicknamed the cottage “The Breathing Cottage” and I’m glad so many people found (virtual) solace in my little healing space!


When the vaccine came out and State Board allowed spas to operate again, people bravely started returning to my business. Truth? I was slightly concerned about what everyone would think about a business operating out of a backyard in Malibou Lake. I immediately received the answer when the first returnee came to the Cottage. It was one of my favorite people on the planet, a long term client from Lake Sherwood who walked into the Cottage and exclaimed loudly (in her deep Marlboro voice) “Oh my God, are you kidding? I’d MUCH rather come here than a COMMERCIAL building. The drive out here is beautiful! You feel like you’ve really traveled somewhere! Plus, this is so YOU”. It’s true. The Cottage reflects who I am and what my business represents now. It reflects my story and what happened during one of the strangest years of my life. The Cottage soothed my soul during Covid.


Now that I’ve reopened, people schedule extra time after their facials for Breathwork or meditation affirmations. I’m smaller than a spa, so people feel comfortable coming here knowing it’s limited to one person at a time. Of course, I still uphold State Board’s safety protocols recommended due to the new variants in the world.


My business community has taken shape again and, for that, I am grateful. My backyard is my refuge and a refuge for others in need of nurturing. I often hear in passing that some good things came out of the lockdown. I believe the Cottage was one of them. It feels like a gift from the Universe. It feels like Skin Evolution ‘found its home’, pardon the obvious pun. Entering the cottage dissolves harsh reality and the rough edges of life. It feels like a much needed soothing hug....and who doesn’t need a hug these days?


Learn more about the Zen Evolution Cottage HERE.


xx

Lori Carhart

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