Entrepreneurship in a Woman-Dominated Industry with Jessica Tan

On The DMV Wedding Pros Podcast this week, I got to chat with Jessica Tan from J.Tan Artistry.

Jessica Tan is based in Northern Virginia and specializes in bridal makeup services. On this episode, we talk about how the wedding industry is largely woman-dominated, entrepreneurship as a woman, what support looks like as an entrepreneur, and how COVID has affected the event industry and Jessica's work.



Hey Jessica! Thank you so much for joining us. Can you introduce yourself?


Sure! My name is Jessica, and my business name is J.Tan Artistry. I'm located in the DMV area and I specialize in bridal makeup services. I strictly do makeup, but I love working in the wedding industry and I'm really happy to be on this podcast.


I'm so excited to have you! I know that every hair and makeup artist is different, so you only do makeup. Do you have a team of hairstylists that you refer, or do you just work with whoever else is hired?


So when it comes to hair, since I don't do hair, I actually work with Sarah from DC Bridal Hair, who is an assistant for A Stylist Abroad. We do a referral discount that goes both ways. If a client comes to me who wants to book and needs someone to do hair, I refer them to Sarah and they get a 10-15% discount from her hair services. It's been a really beneficial and mutual relationship and so far we've worked two events together. It's been going so well, and I'm so glad I could find a hair stylist who's passionate about only doing hair. We're both on the smaller side of our industry in terms of our following and presence on Instagram, so it's really nice to empower and inspire each other.


I love that partnership, that's so smart. I've been thinking about doing the same thing with a photographer in the area, but it's tricky to figure out how that will work, so I'm glad that you found something that works for you!


We are going to talk about women in the wedding industry today, which I'm really excited about. You brought this topic to the podcast, and I'm excited to dive into it. Where do you want to start with hair and makeup?


So far working with hair and makeup, I've encountered only women. I've found it a very positive and uplifting experience. To preface this, I used to be a computer information systems major in college and it's predominantly men. I did it for awhile for the main reasons people do things - career, stability, financial stability. It was just the thing to do, and I felt pressured to do that. Being in a classroom with a lot of men wasn't the environment I wanted to be in. I felt like I had to work ten times harder to get myself shown, or to be credited the same amount as my male counterparts, so I switched into marketing, which was more balanced. I thought it would be more women, but it was actually pretty equal. I've been in workplaces where it's more men and where it's mixed, and so far the wedding industry has been mostly women. I just wanted to show my perspective and observations coming from being in those different environments.


I didn't know that's where you started, but that fits in so perfectly. I think that there's a stereotype of course that women are catty, or they tear each other down more than they build each other up. I imagine the place for that in the wedding world might be hair and makeup honestly. I'm sure you all have your own techniques, but what has your experience been there?


So far it's been really positive. On the styled shoot we worked together, I had never met the hairstylist before and I didn't know what to expect because she does hair and makeup. With another styled shoot I did awhile back, she was only a hairstylist. There was no competition, or I didn't feel the need to be competitive. But when it came to the shoot where she offered both, I was pleasantly surprised. She's older than me, she's been in the industry for longer, and she started out in makeup and now does hair. She was just really nice and very uplifting. She said she learned a couple things from me and I definitely learned from her. It was more like a mentorship than a sense of competition. I'm so glad it did turn out that way. She's a beauty educator, and she ended up writing about me and how it's more about the sense of community not competition.


In terms of working with other makeup and hair stylists, I always try to get to know the hair stylist, even if they do do makeup. Sometimes I get booked and I still have clients who email me asking for other makeup artists. They really value my word and my referral, so I'll send them to other makeup artists I trust and have built a relationship with. I think it's important to still establish community.


For sure. I'm so glad that turned more into a mentorship. I'm glad that you brought up the community over competition thing though because I think that it's an incredible movement, which started with Natalie Franke and The Rising Tide Society. There's still so many people in our area that are still die-hard #CommunityOverCompetition, and I completely subscribe to that way of thinking, BUT I do think some people use that phrase and preach that message without walking the walk. But I so subscribe to the idea of lifting each other up. There's truly room for all of us at the top.


Throughout the wedding industry, I do think it's predominantly women who are entrepreneurs. Probably just because it's a very stereotypically emotional female thing, right? Like we're supposed to be dreaming of this day since we were little girls, but guys are literally told, "Just listen to what she wants," if it's a groom and a bride. I think that's more misogyny than we really care to dismantle right now, but what are your thoughts on this being a women-led industry?


I think more power to it. I'm all about empowering women, and like you said a lot of these women are entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs in general have to work ten times harder to be shown, but in the wedding industry it feels like everyone is women and that's not the case anymore. It feels safe and secure being in this industry, and there's mutual respect among all of us. I really love that. Everyone is independent, they started from somewhere.


You don't really go to college thinking like, "I'm going to become a makeup artist!" At least I didn't. There's a lot of careers like that - florists, photographers - that started out more as a hobby, and then people realize, "Wow, I'm actually passionate about this. I love making people happy with my work." I think everyone has that commonality of... finding that passion, and then being able to make it work into their own business, and then conquering that business.


I love that you brought that up because it's true. I feel like with the wedding industry in particular people sort of stumble into it. At least most of the stories I've heard, people don't plan on doing it on full time, or they don't plan on doing it at al