When Miss Derm Master Artist Ricci Kalaw started out as a freelancer in 2018, she didn’t know what’s coming next for her career.
Ricci has always been passionate about beauty and makeup. Her mom used to have a salon, so naturally, she became exposed to the beauty services industry at a young age. Her family, though, wanted her to pursue a career in a different field. Because of this, she applied for a non-beauty-related college degree–shifting from different courses to find where she belongs.
“I did 2 years in Pharmacy. My family wanted me to do medicine,” she says. “Pero sinabi ko sa mom ko na hindi ko talaga nakikita na ‘yun ‘yung magiging work ko,” she further recalls, saying that this prompted her to shift her course to Cruise Line Operations in Hotel Services.
She then thought, “I really wanted to have my own business. So pwede na ‘yung bago kong course sa’kin kasi customer service din ‘yun. Naisip ko rin kasi ‘yun yung work na will work everywhere.”
And yet, like lovers’ fate, Ricci’s love for beauty prevailed.
Now at 28 years old, she co-owns the Miss Derm branch in Quezon City, and lives her entrepreneurial dream while pursuing her true passion.
A Beauty Love Story
Making people beautiful is second nature to Ricci. As a student, she’s used to being asked to help out in doing her friends’ and workmates’ make-ups, particularly their eyebrows.
“Kapag nakikita ko silang nahihirapan mag-kilay, I approach them,” she shares.
On her graduation year as a Cruise Line Operations student, Ricci found herself searching for formal training in brow aesthetics. And even then, she knows that her family might find her degree a waste if she won’t pursue a related career.
She promised herself, “I’m going to work and save. Then, mag-t-training ako.”
After graduation, Ricci applied for a cruise consultant job. But at the same time, she did shoot her shot in a well-known aesthetic clinic.
She got hired in both.
“Nagsabay ‘yung job offer for the cruise consultant position and ‘yung from [the well-known aesthetic clinic]. As in same day, dumating ‘yung offer,” she shares. “But I thought, next time. I accepted the offer from the cruise line because that’s related to my course.”
And even as a consultant in a corporate setting, Ricci still found herself drawn to making people—her workmates—feel and look beautiful. “My colleagues and even my boss, they ask me to do their kilay. Even in the washroom,” she jests. Pursuing a career in the beauty services industry is a thought that never left her mind.
In less than two years, Ricci resigned. It was then that she started to enroll herself in formal aesthetic training and focus her energy in her true love: beauty.
Born a natural artist, Ricci’s mentor celebrated her talent and empowered her to compete in Beauty Professional Philippines Semi-Permanent Make Up Competition where she won an Excellence Award in 2018.
She recounts, “During that time, I didn’t join to win. I was after the experience. Para matuto. Kasi out of the 100+ na contestants, ako [lang] ‘yung walang owned clinic.”
Since then, Ricci’s love for the craft only grew stronger. She continued to master her skill by taking on more training and joining local and international competitions, investing on high-end tools and building her portfolio as a freelance eyebrow artist.
“Nakakatuwa kasi na-appreciate [ng clients ko] ‘yung craft ko. I just started by appointment only ‘cause hindi ako nag-a-accept ng maraming clients to ensure na quality work talaga ‘yung magagawa ko,” she says.
Like any other craft, a quality eyebrow design takes time. “Hindi naman tayo parang nag-ma-magic,” she says. “Iba-iba ‘yung skin type [ng mga tao.] So important na [mapagaralan] kung kakapit ba sa kanya ‘yung gawa mo.”
Ricci fell in love even more with her freelance life—and it loved her back. For about two years, she's been accepting only 1 to 2 clients per day and bringing her work with her whenever she travels abroad.
In her stint as a freelancer, she has heard a lot of horror stories from women who have had bad experiences with microblading. And because her rates were catered for the high-end market, Ricci realized that if she wants to help more women, she needs to let her freelance life go and be more affordable.
From an eyebrow artist into Miss Derm Beauty owner
The local salon where Ricci worked is where she met Marzen Salazar, Oman-based owner of Miss Derm who braved to establish the lounge in Makati and Las Piñas in the middle of the pandemic.
Ricci lost her job in the salon and didn’t have the chance to find another because the country was already put in lockdown. She also wasn’t able to reclaim her freelance career since her job was considered non-essential. That time, she tried online selling to get by. But it can only do so much.
“Nagkaroon ako ng anxiety and depression around July,” she shares. Aside from the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic, Ricci had to battle a series of betrayals from her personal life as well.
One day, when the newly-opened Miss Derm in Las Piñas was short-staffed and was looking for an on-call artist, Marzen contacted Ricci and asked if she was available.
“Isa lang ‘yung artist nila noon then they have 2 clients,” she recalls. “Sabi ko, ‘Okay, sige. I'm coming.’ Ginawan ko ‘yung isang client tapos nagustuhan niya ‘yung gawa ko.
This is when Ricci started to be an on-call artist with Miss Derm. And what great timing, she thought, because going back to doing what makes her happy helped her cope with anxiety.
“Gusto ko talaga ‘yung parang nag-wo-work na lang kesa isipin na may mga problem ako,” she says. “Sinurrender ko nalang talaga kay God. Ni-lift ko ‘yung sarili ko while natutulungan ko rin ‘yung ibang tao.”
By September, she became a regular employee at Miss Derm Las Piñas. She had a good 4 months going back to her passion until in January, she contracted the COVID-19 virus from one of her clients.
While she was recovering, Marzen checked on her and they had a chat, Ricci recalled. It was during this one-on-one session that the possibility of a QC branch was brought up. Marzen has always wanted to expand the business in QC but too busy to start. And Ricci, whose family was from QC, decided to help. This is how she got an offer to be a partner-owner of Miss Derm QC. After just two weeks of preparation, they opened their QC branch in March.
Looking back, “naging blessing in disguise [‘yung COVID],” Ricci shares, saying that everything she has gone through in her personal and work life prepared her to become a partner and manage her own salon.
“Actually, hindi ko na-feel na ready na talaga ako. Pero lahat ng pinagdaanan ko, parang pinrepare ako noon. Dahil naging employee rin ako, mas naiintindihan ko sila. Once pala naging owner ka, mas malalaman mo kung paano i-handle [lahat] kasi na-experience mo sya.”
Now, being a full-time artist at their new branch and also a partner-owner, Ricci finds joy in having fully-booked appointment calendars and doing her inventory, maintenance, and sales duties. Although tiring at times, she ensures that she gets to take care of herself by allotting time for her own skincare and makeup every day. Ricci also takes time-offs from her hectic life, saying it’s important to keep her hands—her primary work tool—safe and in good shape.
“’Yung mga client ko, in-a-advise ko rin sila na alagaan ‘yung sarili nila. Feeling ko, [in that way], nakaka-help din talaga ako,” she says.
As Ricci continues to live her dreams, she remains grateful.
From being a young kid drawn to her mother’s craft, to being a student fascinated with making her classmates’ brows on fleek, to struggling to fight for her passion and doing it for a living, Ricci proves us one thing: you don’t have to have it figured out in the beginning to have it all figured out. With the right heart and a strong mindset, what’s meant for you will find you–one way or another.