How I Made My First Million Doing PMU Brows
We’ve been friends for long enough! I think it’s time you got to know me a little better.
In this video, I tell you all about how I made my first million doing permanent makeup. And do you know where it started? When I dropped out of college.
There, I said it. I wasn't cut out for it, okay? I didn't even make a full semester! But I wanted to make the same income that a doctor or a lawyer would make, and I wanted the same respect, the same fancy cars, vacations, shoes, bags, and financial stability… without the schooling. So, I built a seven-figure business doing permanent makeup brows within three years.
After watching this video, you'll understand more about my background and the essential steps you might need to take so you can do the same thing. And don't worry You don't need a sugar daddy to do it. I promise. I used to think I needed a man too. But I didn't. And if you’re a reader boss babe, keep reading! I have it all laid out for you right here on this page, so keep scrolling!
Let’s start from the beginning.
So, my business journey actually began when I was a seven-year-old kid in the Philippines, going door to door selling stuff.
My mom taught me how to make these delicious candies called pastillas made out of butter, sugar, and condensed milk. And just like any kid, I saw it as an opportunity to scale. So, I bravely went door to door, and tried to sell my kid-creation to everyone in our neighborhood. It was disgusting. But some people bought it! I guess you could say I was conditioned to take rejection just fine but conditioned to take it at an early age.
I came to the States at eight years old, and it was a culture shock beyond anything I can explain.
I was uprooted from my reality, and the Philippines, and the language I knew. Now I had to adapt to a new world. It felt like another planet.
I watched my parents take our family of 10, there were 10 people living in a two-bedroom apartment in a bad part of town. I watched them take that, our situation, to a comfortable middle-class lifestyle in the North Valley with a cute dog and a minivan. And my dad did this pretty quickly.
He's a natural businessman. He's really amazing.
I watched him go for it. He came to this country with all of us, and we relied on him to provide and to figure things out for survival. He didn't really have a set plan or anything, but he put one together quick, because our time and our resources were running out.
So, he decided to sell tools.
He went to tool factories and bought defective automotive tools and refurbished them in the parking lot of our apartment.
Can you imagine?
A family working out of a van from the parking lot of an apartment building, and doing business, laying out tools, spraying them, a bunch of people sitting Filipino-style on the ground… you know what I'm talking about.
He had a van that he paid $500 for (he borrowed that $500 from my Lola, my grandmother), and he used it like it was like his shop. He used that van to polish up those tools.
Every weekend, our family would wake up at 4:00 AM on the weekends to sell these tools at swap meets.
I'll never forget this one time:
I remember, I was in the backseat, and there was a homeless guy who came up to my dad's window asking for money. And I heard my dad say this, "Hey, my friend. I have $30 to my name, and I have a van full of kids and they need to be fed." He told the man, "I'm sorry, but I'm also struggling."
My dad kept going, saying, "I'm actually on my way to the swap meet right now to see if I can provide for my family." I remember hearing that and I remember saying, "We're poor? What?" I didn't even know!
By the way, this moment shattered everything that I thought America was going to be. America was sold to me as this perfect place. I pictured it in my head, like it was heaven. True story. When they told me that we were moving to America, I actually thought that the streets were literally gold. I know that's super cliché, but I was an immigrant, and I was seven or eight years old. I believed it! I was thinking people were walking on clouds, all wearing white, like heaven.
That's what I thought America was.
So this was a super contrast moment—I thought “this is not what I signed up for.” So, my dad worked really hard, and then he figured out this other side hustle.
Listen to this: what my parents used to do was choose houses that were on a busy street, like a big Boulevard, and they would knock on that house’s door, and then ask the person living there if they would be willing to rent out their front lawn so that we could do a yard sale in their front yard. The visibility was high on that street and at that house, because it's high traffic. Right?
We wouldn’t sell our own clothes or old toys or old furniture—we would sell tools.
I thought it was a boss immigrant move. I mean, that hustle made a lot of money. But eventually the police caught on and shut us down. They fined us. It was illegal.
But do you see what I'm saying? Necessity really makes you act. It makes you act fearless. You're not actually fearless, but you find yourself acting that way, because when you don't have a choice, you just move. When your back is against the wall, with children relying on you, you just care less about failure and looking dumb, because you have a higher calling, right? You have a purpose.
Actually, that's the biggest lesson I’ve observed from my parents. I feel like I picked up that trait. They made it happen, because they had to. To me, they are the ultimate definition of grit, especially with that powerful example they set for me when I was young. I love them so much for demonstrating that to me. So within just a few short years of hustling and yard sales, being shut down at the swap meet, my parents were able to buy a home in the North Valley in fancy Granada Hills (by a golf course, too)! The golf course was our backyard, and OJ Simpson used to do golf there.
I had a pretty awesome upbringing.
High school was a blast. It really was. Until I got to college/college age.
So, remember I told you earlier that I dropped out? Well, I didn't tell you how soon I dropped out. So I don't even know if it's considered dropping out. It was more like an annulment, not a marriage. It's embarrassing. But I guess since we're friends, I'll tell you. Listen, I didn't even make a whole month.
I would go and not be that into it. I just didn't connect the dots. I didn't understand how this could immediately apply to what I wanted to do, because I didn't even know what that was! If you can't see the end game, you're not going to apply yourself, right? You're not going to do anything hard if you don't see the future payoff. I just didn't get it. So, I just kind of wandered around. I was a little lost, wandering around, looking at the shops, trying to figure out the campus, trying to figure out where I would stay. And then I would wander around life too.
I tried things like acting and musicals, and I did have some success there (that was so much fun). But I was like, "Oh my gosh, all these actors they're also servers at restaurants with head shots. So maybe I should be one of those guys."
So, I should probably tell you too, that amidst all this, me wandering around, this reckless time in my life… I got married.
Yeah, that thing.
I made a really hasty decision to accept somebody's proposal after four months. Four months!
Well, it was a very restrictive relationship. I felt like I wasn't growing, and I was so confused.
So, we decided to separate.
Or I decided to separate.
I had some major life changes that occurred during this time that crippled my self esteem.
So, what did I do? Don't judge me. Remember I told you that this relationship was really restrictive? Like he was like über religious and very conservative. So, I got a job that I knew would piss him off, but I was so sheltered that it might as well have been 15 in my head, maybe 8, but no matter how many people told me it was a bad idea, I didn't care at the time!
If there's anybody in your life, by the way, who is making bad decisions, just be patient with them, just love them through it. They'll figure it out. Don't worry.
So anyway, I got a job that would piss him off.
That job was to be as a server.
A server at an Irish version of Hooters.
What attracted to me to that job was the outfit.
The outfit was everything! It was a little schoolgirl outfit, and the cleavage was like up to like my belly button. I was like, that is wrong. That's going to piss off my ex-husband. Let's do it.
Sorry, I was young and naive.
Anyway, it was kind of fun. I got a lot of attention, I made a lot of friends… but that rat race got old really quick.
I was looking for meaning in all the wrong places. I was dating people willy-nilly, and dating for the first time at 26, by the way, because I didn't really have that much experience, was brutal. People didn't take me seriously, because I didn't take myself seriously. I didn't know the simplest things about dating etiquette! My first husband was pretty much all I knew up until that point. So, first dates were kind of a disaster to begin with, because I didn't know how to introduce myself in a way that sounded good. What was I supposed to say when I went out, how would I introduce myself? Do I just say like, "Hi, I'm Sheila. I'm 26, and most of my peers have already graduated college, but I haven't figured out yet, and I don’t have a degree. Oh, yeah! By the way, I already have a divorce on my record. Yeah. And I wait tables in a schoolgirl outfit in Hollywood.
Also, I had a ton of social unawareness. I look back at old photos of myself, and I kind of feel for her. She was such a nice girl. She was just misled. You guys feel that way?
So long story short, I guess since my entire motivation for getting that serving job was all wrong anyway. I guess it wasn't my calling. And they caught on, so I got fired one day, and I needed to move back home.
It was bad.
I was a terrible server, first of all, I was a terrible everything. I was so in my head! I constantly worried about what other people thought about me and what I looked like. Did you know that actually makes you a really unlikable person?
I wasn't proud of who I was, so I never opened up. I never did this, what I’m doing right here, right now. I kind of hit rock bottom after getting fired.
That’s the time I met my husband (my husband now). He was the guy that actually took me seriously.
I'm actually really impressed with him, because he saw all of the things in me that even I didn't see back then. So, in many ways, he was able to introduce me to who I've always wanted to be. I was like Bitcoin for him.
I met him, and especially after he proposed, my whole spectrum of priorities changed. I was ready to have a “big girl” job.
Did I mention that he was a schoolteacher? Still is. The truth is, I knew that if I wanted nice things, designer things, I was going to have to buy them myself. It mattered back then.
Newsflash: Teachers aren't in it for the money! Will and I were talking about buying a house together and starting a family, having kids—and those were my dreams! My dreams changed!
I thought, "Okay, let's do this. Let's find a career. What can I do? What do I pick? What do I want to do with my life? Marry you and what else? But I don't want to go to school."
I also realized that I was marrying into a family where everyone is college educated. In many ways, I really wanted to legitimize my “membership” into their world. This was like 10 years ago. My husband, Will, he doesn't care about that, but I did subconsciously as an immigrant and everything—super insecure. If I wanted kids, a house, a beach wedding, the whole nine, I needed to get a better job! I needed to get my ish together, but no one was hiring me.
I went back to the drawing board after having my back against the wall, because I also felt like people were laughing at me behind my back. I don't know whether or not that's true, but that's how I felt. I just hit this super low point, and I just wanted to be validated. I was like, all right, let me describe my perfect job.
I thought I had to make a lot of money with benefits, and if I wanted kids, it needed to allow me to make my own schedule. And, of course, I wanted all of my best girlfriends to work there, because it had to be fun. Oh, it couldn't be anything that required an education, because I didn’t have that. But it definitely needed to make a million dollars a year or more. That’d be really nice. Oh, yeah, and valet, I need that, because I hate parking. I’m terrible at parallel parking.
All right, sign me up! Where do I apply?
Preschool teacher? Nope. Wasn't enough money. There's no valet.
MAC counter? Nope, still no valet.
What about Kim Kardashian's job? Could I apply for that? Because that looks kind of easy. Oh wait, she has to deal with Kanye. No. I’m kidding.
The point is, everything that met my requirements, I wasn't qualified to apply for. The job I wanted didn't exist. So I had to make it. I had to make me a job. I had to create it. Because no one was going to hire me, I had to hire myself. I had to go back to what Joe Molina (dad) did back in the 90s when he decided to jump, leave the Philippines, even though it was uncertain AF. He had that same pivotal moment where he just had to go for it. Out of necessity came this crazy idea that I was going to be a permanent makeup artist.
I got my permanent makeup done by a lady by the name of Antoinette Parfitt. She is an angel. I thought, "Hmm… I wonder why that's something no one else my age is doing?" There was a stigma with tattooing your makeup back then that's totally diminished now. I thought, PMU is something that I could repackage from my generation and make it look cool. Plus, she offered a class that was five days long. Remember, I hate school? So hallelujah! In my head, I was getting married in nine months and I didn't have time to dilly dally around for two years in cosmetology.
I was just super confident in my ability to make it work, to just like be scrappy and figure it out. I've always had a knack for makeup, so I can totally learn a tattoo makeup on people right. After those five days, I got certified, and now it was time to build the business.
I became one of the first microbladers in Los Angeles.
I bought a little schedule book from Office Max. I flipped through the empty pages of my, supposed to be, booming permanent makeup business, and I thought I have to act as if.
Show up like you're made; grind like you're broke. You know how they say, “Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have?"
Well, that's exactly what I had to do, because I had zero clients.
No one knew my name! So, I decided to dress up to the nines and look serious. I went around town figuring out ways to be known. I went to the mall, I walked into retail stores asking if I could leave my brochures there. You think a big store like Forever 21 would turn me down? I'm sure it was against company policy, but I was really nice to her, so she let me! She let me put my brochures up right in front the register.
I'm sure that didn't last, manager probably took it down. But it was up there, and I got some clients.
I got rejected a lot. I tried things. I hit up Ventura Boulevard, hair salons, medi spas, asking owners if I could leave my brochures in their waiting areas—there it is again! I got accustomed to rejection. Just walking into places cold was pride-swallowing, but I was relentless. I got turned down a lot, but it was an education in people and in myself, because I figured that if I did this in person, versus email or telephone, that it would be harder to turn me down and say no when the person with a big smile on her face was asking it so nicely, and she's standing right there in front of you!
But I honestly saw it as a numbers game. I thought, for every nine people that turn me down would be one that would agree to work with me. So, I turned into a shameless, in-person, self-promoter of my new business. That's how that began.
I felt shame all the time and meditated against those feelings, because I had them so bad, but I did it. That's how I built my clientele.
All my friends thought I was crazy. A bunch of them said, “Tattooing makeup is old fashioned,” or “I can't imagine this ever panning out, She.” That's what they said! So, I kept doing that and I would get a couple of clients here and there, and then I discovered Google Ads.
I didn't know what I was doing! Lo and behold, guess what? Google Ads work. But it still wasn't enough to get by.
So, I had this idea to create video content. I was like, “Video is where it's at!” I believed in social media, like documenting how the procedure was done in my art. And since sex sells, I thought, let me reach out to the girls that used to waitress with me during my avocado fries days. So I offered them free services in exchange for allowing me to film them for material for my website—for free!
Before I knew it, I had a bunch of young, pretty girls modeling permanent makeup on my website and on YouTube.
I thought, this is exactly what I wanted to go for! I wanted to repackage this for a younger demographic, and I was onto something that was branding. I didn't know what that was back then. I sought out more queen bees, and I'm not talking about the girls that were Insta-famous only, anyone who had some influence. Anyone. I was doing maybe one free set of eyebrows a week, and now my portfolio was filled with pretty girls, and in the beauty industry, beauty matters. And next thing you know, influencers with over a hundred thousand followers, even millions of followers, and celebrities eventually followed me on social media.
And they were approaching me! I didn't even need to reach out to them. They were reaching out to me—it was crazy. The more I did, the more followed me. My portfolio was getting larger, and finally people started to believe in me and my art. So pretty soon those friends who told me that this was a bad idea were now asking for jobs.
You know that meme, "Hustle until your haters ask if you're hiring?" That actually happened to me.
Fast forward to 15,000 clients later, 20 plus employees, hitting multiple seven figures, and having a top podcast on iTunes, being a global success speaker and beauty business coach, two kids, and a house later, the growth is just mind blowing.
When I look back on where I used to be and who I used to be, I have to say that I credit my transformation to God, my dad, and responsibility. A lot of people say they don't even recognize the person I am today. And I'm not saying that I'm ashamed of who I was—I'm not. I was a nice girl. I was misled, but I was a nice girl. But what transformed me, what gave me courage, what gave me confidence, was accepting responsibility. Lo and behold, the more you take on, the more it will grow you.
Thanks, you guys, for reading my story of how I got my first million doing PMU brows.
Remember, you don't need somebody to offer you your dream job. You can create it.
I actually want to show you how! I want to see you inside my completely free Broke to Booked masterclass, where I'm going to teach you my top tips for how to go from Broke to Booked out. You can find that right here.
Also, here are some FREE resources for you boss babes to grow in your businesses:
My FREE Training: 7-Figure Instagram Formula
Listen to the Pretty Rich Podcast where I dive into some wisdom I’ve gained over the years and turn them into helpful tools for you to grow your beauty business. (Oh! I have some boss guests that join me from time to time on there too!)
Subscribe to Sheila Bella’s YouTube Channel for more helpful tips on growing your beauty business.
Follow me on Instagram: @realsheilabella
Here are the latest courses at Sheila Bella to help grow your business:
Online Course Workshop: BUILD YOUR OWN ONLINE COURSE FROM SCRATCH!