What's New: The Make-Up Shop

November 2, 2011
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Welcome to What’s New Wednesday, profiles of local startups—and the entrepreneurs behind them. This week, we meet Brenda and Jennifer Sotolongo, who opened The Make-Up Shop in Fishers in August.

Type of business: full-service salon/spa that offers private makeup lessons and sells its own line of cosmetics  

Address: 8856 South St., Fishers

Phone: 577-9400

E-mail: brenda@prosoto.com

Website: themakeupshopfishers.com (under development)

Founded: Aug. 15

Owners: Brenda and Jennifer Sotolongo

Owners’ background: Brenda Sotolongo, 54, has been a makeup artist and hair stylist in the entertainment industry for more than 30 years. Trained in special effects makeup artistry at the Wilfred Academy in New York, her resume includes work on national commercials for companies including McDonald’s, Gatorade and Reebok, as well as ESPN’s SportsCenter. Among her famous clients: Peyton Manning and three U.S. presidents.

Brenda and Jennifer Sotolongo, The Make-Up ShopBrenda and Jennifer Sotolongo want to teach others how to apply makeup properly. (IBJ Photo/Perry Reichanadter)

Jennifer Sotolongo, 27, has been tagging along on her mom’s freelance gigs since she was 2 years old and starting working in the film industry at 18. The youngest of Brenda’s seven children, she relocated from Evansville after graduating from high school and got her formal training at Honors Beauty College in Indianapolis.  

Both women are licensed cosmetologists and aestheticians. They live together in Fishers.

Why started business: The Sotolongos were working an event as guest makeup artists for Estee Lauder when they met a woman who had skin issues and lacked confidence when it came to applying cosmetics. Brenda spent more than an hour with her, then showed her the results.

“She said, ‘For over 50 years when I looked in the mirror I’ve never seen a beautiful woman. Until today,’” Brenda recalled. “That was a turning point. We want to help average, everyday women, and teach them about cosmetics and skin care.”

Too often, she said, women feel pressured into buying makeup at salons or department stores and then have little idea how to use it once they get home. Although The Make-Up Shop sells its own Pro Soto products, the Sotolongos say that’s secondary to their educational mission.

“We’re truly artists as opposed to salespeople,” Brenda said.
Competitive advantage: Located in a cozy converted home just south of 116th Street in the heart of Fishers, The Make-Up Shop has a staff of seven who offer a range of salon services—everything from hair styling to full-body waxing and eyelash extensions to microderm abrasion. The private makeup lessons set it apart.

Customers can schedule one-on-one instruction or parties, taking advantage of the classroom set up in a former garage. “Students”—who are encouraged to bring their own makeup—are asked ahead of time to identify some problem areas, and the lessons are customized for each group.

Brenda Sotolongo also is offering an intensive 10-week course in professional makeup artistry for anyone interested in a career like hers.

“I know that’s unique,” she said. “I had to go to New York to learn.”

The Pro Soto line of makeup is another distinction, Jennifer said. The mineral-based products were developed as a cost-effective option for customers who have “holes” in their own collection.

Startup cost: $80,000

Funding source: personal savings

Potential problem and contingency plan: Marketing a new business is always a challenge, and the Sotolongos plan to get the word out via referrals as well as paid advertising.

They chose the admittedly low-profile location because it had more of “homey”  feel than a strip mall site—something they hope will appeal to customers looking for a personal touch.  

“We go above and beyond,” Jennifer said, citing extras like the handwritten thank-you notes technicians send to clients. “We strive to build personal relationships with our customers.”

“Everyone who comes in comes back,” Brenda said.

First-year goal: Jennifer runs day-to-day operations at the salon with the help of “sidekick” Rhiana DeGennaro while Brenda concentrates on the classes—and picks up freelance jobs to smooth over any financial rough spots.

The women expect to outgrow their current location before long, but they’re in no rush.

“We don’t have a desire to grow so fast that we can’t manage it well,” Brenda said. “We want to make sure we take really good care of the customers we have.”

Still, Jennifer is looking forward to having to squeeze clients into a jam-packed day.

 "It would be nice to look at the [appointment] books and have a hard time scheduling someone,” she said.



Know another new business IBJ should feature? Drop me a note: adavis@ibj.com.

    I am the second oldest of Brenda's seven children and would like to say even as prejudice as it may sound I have never used a make-up line as spectacular as Prosoto and as far as any of the services my mom, sister and staff provide, I drive 3.5 hours just to get my hair cut and waxing. I have also watched my mom through out the years in pure amazement. It makes me so proud to see that not only do they provide the services as resonably priced but in a setting that will make you feel so relaxed at the same time knowing things are done sanitary and properly. I can assure anyone if they made the time to visit this facility just once it would definantly not be the last. The Make-Up Shop is really a great success not only for them but for any client that walks in their door. Great Job ladies!! This is what all your hard work was done for!!
  • Interesting. . .
    I have been thinking to myself, "Wow, so many women look so good with make up on, but I never get it right - most of the time going without" I'm going to try it out and see what my husband thinks! Expect a call soon ladies!
  • Foundation
    I purchased the primer and foundation about a week ago and absolutely LOVE it. I have combination and it does not feel heavy at all. I love the fact that I can use the same product for concealer as well. Can't wait to try more products from the Pro Soto line!

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  1. I am so impressed that the smoking ban FAILED in Kokomo! I might just move to your Awesome city!

  2. way to much breweries being built in indianapolis. its going to be saturated market, if not already. when is enough, enough??

  3. This house is a reminder of Hamilton County history. Its position near the interstate is significant to remember what Hamilton County was before the SUPERBROKERs, Navients, commercial parks, sprawling vinyl villages, and acres of concrete retail showed up. What's truly Wasteful is not reusing a structure that could still be useful. History isn't confined to parks and books.

  4. To compare Connor Prairie or the Zoo to a random old house is a big ridiculous. If it were any where near the level of significance there wouldn't be a major funding gap. Put a big billboard on I-69 funded by the tourism board for people to come visit this old house, and I doubt there would be any takers, since other than age there is no significance whatsoever. Clearly the tax payers of Fishers don't have a significant interest in this project, so PLEASE DON'T USE OUR VALUABLE MONEY. Government money is finite and needs to be utilized for the most efficient and productive purposes. This is far from that.

  5. I only tried it 2x and didn't think much of it both times. With the new apts plus a couple other of new developments on Guilford, I am surprised it didn't get more business. Plus you have a couple of subdivisions across the street from it. I hope Upland can keep it going. Good beer and food plus a neat environment and outdoor seating.