Autumn Cunningham | March 1, 2022

K Kartuska of Beauty and the Beach believes in setting goals others would deem impossible and providing an exemplary experience for her clients. It was a pleasure learning more about what drives her passion and success.

LOCAL 219: Hi K! First, was it your childhood, hobbies, or circumstances that led you to the position you’re in today?

K KARTUSKA: Well, it’s a crazy story. I went to get a spray tan at Planet Beach; it was right across from Pizza Hut in Crown Point, and it turned out they were closing. I thought that was the worst thing at the time because I loved that place. I thought it was a great location and they were always busy.

Long story short, one thing led to the next, and I ended up knowing the landlords there. So, I started poking around a bit and they could tell I was interested. One of them basically told me, “I can tell you want this space. If you want it let me know right now; let’s make a move because a lot of people are gonna be after it.” So, I just did it.

L219: Good for you! Were you working at the time doing something different?

KK: Yeah, I was bartending at Buddy & Pals.

L219: I love how you jumped into a completely different industry.

KK: I was there for like 12 years; I have a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising management. I liked the management side of that, a lot. I’ve always been super into business and business classes, things like that. So, when the opportunity presented itself, I took it. After never even working in a salon or anything like that. People thought I was crazy.

L219: So, you took that over and decided you were going to run the show.

KK: Yeah, absolutely. The plan was never to keep it just retail tanning, because at that time, which is eight and a half years ago, retail tanning was on its demise. They were closing left and right, so my vision and my plan was to always turn it into a full-service salon, day spa, and med spa.

L219: Wow! So, you’ve had this dream for a while now, and you had that location for how long before you acquired this space?

KK: Only two years. So that got a little bit sticky because I signed a five-year lease but within two years we outgrew the space.

Instantly I had added on airbrush tanning into the salon. Shortly after that, I added on aesthetics. We were doing facials, waxing, eyelashes, extensions. After I got that off the ground, I turned the break room into a nail salon. So we had just a small little two chair, mani-station and pedi-station, nail salon out there and it worked. People liked coming there. They loved the staff. They loved the services we were offering.

It kind of just took off and I knew we had to acquire a bigger space, a bigger location, and make it more of a spa atmosphere, a spa environment.

L219: That’s how you ended up here?

KK: Yeah, this building was vacant for, I think, quite some time. It was just an old bank. As soon as I walked in here, I was like, “This is it.” Once again people were like, “Are you crazy?” And I’m like, “Why are people still asking me that? I thought we established this years ago. I am crazy, and I’m gonna do it.”

L219: And motivated. When it comes to goals, sometimes it’s good to seem crazy.

KK: Everybody said, “You can’t turn a bank into a salon,” and here we are.

L219: There’s this quote I love that says, “Dream so big, you get uncomfortable telling small-minded people.” It’s solid advice. Some people don’t believe in the risk, but you have to take a risk to achieve certain goals others deem impossible.

KK: Yes, absolutely.

L219: So you’ve been here for eight years now, and this is expanding.  Do you want to tell me a little bit more about the expansion project?

KK: Yes. So the expansion project has been years in the making. We started this right before COVID. It’s been a process. We got through the financial part of it, we got through the design. I got the green light, and we were ready. Two weeks later, the world shut down.

We ended up being closed for 60 days. Then we came back to the expansion, and I held off just for a couple months after that to let the world regulate. I can’t wait to just celebrate and have a big grand reopening party. I believe our clients are going to be just as excited for our new services as our staff is.

L219: Do you have a projected day when this might be completed?

Well, I’ve had a projected date about 10 different times, so I stopped projecting. I’m just excited to bring a salon to this area that really, you don’t see.

L219: What do you enjoy most about your career?

KK: My staff and watching them grow. Instilling things in them that I know is going to benefit them in their future and in their life. A lot of them have been with me from the beginning and we’ve just grown together.

We always say, “We started from the bottom, now we’re here.” There were times, eight years ago, when we would sit there and literally wait for the phone to ring and it would be my mom, and now we run a wait list.

Sometimes it will be 60 or 90 days out for certain services and our phones ring off the hook. We’re at four lines right now. It’s been fun to go on this journey with a lot of my service providers, my staff that took the risk to join me and join this business.

L219: To dream along with you.

KK: Yeah, we always say the sky is obviously our limit. We keep growing and building. We didn’t come this far to only come this far. We’ve got to keep going.

L219: Maybe you’ll end up with another location.

KK: Yeah, you never know. I always said that I wanted the biggest and the best because that’s a question I get asked frequently, but that was never what I wanted.

I can only be in one place at one time. I just want to bring the most out of this one location that we have and always bring the best service to our clients that have known us, loved us, and been loyal to us for these eight years.

L219: Since you can only be in one place at once you can only have your eyes on so much at one time.

KK: Yes, and there’s so much that goes into this industry, the services we offer and the expectations of clients and my staff members.

I tell everybody in the interview process that we all have to work for a living. I want this to be a place that you want to come to. To be a positive environment. I want to instill in them so much. Growth and education, and just anything that I can provide to make them better not only at their job, but in life.

L219: I love your passion to ensure growth and success. Having built your own successful business over the years, what advice would you give someone that you feel could benefit them?

KK: Oh boy. Run! I’m kidding. Buckle up! Life is definitely not a straight line. It is a zig-zag. It will always be. Don’t wake up expecting things to go as planned because they are never going to. It’s to the point where I wake up and I’m like, “Okay, what problems are we gonna fix today?”

You got to have that mentality. You got to have that stamina, because you’re gonna get knocked down and you’re gonna get knocked down multiple times a day, sometimes. Just remember at the end of the day, why you did it, and more importantly, who you’re doing it for.

L219: The world doesn’t stop. Trends are always changing, people create new styles, new looks, boundaries are constantly being pushed, as happens with any art form, and you have to be prepared for that.

KK: The beauty industry is something special to be a part of too. It’s not just exterior beauty. You know, people can think that from the stigmatism, but clients don’t come here to just walk out looking beautiful, they’re coming here to feel that way. That’s what I tell my staff.

One of my favorite things, because my office is right by the front desk, is that I’ll watch them cashing out, and they’re smiling, but when they turn around and they don’t think anybody’s watching them, they’re smiling from ear to ear. Their fire is ignited as a woman, as a human being; they feel so great. I watch them walk out the door ready to conquer the world.

L219: What distinguishes you from the people around you? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

KK: The success of my staff, and the dedication we have to our clients. I don’t ever want to let them down. That’s a promise I made, not only to my staff, but to the clients: to just always remain on the forefront of the industry, to bring them the best quality, the best products, the best services, the best people.

L219: Who has been your biggest influence?

KK: My parents are my biggest influence! I grew up watching them work so hard and I have the work ethic I do today due to them. They embody the best of both worlds. My dad still hasn’t stopped working even at 72 years old.

My mom, who worked her entire life while raising four kids, also cares for people more than anyone I have ever met. She will literally give someone her last dollar and open up her home to anyone in need. I think I got some of their best qualities. Not by chance though. When I wasn’t doing those things, working hard and being kind to people, they told me I better start acting right immediately. I now thank them for that. I am who I am today because of them.

Posted in

Autumn Cunningham