When it comes to the world of beauty, Nysia Sanabria is here to say that pure experience isn't the most critical element when it comes to being a "beauty leader."
After all, her primary work experience came from spending seven years with a national car rental company, which helped her hone both management and customer service skills.
Instead, Sanabria, 34, said pure passion for helping people and keeping things fun is the most important trait she looks for when hiring beauty consultants at the new Sephora inside JCPenney store at Peachtree Mall.
Sephora, founded more than four decades ago in the French capital of Paris, has set up shop in the Columbus department store, peddling skin-care products, cosmetics, fragrances and, as Sanabria says, educating customers on the finer points of looking their best. The Columbus Sephora is expected to be a higher volume store for the company, she said.
The Ledger-Enquirer visited with the New Jersey native -- whose father and husband both are Phenix City natives -- to talk about her job, its challenges and rewards, and to get a beauty tip or two in the process.
This interview has been edited a bit for length and clarity, with a slightly longer version at www.ledger-enquirer.com.
So your official job title is beauty leader?
My official title is beauty leader, yes. I'm responsible for our overall client experience on our black tile (showroom floor), and making sure that when our clients come in, it is the ultimate beauty playground for them.
We want to make sure that they play and have fun, so I'm responsible for leading that charge.
How do you become a beauty leader? Do you need a beauty business background?
You actually don't. I have none. I came from Enterprise and that's the furthest thing from beauty. That's renting cars.
But I always had an interest in (beauty products). I was one of those girls who signed up for the subscription boxes and always looking on YouTube (for tips). So it helps to have an interest, but it's not a necessity.
The one thing you do have to have a passion for is the client experience, and you have to want to understand how to make them a priority in your world. If you can do that, all of the other things can be learned.
Do you hire the beauty consultants?
I do. ... (Education) is a thing we're big on. We want to make sure not only do our clients come in, but that we give them great information. We don't want to just throw some color at them and send them on their way. We want to help elevate their level of knowledge.
So we have a senior education consultant. She runs all of our training. We want to make sure that we have a good background in all of the brands that we carry. And we also have an operation consultant, and we have product consultants. So we have a good group of people (a total staff of seven) to help all of the clients that come in.
Some of those staffers need to have beauty experience?
Some of them do. It's kind of like the beauty leader. If you have a background in it, that's wonderful. But the training that we receive is so extensive that you can come in not knowing anything, and by the time that we've opened, we are all knowledgeable and we're all ready to kind of explode and give that knowledge to our clients.
So the desire to learn and be helpful are the top qualities versus experience?
If you have passion and if you can get excited about something, to me that is better than having this long background. If you're not passionate about it, you're not going to be successful with it. You're not going to have fun, and that's the main thing we want to do. When you come onto our floor, we want to have fun. If you're not, it's going to be a long, long day.
Why is it important to keep people loose and having a good time?
It can be intimidating coming in to find out makeup questions. Some ladies, when they come in, they've never had someone match their makeup before. So we want to take the counter out of it, and have them come in and be able to try, touch, feel, so that it's not an intimidating experience. We want everybody to be comfortable.
Some folks don't know what they need or want?
Right. And some people are embarrassed to ask. They feel like they should know. If you've never been told or taught, you need a starting point. So, hopefully, we'll get some of those people.
And then we have some products for the very, very experienced as well. So we will cover all of your needs. It's not targeted to one individual client.
What does the beauty education process entail?
We have a beauty studio, and we have express services that we provide. So if you have always been wanting to try a smoky eye, but you're like, 'I don't know how those girls get that to work. I see it, but I don't know how to do it.' We can give you a tutorial on that. We can give you an everyday eye, if you've never been matched, like I said earlier, to your foundation color.
We have a wonderful, innovative color IQ system. It's a scientific approach. We take three pictures of your face, and it will give you a match for all of the different brands that we carry, and also all of the different brands that are on Sephora.com.
What's your typical day like? Out on the floor a lot?
It will always be a mix of leading the client experience on the floor, and also doing events. So it's making sure those events come off smoothly. We have something called "Fab Friday," which is like before your cocktail hour, before you go out to dinner with your husband. People will come in and get spruced up from 5 to 7. We do those on occasion. So I'll be leading things like that and being involved in the community so that they know we're here for them.
What would be the most challenging aspect of your job?
I think just staying up to date on all of the different trends that happen. If you know anything about the color world and the cosmetics industry, things change on a dime. So it's just making sure that we stay on top of all of those things. That's where we have our senior education consultant.
We also have a beauty educator that is assigned just to us that will come here and give us monthly education so that we can stay up to date on all of those new tricks and trends. That's so when clients come in looking for something, we know exactly how to help them.
Do you have any basic tips for women?
Yes. I say that it all starts with skin care. So don't overlook your skin care. A lot of people jump straight into color and they want to put foundation over things to maybe conceal some things that are a concern to them. But a lot of those things can be resolved -- so that you're not having to cover it up -- through great skin care.
So get on a great regimen so you won't have to cover up those imperfections and things (that make you say), 'Oh, those fine lines and wrinkles are coming. Let me just throw some foundation over it.' If you get on a regimen, you can kind of keep some of those things from showing up or advancing at such a quick rate.
You're talking about 'daily' skin care?
Daily skin care, yes. A lot of people say they don't want to get into a routine. But there are some great multitasking products out there that can help you. In five minutes or less, you can be done.
Did your previous experience with Enterprise help prepare you for this job?
It definitely did. I was with Enterprise for seven years. Out of all of my different positions there, I really found value in customer service.
Sometimes people give lip service to it, but they don't really understand how that is the most important thing, even above profits, above everything.
You have to be able to value your client and be able to speak to their needs.
There are a lot of things that you can do to help somebody, and there are a lot of things you can just throw at somebody to kind of get them to go away. But if you really build a relationship with someone, they will come back and you will receive that repeat business.
What advice would you have for someone who might want to do something like be a beauty leader?
I definitely would make sure (customer service skills are) a priority for you. And then make sure that you're versatile and that you understand the skills of multitasking. That's a big part of our positions here; there are several things that you have to get done during the day.
But a big thing is you have to ensure that the client stays first -- put his or her needs first.
Name: Nysia Sanabria
Hometown: Hamilton Township, N.J.
Current residence: Columbus
Education: 1997 graduate of Hamilton High School West in Hamilton Township, N.J.; earned a bachelors degree in sociology with a minor in communication from Columbus State University in 2005
Previous jobs: Albany, Ga., area manager with Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Family: Husband, Mark, and two children son Jeremiah, 12, and daughter Carys, 7
Leisure time: Spends most of her spare time with her children and their activities. That includes traveling with the Georgia Kings AAU basketball program