Photography by Alex Mak Photography
WORDS: Neha Assar & Nazz Ebrahimi
Painting by Nicole Fani
READ OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH @NEHAASSAR AND LOOK OUT FOR 'THE ENTREPRENEUR'S PLAYLIST' TO SEE WHAT TUNES SHE'S CURRENTLY LISTENING TO!
Describe life before Neha Assar Henna Artistry: Before Neha Assar Henna Artistry, I had 17 years of life. I was very artistic as a child and I would do normal things that normal kids would do. Go to school, do homework, hang out with friends, play sports. I started doing henna when I was 14 years old. That was the first time I picked up a henna cone. I got hired by a salon and did henna on my very first client - a bride. At age 17 I branched off on my own and thats when Neha Assar Henna Artistry began.
What motivated you to start a business and how did you choose the name of your company?
I was moving away for college and I knew I wouldn't be able to support the clients at the salon I was working at. So I decided to go off on my own to see where it would take me. You have to remember that I was a teenager at the time and little things would stick in my head such as lyrics to a song or things I would hear on TV. I was very observant and I noticed that Oprah, being as successful as she is, always had her name on everything. Harpo Productions was her name spelled backwards. Now her network, the OWN Network, also stands for the Oprah Winfrey Network. MC Breed also had a song called "No Future in Your Frontin" and he specified that he puts his name "Breed" on everything he owns. It just made sense so I used my name! :)
Who are your ideal clients?
I don't have a set of "ideal clients". I like to work on everyone. I have worked on tiny babies, the elderly, women, men, heterosexual couples, homosexual couples, celebrities, non celebrities. At the end of the day, I love the fact that I can make them smile.
You explained to me how Bridal Mehndi (henna) is very traditional and is often created with the Groom's name hidden in the design. Can you go more in detail on that?
Traditionally the groom's name is hidden in the bridal mehndi. On the night of the wedding he is supposed to find his name. They say the faster he finds it, the more he loves you. Often brides ask me, "Well, what if he doesn't find it?!?!?" I jokingly tell them, "Then he doesn't get any!"Many years ago arranged marriages were the norm. The brides would get the groom's name hidden in the henna and on the night of the wedding he would look for it. It was a way for the couple to break the ice by him feeling her arms and looking closely at the design.What are the health and beauty benefits of henna?One of the most notable uses of henna is for protecting the skin against infections and eliminating inflammation. Henna has been applied to burns, wounds and scrapes for generations, not only because it can add a protective layer against foreign pathogens and substances, but also because it has natural cooling abilities that suck the heat from the skin. It also works as a natural sunscreen.Getting your name heard and services out to the public can be frightening when first starting out. Can you give some advice to people who are a service based company?Be fearless. If you don't go out and market your services, nobody will. Also, when you put your heart and soul into a service it shows. People will appreciate good service and will spread the word for more potential clients.How important do you think customer reviews are, such as the ones posted on Yelp and Facebook?I think customer reviews are everything. We live in a generation where online reviews determine where we will go for our services. Always do your best to make sure you are offering the best service.How do you feel one should approach potential partners?I am still learning new things about this day after day. Always have everything in writing. Know exactly how you want to go about a partnership and keep documenting everything. Always be professional. Do not devalue your service. Be confident in what you are bringing to the table. What you put out there is how your potential partner sees. Making a good impression is super important.Your paintings are breathtaking! How do you feel your work as a painter benefits your henna designs?Thank you! I believe my work as a painter benefits my henna by making me realize that I am able to create anything. I create on a large scale with my paints and brushes and canvases. With my henna, I am able to create on a much smaller level. I am also forced to do line work with henna rather than blend colors to get the effect I want. It pushes me to think in different dimensions even though the concepts are very similar.Do you have any tips on linking with Event Planners, Wedding Photographers, and other people in the event business?When you work a wedding or any large event, be sure to communicate with everyone. Let them know your role in the event so your work doesn't go overlooked. Exchange contact information and remain in touch. You never know when you will be working with them or even referred by them to other potential clients.Your celebrity clients range from Kylie Jenner to Nazanin Mandi. What were those experiences like?Meeting and working with various celebrities is pretty cool. At the end of the day they are normal people like you and I. The part that gives me that incredible feeling is after I am done working on them, I look back and think, "Did that really happen?" Its a cool feeling knowing that my artwork was considered for their special event.Where were some of your favorite places you've traveled to for work?
This may sound so weird, but one of my most memorable trips for work was when I travelled to San Antonio, TX. I was 18 at the time and I was scheduled to work on two brides that were marrying a set of brothers. I had my own hotel room and an all expenses paid trip. Mexico, the East Coast and Vegas were pretty cool too. I don't get much time to get out and have fun since its a work related trip. Working in Southern California on a regular basis is a blessing in itself!Did you have any doubts when you were first starting out/ how has failure changed you to keep on pushing?
The doubts I had when first starting out was how to price my services. Clients used to laugh in my face when I gave them quotes for my services. I would never budge. I value my work. I kept pushing and I am so glad I did.
If you are not a "people person", but have great ideas, can you still run a business?
I believe that you can do anything. I believe that when someone has a great idea that they want to capitalize on, they themselves get excited about it when they talk about it. If they are that passionate about what they do then they will sell it forward. They will do what it takes to make it. They will become a people person.
Do you think you can start a business if you don't have a degree from a University?
DEFINITELY. While a degree is something nobody can ever take away from you, it is not necessary to have one in order to run a successful business. Many times life experiences shape the greatest business people. If you know your product/service and believe in it, you will do whatever it takes to push the product or service.Advice on standing out in a crowd and maintaining a competitive edge?For this you have to know your crowd. You have to know what your clients are looking for. Even then, take it up a notch and give them something more. Something unexpected and out of the norm.
What's next for Neha Assar Henna Artistry?
Not sure. I take it a day at a time and accept every opportunity I can with open arms.
Looking back, what would you tell yourself when you were first starting out?
I had a vision of how I wanted my brand to be. I took lots of baby steps to steer it in the right direction. I told myself to be patient, humble and strong. Till this day, I tell myself the same exact thing.
Best lesson you've learned in business:
Do not let other people’s opinions influence you. Opinions are not facts. Back home in India, being a “mehndi lady” is a profession that is looked down upon. Even in the states, some people still carry that same mentality. I have clients that announce at their home upon my arrival “The mehndi lady is here!” I personally don’t let those opinions and thoughts affect me. I myself know that I am an educated woman who has a full time career as an engineer. I am a wife to a husband that supports me and has my back. I am a mother to two fantastic children that look up to me. I have my two hands that all of this artwork flows from. I love doing mehndi. I bring joy and relaxation to a bride on one of the most life changing and special moments of her life. I get to meet people and connect with them on different levels. At the end of the day, I do what I love.Always follow your heart. Do what makes you happy regardless of opinions and external influences. Do not accept criticism unless it is constructive. Always have an open mind to feedback and learn how to achieve the best of your capabilities. The sky is the limit.