Mompreneur: Trae Bodge of Three Custom Color Specialists
By: Deirdre Uria
Trae Bodge, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Three Custom Color Specialists, began her life in the make-up industry at the School of Visual Arts, before training under custom-blending pioneer Roy Karell at Visage Beaute. After 7 years working for Kiehl’s, she and her two friends, Scott Catto and Chad Hayduk, launched Three Custom Colorists in 1997.
Three Custom Colorists began as a custom blend color make-up studio, and many of their first clients were women seeking to have a favorite discontinued lipstick replicated so that they could continue to enjoy it again and again. Now, Three Custom Color offers private consulations in their studio, sell their ready-to-wear line of products, and use their skills for editorial and runway assignments, and even helps brides with their wedding looks.
As a wife and the mom of a 2 year old, Bodge has perfected the art of being a successful working mom, and is an example of what moms can do with their good ideas and entrepreneurial skills.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Bodge recently who answered a series of questions about her career, home-life, and mompreneur title:
Q: I understand that your mother had a cosmetic store when you were younger, is that when you became interested in cosmetics and beauty? Can you recall your first experience wearing make-up, and how it felt?
A: She had the store since I was five, and I guess I was always interested in what she was doing. I worked in the store from a very young age and as I got older I became more and more involved in the business. For as long as I can remember, she encouraged me to take care of my skin. We used the wonderful products from her store at home and I remember taking luxurious baths and using lotions even when I was very young. She wasn't really keen on my wearing makeup too early, though, but I'm sure I bugged her for years until she let me dabble in it - prob. around age 12. I loved it and I loved applying it on her, too. It was a great way to express my creativity.
Q: What was it like working for Kiehl's as a color/product developer and Director of Catalog Services? Was it rewarding?/What inspired you to move on, and start Three Custom Color Specialists with Scott Catto and Chad Hayduk?
A: It was without question a very highly charged and often stressful work environment, but we were like a big family there. We all worked very hard and there was a lot of love. The owners allowed me to create lipsticks for them within my first year there, which was an amazing opportunity for which was was very grateful. I loved the process and was really proud of the success of the shades I created.
The Catalog Services position came a little later - maybe 3-4 years in. The company was growing quickly and it was a wonderful environment for someone with an entrepreneurial bent. The owners were quite receptive to suggestions and there was a lot of opportunity for growth and learning there. But, being that it was a family-owned business, there was only so far that you could go there, so about 2 years before I left, my partner Chad (who also worked there with me), our art-dealer friend Scott, and I started conceiving and saving for and Three Custom Color Specialists. From our experience years before with Visage Beaute, the premiere custom blending line, we knew that custom blending had it's place in the beauty business -- it just needed to be introduced and maintained in a certain way. We also had very solid ideas about a Ready to Wear Collection - that it was going to be based in education, how it was going to be for women of all skin tones, and that the shades would never be discontinued. We made these choices based on our previous experiences working for other brands - good and bad.
About a year before we launched in 1997, I left to teach makeup artistry at a local makeup school, but the owners of Kiehl's were very kind to let me stay on part-time, while I eased myself out of my position and prepared to launch Three Custom Color Specialists.
Q: Did you have your child prior to creating Three Custom Color Specialists, or after? Do you find the balance between work and home life difficult?
A: We launched in 1997 but I didn't have Sadie Mae until 2006. She was a preemie and was in the hospital for 2 1/2 months after she was born so things did get off to a rocky start, but I went back to work pretty much right after I had her because I didn't have a baby at home and felt better being busy. Plus, the hospital is close to the office so I went before and after work, and that became my life for a while.
Once she came home, it was a tough transition at first, but I think I figured pretty quickly how to be more efficient during my time at work and that I could also do quite a bit of work from home. I have a great balance now where I work an abbreviated schedule at the office and I have time to care for her and work from home as well. If anything unexpected happens - at home or at work - things can get a little crazy, but for the most part, things work pretty smoothly.
Q: What is it like to be a mom-preneur, both professionally and personally?
A: I love it. I feel that being a mom frees me in a lot of ways - it relaxes me and helps me feel less wound-up. I laugh a lot more because the joy of being a parent permeates all aspects of my life. I do find, though, that because my time is less open, I do have less patience with situations and/or people that strike me as petty. There is a lot of pettiness and an overload of dramatic personalities in the beauty world, and I feel like I was better at coping with that before I had my child. I think it takes a lot of patience to be a parent, so perhaps my patience gets used up at home!
Q: What about your career brings you the most joy?
A: There's a lot to say here, but helping my clients feel good about themselves is first and foremost. I enjoy nothing more than hearing a client say "I feel so pretty!". Secondly, it would be seeing professional makeup artists appreciate what we create - appreciating the shades and formulations that we made with our hands and designed in our minds. Lastly, I feel so satisfied to be at my office, especially working in the lab, and there is a buzz of creativity in the air. Our staff are mostly professional makeup artists and we have such a ball together, making products and learning from each other.
Q: What advice could you offer to other women who have an idea, or have even started a small company, but want to grow and develop, as you did?
A: I would say DO IT, but only if you have a good idea that is unique and has longevity. Think it through before you leap and be prepared to be patient and stick to it for the long haul because it's very hard work and will tax you in ways you can't predict.
Also, unless you really feel like you can handle every piece of running a business from accounting, to creative, to sales, to cleaning the bathroom, find people to work with who are strong where you might be lacking.
Q: What is the hardest part about being a mother?
A: Being patient. My husband is so good at this, but I have a hard time remembering that she's just a kid and she's not doing certain things on purpose.
I also could learn from my daughter to just let things go. They are such blank slates, kids. You can have a moment where she's crying and tossing food on the floor and the next second, she wants to color. I have a hard time letting that first moment go.
Q: What is the easiest part about being a mother?
A: Loving that child with every ounce of my being.