In April 2020, Sapphire Gibson was a sophomore at Florida Gulf Coast University when she got an assignment for her entrepreneurship class: Create a business website. It was the early days of the pandemic, when the country was sinking into lockdown, so she didn’t worry too much about it. The website was just practice for a future business, she figured.
For help, she reached out to her older sister, Jade Gibson, who owns a wedding music business. “How about you create a [mock] beauty business for the website?” Jade suggested. It made sense; Gibson had been working for an aesthetician doing makeup for photoshoots and weddings. She called the website Simply Sapphire. Within a week, she had her first client. “We thought we had a bunch of time to make the business plan solid,” Gibson says, “but then we got our first booking, and here we are.”
A year after launching, Gibson is booking an average of five clients a month while still attending school full time and playing for her sister’s business, Jade Strings. “I’ll do makeup and hair, then take a lunch break and be the harpist at the wedding.”
Unlike many small companies, Gibson was able to use the pandemic as an opportunity to expand the business. “Most weddings require a lot of people for hair and makeup,” she says. “But we started booking elopements, where it would be just one person—the bride—and sometimes her mom.” It helped, too, that Gibson was plugged into her sister’s wedding music business. When brides asked for a hair and makeup recommendation, Jade was able to point them to Simply Sapphire.
Though Gibson hadn’t planned to launch the business when she did, she was able to recognize the opportunity when she saw it. “I realized this was my chance to start my own company,” she says. “I’d rather say I did it and it didn’t turn out than regret not doing it.” Her advice for other entrepreneurs: Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do it. “A lot of entrepreneurs think they have to have everything lined up before launching a business, but you’re never going to be completely ready.”
She also recommended that those with their own businesses network outside their specialty. When Gibson started, she tried reaching out to other local makeup artists, but what was eventually more successful was networking with photographers and wedding planners—other entrepreneurs who could recommend her services to their clients. “That really helped us a ton.”
Ultimately, Gibson said that entrepreneurs need to bring their own unique offerings to their business. In her case, she’s committed to serving clients with a range of skin tones and hair textures, which was inspired by her mother, who was born in Nicaragua and struggles to find people who can work with her complexion and hair. “You have to understand your target customer and fix whatever problems they’re having,” she says. “And you have to have your own style.”