“From Avocation To Vocation: How We Turned Our Hobby Into A Career” With Inessa & Alina Vike

Lots of things you would hire people for, you can just do yourself. We live in a time where you can google anything and do it yourself. An example is when we wanted to hire someone to build our website for us and spend a large amount of money on when we just sat down […]

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Lots of things you would hire people for, you can just do yourself. We live in a time where you can google anything and do it yourself. An example is when we wanted to hire someone to build our website for us and spend a large amount of money on when we just sat down and did it ourselves.

As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Inessa & Alina Vike. Inessa & Alina are beauty bloggers turned into business women after creating a beauty brand called VIKE.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

We are identical twin sisters (Alina and Inessa Vike). Being born in Belarus we came to America as refugees at two years old. Our parents risked everything leaving their country for our future.

A one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn would be the first place we’d call home in the U.S. Three years later our parents saved up enough to buy a beautiful home in Staten Island. Their hard work and commitment to giving us a life that would allow us to have all that we would ever need growing up makes us proud. We learned the value of overcoming adversity as we watched our parents migrate to the U.S. knowing very little English with two little girls and no jobs build a life that we can look back on and say “well done”. They made sure we had a strong close family and learned to value our time together.

Every year we would take vacations and often visit our family back home in Belarus. Some of our favorite family trips are those to Disney and the Caribbean cruises we’d take. Looking back, they both had so much will and courage to find and have success in an unfamiliar environment. The grid that they had lives in us and encourages us to pursue our goal of making Vike a brand that shines in this beauty industry.

We both from a young age shared an eagerness and love for makeup. When we got older we finally were excited to explore our talent and passion. In high school, we would wear false lashes with full eye-shadow to class and would never leave the house without a full face. We would do our friends makeup and give out makeup advice. Watching YouTube videos became a habit and Sephora became a second home. Early on our parents taught us the importance of working hard and being great students. When we turned 16 years old, the legal age to work in the United States, we got jobs and made sure to not let it have a negative impact on our school work. The inner joy of earning for yourself and being independent feels great. We loved working and having the ability to not ask our parents for money as young teens. Within our group of friends in high school, we would talk about creating our own Empire, it was always in us. We would save and put away portions of the money we made as we knew we had better plans for it. Fast forward a couple of years later, we got tired of wishing we could be beauty bloggers when watching others on YouTube. We wanted to share our tips and we wanted to inspire others but we knew we had to start somewhere. Alina while working at the mall, one day decided its time and she bid on a Canon Rebel T3i camera on eBay. Shocked that we actually won since the cellular service in the mall was so weak, was a sign that we were making the right move. With no set up, we would film in our room, making the camera stand up on stacks of old books. Often getting frustrated as the videos wouldn’t be “perfect” we decided to invest in professional stands and lighting. Our bedroom turned into our production studio. We were determined to make it work. It was hard when your starting out, you want to have tons of followers but you also must love the process. You must love the growth, the idea of taking nothing and growing it and we did. The idea of putting out content you love and that makes you feel truly happy is far more important then the likes you receive, in the beginning. At this point some people quit, but Rome wasn’t build in one day. Little by little, we discovered new filming techniques and new ideas on how to make our videos better. We still remember our first PR box from Nip & Fab, to when Kylie Jenner retweeted a photo of us on her Twitter wearing her new Candy K lip kit.

We put our beauty blogging life on hold for some time to finish our degrees in Finance. We of course took all the same classes and were always together. Having a twin is like being assigned a best friend at birth. We would speak our success into existence; the future of having our own brand, often talking about it and day dreaming during our lunch breaks at school. Sharing and brainstorming many different ideas. We didn’t know how to do it, we didn’t know when, we didn’t know what but what we knew is that this was in our blood. In 2017, we graduated from Baruch College with our BBA in Finance feeling happy and proud yet not satisfied. With the pressure of having to find a “real job” after College but also wanting to create new makeup videos for our Instagram and YouTube to live our our passion there was weight on our shoulders. This was an unsettling and conflicting time in our lives, but we persisted as we knew deep down we would never stop creating content for our growing following. We were able to settle into our new jobs but constantly on the weekends and often after work we would create new content. We decided to take the leap on June 26, 2018, when we registered VIKE as an LLC. We opened up a business bank account and put in all our accumulated savings. We worked hard to relaunch our Instagram beauty page @theviketwins . On that day we started to brainstorm what we wanted our brand to be and what we would first release. This was a surreal moment, a dream transformed into a plan.

We started working with a lot of different brands and PR packages flooded to our home. One bright day, Huda Beauty, one of our idols followed us on Instagram, we were overjoyed and this pushed us to work even harder. Following her, Paris Hilton, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Colour Pop Cosmetics, Milk Makeup and other amazing brands followed us on Instagram as well. Our work got reposted by many different company pages on Instagram and over time we were able to grow our following. On May 17, 2019, we were honored with CEW x Preen.Me Rising Beauty Influencer Award. The CEW’s Beauty Award is the industry’s most significant event recognizing the year’s most creative and innovation beauty products. This was such an inspiring moment in our blogging career, to get recognized for our work was the start to really understand people are paying attention. Being nominated was already enough for us but winning the award meant the world to us. We joked that next year we would come back as a Indie Beauty Brand.

In the midst of our full time jobs and filming beauty videos for our page, we constantly worked on our own band. We didn’t know where to start, so we googled. As simple as it sounds. From google, we found a lab, then we found a packaging company. We traveled to visit both facility’s, one in Miami and one in Los Angeles. We looked for inspiration everywhere we went. After many meetings, tons of emails exchanges and phone calls, we created our first product. WOW! When we got the final sample in our hands we held years of hopes, of dreams, of doubt, of ideas, of fear, of new adventures, and our future.

What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?

We remember this moment on June 26, 2018. We rushed home from dinner where we just opened our computer to legalzoom.com and turned VIKE into an LLC. It felt so “real” at that point and we knew we had to put our 100% into this. We knew it was time to do this, we couldn’t wait anymore. No one was going to give us a brand we knew it was the time to start to build it.

There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

The hardest part for sure is starting when you come up with a good idea. In our case, we had so many questions like “Where can we create our formula?” “How can we create the bottles & art work?” We overcame this challenge by simply GOOGLING…everything. We focused on what do we need to do next to advance. We believe taking it step by step is the best way to keep moving forward. Small accomplishments you set for yourself and achieve helps you get to the larger ones. A famous quote we love from Nelson Mandela, “I never lose. I either win or I learn.”

What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?

We would tell them to really think about what they can do with their hobby to generate money from it. If you want to do something full time you have to ensure that you can survive from it.

It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?

We enjoy the beauty industry so much we can’t even imagine getting sick of it. We love to inspire people it brings us such joy. Its something that can’t even be explained when someone comes up to us and says you inspired me. Waking up each day and working on our brand is something we can’t take for granted. We are super blessed to be able to do so. We love learning from this industry as its consistently changing. That is what keeps its fresh and enjoyable, change. We love to travel for our brand and be inspired by our travels.

What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?

What we enjoy most about running our own business is that there are no rules. We can be as creative as we want to be. We create the rules as we go. We decided how our company is build and its values. The downsides to running your own business is you will be the blame when things don’t go well. Starting your own business, you are the face of the company. We always make sure to make the right decisions even in our personal lives because it ties to our business. To overcome the drawback, you must mentally prepare yourself and always do the right thing for your company. You can’t 100% avoid making mistakes but you can always do the right thing to lower that risk.

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

Our job as founders are complex. Although, we knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into, you still are shocked with how much work you need to devote. Not only are we the face of VIKE but we also act as marketing managers, influencer management managers, event planners, financial directors, supply chain manager and much more. We have our hands in every part of our business.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake we made were when we were launching our website. I, Inessa wanted to hire a company who can make our website for us, just because I wanted the website to be flawless. Alina (my twin) said she can create the website herself and that we did not need anyone to do it for us. The website was going to cost us $8,000 from this third party. The funniest part about this was that Alina created our website in about 3–4 hours. She saved us $8,000 and made an amazing website. I think the funniest part is that the third party and Alina used the same software (Shopify) to create the website. What I learned from that is to be more creative when first starting. I learned to use resources available to do it myself before hiring someone to do it.

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

There is many of people in our life who has inspired us. One of them is Huda Kattan. She did something for us that she doesn’t even know. We remember the day she followed us on Instagram this year. It was such an inexpiable feeling. She has millions of followers and we were honored to be followed by her. We met her at Beauty Con LA this month in August. She recognized us from Instagram and said “Vike Twins!!” it was defiantly a star-stuck moment!! Not only is she beautiful in person but, we loved how she spoke at her panel. We connected with what she was saying about her passion for the beauty industry and inspiring people. We like her are very emotional when speaking about our brand. We loved seeing her raw emotion when she talked about her brand on stage.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

We use our success in our brand to inspire people. We love to keep close contact with all our followers on our social media. We answer DM’s and give tips as much as we can. With every small victory our followers are cheering us on, and we know we are inspiring them.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. You can do it yourself: Lots of things you hire people for, you can do it yourself. We live in a time where you can google anything and do it yourself. An example is when we wanted to hire someone to build our website for us and spend a large amount of money on when we just sat down and did it ourselves.
  2. Don’t be hard on yourself: You must understand that sometimes business deals wont work out, but it will only reveal in the future that it was for the best.
  3. Surround yourself with great people: If you want to flourish in what you are doing make sure to surround yourself with business-minded people. Surround yourself with people who are loyal and support your movement.
  4. Network as much as you can: Whenever you are at events make sure you get around to every person there so they can remember you. Always carry business cards.
  5. Sacrificing time: You will experience some lonely times. Be prepared to sacrifice time with friends and family.

What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

We love to inspire people. We would love to inspire a movement of self-love. You are perfect just the way you are. It would be amazing in the future to involve people’s journey of self-love on our website.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Don’t beat yourself up for not knowing the answers. You don’t always have to know who you are. You don’t have to have the big picture or know where you’re heading. Sometimes, it’s enough just to know what you’re going to do next.” 
― Sophie Kinsella

This is what we stress when opening your business. You just need to know your next steps and focus on being successful with them before moving forward. Focus in the moment, and you will grow.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

We would love to have a private breakfast with Kim Kardashian. We always been huge fans of hers and how she handles all her businesses. She is truly very talented and savvy. She is a real entrepreneur always thinking outside the box and jumping on different types of opportunity. We would love to talk to her about her passion for the beauty industry and any advice she can give us for our own brand.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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