Jennilee Martineau

April 28, 2022

Permanent makeup business comes natural for renowned Métis fiddler

Métis entrepreneur Jennilee Martineau started up her permanent makeup studio at the beginning of the pandemic.
Photo credit: Ron Rivera.

Jennilee Martineau, who has made a career as a musician for decades, recently switched gears to run a permanent makeup studio. The move came surprisingly naturally for the fiddler, who has always worked for herself.

"I've only ever worked as a self-made person," Martineau said.

"I wanted to start something where I'd still be working for myself."

The Métis entrepreneur followed in the footsteps of her father, who ran a music school and other businesses.

She found parallels between her work as a musician, and even the businesses her father owned, with starting the makeup business.

"There's a lot of similarities in terms of the business side," Martineau said.

The similarities ended there, though. She had to research social media strategies to keep up with marketing demands.

"What I had to learn basically was how this business utilizes social media a lot. And when I was running my music business it wasn't something I'd do at all," she said. "I find that I really have to educate myself almost constantly on social media and how to market myself there."

Martineau is encouraged by the learning curve, though.

"I will always be a student," she said. "I'm good with challenges and I'm good with learning."

Before starting her business, Martineau held a variety of roles in the music industry, from violinist, to composer, to producer, to fiddle teacher. Photo credit: Ron Rivera.

The single mother made the decision to start the business as a way to support her two children while going through her divorce. Up until then, Martineau had held a variety of roles in the music industry, from violinist, to composer, to producer, to fiddle teacher. A lot of these jobs monopolized her time in the evenings and weekends, and she found her priorities change upon the birth of her children.

"When my children came along, I kind of realized I had to find something different that wouldn't occupy my time in the evenings and weekends so that I could have that time with them, especially once they started going to school," she said.

The recording artist spent a lot of time mapping out her next career. She considered the nursing field, or going back to school, but didn't want to spend years waiting for her dream job. Plus, she'd long been drawn to the beauty industry.

"Even as a performer, I'd always spend a lot of time and effort on my makeup," she said.

Before getting her eyebrows done permanently, Martineau did a lot of research and watched videos, realizing she could possibly do this herself.

"I (felt) it's something I would have a talent for," she said. "Coming from not just a background of spending a lot of time doing makeup - I'm also an artist and I like to draw and sketch, and so that's kind of why I decided to start in makeup."

The professional fiddler put it all down on her vision board, and the rest is history. She took a course on micropigmentation, covering lip blushing, powder eyebrows, and eyeliner tattooing. Since she didn't have room in her own home, Martineau's parents let her set up a studio in their spare bedroom to avoid overhead expenses in the beginning and see where it took her.

"I realized pretty quickly that I had a talent for it," she said.

As the makeup artist secured clients for her business, she also gained referrals.

"I'd get one client, the next thing you know I'd have their friend," she said.

After becoming quite busy, Martineau decided to scale up the business and move to a commercial location on Main Street. She also found another entrepreneur to rent out part of the 1,000-sq.-ft. space. Now, she has a few women working for her at Maison Plume, which offers, in addition to permanent makeup services, a full brow and lash bar, from lash extensions and lamination to brow lamination, threading, and waxing. She also recently hired a facial specialist for facials, dermaplaning, and other specialized skin care treatments. Forever a student, Martineau is currently taking a course on scalp micropigmentation, which involves hair follicle simulation treatment for those experiencing hair loss.

To prepare to launch her permanent makeup studio, the single mother took a course on micropigmentation, covering lip blushing, powder eyebrows, and eyeliner tattooing. Photo credit: Ron Rivera.

Launching her business in the midst of the pandemic led to a slew of challenges. During the first lockdown, Martineau was just starting out.

"I used that period of time to build my website," she said, "And also doing some marketing and trying to get myself noticed."

Martineau found it difficult to start up again after ceasing her practice for months at a time during each lockdown.

"I found that a little bit challenging, taking a break after still only being so new," she said, "Having to kind of refresh myself continually."

Martineau mastered that challenge by focusing on professional development during the lockdown period, taking courses on cosmetic services and business training. She also frequently practiced her services and continued her marketing strategy to keep the business on clients' minds.

"I tried to make the best of things. And my clients had faith," she said, adding that sometimes clients' touch-up appointments, taking place much later than scheduled, would end up more closely resembling a full-on initial service.

Other challenges involved product expiration.

"Once you open a lot of these products, they do expire. Some of them have only a month or two, they have to get used up, and if they don't, they're garbage," Martineau said. "That was a financial challenge."

The single mother also found it hard to reach a balance between her work hours and her time with her children due to the pandemic, with access to child care being a major stressor.

"I could choose my own hours, but right now they're being chosen for me a little bit," she said. "I do a lot of work at home, but I have to divide myself between spending time on my computer or spending time on the phone, and also being able to spend enough quality time with my kids."

Like many young families during the pandemic, Martineau has had to deal with her children getting sick at school and day care, causing her to stay home with them.

"One day my daughter has a stuffy nose, and she can't go to school all week," she said, "And then my son gets a stuffy nose and then we're back to that again. And then they're back at school, back at day care, and next thing you know, the day care teacher's sick, or someone in the day care's sick, and then you're back at home again."

Despite these hardships, Martineau always tries to stay positive - especially because her entire motivation to start her own business was her two children.

"Everything has a silver lining," she said. "So I try to focus on that."

Relief programs like the Manitoba Métis Federation's (MMF) COVID-19 Business Support Program helped alleviate some of the entrepreneur's financial challenges.

Shaun Hampton, Manager of Entrepreneurship Initiatives at the Louis Riel Capital Corporation - an MMF affiliate created to finance the start-up, acquisition, and expansion of Métis businesses based in the province - said he has a lot of respect for Martineau.

"She is a single mom and has had a tough go throughout the pandemic with school closures and her children being sent home more than once as a close contact, all while she is trying to run a business," he said. "She never complains, just keeps surmounting the challenges and moving forward."

Martineau's hard work and fortitude keep her going during these setbacks.

"I'm a really hard worker, like I'll never back down from hard work. I love it, and I won't back down from a challenge," she said. "I don't know everything, but I'm always open to learning and to suggestions."


Maison Plume offers permanent makeup services as well as a full brow and lash bar, from lash extensions and lamination to brow lamination, threading, and waxing. Photo credit: Ron Rivera.

Just as Martineau followed in her father's entrepreneurial footsteps, her six-year-old daughter wants to do her own makeup.

"Every day we do a little bit of makeup play after school," Martineau laughed. "She's really into it."

Although the performer switched gears to pursue the beauty industry, she hasn't stopped playing music. Now, music can be a retreat and less of a business for Martineau, whose Métis heritage and musical roots have been intertwined since birth.

"My dad plays Métis fiddle and my grandpa played Métis fiddle, and my great-grandfather played," she said. "I think it goes back five generations of fiddle players in my family. That's sort of a family thing. So I basically had that as part of my upbringing since I was a little kid."

Martineau grew up going to square dances and fiddle camps, and has performed at Métis festivals across the Métis Nation Homeland.

"That's a huge part of my upbringing and my current life," she said.

She plans to continue to play music for festivals.

"That's not something that is going to go away from my life. I play every day, I teach my daughter fiddle right now, I still maintain a student," she said. "The nice thing about not having it as my business is that it's my retreat when I come home. I can retreat to playing the fiddle, and playing music, and that's how I relax at the end of the day, which is good. When it was my business, that's what I needed to get away from. I needed to do anything else but music. But now that I feel music has become something just for me, I really enjoy it."

For more information, visit Maison Plume on the website at maisonplume.ca, and on Instagram at @maisonplume_wpg and @plume.pmu. Contact Martineau at info@maisonplume.ca.

 


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