Tuesday, 23 March 2021 14:05

'IT'S BEEN A JOURNEY': Rockingham entrepreneur cuts ribbon at waxing studio

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Brandie-Nicole Watkins stands in the back room of The Esthetics Lab and Wax Studio in Rockingham. Watkins opened her new location earlier this month. Brandie-Nicole Watkins stands in the back room of The Esthetics Lab and Wax Studio in Rockingham. Watkins opened her new location earlier this month. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — When Brandie-Nicole Watkins graduated from Richmond Senior High School in 2005, she didn’t know she’d be running her own business 15 years later.


Watkins was joined Tuesday morning by the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce and several local officials for a ribbon cutting at The Esthetics Lab and Wax Studio in Broad Street Square.

But it’s not her first location.

Watkins made the move earlier this month from her previous space on Long Drive.

Spending her early years in Mount Gilead, her family moved across the county line and into Rockingham when she was 12.

After graduating, Watkins attended UNC Pembroke for nursing. However, after two years, she decided “it wasn’t for me.”

After leaving college, Watkins worked for several years with Daymark Recover in Pinehurst.

In 2018, she decided to do makeup — which requires an esthetician’s license. So she enrolled in Central Carolina Community College in Sanford and took night classes in the one-year program.

“I got to school and we didn’t even do makeup,” she recalled. “We did facials and waxing.”

Watkins said one of the key lessons was to learn about the demographics in their area and what services they could offer.

“No one offered waxing in our area, so I became a Brazillian wax specialist,” she said. “I went for makeup and I don’t even do makeup now!”

Once she was licensed, Watkins rented a room at Gwen’s Beauty Salon in Ellerbe. Owner Gwen Cooke also taught cosmetology at the high school.

Watkins said the salon shut down in March 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit. 

While she admits she was nervous, Watkins credits her success during a time of shutdowns and strict government guidelines to prayer.

“If it wasn’t for God, I  don’t know what I’d do,” she said. “But he said he was going to take care of me.”

Watkins saved up her unemployment money for start-up capital and opened her own shop in June.

“It’s been a journey,” Watkins said.

“She’s one of our young entrepreneurs and young professionals here in Richmond County and we appreciate what she’s doing here,” said Emily Tucker, president of the Chamber, adding that Watkins has also been an active volunteer since joining the Chamber. “She’s very energetic, very supportive of our community … she has fought tooth and nail to get here and we’re so proud of her.”

Tucker pointed out the obstacles businesses, especially those in the beauty market, have had to overcome.

Rockingham Mayor Steve Morris welcomed Watkins and her new business in town, and offered his 40 years of experience as the former owner of Helms Jewelers.

“There’s nothing more exciting than opening your own business,” Morris told Watkins. “There’s nothing any more scary either. I’ve been down that road before and I understand there will be some great times and there other times you’ll scratch your head and wonder, ‘Why in the world did I do this?’ But it’ll work out for you in the future, I’m sure.”

Morris added that the city government tries to make the area attractive to businesses and acknowledged the recent growth even with the pandemic.

Just prior to the pandemic, Sunset Slush opened up in IncSpace, a small-business incubator in downtown Rockingham owned by the Melvin family. The Melvins also publish the Richmond Observer, which has offices on the second floor of the building.

In addition to The Esthetics Lab, the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce had seven other businesses join in 2020: Touch of Glo Spa and Tanning; The Best Choice Healthcare; Farmasi with Diane (an online business); Crystal Clear Thrifty Boutique & Services; MKM Jump and Play; Shear Dimensions; and Tedder Trash Solutions.

Also in 2020, Olin and Lorraine Britton started their food truck business, Britton’s BBQ and Grill; and another food truck, Seafoodie, announced plans for a stationary location in Hamlet later this year.

Morris also plugged Richmond Community College’s Small Business Center as a resource for help “if you hit a bump in the road and don’t know where to turn.”

After the ceremonial red ribbon was snipped, the attendees took a short tour of the lab, viewing the two rooms where Watkins performs her services — one of which features low lighting and soft music for a relaxing ambiance.

Watkins said the esthetics community in Richmond County — including East of Bliss and Dreamworx Day Spa —is a tight-knit group and they tend to recommend each other’s services to clients.

“We look out for each other,” Watkins said. “We all want each other to succeed and grow, and that’s what you have to do to have a business.”

Watkins has one employee who helps handle paperwork and scheduling while she takes care of the facials and waxing.

Although women may be the dominant clientele, Watkins said she also offers services for men.

Commissioner Don Bryant, who was at the event to represent the Richmond County Board of Commissioners, volunteered for a bikini wax.

Watkins is currently taking classes through Fayetteville Technical Community College to learn to become a certified esthetics instructor.