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Season 4 - Episode 6:

Growing a Business on Social Media with Nai, aka LABeautyologist

Growing a Business on Social Media with Nai, aka LABeautyologist

Episode Summary

Nayamka “Nai” Roberts-Smith, also known as LABeautyologist, is a powerhouse esthetician who has leveraged her social media platforms to grow her business, her audience, and her voice.

Episode Notes

Nai Roberts-Smith might be the mega-popular skincare expert labeautyologist these days, but like many entrepreneurs, she started in a dorm room. She was an amateur nail technician, complete with a wall of polish colours, and she would do nails for less than the price of lunch. “I had a group of friends who all did beauty services,” she says a barber, a few pals who did hair, and a league of friends acting as low-key brand ambassadors across campus. 

When she left college, she joined a salon as a nail tech but has aspirations of becoming an esthetician—a licensed professional who does facials and other skin-care treatments, usually at a spa. “I was good at nails, I liked doing it, and I felt kind of stifled by that.” But her hometown shop was full of estheticians, and they were unwilling to add Nai to their roster. She debated bringing her skills onboard cruise ships before realizing she would likely find work anywhere that was beautiful—Jamaica, Hawaii, Miami, or her new hometown, Los Angeles.

In LA, Nai was “broke,” but she knew the demand was there: she could stand on a busy street corner and see three spas on a single block. As she launched her business, she made a strategic decision to grow her social media presence as well. “I knew I had to reach people who weren’t just right in front of me.” She launched her YouTube channel as soon as she moved to LA. “Being on social media has completely advanced and changed my career trajectory;” she now has almost a half-million subscribers. 

Sometimes entrepreneurs get tripped up on how to translate online impressions to actual sales, but Nai has a knack for it. When she started, Nai would demo her treatments on Twitter and YouTube and encouraged LA locals to book in with her; at the time, 45% of her clients came from that sales funnel. She examined her analytics for out-of-town interest—like the viewers watching from Atlanta and New York—and headed to those cities for pop-up skincare treatments. “Fifteen people made it worth the trip,” especially after she factored in word-of-mouth promotion and local hype. 

It might seem counterintuitive to give away knowledge that she could be charging for, but Nai says it’s actually a sales driver when she does. Maya Elious taught Nai that if she wasn’t able to give away her knowledge for free, “you’re not even knowledgeable enough to be an expert in what it is you’re doing.” Nai estimates that, though she’s shared plenty across various platforms over the last five years, it only represents about 10% of her body of expertise, and her interactions with fans and clients make the trade-off worth it. 

She’s also a master of the thoughtful pivot. When COVID forced her to shutter her spa last summer, her collaborations with brands like Fenty and Target became much more important. She also launched her own line of merch, a spa-inspired line of garments including robes, turbans, and scrunchies. “I’m still talking to the same people.” Her third line of defence against COVID losses was launching a virtual consulting stream. 

Nai sees herself as filling an important gap in esthetics: as a darker-skinned Black woman, she brings knowledge about melanated skin and its unique needs to an industry that doesn’t always cater to them. “When I went to esthetics school, there were very few women of colour who went to the school.” Working with different skin tones and types is a key factor in successful treatments, and Nai says, “I felt like my presence made the other estheticians better.” Through some of her content and partnerships, she’s started filling the gaps in esthetic’s typical service and knowledge. “I’m here to talk to people who weren’t spoken to before.” 


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