“When I signed up for beauty school, every guidance counselor and teacher that I had called my mother and said, ‘Your kid is too smart for that class, get her out, she’s going to ruin her life.’”
Lauren DeCosimo’s mother and teachers had nothing to worry about though. After high school, DeCosimo went on to college, obtaining an undergraduate degree in business marketing and a master’s degree in finance, managing all the while to style hair on the side. It seemed as though DeCosimo had perfected a balance of both worlds; expressing her creativity through hair and her aptitude for sales and business with a job as a pharmaceutical representative straight out of college.
At just 22 years old, DeCosimo had a great job with a stable income and benefits to boot. Styling hair wasn’t exactly necessary as it was innate. DeCosimo had a wealth of local business connections thanks to her mother’s work as a florist, her father as a contractor, an uncle working as a disc jockey, an aunt who owned a candy store and another who worked as a jeweler. Fueled by a family of creators with local Long Island connections, DeCosimo had a window into the wedding industry and would get a lot of referrals for hair styling.
“It got to a point where people would ask, ‘What do you do?’ and I would say, ‘Oh I do hair for weddings’ and that kind of took off and I kept forgetting that, ‘Oh I’m a pharmaceutical sales rep,’” DeCosimo explained.
During the 2010 economic down turn, New York was no exception and word began to spread at DeCosimo’s job that layoffs were imminent. As the youngest member of her team, DeCosimo suspected that she would be the first to go and started looking at her options. Remembering the passion she discovered way back in beauty school, DeCosimo took a leap and created Pinned and Proper, her own company, specializing in customized luxury bridal beauty services.
“I took what I loved and knew and started advertising to see where it would go,” DeCosimo mused, “and I kept getting more and more business.”
Until her eventual departure from the sales life in 2011, DeCosimo led somewhat of a double life; pharmaceutical rep by day and hair stylist by night and weekend, doing her best to keep both worlds separate.
“I got to a point where I was going to have a nervous breakdown,” DeCosimo recalled. “I could not work seven days a week. There were days where I would come home from work and [style] clients’ [hair] after work and on Saturdays I’d be booked solid from like 4 in the morning until 9 o’clock at night. I wouldn’t see daylight because I was doing hair all day, but it was weddings. I wasn’t in a salon, I was doing weddings and everyone was happy drinking mimosas. I mean, you wake up at the Montauk Yacht Club and watch the boats roll in at 6 in the morning having breakfast by yourself and then you get to go make someone beautiful. It was my creative outlet, it was stress free.”
As her company’s name grew, mostly by word of mouth and the wedding planning website, The Knot (for which she was voted Best of Weddings in both 2013 and 2014), DeCosimo realized her future ambitions.
“A lot of people looked at me like I was crazy, saying, ‘You’re a pharmaceutical rep and you want to do hair for the rest of your life?’ I had a lot of people look at me funny,” DeCosimo recalled. “The number one thing I always learned is that hard work pays off. This was something I loved doing but I wasn’t giving 100 percent attention to it. So the fact that I was able to do what I did over the past four years, to me, said that if I did put in 100 percent effort into this, this could be huge.”
With her layoff official and Pinned and Proper ready to stand alone and dominant in her life, DeCosimo left Long Island and moved to the Big Apple.
“My mom said, ‘You’re crazy, you don’t have a job!’ and I said, ‘I’ve been wanting to be in Manhattan for the last 10 years of my life and now I have nothing holding me back.’ I needed to get away and think for myself,” DeCosimo recalled. “I wanted to experience life, go out into the city and spread my wings, to see what’s out there and expand my business.”
Expand she did. Making more money styling hair just one day a week than most make in five, DeCosimo knew she was on the right track and in just a few short years grew faster than she could have ever imagined. Not only had Pinned and Proper become the go-to for bridal beauty services, but for fashion shows as well.
“Last year at this time I was walking around the international beauty show [at New York Fashion Week] asking everybody, ‘You see that guy on stage? How do I get there? That’s what I want to do,’” DeCosimo recalled. “I asked every booth. I literally asked every person and every hair product company that was on the international beauty show. I got business cards, names and contacts and I emailed them all to see what would happen. This year I’m doing four shows in New York Fashion Week. It’s been a dream come true.”
With gigs under her belt for the likes of JLM Couture, amFAR (the Foundation for AIDS Research) and Cutler Salon, DeCosimo’s work is seen across New York in weddings, runways, style magazines and more. Conquering her dreams day-by-day DeCosimo sees room for even more growth.
“I want to see a national company,” DeCosimo said. “It’s going to happen.”
It’s with that attitude that allows DeCosimo to succeed. When asked what advice she would give to aspiring artists of any kind she replied simply, “Don’t take no for an answer.
“I learned in sales that ‘no’ means new opportunity, ask again later,” DeCosimo continued. “I was just always very stubborn; if I wanted something, it didn’t matter who told me no, I was going to get it.”
Living in what DeCosimo refers to as a “different world” in the city amongst artists and those who support their need to create, she has found her direction and whether in spite of or despite the naysayers, has built a solid foundation on which to continue her success. Having referenced the book “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell, DeCosimo takes seriously Gladwell’s observation that no one is truly a professional at anything unless you put in 10,000 hours of work.
“Thinking back on my whole life, I’ve done all these different sales jobs in all different fields and to me it’s what do I know best?” DeCosimo reflected. “I know hair and I started noticing that when I spoke about it my eyes lit up. I’ve put in my due time. It’s something I love and something I can share with people.”