My Early Hour: Sadia Akhtar, IBESADIA, Makeup Artist

“The greatest challenge when running your own business in the makeup industry is staying relevant,” says makeup artist Sadia Akhtar or IBESADIA. She entered the industry at 16, left to complete a law degree, and is now back, making “people feel beautiful”.

Sadia Akhtar is 24 and lives in Birmingham with her husband, Muhib, 23, and son Zakariyah, one.

What’s your home/home life like?
Home life can get really busy and tiring! Especially as I’m seven months pregnant with baby number two. I had an emergency caesarean last year with Zakariyah so I had a lot of strain on my body, which causes me to get exhausted quite quickly. But as hard as it gets, it’s always satisfying getting in to bed at the end of a long day knowing you’ve made some precious memories with your family.

What time are you up in the morning?
My husband gets up five days a week at 5am for work. When I wasn’t heavily pregnant, I would wake up before him, prep his lunch and breakfast, then go back to bed to wake up again between 7/8am. But now that I’m further into the pregnancy, I prepare his lunch the night before and he gets up to make his own breakfast. So most mornings I am awake at 8am.

What wakes you up?
Zakariyah wakes me up every morning. His cot is currently attached to my side of the bed, as he is a fussy sleeper, and wakes constantly throughout the night crying. I watch him pretty much every night and when Muhib isn’t working the next day, he will switch sides. But literally every morning Zakariyah gets up, crawls on to me and kisses and pats me until I wake up to take him down for his breakfast.

How do you feel?
Some mornings I feel so tired and drained, especially when I’m not getting a decent night’s sleep four/five nights out of seven. And then there are some mornings where I’m super energetic and raring to go. But I think that’s due to all the hormones.

I took on my first bridal makeup booking a week after my 16th birthday

What do you do first thing?
The first thing I do is get Zakariyah clean and fresh, brush his teeth, and make his breakfast. Once he has eaten I’ll make myself (and my husband if it’s his day off) breakfast. Zakariyah is so active in the mornings so most of the morning, I am keeping him entertained and running around after him.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Organised, tiring, CBeebies.

What’s for breakfast?
Zakariyah will have Weetabix, or toast with either some scrambled eggs or jam. Muhib will either have muesli, porridge or Weetabix, and I’ll either have any chocolate-based cereal, or toast and scrambled eggs. On days Muhib is off work, we will have crepes with Nutella, strawberries and banana.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
If I have a makeup booking I will attend to clients. If I have no bookings then I spend the entire day playing and bonding with Zakariyah. I’m trying to spend as much time with him as I can before the new baby arrives in November. If I’m lucky, I get a nap during the day whilst Zakariyah has his. Muhib finishes work and comes home between 6-8pm depending on how busy his work schedule is. He will then play with Zakariyah whilst I either prepare dinner or get some rest.



What’s your workspace like?
I usually travel to my clients, but as it’s becoming harder to stand for prolonged periods of time, some clients are willing to come to me at my home. When Zakariyah was literally a week old, my younger sister Nadia, 18, and I opened our own beauty salon, but soon after opening we decided we would re-open it at a later stage, due to me needing time to recover from an emergency c section and family commitments, and her wanting to go on to university.

Where is Zakariyah when you’re working?
When I am working I will drop Zakariyah to either my mum’s house or Muhibs’ mum’s house. If Muhib is off work he will have him.

Tell us about your business…
I took on my first bridal makeup booking a week after my 16th birthday. Although I had a Facebook page advertising my makeup business in 2008, it wasn’t until 2013 that I had a steady business. I slowly started taking bookings around my college life. Then when I was 19, I went to university to study law and it wasn’t until then that I decided I wanted to make my makeup business bigger.

I was always creative, art was always my strongest subject, I was literally two points away from getting an A* for my art GCSE. I joined Instagram under my user name IBESADIA in January 2013 and put my work out there, and to my huge surprise I gained a steady following. Over the years, my user name has become no longer just a user name; it’s an identity, and a brand even.

People recognise me when I’m out and say: “omg, you’re Ibesadia, we love your work” etc. At one point, I went abroad to study law and lost a huge amount of my followers, as I stopped posting makeup. I was really disappointed but it made me focus. I decided I wanted to make ‘IBESADIA’ even bigger, so I decided to make the business a priority. I started to not only take makeup bookings, but also giving one-to-one makeup lessons and group workshops.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
The greatest challenge when running your own business in the makeup industry is staying relevant. The minute people realise you haven’t posted a look in even a week, you lose 100s of followers. Then you have to put in extra effort to regain them. When your business is marketed online you always have to have content to share.

Sometimes I’m so busy with freelancing and home life, I forget to even check my Instagram and when I do, I’ve literally lost anything from 100 to 1000 followers for simply not posting, then I will create or share client looks with their consent to try and re-build that base. Sometimes, I think about hiring a PA to tend to my emails and to manage my Instagram account, as it gets challenging balancing work and family life, but then I have my reservations as I’d rather be all hands on deck when it comes to interacting with my clients.

What makes it all worthwhile?
Knowing that I have made someone feel beautiful. I just love handing the mirror to my client after I’m done applying their makeup. The look on their faces is always a joy to witness and is priceless. That look when someone feels beautiful is what it’s all about, I mean anyone can “look” beautiful but I feel my job is to make someone “feel” it.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others; do you enjoy, for instance, the creative side but not the accounts?
Since 16 I have managed everything by myself. I love the creative side. The only thing I think I’ve had help with is travel. Sometimes my mum or husband will drop me off to clients and will pick me up. I’ve passed my driving test, but I find it easier and safer knowing someone is dropping me off, waiting for me to give the all clear to leave, and knows where my location is. Despite taking advance deposits, there is no way of knowing who may have booked you. Safety is number one when traveling to clients.

The accounts can get confusing sometimes as with some clients I will apply a discount if there’s a group booking and I may forget how much I offered them, so I will be going through chains of emails to remind myself. Since becoming pregnant and having a really bad memory, my husband has been reminding me of bookings – although I write down all my bookings in a diary and in my phone, I still manage to forget them. Sometimes I don’t know how he manages to remind me with his own busy schedule.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I have always preferred working on my own. I have worked as part of many teams before in previous jobs and don’t get me wrong I loved it, but I feel when I am working on my own I work harder, and I am more motivated, as I know when I’ve completed something it was me who made it happen.

What’s the secret to career success?
Motivation. You need to be 100% motivated in whatever you do. If you want a career where you want to be your own boss you can’t afford to put in half the effort and be lazy with it, you need to put in your all, blood sweat and tears.

…And to Instagram success(a stable social media following)?
As I mentioned: staying relevant. Everyone starts at the bottom and is unknown, you have to keep yourself known, you need to stay in the, let’s say, “public eye” , as you’re on an open network. You have to also be willing to, in some light, share parts of your private life to help build a foundation of trust between yourself and potential clients, and followers.

For the past three/four years I have been working hard on my own IBESADIA cosmetics and false eyelashes line. I want to perfect it before launching it

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing motherhood/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
It can be a juggle. I am fortunate enough to have a great relationship with my husband, we both understand each other’s work routines and we help each other perform our best when it comes to work. Like I said before, I’ll attend to Zakariyah during the nights so Muhib can be fresh for his job, and so that he can get as much sleep as possible.

Working for myself has its benefits as I can choose whether or not to take a booking and what days I have off etc. It’s finding me-time and time for friends that can become difficult. The “me time” I am happy with is squeezing in a bubble bath around 12pm, when my husband and Zakariyah are sleeping. I see friends once every two/three months if that, they are all full time employees/students or mothers themselves so everyone is always busy, but we will somehow arrange a meet-up and catch up. I think the secret for juggling everything is finding some time rather than no time at all.

Describe an ideal weekend?
An ideal weekend would be the weekends my husband doesn’t work. I just love spending time off with Muhib and Zakariyah, away from the hectic workflow. Staying at home bonding is my absolute favourite thing. If the weather is good, I love going to the park with both of them and feeding the ducks, or just watching Zakariyah enjoying himself in the play area.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
The Maldives. I’ve never been but it just looks so calm, serene and tranquil. Just seeing videos of the Maldives calms me, the blue seas, clear skies and sandy beaches.

Any future ventures?
For the past three/four years I have been working hard on my own IBESADIA cosmetics and false eyelashes line. I want to perfect it before launching it. These things take time and commitment. But hopefully soon, there will be a launch. I’ve been a bit sidetracked with mummy duties since having Zakariyah and now being pregnant again so soon, so it’s been on hold temporarily but it is something I am going to pursue.

Any other comments?
To all the mummies and daddies out there who want to work for themselves but think they can’t because they have children, trust me you can! If you put your mind to it you can achieve anything, dreams can come true. Don’t think you have to sacrifice career choices just because you have children, if you work hard your career choice can give your child a better and stable future. The way I see it is, I’d rather struggle and be tired today and see my children living easy and full of life tomorrow. It’s all worth it in the end.

IBESADIA on Instagram: @ibesadia