We had the good fortune of connecting with MJ THOMAS and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi MJ, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I was 19 years old when I had my first daughter. I worked, went to school, and was a bartender on the weekends when my daughter was with her dad. I burned the candle on both sides and also in the middle … and with a torch. Burn out much? I remember looking at my life and my schedule and wondering, “how am I ever going to get ahead?”
I come from a very hard-working family, my mother finished her Masters the same year she finished her chemo treatments while being a nurse. My dad was an almost pro basketball player in the Philippines and dropped it all for a chance to come to America. I mean, there was no complaining in my house about any of the decisions and responsibilities we had. Cry your river somewhere else, this house is made for humble hustlers.
One day- I remember asking my mother if she always knew she wanted to be in the medical field. She told me it was her life’s dream. What happened next, I will never forget.
I said, “I don’t feel that way about what I’m doing…”
She said, “Stick with it, you’ll get used to it.”
She was coming from a place of sustainability and doing what was best for the family as she did. Now, there are things that we need to GRIT through, but in my soul, I knew if I continued what I was doing I would be settling.
I tried asking a different way. I asked her what she would do if she could do anything without thinking about what it would require to sacrifice- she said with much excitement, “I would open a medspa where we do facials, laser, injectables… all the things!”. She lit up! That spark, that joy, that tickle was what I wanted to find. So I looked into it…. And as I spiraled deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, I emerged from that rabbit hole enrolled in a local beauty school’s Esthetics Program.
The first day of school the teacher told us we were getting facials. I woke up from that facial relaxed, happy, and reborn. I knew I could make this – whatever THIS was – my thing.
After getting my license, I went on a mission to make this my full-time career. I incorporated being a part time esthetician into my schedule and told myself when I started making as much as my main job, I’ll quit that and keep my bartending job until I made the same as being an esthetician . Literally, 2 months later, I quit all my jobs and for once, had just one. I went pedal to the metal full throttle building my clientele. This was also the first year I made my first 6 figures.
Now 12 years later, I have two studios with 10 resident artists and growing. I have helped women quit their day jobs and side hustles to create the life of their dreams just like I did.
What should our readers know about your business?
I started my career as an Esthetician for a very simple reason- to create a career for myself as a single mother so that I could create my own schedule and also work hard for myself and remove the financial ceiling and corporate structure that I had a hard time fitting into. Little did I know that I was a solo entrepreneur taking the steps towards owning a woman owned and operated corporation for other women to do the same.
It wasn’t easy, but then again- what it is? No matter what industry or career path I could have chosen, there would be difficult times. The jobs that paid well didn’t support my needs for a flexible schedule and other jobs needed more qualifications that I didn’t have. Ambition and great work ethic didn’t make the cut for these. jobs. So I created it myself. Creating a brand, client experience and scaling my service business was challenging. I didn’t know what I was doing. But I was resourceful, ambitious, and hard working. Couple that grit with being brave enough to try and learn from experience literally got me here today. Everything has it’s own level of hard, the beautiful thing is you can choose your hard.
I intentionally created Malaya Studios to be INCLUSIVE, TOLERANT, and COOPERATIVE. It’s about COMMUNITY over COMPETITION because we go farther together. We are all women here at the studios and it’s our core value to help each other thrive as individuals, women, mothers, and wives. We support each other and grow together.
My brand is named after my daughter… Malaya means vast, free, limitless. The studios are full of women who want to serve + empower women to fell confident in their skin. MalayaMade is the Academy to help estheticians + lash artists learn how to build their profitable businesses to be vast, free + limitless.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live In NorCal now but I love me my SoCal vibes. So if we were to leave the kids behind and just be my bestfriend Steph we would for sure hit up Disneyland, grab a hotlink corn dog + dole whip and run that park from morning to night. That would take two days because we all know each park needs it’s own day, okay?!
We would definitely grab some Bruxie + head to Malibu in our inappropriate bathing suits and suns out buns out!
We’d go to Jet Rag in Fairfax and go thrifting all day.
Porto’s is a must!
Alta. Adams because FRIED CHICKEN + greens.
Santa Monica + Venice for more suns out buns out and just chill…
We’d have to see if we make past 8p for anything else but… LA never fails with the eats + things to do..
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Big shoutout to my husband for being my hypeman + fixing my crown without every telling me it’s crooked. The team at Malaya Studios especially my Lash + Ink business partner Stephanie Madrinan + ride or die Andrina Swanson who are connected to me telepathically and never judge my multi-passionate ambitions and can follow my all over the place mind. Most of all my parents + kids for motivating me to break generational burdens and stories to promote healing + ultimate wealth.
Yelp: Malaya Skin Studio