Career 180: Hiyam McKelvey is all ‘puckered’ up

Hiyam McKelvey opened Pucker, a makeup bar at 129 Grand St. that offers professional, affordable applications, in February. Born in Detroit and raised in Sunset Park, McKelvey started out in finance at several investment banks before spending 11 years at Lehman Brothers. She then joined Barclays, but left finance on Feb. 5, 2010, the day before her son was born, to commit to being a stay-at-home mom (which lasted four years until her eye for business opened once again). McKelvey, 42, lives on the Upper East Side.

Why didn’t you go back to finance?

My husband is an entrepreneur and after seeing the way his business affected people and the direct connection he has with his customers, I just couldn’t imagine going back to a big bureaucratic organization. Finance was great but it doesn’t provide the same opportunity for fulfillment.

How did you get the idea for Pucker?

I had my makeup done for a party, which was a great experience — it made me feel more confident and more excited about going out and meeting new people. My immediate feeling was that all women should have the same opportunity, but the cost of a professional makeup application was just too high for most people. Pucker was a way to make the transformative feeling more accessible.

What sets Pucker apart from other salons?

We only do makeup and we don’t push product sales which allows us to focus our energy on doing the best makeup application possible. Our goal is for every person who leaves the studio to feel like they’re the most beautiful they’ve ever been.

What is your favorite kind of makeup?

I’m just starting to fall in love with RMS Beauty. Their products are gorgeous and their philosophy toward makeup is unique: It should not only be non-toxic, it should also nourish the skin and make the user healthier.

What is a pro and a con of your new job?

A pro is that I get to meet and spend time with amazing women every day. It’s inspiring to get to know them a little bit and then to see them walk out of the studio looking fabulous. A con is that the job never stops; it’s not like I can walk out at the end of the day and relax — it’s all on me all the time.

How did finance prepare you for this?

The requirement to be professional and organized in my previous job has applied directly to what I’m doing now. I learned to run a tight ship which is a trait I don’t think is pervasive in the beauty industry.

Do you wish you had gone into this originally?

No, I wouldn’t have been ready. I needed the foundation of seeing the way a company works in order to be confident that I could do it myself.

Do you have any advice for our readers who are considering a career 180?

Follow your passion. Nothing could possibly be better than waking up in the morning and jumping out of bed because you’re excited to go to work. Life is short — it’s not worth wasting your time in a job that doesn’t satisfy you on multiple levels.

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