Career 180: Rachel McLaughlin got a ‘prettier’ life

On changing careers: “I think that with that risk comes so much happiness”

Rachel McLaughlin devotes her time to helping women get dressed up painlessly and affordably. She worked in financial services consulting at PricewaterhouseCoopers for six years until June 2012. In December 2013, she co-launched Prettier Please, an at-home hair and makeup service, with her classmate Olivia Cranin. McLaughlin, 30, recently received her Master’s in Business Administration at Columbia Business School. She lives on the Upper West Side with her husband and cat, August.


Why did you switch careers?

I really just wanted to focus on something that I was passionate about. In my prior career I was working in the financial services sector, so I just really wanted to do something that was a little more in line with an issue or product or problem that I just resonated with or was passionate about as a woman.


How did you get interested in beauty?

I think every busy female in New York City is conscious of her appearance and likes to try new things, new services, new products, so it’s always kind of been something that I have loved to try out and [it] gets me motivated.


What gave you the idea for Prettier Please?

My co-founder Olivia and I, I would say over the past year or so being in business school and turning 30, we had so many weddings to attend — between the two of us there were 24 — and we just found that the current process of getting ready for these events, where we have to look our best, was time consuming, stressful [and] expensive. We just found ourselves running to blow-dry bars downtown and department stores to get our makeup done and it would consume an entire day.


How does Prettier Please differ from a salon?

We offer a pretty simple menu of services so we try to keep it easy to understand, straight-forward, really just the bare essentials that a woman needs; and it’s focused completely around convenience. We do try to bring the salon experience to you in an efficient manner, so our stylists are trained to just give you an amazing customer experience: They show up with a drink in hand and the customer gets a text message when the stylist is 15 minutes away.


What besides makeup makes you feel beautiful?

Looking great, wearing a great outfit, I think being in good company, whether that’s with friends or a significant other or family. And I think being successful, as well.


What is a good and bad part of your new job?

I would say a pro, I love it. I think about it all the time and it’s great to have just so much passion and ideas constantly flowing into your brain at all hours of the day and evening. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like this in any prior career or internship in my life, so it’s incredibly rewarding.

And as far as the cons, I would say oftentimes lack of sleep and inability to think straight the next day. But it’s all worth it and there’s a tradeoff for everything.


Do you wish you had gone into this originally?

I definitely think my last career really prepared me for this. In consulting I was on the road 80% of the time, so it became almost impossible, especially in the last two years of my [former] career as I became older and my lifestyle changed and I had a lot more events to go to where it wasn’t possible to get an appointment on Friday if I was booking an appointment on a plane really late Thursday night.

So I definitely think that being busy and away from the city in which you live, it just creates this whole other thing to be stressed about. So if it weren’t for that kind of crazy career experience and my schedule in consulting I don’t think I would have had the passion that’s derived from having this experience so many times for so long.


How will getting your MBA help you?

I definitely think from a marketing standpoint. So I was a finance major in undergrad, and in consulting for financial services clients, I never really had to think about marketing to a customer. All of my marketing kinds of classes that I’ve taken have been tremendously helpful; and even business strategy I would say as well.


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

I would highly recommend it. I think it is sometimes really difficult to see the upside in something that is really risky and so dramatically different than what you’ve done for quite some time but I think that with that risk comes so much happiness and reward that I don’t think you can put a dollar value on at all.

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