Meet Viola Sarkodee: Founder of Teshura Styling, the Company Revolutionizing Beauty with Inclusivity and Empowerment.

Hello Viola! We’re thrilled to be chatting with you today at FEM-START. Could you share what sparked your entrepreneurial journey and the motivation behind launching Teshura Styling?

My journey into entrepreneurship started at a young age when I discovered my passion for hairstyling. I used to do hair for the girls in my neighbourhood, and this early interest laid the foundation for my future endeavours. However, life took an unexpected turn, and I found myself homeless. Despite the hardship, I managed to save some money and realised something crucial: appearance matters. People often judge you based on your appearance, regardless of your intelligence or potential. 

Determined not to let my circumstances define me, I began caring for my appearance. I wanted to project confidence and resilience, not vulnerability. This personal insight led me to help others in similar situations. While living in a homeless shelter, I began offering hair and makeup services to the women there. I witnessed how a simple makeover could boost their self-esteem and help them present themselves better for job opportunities.

Initially, I named my venture Inside Out because I wanted to reflect these women’s inner strength and beauty through their outward appearance. As I practised and sharpened my skills, people began to notice and ask if I could offer my services more broadly. Despite my initial uncertainty, I embraced the opportunity and began promoting my work.

One pivotal moment came when the manager of Cosmo, a renowned salon, approached me on the street and offered me a job after admiring my hair. I started at the bottom, doing basic tasks like mopping floors and making coffee, but I paid close attention to the stylists. This experience fueled my belief that I could succeed in this field. I began distributing homemade flyers, promoting my services, and slowly built a loyal clientele.

Teshura Styling is also linked to the Makeup Artist school. Can you share your inspiration for doing this with us?

About five years ago, I noticed a gap in the Dutch beauty industry. When I considered attending makeup school to formalise my skills, I discovered that these schools lacked training for diverse ethnicities. This was a significant issue, as I often found myself correcting poorly done hair and makeup for people of color at fashion shows and events. Realizing that the industry needed change, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I eventually went to an international school, initially to learn, but was asked to teach. They recognized my expertise and reputation in the field. However, the school’s reluctance to change its outdated curriculum frustrated me. Their focus was primarily on profit, while my passion was about making a difference.

Driven by this experience, I founded my own school four months later. My mission was to teach and inspire a new generation of stylists who could cater to all ethnicities, ensuring everyone could feel beautiful and confident. Through Teshura Styling, I aim to transform the industry and empower individuals by showing that true beauty comes from within and can be reflected outwardly. 

Can you highlight some key steps and strategies you employed to kickstart Teshura Styling?

My entrepreneurial journey with Teshura Styling began in the simplest way: with homemade flyers. However, I soon realized that, as a newcomer, I needed to do more to build trust and a client base. So, I took a bold step. I offered my services for free, sending over 100 emails with a simple request: if they liked my work, they’d consider hiring me. Though initially, I heard nothing, my persistence paid off after months of weekly follow-ups. 

Delivering exceptional quality was key. By offering free services, I ensured my work was so good that clients wouldn’t want anyone else. I turned to Facebook to amplify my reach, posting before-and-after photos and blogging about my journey. This quickly gained attention, and people knew who I was within six months. I focused on professional women – entrepreneurs who wanted their appearance to reflect their success.

A turning point was when a classmate invited me to help with a designer gig at a fashion show. The designer, impressed with my ability to work with darker skin tones, wanted to collaborate with me from then on. This opened more doors, and celebrities like Jetty Mathurin soon recognized my work. I became known for creating flawless looks for all skin tones, especially for people of color in the TV and fashion industry. I maintained a unique approach: empowering women to feel confident and capable. This personal connection and dedication set Teshura Styling apart. Word of mouth spread, and my client base grew steadily.

From initial flyers to leveraging social media, every step was driven by a desire to make a difference. Today, Teshura Styling is more than a business; it’s a mission to help women reflect their inner strength and beauty on the outside.

How did you manage to build and grow your customer base?

It is all about confidence and focus. I believed deeply in my skills and showcased what I could do without worrying about what other makeup artists were doing. It’s easy to lose confidence if you constantly compare yourself to others.  I like to say I lived in a bubble, staying aware of trends but not obsessing over them. Obsession can lead to self-doubt and distraction, so I stayed focused on my own path. Recently, I’ve learned more about self-doubt, but back then, my intense focus kept me driven and confident.

Working smart and staying passionate was key. Passion fuels everything I do. I always advise people to be passionate about their work, not to get into it just for the money. If you focus solely on money, you lose sight of the craft. By staying passionate and committed to excellence, I grew my customer base steadily and authentically.

Reflecting on your journey, what were some significant mistakes, and what lessons did you learn from them?

Reflecting on my journey, I’ve made significant mistakes, but each has taught me valuable lessons. Coming from a background without support, I often tried to help others too soon. I would pour my time and resources into talented individuals who weren’t ready, diverting focus from my own goals. The blind can’t lead the blind, and I learned that you must be solid yourself before you can effectively help others.

If I could start over, I’d maintain the intense focus I had in my first five years, concentrating on my growth before helping others. It’s not about being selfish, but rather about ensuring you’re stable before extending help.

Another major lesson was the importance of having a mentor and a business plan. Initially, I didn’t seek guidance from successful entrepreneurs or create a business plan because I thought passion was enough. However, having a business plan to track your progress and understand your market is crucial, especially when you hit a plateau and want to grow. I eventually learned to seek inspiration from role models like Marian Spier. I started asking for help and overcoming imposter syndrome. It’s essential to own up to your mistakes and learn from others. Now, I have no fear of reaching out, whether it’s to a successful entrepreneur or even someone like Michelle Obama. The worst that can happen is a “no”, and that’s okay.

So, my advice is: don’t be afraid to ask for help, create a solid business plan, and stay focused on your goals. You can always be a philanthropist later once you’re established. Embrace your mistakes, learn from them, and keep pushing forward.

What stands out as your biggest achievement since founding Teshura Styling?

I am not there yet.

But reflecting on my journey with Teshura Styling, I realise that my achievement isn’t a single milestone but a continuous effort towards inclusion. While I still feel there’s much to accomplish, I’m proud of starting a movement for greater inclusivity in the beauty industry. My school uniquely incorporates every continent’s beauty tradition, setting a precedent that other schools have begun to follow. This initiative has helped raise awareness about the importance of including all ethnicities and making everyone feel valued.

Another significant achievement is my personal journey from having nothing to building something impactful. Though I often didn’t recognize it as an achievement, I’ve started to meditate and reflect on my accomplishments, using them as fuel for future endeavours. I continually strive for more, constantly identifying areas that need change. Ultimately, my work goes beyond makeup; it’s about activism through beauty. I’m proud to be part of a larger movement, surrounded by many women who share this mission. We’re not there yet, but we’re making a difference together.

What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs, particularly those who do not believe they can do it?

My advice is simple: just go for it. If you fall, get back up and try again with a different strategy. Observe others and learn from their best practices. Remember, if you don’t try, nothing will change. So why not take the leap?

It’s crucial to pursue something you’re passionate about. Don’t start a business just to make money. If your heart isn’t in it, you’ll lose interest and motivation, and your venture might crumble. Reflect on your childhood passions. Whether it was music, crafts, or something else, revisit those early joys and develop them further.

You can build a business around anything. There’s always a market for your unique talents. Find your niche, excel at what you love, and the money will follow. I never imagined I’d end up in makeup. I initially thought I’d be a psychiatrist, studying social sciences and helping people. But I realised my true passion was making people feel good about themselves, something I’ve been doing since I was nine. Returning to that passion is what ultimately got me off the streets and onto a successful path.

Believe in yourself, follow your passion, and success will come.

What’s next for Teshura Styling? Is there anything we can look forward to?

Teshura Styling’s bright future shines with a vision to expand the educational aspect of the school to great heights. With a solid business plan in place from the FEM-START training, the goal is to enhance and broaden the school’s reach even further. 

Additionally, we want to get more involved in revolutionising the film industry to be more inclusive of diverse cultures. The mission is to bring more people of color into the industry, fostering a platform for cross-cultural learning and collaboration. By partnering with brands, we share a commitment to empower and uplift individuals from diverse backgrounds, creating a more inclusive and vibrant landscape.


If you want to know more about Viola’s company, Teshura Styling, Click here! 


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