Almost one year ago, Natasha Cornstein, CEO of beauty services retailer Blushington, was poised to open a sixth and most significant location—a 2,500-square-foot flagship in Manhattan. In addition to offering the usual roster of makeup applications, lash and brow enhancements and facials, the new space would also allow clients to get their hair done. It was going to be, said Natasha, “a house for transformative beauty instead of having to go from place to place.”

The opening didn’t happen. And a couple of weeks later, when it was apparent the pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon, Natasha started making a list of what she could do for the business to survive.

“I knew I wasn’t alone,” said Natasha. “I reached out to CEOs of 25 other beauty and wellness brands, and we met regularly to discuss solving our immediate concerns – how to handle brick and mortar leases, furloughing our teams, vendor relations. In the midst of what was a pretty devastating time for someone in our type of business – the business of touching faces – we were still able to come together with other people.”

Instead of waiting for it to be safe to reopen, Natasha made the decision to pivot, first offering virtual makeup classes and parties—some tailored especially for first responders and essential workers—then branching out into virtual bridal makeup lessons and beauty boot camps. She initiated corporate team building classes around make-up, which companies of every size signed up for as a way to enliven their regular Zoom gatherings. She focused on digital sales of beauty products, which had accounted for 30 percent of Blushington’s revenue when brick-and-mortar locations were operational.

And in a major commitment to its education platform, the first class from newly-formed Blushington Academy for Artist Advancement took place on January 11. Through it, people from across the nation have access to a 25-hour course designed to set them up for a career in makeup artistry.

“This allows us to certify artists from anywhere in the country,” said Natasha. “The Academy was born out of close to a decade of Blushington training artists at its brick-and-mortar locations, who would then go on to focus entirely on stage makeup, special effects and runway. But the vast majority of makeup artists work with everyday women, and that was something we wanted to focus on through the Academy.”

In addition to the technical aspects of makeup application, the live, interactive course also offers guidance on how to manage a freelance career, find clients and how to stock a pro kit. Since it launched, the Academy has attracted hairstylists and aestheticians looking to expand their services, people who have dabbled in makeup artistry who now want to specialize in it, as well as people seeking a career change, including several nurses and a former pageant queen who is now a grandmother. Many, said Natasha, are located in states that are reopening and are booking appointments. “It’s exciting to see so many people finally following their passion.”

The course, which costs $975 and includes a kit valued at more than $1,000, also allows graduates to be listed on Blushington’s geo-searchable directory, as well as giving them the opportunity to earn commission on products they sell and be part of a national network.

“The artist can be out there working and can get incremental revenue from sales and Blushington does the fulfilment,” said Natasha. “They can sell products from home, promote on their social media and they will have the community of Blushington behind them. There will be monthly meetings with brand founders, and opportunities for continuing education. Freelancing can be lonely, but this way, it doesn’t have to be.”

Natasha is seeking ways to expand the Academy, looking to take it international, believing that education will be the cornerstone of Blushington.

“The brand can thrive and be even more successful on the digital platform,” she said. “The Academy is the centerpiece of the brand’s future.”

Blushington’s five stores, located in New York, Dallas and Los Angeles, remain closed.