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The Short Version: Kara Reade Gomez never expected she’d end up helping brides look beautiful on their wedding days. But her own difficulty in finding a hair and makeup coordinator for her special day motivated her to found Best Face Forward to provide others with a better experience. More than seven years later, the service, based in Virginia, has expanded to two other locations and developed a loyal following of satisfied clients. In 2018, Best Face Forward provided hair and makeup services for more than 200 events, and Kara and her team plan to build on that number in 2019.
Coastal Virginia isn’t often known for snowstorms, which may be the reason one bride didn’t think twice about the weather when planning her winter wedding there. Nevertheless, as her big day approached, the forecast for the Hampton Roads region, where her ceremony was to take place, included a monumental snowstorm.
To beat the blizzard, the bride moved her wedding from Saturday to Friday at the last minute. Guests had to scramble, and many wedding vendors had to change their preparations. That included the bride’s hair and makeup stylist from Best Face Forward, who rushed over to get her ready to walk down the aisle.
Best Face Forward is known for its premium service, but Founder Kara Reade Gomez recognized that one of her stylists — whom she calls artists because of their skill level — went above and beyond for this particular bride.
“My artist dropped what she was doing, rushed to her car, and drove straight to the venue just as it was starting to snow,” Kara said. “She got both the bride and her mom ready and down the aisle in time. I think that’s a record.”
Though that client’s situation was unique, Best Face Forward’s focus on brides is built into its day-to-day operations. The company creates streamlined hair and makeup plans for brides and bridal parties that always reflect the specific needs of the bride.
The team believes that each bride is different, and team members want to cater to her needs. Kara developed that philosophy when planning the hair and makeup she wanted for her own wedding. “I wanted to be a more natural bride, but I struggled to find a stylist who would do that for me,” she told us.
In fact, she was told that no service could provide what she wanted. Not only did hair and makeup teams typically work separately, but no stylists focused on creating a natural look.
“A friend told me that what I wanted didn’t exist, so I needed to create a company myself if I wanted that,” said Kara.
After some research, and a little persuasion, Kara created Best Face Forward to offer brides exactly what they want on their big days.
Kara is perhaps a surprising makeup artist because she doesn’t wear that much makeup herself, but she certainly has an understanding of the beauty industry, with a specific focus on skincare. When she decided to start her business, she enlisted the help of her mother, Susie Reade.
“My mom was a trainer in the beauty industry and was considered kind of a skin pro throughout the region,” she said.
Kara asked around at bridal shows to see if she could find vendors that collaborated on a single, cohesive look. She and her mother decided that this whole-look package would be the focus of their business. Best Face Forward initially catered to young professionals who wanted to have healthier skin and not spend an hour each day applying makeup.
“I was told that a lot of young professionals want to look natural,” Kara said.
She launched Best Face Forward in 2011 in the Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland metropolitan area. At first, Kara and her mother did much of the makeup and contracted with hairstylists who were excited to produce new looks off-site. Over its seven years in business, Best Face Forward has grown to a team of 30 artists serving three areas. Today, Best Face Forward serves Corpus Christi, Texas, and Coastal Virginia.
Though they cater to the bride’s taste and vision, each artist also has a specialty.
“My artists have across-the-board skills to meet client needs, but I also want to help them thrive in what they love to do,” Kara said. “Some of them live for weddings and creating those beautiful braids and updos that live in bridal photos forever, while others really get excited for the professional look of headshots, or the creativity they can use for pageant clients.”
Best Face Forward collaborates with brides to create the look they envision. When a bride contracts with Best Face Forward, she is sent a questionnaire which she can describe her skin care and makeup routine and beauty habits. Kara’s team asks brides to submit images of themselves as well as photo inspiration for how they’d like to look on their big day.
“I ask them how much change they want to see, on a scale of 1 to 10,” Kara said. “But if someone who never wears makeup sends me an inspiration photo of someone who looks like Kim Kardashian, we need to have a conversation.”
Another unique feature of Best Face Forward is that the beauty process is entirely focused on the bride until 45 days before the wedding. Only then does the bride need to determine the party numbers and the general look for them.
“We love helping bring the calm and organization to parties as large as 10-plus people,” Kara said. “However, unlike other bridal styling companies who have service number requirements, Best Face Forward can also service just a bride and the artists really love the smaller, more intimate affairs equally.”
The pressure of planning a Pinterest-worthy wedding can often get to some brides, which may be why Kara said she sees a trend of more couples deciding to elope.
“Since we believe the bride is the star of the show no matter what, I’m proud that our focus on people first really stands out to couples planning to elope,” Kara said. “They deserve the same luxury relaxing experience as those having a huge event. Besides, the smallest of ceremonies are some of our most memorable.”
Best Face Forward’s focus on brides and holistic beauty have made it a sought-after service in the areas in which it does business. In 2018, the company worked 200 events throughout the year — an impressive feat for any styling business.
Only a few days into 2019, Best Face Forward already had 54 events on its calendar. Kara attributes the company’s success to referrals by people who want to give back to a business that invested in them on one of the most important days of their lives.
“We always start each relationship with an email saying we’re happy to welcome you to the Best Face Forward bridal family,” Kara said. “We have wonderful supporters.”
So wonderful, in fact, that 60% of the company’s business comes from referrals.
Remember that bride Best Face Forward accommodated before the Virginia blizzard? She’s a huge advocate for the business, too, and has created several referrals for the company.
“She tells us that she felt she looked like a princess,” Kara said. “Even with everything else going on, she still looked exactly like how we planned.”
Even seven years in, Kara continues to be amazed by the serendipitous experience of creating her business.
“It all started with my own experience, and I try to keep that at the forefront of my mind,” she said. “These brides have a relationship with us that I had with my wedding vendors. Because I had reliable vendors, nothing went wrong. I want to give that seamless experience to them, too.”