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Face Painting is Big Business for KPS Grad
Where Are They Now?: Anna Wilinski is founder of Jest Paint
Anna Wilinski started clowning around in fourth grade, but within a few years she switched her focus to face painting.
Now, her chosen profession is no laughing matter, because she’s gone from face painter to face paint entrepreneur whose company, Jest Paint, is on target to hit their best year in sales, which have been increasing at consistently since 2009.
Wilinski was a private school student when a new family moved into town and introduced her to clowning. While she liked it, her interests were really ignited when she got into face painting a year later at age 10.
“I just like interacting with people while creating art,” Wilinski said. “You talk to them and mess around with them and joke with the kids. Then, once they’re done, they get so much attention. It’s a special transformation.”
When she was 16, she transferred to Loy Norrix High School. She said she took a number of art classes, but the thing she most enjoyed about Norrix was the mix of students.
“I hung out with the international students, and I hung out with a lot of the handicapped populations because one of our neighbors was handicapped. And, a lot of the advanced English kids,” she said. “I wished I could bring some friends from my old school. They were struggling with having few people like them. I told them, ‘Come over here and you’ll have 80 people who like the same music or who look like you.’”
She graduated from Norrix in 1998.
At the height of her popularity as a face painter, she was doing 100 gigs a year, usually two to five events a weekend.
By 2004, she’d begun teaching at conventions and by 2006 she was making YouTube videos about face painting — and collecting quite a few followers. She also started creating her own rainbow-colored cakes of makeup. At one convention, someone approached her about demonstrating a line of face paints that was new to the United States. She liked them so much, she decided to open an online store to sell them to her YouTube fans.
Wilinski started with that one line of paints, and now Jest Paint has more than 2,500 products from 15 brands of face paint. She runs the online store at jestpaint.com with her husband Santiago Massano, and they have thousands of customers who turn to them for face paints, bling, brushes and sponges, templates for airbrush painting, and practice mats. They have even developed their own lines of face paint accessories. They have two full-time and two part-time employees, who operate out of a facility in the Trestlewood complex — just across from Loy Norrix, her alma mater.
She’s been surprised by the growth of the business. The first year saw several thousand dollars in sales.
“When we started, we’d be shipping out two to three orders a week. I used to say, ‘Wouldn’t it be crazy if we had 10 orders in one day?’ Now we can sell the same amount in one day that we sold that entire first year,” Wilinski said. “I can’t believe this; this total fantasy seemed unattainable.”
Much of the growth is attributed to the business’ embrace of social media. They maintain an active website, with links to their YouTube channel and a blog that keeps face painters up to date with posts on topics such as painting techniques and federal regulations. They also are active on Facebook with more than 5,000 friends and they reach out to their customers via email marketing to promote sales and important announcements. They are also setting up stores in several different marketplaces to increase sales.
“A lot of customers see us as a source of honest information,” Massano said. “We put truth before sales.”
“We’re not afraid to say, ‘You might like this, but you might notice …,” Wilinski said.
The couple plans to keep growing the business. They’re working on a new mobile website, and they continue expanding their use of social media, creating more videos on face painting and attending conventions to teach classes and sell their products. They also continue to work on finding balance, between work and family life with their children Oceana, 12, a student at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts, and Angelo, 4, who is in preschool.
“Sometimes the orders just keep coming in a few minutes apart when there is a sale going on, there comes one at 5:05, 5:08, 5:10 p.m.,” Wilinski said. “There are so many people shopping on our site. People all over the world are on the site, talking about our products, talking about us. It’s so bizarre that it’s taken off that fast.”
Jest Paint Learn more about Anna Wilinski's business.