Duquesne student balances education with business endeavors

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor Isis Philibert (Right) runs her lash business on top of being a full-time student at Duquesne University. She has about 60 loyal customers, which she gained over a year and a half. She is a business major and leads multiple organizations.

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor

Oct. 27, 2022

At 8:15 a.m. on Tuesday mornings, Isis Philibert takes the 40 minute bus ride from Homewood to Duquesne University. Her first class starts at 9:25 a.m. — and after her five consecutive classes end at 4:20 p.m. — she walks a mile-and-a-half to the Investment Building in Downtown.

Most Tuesdays, she makes an effort to see just one client, but Monday Oct. 24, she has two regulars booked. A typical session lasts anywhere from 2 to 2-and-a-half hours. Philibert finishes in time to catch the bus back home.

A current junior and entrepreneurship major at Duquesne, Philibert is not a stranger to working from sun-up to sun-down.

While it is not unusual for a college student to have a heavy-workload, what separates Philibert from her peers is her fierce work ethic and her ambition. The soon-to-be 21-year-old is the Owner of ICEY Aesthetics, an eyelash extension artist and supplier, located on 4th Avenue in Pittsburgh.

Philibert started selling sunglasses in the summer of 2019 as a way to supplement her income and lay the foundation for her future business endeavors. Operating from a rented room out of South Side, Philibert made the slow transition from retail to lashes.

“I had worked three other jobs, and I used that money to pay my rent. I was working at [TGI]Fridays, I worked at FedEx, I went to school, and I worked at Cold Stone Creamery throughout that whole duration.” Philibert said. “I only had one client who was coming in every month. That was it. I made $60 for the whole month and my rent was 275. So everything else I did made up for rent. I did that for about nine months. I didn’t start making money with lashes until March of 2021.”

During the pandemic, Philibert used her time to hone her skills and prepare to enter the world of entrepreneurship. Even though she was not making money for her lashes, she had the foresight to create an LLC.

Initially a biology major, Philibert said she had “no plan B” as she mapped out her path to become a veterinarian. Her decision to get into entrepreneurship came from being a client herself.

“I always got my lashes done, and I walk like ‘oh this is cool.’ And one day I just asked my lash artist, ‘how much money do you make a week or something?’ and she never told me how much ,but she said she made ‘decent money’” Philibert said. “I was like, wow, I come here every two weeks and if I can figure out how much money I put into this, about $60 every two weeks, that’s about $120 a month I just spend on lashes. That’s decent money for one person. So ok, maybe I should try it.”

From there, Philibert took the three month course, on top of her Duquesne classes, to obtain the proper licenses. As she learned the craft of eyelash extension she would practice on friends from her dorm where sessions could last anywhere from four to six hours.

“I have really good friends,” Philibert said. “I really appreciate them.”

The business started out slowly for Philibert. She had only one client for nine months.

“I had friends who had come, but there was only one consistent client. She would do it roughly twice a month. And like I said, my rent was $275 a month, so I was making about $60 to $120 a month,” Philibert said.

Not to be deterred, with the help of social media, an intense work ethic and persistence, Philibert has grown her client base to around 60 customers in a year-and-a-half. Not only has she focused on honing her craft but makes a strong effort to provide top-notch customer service.

“I come every two to three weeks and I’ve been coming for about six months. She’s one of the best. I’ve been to a couple of lash artists around Pittsburgh, and I really appreciate the work that she does and how reliable and responsible she is with appointments.” said Abby Settembrino, one of Philibert’s regular clients.

Her success and increase in clientele led her to partner up with Brianna Maenz, a former client, to open up a salon Downtown.

“She is literally my low-key inspiration. I wish I had done that at her age,” Maenz said. “I really appreciate her and I just love our dynamic. We really feed off of each other. I have ideas, she has ideas, and we just work together. It’s the best, we’re business partners but we can also be besties.”

Philibert’s work ethic stems from her upbringing.

“I’m originally from New York City, if you’re familiar with that city, it’s a hostile city. I didn’t come from much you know. I have a great family support system and all that good stuff but nobody’s been to college,” said Philibert.

Philibert also credits her mother.

“We came from humble beginnings. My mom was a really hard worker. It was just natural. When I started school I worked at Coldstone, I worked crazy hours, I would pull 96 hour weeks.”

On Friday during the Black Student Union’s Annual Black Expo, Philibert debuted another retail venture. Aside from selling her own brand of eye-lashes to venders, Philibert was able to utilize the maker space to expand her brand into merchandising. Offering black tote bags with “Lashes that just make sense.” Shoppers could pick from a variety of colors for the font.

“I went to the maker space, and every night after class or clients, I made 37 bags. The goal was 48 but I couldn’t get to all of them. I was too tired. I actually made my own money back and some profit…It was a really pleasant surprise” Philibert said.

She still finds time to participate in organizations on campus. She is a member of the BSU and the co-president of the Duquesne entrepreneur council.

“Isis is an amazing businesswoman who truly is inspirational to everyone including members of the Black Student Union. It truly is not easy running a Black owned business, but to also be a college student while doing that, Isis has mine and BSU’s respect” said BSU President Lindsey Harris.