Shelley Bellefontaine - Founder of You Name It Face and Body Art

Shelley Bellefontaine, a very enthusiastic and bubbly military wife, explains how she “stumbled” into the business of body art and face painting.  Early on, Shelley was humble enough to realize she lacked any business experience, but she excelled as a student and had a willingness to learn from the ground up. She attended major body art conventions and participated in workshops. She learned not only about art techniques, but also about the basics of running a business.

 “I never treated this activity as a hobby. From the beginning, I focused on making this into a thriving business,” says Shelley.  “I wanted to contribute financially for my family. At first, the money I made went towards a family vacation. Now it pays my son’s university fees as well”

Her husband Brad, who is an officer in the Canadian Forces, had taken a few face painting classes too at first, just to help Shelley out. He attended the first convention along with Shelley and ended up having so much fun that “next thing you know, he signed up for workshop and courses at the convention and with some of the best teachers in the industry,” laughs Shelley.

A good friend of Shelley’s and fellow military wife, also locally known as Silly Sally the Clown, introduced Shelley to an artist who worked for such organizations as Cirque du Soleil.

Shelley explains that she was very fortunate to have been introduced to her new mentor. “She was an accomplished and well networked teacher and she opened amazing doors for me as well as mentored me.”   Shelley, says the timing was good, help was needed and Shelley was excited to learn the craft at a more professional level.

“This type of business was a perfect fit for me, it was creative and portable. I could take the business with me across the country every time we were posted,” she says.

What motivated Shelley to leave a budding career in social work to create a business in face painting and body art?  “I’m typical of many military wives: many moves from place to place, hubby always being away, and then along came my sons Justin and Tyler,“  she smiles. “We adjusted our lives. I decided to stay at home until the children began school and then get back to work full time again.”

Life brought a dramatic new curveball. Shelley and Brad’s youngest son Tyler almost died at birth, which Shelley calls, “a life changing moment.” She explains, “this changed us as a family and what our priorities in life were.” There was a lot of stress in Shelley’s social work career and she decided she did not want to bring the stressful energy home to her family.  “It’s ok to say, you can’t have it all at once. It’s about deciding and acting on your priorities,” she says.

In the past nine years, Shelley has worked hard to build a viable business; over time, it has become the family business. The boys would accompany their mom to various events and learned to help out with the basics of line management; keeping customers happy while waiting in line to have your face painted. Helping children to be transformed into their favourite super hero or princess, “the boys, not only learned about the visual art but also the art of creating a memorable experience for the children and customer service,“  Shelley says.  

She says that she owes her success to the systems approach workshops and courses she attended at her industry’s major conventions a s well as her social work skills. “This is a very social business,” says Shelley. She would admit that her best skill is listening to her clients’ needs. “Their feedback has helped me to grow most successfully.”  By listening and adapting, Shelley has developed proposals with more options tailored to her corporate clients’ events – for example, she has offered services such as glitter, air brush tattoos and henna painting.

Shelley tells me her favourite service is belly painting. “There is something very special about this one. A pregnancy is such a powerful and memorable time and I help to create a very, unique experience that celebrates this wonderful moment in the parent’s lives,” she says.

Shelley never paints the same art twice. Each woman’s artwork on her belly is unique, only for her. Shelley has a system. She asks the moms and dads to bring a list of questions, which guide her in developing specifically tailored design ideas which will be most meaningful to the mom. Shelley admits she has been lucky. He and Brad have not had to move from Kingston in the past decade and this has allowed Shelley to grow the business, her skills and her confidence.  Corporate clients include such community heavy-hitters as Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College, Downtown Kingston Business Association, local schools and Rona Hardware.

But being a military wife, Shelley is very much aware that she and her family may have to move again at any time. At the time of this interview, Shelley had just learned that the next posting will be to Italy! Shelley’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in.”  I asked myself, how will I walk away from my business? And I realized, well, no, it just means the business will transform. No matter where I go, I am going to create,“ she confidently confirms.

Shelley’s advice to the military entrepreneurial spouse is straightforward.  “When you realize you are moving, no matter what your business, contact people at the next base and business organizations. Networking helps grow your business, period!  Stop looking at other business owners only as competitors and look to one another as professionals and colleagues. Reach out!” Shelley advises, “many have become my friends. We share the same passion.”

Learn more about Shelley’s business at: http://www.you-name-it.ca/

Josie Walsh

About the Author

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