Face to Face with Tina Tapia – President, Adorabella Beauty Academy »Albuquerque Journal
ALBUQUERQUE, NM – When Tina Tapia was a young girl growing up in little Willard, one of the scariest things she could think of was driving in the big city of Albuquerque.
After all, she could walk almost anywhere – from her job at the nearby Estancia Courthouse, to her classes at Estancia High School.
Hers was a large traditional family, with a grandmother who taught her “how to be a housewife.” My brothers were always outside to help my grandfather, and my sister and I were inside to cook, clean.
“I always say, ‘I know I never learned to skate. I never learned to swim. But I can roll a nasty tortilla for sure.
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The adult Tapia drives all the time to Albuquerque, where she owns the Adorabella Beauty Academy in the far northeast of the Heights. The company, which just celebrated its 13th anniversary, was the project Tapia took on after early retirement from a customer service position at Southwest Airlines and following a lengthy divorce.
Cosmetology was her second career, which included time doing nails in her garage-turned-salon and working four jobs as a single mom.
Adorabella was born from Tapia’s desire to open a multilingual school which now offers students education in Spanish and Vietnamese.
While this might have seemed like the worst time to start a business – the start of the Great Recession – Tapia thanks a generous owner who loaned her money to get Adorabella off the ground. It now has six instructors and 30 to 60 students at a time.
“I am a very traditional person,” says Tapia. “What got me to where I am today is that I’m here to help them (the students) make a difference in their lives. It has just been an incredible race.
What do you think has made you a successful business owner?
“I just think of my passion for helping students. I am customer service oriented. I came from an amazing airline (Southwest), whose customer service was top notch. So I think I learned a lot of those values there. I have always tried to treat people the way I want to be treated. My students become my family. I just try to keep it simple. Be true to my faith and to who I am.
Are there any students that stand out for you?
“I’ve had so many. My bilingual students, most of them are mothers who clean houses, work in restaurants. They don’t do the best job, and they have the worst schedule, and I really feel like they’re so taken advantage of. There is one student who stands out. Herman has had a horrible (car) accident and is suffering from a head trauma. He was on the verge of getting (a license to practice from the State Council) when this happened to him. It made him back down so much. He can’t remember things, so it’s starting over and over and over and over. I promised him that if this is the last thing I do, I will see him get his license to practice. He never gives up. “
What do you do with your free time?
“My children have grown up and now I have grandchildren. I like to go out to dinner, have a glass of wine, relax. I love going to concerts, but I also love being at home with my family. On Sundays I go to church, then it’s time to go to lunch and hang out with my family. I like to go camping when we can get away from it all. I like to travel a bit, but nothing too crazy. I’m just a girl from a small town.
What does nobody know about you?
“That I hold a concealed weapon license. I live alone. What if someone walks in here (the academy), and I don’t even know what that might mean, but would I at least be able to try to protect us? Damn, yeah. I now know that I can.
What words of wisdom have helped you?
“I think when I was going through my darkest days of this divorce and trying to build this school, my counselor was an amazing woman. When we talked about me opening this business, she said, ‘Tina, I’m going to tell you something. Don’t think you need all that new and expensive equipment. Do not do it. All you need is your simple plan, and little by little you can add to that. Pay cash for what you can. It’s honestly the first year of my 13 years here, that I actually have a business credit card. Pay it, build it, and then it’s yours and you don’t owe anyone anything.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
“When I give graduation speeches, I want them to know one thing: fear is going to keep you here on the porch. Until you jump, you will never know your abilities. You will never, ever know what you are capable of. Look at me, I’m from Willard, New Mexico. I never, never thought I would be here.
What’s the hard thing you had to learn?
“That I give too much, that I trust too much… and sometimes it bites my butt.” In the ups and downs of business, you think everyone is coming from the same place as you. And it is not. So I had an instructor who took full advantage of me and completely ripped me off. I stole money, stole equipment, and then left in the middle of the night. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but I’ll never let it change who I am.
What interested you in cosmetology?
“I remember I was younger doing facials. When we went out, I painted all my cousins. We had the big 80’s hair and I combed it all before going out.
What is madness for you?
“Louis Vuitton and I are best friends. Shoes are my thing. Shoes and dresses. You will always see me in heels. If you surprise me on a day when I’m wearing flats, I’m still in a dress. I think it comes from my childhood. We had nothing… but we were always clean and we were always dressed. My mother was always afraid that someone would think we didn’t have a mother. She always said, ‘No. You are not going to look like orphans. She instilled in me to always look my best no matter what, because no one knows what you’re wearing here (shows his heart). But over there – perfecto, lindo (pretty). Mouse Mouse.”