Style and Substance: Skin Studio 211’s Lorin Cumberbatch puts Focus on People Over Products
Lorin Cumberbatch doesn’t sell services as much as she provides an experience.
“That’s my biggest goal. I tell my girls all the time: You can provide a good service, but it’s more about getting involved with people,” said the owner of Skin Studio 211. “When you go to get your hair cut, the person can do a good job, but it’s more that the person knows you. That’s why they come, and that’s the environment I keep here. I want customers to see that and feel that, feel like they’re family. We have more of a chill vibe than corporate. I want people to feel like they belong here. I want them to know everyone who works here, and I want to know everything about them. I think that’s what makes us different, because people sometimes come here just to see us and just hang out with us.”
The team of estheticians at Skin Studio 211 provide clients with a pampered touch that covers everything from massage, facials and waxing to lashes, chemical peels and sugaring. The name of the business was inspired by Cumberbatch’s grandmother, whose birthday was Feb. 11.
Cumberbatch opened the original location of Skin Studio just west of Lansing in June 2020 and followed it up with a second location in East Lansing in September 2021, all in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the success Cumberbatch has seen in the Greater Lansing community over the past two years, starting the business was never the initial intent of the former Queens, New York, resident.
“It just kind of happened,” she said. “This was not on the vision board.”
Cumberbatch was in Michigan while awaiting back surgery when the pandemic closures began to occur. While riding out the shutdowns, she began weighing the pros and cons of working in New York versus Michigan.
“I applied to some jobs, quite a few jobs, but no one would hire me. One, because of the pandemic. And, two, because they knew I would be out as soon as I got the job because I still needed that back surgery,” she said. “I had my esthetician’s kit, and I was already licensed in New York and Michigan. So, I just said, ‘Hey, let me just see if I can open something up — get a room just to make some money.’ Then I got an entire suite. Within the first month I was fully booked and adding one employee then another.
“I just realized that I made more money being here versus being on the job (for someone else). I’ve always been more of a leader. So, having my own business was not a surprise to people who know me. It just kind of took off,” she added.
Those qualities of leadership weren’t just getting noticed by the people who knew Cumberbatch. Last September, she was included among the 16th annual 10 Over the Next Ten Awards, a program hosted by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce and Lansing 5:01 recognizing young professionals in the region who are expected to make a significant impact to the community in the coming years.
“There were no Black estheticians in the Lansing area, and she decided to open a shop to provide that service. Not only did she meet this need, but she also did it during the COVID pandemic,” the chamber wrote in a news release on the awards. “As owner and CEO of Skin Studio 211, Lorin welcomes all races through her door even though she originally set out to meet a need in the Black community. … She regularly donates gift cards and volunteer time to worthwhile fundraisers, back-to-school drives, community sports teams and other school activities. She also created the Black Book Drive, which is now in its third year.”
More recently, Cumberbatch was presented with the 2023 ATHENAPowerlink Award, a national mentoring program by ATHENA International that connects chosen women business owners with a skilled advisory panel. The specified panel of advisers will donate an estimated $25,000 in business consultation services to help Skin Studio 211 achieve the next level of success.
In a statement, Lansing chamber President and CEO Tim Daman noted the chamber is “excited about the growth Lorin Cumberbatch has already achieved with Skin Studio 211 and looks forward to her continued success as aresult of her involvement with the ATHENAPowerlink program.”
The ATHENAPowerlink program has already begun paying dividends. Cumberbatch said she comes from a family that doesn’t have a background in business ownership, and having access to experts and mentors has been a rewarding experience.
“I’ve only been in it for a month, and they’ve already actively done things in my business. I’ve already seen change that I wouldn’t have access to or would have even known even known about,” she said. “Then the 10 Over the Next Ten means a lot because it’s helped me realize that people see me doing things — actively changing Lansing and actively creating things instead of talking about what we don’t have here.”
Cumberbatch says it’s part of an overarching philosophy of community building and investing in your own backyard.
“I just look at it like this: The community pretty much pays us; they make us successful. So why can’t we just donate a $50 gift card? They just spent $20,000 with us? Why shouldn’t we volunteer our time and help out where we can and truly be a part of the community instead of just doing business in it,” she said.
When done with authenticity, that commitment and dedication can easily morph into a mutually beneficial relationship.
“I know my first client from when I first started in the beauty industry, period, like back in 2014. She still sees me to this day. For almost nine years, she has been coming to me. I’ve seen her have kids. I’ve seen her kids graduate,” Cumberbatch said. “It’s cool to have clients that I’ve known for a long time because they’ll say things like, ‘Oh, I remember when you were just doing XYZ,’ so it’s kind of like they’ve seen me grow. But at the same time, I’ve seen them grow. There’s one girl who I did something for when she was 13, and now she’s in college and about to have a baby.
“Things like that make me feel old a little bit,” Cumberbatch laughed, “but it’s also pretty amazing.”
For more information on Skin Studio 211, visit skinstudio211.com.