We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephanie Block and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephanie, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
In a nutshell it all comes down to “Yes!” But if you want the long story… I never intended on starting my own business but I fell into it. I’ve always been into the arts, especially drawing and painting but I never said one day “I’m going to be a henna artist”. My freshman year of college I met a really nice lady at a craft fair and she asked me if I new how to draw. She asked if I would go with her to an Indian pre-wedding celebration called mehndi night. She was doing henna (or mehndi) for the bride and she needed someone to put henna on the guests. I said yes! When I showed up she gave me henna cones and said “here’s the henna, you can do it, just go do it!” It was definitely a divine appointment. The ladies at the party were so patient and kind to me, even when it took me a half an hour to do something that would take me 5 minutes today. After 3 years of people randomly calling me for henna (all as a result of saying yes to that party) I decided to make business cards. 7 years after that I quit my regular job so that I could be more free to take every henna job that came my way. I have now been doing henna as my main gig for 17 years and supplementing my income with other art related endeavors. I became a henna artist because I was asked to do it. I loved doing it, was encouraged while doing it and people wanted me to keep on doing it so I made it what I do and started a business. My advice for starting your own business is; Do what you are good at, even if you are slow at it at first. If it excites you and relaxes you, do it! If it brings you joy and connects you to others it will be fulfilling. Be prepared to be humble and accept guidance from those who have gone before. Having your own business is a lifestyle; you eat, breathe, and sleep it. Know that you will always be working but if you love it, you will never be working! …And say “Yes!”
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
One of my exciting henna goals is to touch a million hands. (We’ll see if I live that long.) I like to set the bar high so I can never stop! I am at over 10,000 hands, so that alone is incredible to me to know that I have gotten to interact and connect, albeit briefly, with so many people while doing henna.
While doing henna for a group of ladies who all had had close encounters with death, I experienced an amazing realization. One lady left and came back 10 minutes later to tell me, very adamantly, that I was spreading joy. She was so happy she was in tears. In that moment I felt I was exactly where I was supposed to be and doing what I was meant to do. From then on I focused my purpose in life on bringing joy to others. (prior to this moment the word “joy” drove me bonkers and I refrained from using it! Funny how things change.) I realized what someone else recognized and then let it be.
Letting things be what they want to be or do what they want to do has been integral to my success. I’ve learned to let go of the control I want to have over the situation and let things happen. Let the henna do what it wants to do and follow it. Let the paint go where it wants to and follow it. I think art and life are much easier when I don’t force them into the idea I have in my head. What I have in my head is not what comes out of my hands and yet people love what comes out of my hands. It has been helpful and good to accept that. I love to freestyle, I imagine that most artists do (it is what we do!). The henna designs or other medium will come out free, organic and flowing if I just go with the moment and do not have too much of an idea of how I want things to turn out. In all of life things never turn out the way I plan so I’ve let go of expecting anything. In front of a client I try to never say if I don’t like something I’ve created. What I see as an eyesore is often someone else’s favorite part!
I am an over-the-top type of artist. If it can be decorated, it will be decorated! It is very hard for me to stop whether it is henna, mixed media or pottery. I like to play with many different art forms and I throw myself in 110%.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Assuming it is Summer we would have to hit up Elitch’s for the Boomerang roller coaster and Lakeside for the nostalgia, I love history and Lakeside is a rare gem. Then Little Man Ice Cream for some salted Oreo ice cream, possibly on an ice cream sandwich. And if we are going to Little Man then we can stop by at Lola’s Coastal Mexican, practically next door, for the to die for crispy, spicy kale (I know, sounds silly but that’s what I go there for!) and some house made horchata (it’s the best! if you’ve never had horchata you have to have it there).
There would definitely be a lot of eating! Parisi’s crust/dough and cheese are fantastic, plus there’s gelato. Bawarchi Birayani Point (in Centennial) has dosas and south Indian food, if you have never had a dosa order the big one here, it will blow your mind. Brunch at Bistro Vendome for their tasty, savory, meat crepes. While we are at it we can walk down Larimer Square, although the best time for Larimer Square is at night for the twinkling lights.
If we could stretch it and consider Boulder as an option then we would be down there for burgers and ginger limeade at Cafe Aion. Or amazingly flavor filled Nepali food at Sherpa Restaurant. Or a Deli Rose at the Yellow Deli with it’s quirky atmosphere, not to mention it’s the most affordable place in Boulder. Then dessert at Peace Love and Chocolate. We would walk down Pearl Street mall and hit up Ku Cha Tea House for high quality flavor loose leaf teas of all kinds, and if it were not Covid we could get gung fu tea service or matcha tea service with the appropriate utensils and the staff will demonstrate how to use them. This little excursion to Boulder would not be complete without a trip to see another place of tea: Dushanbe Tea House. In the evening we would head over to the Avalon Ballroom for great dancing with fun, easy going dancers. Waltz night on a Wednesday or Salsa on a Thursday, and there is always a class before the dance. I miss dancing!
Back to Denver, speaking of dancing, and assuming Covid is not an issue, we would have to hit up the Mercury Cafe on Tuesday night for blues dancing. Near by there is a nifty little bar called Retrograde and it’s in Frozen Matter’s freezer, really, it’s true. Another dessert place in the area with yummy fun is D-Bar. The desserts are pretty to look at and tasty, especially the Cake & Shake.
One night will have to be a late night when we go out to Milk on Broadway for goth dancing, always fun, everyone’s really friendly. Only go if you like the music and really want to dance and primarily dance by yourself. Afterwards it’s Breakfast King (normally open 24 hours) for hot cherry pie and hash browns…yup, you get hungry when you’re dancing with yourself.
Other places fun to see are the Denver Botanic Gardens (we would bring a picnic), Union Station and Casa Bonita (gotta see it! I love nostalgia!). The Cruise Room at the Oxford Hotel is a must see for the history and the atmosphere. Two restaurants to see primarily for their atmosphere are Forest Room Five and Beatrice and Woodsley (go to the bathroom here…). We would also walk around the old streets of Denver; In the area of Lincoln and Cedar to look at he houses and the area of 32nd and Lowell for the little shops and St. Killian’s Cheese Shop (great cheese and meats selection). Tony P’s (Italian), in the area, has the best sauce. Brazen is also close by and has great hamburgers and salads.
A little further away is Grammy’s Goodies (Wheat Ridge). They mainly do festivals but they do have a free standing store. They have pizza the size of your face, and it’s delicious, as well as wedding cookies that are almost the size of your face and also delicious.
If we ride the N train from Union Station to the end of the line, in Eastlake, we could get to-die-for cinnamon rolls at Lisa Ann’s Country Cupboard and take a walk, maybe see a wild turkey or two…
Lastly this trip would not be complete without going to the Brown Palace lobby to listen to John Kite play the piano accompanied by a talented band in the evenings. Dancing around the Brown Palace lobby is optional…
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Jesus. He put me in the exact right place at the right time and He continues to put opportunities in my path to respond to.
Yelp: Stephanie’s Henna Denver