Esco’s foray into beauty no shock
Artiste and producer has deep roots in industry
Artiste, producer and songwriter Esco Da Shocker is well known throughout the music industry. As part of the iconic dancehall duo, Leftside and Esco, the entertainer made a mark on the local entertainment scene that will be there for years to come. That mark was only further solidified when he ventured into music production, working on projects for the likes of Bounty Killer, Agent Sasco, Sean Paul, Buju Banton and more. But the music enthusiast has a whole new life outside of the music world that many would be surprised to learn about. After all, that sector is largely considered female-centred. Still, the artiste born Matthew Thompson considers himself a savvy businessman. With that solid footing, he ventured into the beauty industry and is the owner of EC Makeup Bar.
As the son of Marlene Abdul-Gray, master make-up artist and managing director of The Beauty Spot Ltd, Esco told The Sunday Gleaner that the beauty industry was as much a part of him as music. “I have to give credit to my mother for my involvement in the beauty industry. She was already a part of it. I saw her love and passion for it, and as I became more popular in entertainment, making money here and there, I wanted to branch out into other forms of creation as well as business, and I thought this industry would fit well into my plans,” he said.
When all the pieces fell into place organically, Esco said he jumped at the chance. “The opportunity presented itself, and I just threw some investment into it, built my own thing and have been in this sector now for about five years,” he said.
With a hardcore fan base, one would think Esco would have reservations about heading into the cosmetic industry. But, as the headstrong individual he is, the musician did not allow stereotypes or perception to steer him away from a smart entrepreneurial engagement. “That was actually more of an encouragement than anything else (getting into a female-centred business). I do a lot of work with female dancehall artistes, produce a lot of female geared music. I am a male who is lifted by females on a daily basis. I have a daughter, and so I was actually excited to get into something I could sell to the ladies and help them be their best selves,” he said, adding that there were no apprehensions.
“I had no reservations because I was so focused on building a brand that was separate from music. We were building a high quality, première service make-up brand that had nothing to do with Esco or dancehall. Besides, when you are growing your entity, you don’t wait for other people’s validation,” the businessman told The Sunday Gleaner.
Esco shared that he also saw the importance of having multiple streams of income. “I was all about having that backup plan, and I feel like every artiste who is conscientious and knows what they’re doing should know they need to invest in areas outside of the music,” Esco said.
He said the pandemic has shown the need to diversify. “I mean if it’s one thing the pandemic has shown us is that we need to have a next creation, something else that is separate and don’t depend on hit songs or tours or performances,” he shared.
Still, like every other sector hard-hit by COVID, the beauty industry suffered grave losses. Esco admits that between the lockdown of the entertainment sector and the work-from-home arrangements, EC Makeup Bar was dealt some harsh blows by the pandemic. “It has been horribly hard because this industry has been directly affected by COVID-19. People are indoors; there is no reason to put on make-up, and even if you were going out to work, people were doing the bare minimum, so it hit us hard,” he said, revealing that the location they expanded to pre-pandemic had to be shut down forcing them to move to the New Kingston Business Centre.
But with the entertainment sector reopening and the country moving towards some semblance of normality, Esco says business is on the road to recovery. “We got here on faith, and it’s been worth it. The financial recovery part has been slow and steady, which we are grateful for, but either way, in profit or loss, this is something I enjoy doing, and so sacrifices will always be worth it,” he said.
With things now looking up, Esco says he is looking to hire more staff for his spot and currently has space for at least one more nail technician and “someone with make-up and brow skills”. He is also eyeing possible expansion in the near future. “I want more locations, you know, franchise-style. I would love to get one or two more small boutique-type spots in Kingston and then a full-service store in another parish. But where we’re really at right now is expanding staff.”