Ada wears purple in 2007

Purple Does Something Strange to Me

“Purple does something strange to me” said the German-American poet Charles Bukowski. Purple does something strange to me too.

Purple, whose aura began because of its rarity in nature and the expense of creating the dye, is often associated with spirituality, mystery, and magic – which is exactly why it became our brand color.

Alchimie (pronounced al-shee-mee) is the French word for Alchemy. And alchemy, is the medieval science that pre-dated chemistry. Part of alchemy was chemistry, part was magic. My sister Cyrille and I chose our brand name specifically because skin care is part science, and part mystery. (We also loved the fact that the alchemists were the first to look at plants as having healthful benefits). And we chose our brand color because of its association with magic.

The more I learn about purple, the more it continues to fascinate me. Apparently, I am not alone, as Ultra-Violet (a shade of purple) was chosen as the 2018 color of the year by Pantone.

Why is purple so special?

So next time you come across something purple, notice its magic. As one of the characters in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple said, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

Our Business Didn’t Start as a Business… Our Origin Story

Alchimie Forever does not exist because one day my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla, sat at his desk and decided to start a skin care brand.

Alchimie Forever does not exist because a consultant ran focus groups, identified white space in the market, raised some money, and created a business.

Alchimie Forever exists because my father is a softie and can’t stand to see children suffer.

Alchimie Forever exists because 30+ years ago, my father couldn’t find the perfect product to help heal the skin of his young patients post procedure.

Let me tell you our “origin story.” (Thanks, Marc Ross, for teaching me this terminology.)

My father opened his dermatology practice in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1986, and was the first dermatologist to offer pulsed dye laser technology to treat children suffering from Port Wine Stains and hemangiomas. Parents brought their children from near and far to have Dad erase these debilitating birthmarks, an endeavor that required numerous treatments over a period of months, sometimes years.

I was already working with my father back then (at the front desk) and I remember hearing the children crying from the pain, as the laser treatment created heat and discomfort, redness and inflammation, and a burning sensation. And if there is something my father can’t stand, it is a child in pain (he switched his medical specialization from pediatrics to dermatology after realizing he could not handle seeing terminally ill children). He needed a product to help make them feel better – to help heal their skin.

Not finding the right product, he created his own “recipe.” He would send his patients’ parents to a neighborhood pharmacy with a compounding prescription, the pharmacist would whip up a magical product in little white jars right there and then, and the child would stop crying. The prescription was for what is known today as our Kantic Brightening moisture mask. This compounded product, meant to help heal the kids’ skin post procedure, smelled so good that the mothers ended up also using it, and asking for more at the follow-up appointment: “it makes my skin glow,” they would say. For their convenience, we ended up “pre-making” the product.

One product led to another, and to another, and finally to the brand that became Alchimie Forever.

Alchimie Forever exists because of what is still our hero product, our Kantic Brightening moisture mask.

Long before this mask had a name, it had a loyal following.

Long before we had a brand, we had skin care solutions.

Long before we had a business, we had a mission.

What Should Our Next Product Be?

The very day I announced that our newest product, our Advanced retinol serum with time-release technology was hitting the shelves, I was asked what our next new product would be. I felt like how I imagine a woman feels who has just given birth being and is asked when she is having another child…

Today, exactly two months post launch, I am ready to think about newness again. Here is what is on top of  my mind – I would love to hear your insights, requests, ideas, and input.

It if were entirely up to me, I would create a facial oil. Of all of the product categories that are represented by other brands in my skin care routine, oils are the most significant as I am always using two or three depending on the day. The Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum may be my favorite of all time (and certainly the most expensive product I have purchased in a long time!). I grew up using Clarins facial oils, which I still use today. I love the oils by Goldfadden MD, Indie Lee, Naturopathica (the carrot oil in particular). Can you tell I have a thing for oils?

Even better, a facial oil in capsules.

And, I love capsules. My Mom used oil capsules on her skin when I was little, and I remember seeing her open one delicately every evening – like it was a treasure of pure liquid gold for her face. She loved an obscure French brand that is no longer in business, and in trying to replicate that memory, I recently purchased the Advanced Ceramide Capsules by Elizabeth Arden. Maybe this purchase also has a little bit to do with my girl crush on Reese Witherspoon? I love opening up those little bubbles of deliciousness and love the feel on my skin, but don’t love the fragrance, or that they contain dimethicone. Could we create an even better product?

Another mask. After all, our Kantic Brightening moisture mask remains our hero product, top seller, and editor favorite, so it would be strategically sound to expand the “mask franchise.” Plus, we have had requests for a mask that is more focused on purifying and detoxifying. (I can tell you it won’t be a sheet mask however, I hate those). The pressure is on  – a second mask would have to be as perfect, as magical, as this first one…

A toner / mist / antioxidant spray. We don’t have a toner in our line because our cleansers are pH balanced to the skin. Having said that, there is something so refreshing about a mist, and it is one of the non Alchimie products I use. I love the Yonka Lotion PS mist that smells like lavender and often use it during travel…

At-home peel pads. Estheticians everywhere love our professional-only Brightening peel. I do too, and I must confess to sometimes using it on myself at home. So it is only natural to think about a “real” at-home version. Yet I have mixed feelings. Can we make better at-home peel pads than the Dr. Dennis Gross top-selling product? If we make them “safe” for consumer use, are they still effective? And if we make an at-home version, will consumers forego our professional peel treatment?  So many questions…

The Email Newsletters That Make Me Smarter

I spend time daily unsubscribing from email newsletters. I also spend time daily (or weekly) relishing email newsletters. Here are the ones that keep me thinking, questioning, learning.

WWD

This is the classis source of news for anyone in beauty or fashion. I enjoy the fashion aspect, but my favorite articles are not surprisingly the beauty pieces by Jenny Fine, Ellen Thomas, and Allison Collins. Also, the print issue of Beauty Inc. is a treasure. And yes, I pay for this content.

Business of Fashion

Imran Amed is a genius. He is on my list of five people I would like to have dinner with. I love everything about the Business of Fashion – the daily emails, the podcasts, the print issues (more treasures), and BOF Professional. And yes, I also pay for that content. The articles by Sarah Brown are just by themselves worth the price.

Retail Dive

I love this daily email because it keeps me updated with overall retail trends – not just beauty. It helps me learn from outside my industry – and influences the stores I visit during my travels to get a feel for the current reality of retail.

Beyond the articles, I love the ‘What We’re Reading” section of every email.

Racked

I love the blend of business and beauty, and Racked does it best. This article on Amazon beauty is an example of why I stay subscribed to their newsletters.

BeautyMatter

Kelly Kovack is my friend, so I am biased. But she does have one of the most beautiful brains in the beauty industry. So, when she started BeautyMatter a couple of years ago, I subscribed from Day 1 and have not missed a day. I love her quarterly beauty M&A recaps, her white papers, and the daily beauty news. Smart, short, on point.

Harvard Management Tip of the Day

I look forward to this email every single day. This is the daily email I forward the most. To my sisters, to my team, to my friends. The tips range from management advice (for example how to delegate), the importance of vacation time, and my all-time favorite, the need to put a “meeting-free day” on your calendar every week. That is top on my goal list!

Marc Ross

Brigadoon is Marc Ross’ brain-child. The best annual conference I have ever attended. He keeps me thinking beyond my “comfort and industry bubble” in between these conferences with his daily emails (Marc Ross Daily), but what I get the most out of are the Brigadoon Weekly emails. The Ross Rant is particularly delicious. Also, his reading lists are inspiring.

Shane Parrish

Weekly brain food. Literally, that is what he calls his Friday emails. I came across him because of a podcast I listened to from The Knowledge Project – an interview with Naval Ravikant. This is possibly my favorite podcast of all times, I have actually already listened to it twice. Shane’s weekly emails include articles, a note on the book he is currently reading, and a quote he is thinking about.

Scott Galloway

I must admit, I only like about one third of his No Mercy / No Malice emails, but I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe because when I like them, I love them. If you don’t know him, he is a Professor of Marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, and founder of the digital intelligence firm L2 (I also get their emails, but those feel more like homework). Try it.

Thomas Oppong, curator of Postanly

I can’t recall how I found Thomas – but I look forward to his Friday emails every week. I don’t always find the inspiration I crave, but when I do, it is quite amazing. This is one of my favorite articles shared.

I stopped watching the news a long time ago. My husband fills me in on the things I must know, I listen to NPR while driving, and I get The Skimm every day. A girlfriend of mine told me it makes her feel dumb when she reads it – like they are not taking their readers seriously. I have been thinking about this a lot, but I have not unsubscribed yet (also I love their Instagram account).

What I just subscribed to: The Cut. I just couldn’t resist, after the whole “Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t know about The Cut” saga. Also, I love Jane Larkworthy’s articles.

What I am thinking of subscribing to: Glossy. There is now a paid version, which I have committed to signing up for by the end of this month. I love their podcasts, and Jill Manoff, Editor-in-Chief of Glossy who is both smart and sassy.

What I am still trying to figure out: Beauty Independent. I get these emails daily. I enjoy them. I am still trying to understand the background, what the connection to IBE means, the agenda.

What I recently unsubscribed myself from: Tim Ferriss (I just can’t), Total Retail (Retail Dive is so much better).

What are your must-read email newsletters? What am I missing?

Mid-Year Reflections…

I am a planner, a list maker, a goal tracker. I start new years with a list of goals, some new, some left over from the previous year. And usually, sometime in the middle of the year – typically during my vacation in Greece, or around Labor Day weekend – I re look at my goals and set myself up for success for the fall.

This year, my mid-year reflection happened this past Saturday, August 18. I was in Magnano in Riviera (Italy), where my father is from, a place I have not visited in over 20 years. I was there with my husband, my three sisters and their partners and children, and with my father – per his request, to celebrate his 70th year of life, and have our annual Polla Family Council meeting. Such a family gathering, and such a birthday, were conducive to reflection.

So, I reflected.

The first few months of 2018 were challenging, for reasons I still had a hard time processing. I acknowledged this to myself and thanked myself for getting past it. I thought about a note I made for myself at the end 2017 about strengthening my tolerance for tension. I certainly can check that off my list.

I thought about what I am most proud of professionally, namely continuing to grow Alchimie (look for some new distribution this fall), launching our newest product (Advanced retinol serum), continuing to lead Neill Fulfillment.

I reflected on my relationships and the people closest to me. Am I contributing to their happiness, to their growth, to their personal and professional development? These goals are important for the rest of 2018 (and beyond).

I reaffirmed my commitment to my self-care and reminded myself how part of the reason I started feeling better late Spring was more running, more water, more sleep, more reading. I re-commit to ending the year healthy and strong, physically and emotionally.

I thought about some very specific goals I have yet to achieve: redoing our YouTube videos; working on my book idea; reaching 10,000 Instagram followers for Alchimie; reading the books remaining on my “Marie Kondo-ed book pile.”

Finally, I think about what I am looking forward to for the rest of the year. These next few days in Italy, maybe becoming a home owner, lots of productive work travel, my god-daughter Jade’s week-long visit, the holiday season.

So much to be grateful for, so much to do, so much to look forward to…

 

Tinos tips

I have been back from Tinos for almost two weeks, and its magic is still with me. A few of you have been asking about this island – my happy place. Part of me doesn’t want to share (what I love the most is how remote it is and how there are more churches than people), but sharing is caring. So here goes.

How to get there:

It takes two days from the US (did I mention it is remote?). Airplane to Athens. Taxi to the port of Rafina (about an hour). Ferry to Tinos. If you have time in Rafina, have lunch at Agoni Grammi.

The chora (aka the town):

Tinos is the name of the island, and of the main town (where the ferry will drop you off). This town is filled with restaurants, bars, clubs (yes – clubs) – more on that later. Make a trip to the main church, where many come for a pilgrimage. If you can avoid it, don’t stay there.

Rental car:

You will need a car in Tinos (although my uncle who now owns the house does not drive, he takes buses and taxies on the island – but trust me, you need a car). Don’t use Vidalis, they are popular and all over the island but extra expensive. Use Dimitris Rent a Car. Owned by Heike and her husband, they may be the nicest people on Tinos. Email her here: dimitrisrentacar@gmail.com. Don’t forget to get your international driver’s license.

The villages:

Tinos is known for its amazing villages. My grandparents bought a house in Triantaros in the 1960s (which is how I got to be lucky enough to discover this island). This village so close to my heart is known as the balcony of Tinos.

You must also visit Isternia (which I love equally as Triantaros), Kardiani (the garden of Tinos), Pyrgos (which has an amazing town square), and Panormos, which is by the sea on the opposite side of the island.

The restaurants:

Thalassaki – in Isternia bay. The best seafood on the island, maybe in the entire Cyclades. It is literally “on the water” – there are “splash tables” with disclaimers that your feet might get wet. Have the taramasolata.

Dinos – in Kardiani bay. Family owned, three generations of “Dinos’s” work there, the view of the sunset is breathtaking.

Exomeria – in Isternia. Maria is the best hostess, she does breakfast, lunch, apero, dinner, late night snacks. I am not sure when she sleeps. The view is as breathtaking as her pizza and vegetable pies.

Mayou – also in Isternia. Another breathtaking view. A great place for coffee or a drink.

Bourou – near Kionia. This is one of the first restaurants I discovered on the island, and it remains one of my favorites. The vegetable balls (yes, it’s a thing) are my favorite on the island.

Pranzo – in town, fabulous Italian, amazing people watching.

Tarsanas – at the end of the port in town, amazing fish and a very special type of rice (ask the owner how he makes it and watch him launch in a 30 minute very animated description).

The night life:

Zambarco – by the new port. The palce to watch anything related to the World Cup. Great also for breakfast.

Koursaros – which means “pirate.” Start your night there around 10-11 pm. (Next to Zambarco)

Argonathis – this is the best dance club on the island. It is owned by Catherine, and her business partner who DJs better than anyone other than my brother-in-law. Go there after 1 am, stay until the sun rises.

The beach(es):

There is only one beach: Kalivia Beach. There are so many reasons I love it the most.  The swimming in the bay is excellent. There are beach chairs and umbrellas. There is a beach bar with drinks and food. Mostly, there is Marco, who owns it, and his amazing team. If you are looking for me on Tinos after 1 pm, there is one place and one place only you will find me. Make sure you ask him for a shot (or a couple) of Raki – he makes his own… (did someone say Greek moonshine?). Use the Greek “cheers” – Yia Mas.

Apolamvano! (meaning, Enjoy!).

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