Learning from the field

I spend my life in the field, and the start to this year is no different. By the end of January, I will have visited 30+ stores that carry Alchimie. From every visit, from every interaction, I learn something new – what is working with my brand, what we can do better, and more.  

 I also spend most of my waking hours trying to figure out why certain locations sell a lot, and others less. I asked Marie Cook, who works in The Woodlands Beauty Evolution store in Houston, how she does it – not just with Alchimie, but with all of the brands she carries. She has been successfully selling beauty for 23+ years, and is filled with knowledge and advice. Read on…

 AP: How long have you been working with Walgreens? 

MC: I started with Walgreens on June 27, 1994, so a little over 23 years and six months.

AP: Please tell me how you started with Walgreens, and why? 

MC: Before Walgreens, I had worked in the retail industry for 6 years and I loved the retail business. When my husband made the decision to retire from the U.S. Navy, we left Japan, and I came ahead to Texas, while my husband completed his last six months aboard a ship. When I arrived in the Spring, I made several friends who worked for Walgreens, and I decided to apply. When they placed me in Beauty Care, I knew I had found my home.

AP: To you, what does Walgreens stand for? 

MC: For me, Walgreen’s represents stability. The company is devoted to studying their clientele, and providing the types of product that will sell in any given location.

AP: Have you always been in the same store? If so, why? 

MC: No, this is my second store. In 1998 a District Manager (DM) from Chicago was sent to work in Houston. He heard about my performance and he came to my store and ask me if I would work for him to run the beauty department in one of his new store that was going to open on May 4 of 1998. I was glad I accepted the offer, because I had achieved and accomplished and received recognition awards for my hard work under his watch until he retired. I know I made him proud. Besides these two stores, I was actually sent by my DM to many other stores to help out in beauty departments. When Walgreens started expanding, I was sent with the District Beauty Supervisor to help set up beauty departments in the new stores. I was also sent to some existing stores to help the beauty departments set up for Christmas and help others do the resets.

AP: In your own words, please describe your position to me?

MC: Sales and Customer Service: I promote best selling products to exceed my targets. I share success stories and learnings with other stores to enhance their performance, inform team members and leaders how to insure store success in beauty. I engage with customers in conversation about their beauty needs and exhibit a sincere concern for the customer. I am to offer tactful, informed, and personalized advice, tips, and product suggestions based on customer’s beauty needs and desires. I do demonstrations and makeovers. Most importantly perhaps I think about the long term, and offer extra customer care to build relationships and enhance customer loyalty to inspire the next purchase and repeat business.

AP: What is your favorite part of your job? 

MC: Making people feel beautiful about themselves inside and out.

AP: How do you consistently make your goal? What are your tips for success? 

MC: I consistently make my goal by planning ahead, monitoring and printing out my daily departments sales, and focusing on the goal to stay on top. I mix up the displays, do event tables, and keep the merchandising interesting for my customers. Also, I play with my outfits: I like to color coordinate my outfit to match with my theme. It attracts customers’ attention and it’s a great conversation starter.

AP: How do you self-motivate every day? 

MC: Loving what I do and my customers appreciating what I can offer is the key for my positive attitude.

AP: What are the keys to your positive attitude, regardless of traffic in the store? 

MC: Passion and drive are the keys for my self motivation everyday. I truly love what I do.

AP: What would be the one suggestion you have for Walgreens corporate? 

MC: My suggestions for Walgreens is to do more beauty training and keep us up to date with all the new beauty trends. For me, knowledge is power. Also better incentives would be helpful, including recognition for top sales, extra customer care winners. I would love to be invited to the headquarters in Chicago to receive an award before my 25th year. This is on top of my wish-list: to get flown somewhere again, all company expense to receive a recognition award and be on the Walgreens World Magazine one more time.

AP: What are the words of wisdom you have for your fellow beauty team members? 

MC: Do what you love and love what you do. Don’t be an expectation, be an inspiration. Own it, Love it, Live it. Care. Win Together. Inspire.


Ending the year in beauty with a Me-So-Light treatment

Earlier this month I made a list of the goals I wanted to achieve before the end of December.

In the next two days, I still need to finalize the Alchimie retinol serum, marketing plan and budget, but otherwise, I checked everything off this list. And in the self-care department, I did even better than I set out to do.

I did get a pedicure (purple toes to end 2017 and enter 2018 – given that Ultraviolet is the Pantone color of 2018). I also left for Switzerland with perfect eyebrows (thank you Erwin at Karma by Erwin Gomez). And I took time to do a treatment at Forever Boutique: Me-So-Light.

What is it?

This treatment is a blend between face mesotherapy and micro-needling (for more on micro-needling, read this post). Dr. Bani used a Dermapen (9 microneedles) to make minute perforations in my skin, which enables the “secret sauce” of product to optimally penetrate. The product applied is indeed a secret sauce – a powerful cocktail of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals to help rejuvenate and hydrate the skin, and give you an immediate glow.


Was it painful?

Not at all! I was a bit concerned, but this was much less bothersome than Botox injections.

What did I look like immediately after?

See the photo below! Just a bit flushed, which lasted for about an hour – nothing more.


How did my skin react in the following days?

I went into the Christmas holidays with a nice glow, looking much more refreshed than I felt!

Would I do it again?

Yes! I can’t wait to be back in Lausanne Q1 2018 for my second treatment.

The perfect gift for everyone on your list

Finding the perfect gift for that person on your list is one of the most satisfying accomplishments. However, with just ten days left until Christmas Eve, it is very possible that some of us are desperately brainstorming last minute gift ideas for loved ones. If you need inspiration, here are some ideas.

To sleep better: Stevie Howell pajamas. (My favorite pair is inspired by Hearst Castle).

To declutter: New Minimalism book. (I have already bought 5 as gifts, which might go against the minimalistic philosophy of the author…)

To chill out: Vertly LipBalm with Cannabis sativa seed oil. (Yep, I just went there).

Or, Calm bath salts from Herbivore.

To write more handwritten notes: Bespoke stationary from Rachel Rogers Design.

For the kids in your life: Oso and Me clothes, made better and to last longer.

To wear great jewelry every day and remember that you are loved. (Yes, this is a single and not a pair… very risqué!)

To drink more water. (Or more wine).

December goals

December is well under way. As the 12/31 deadline looms closer every morning, I am working on my priorities between now and 1/1/ 2018. Here is my list – may it help you make yours.

  • Accomplish one thing that has been on my to-do list for the last few months. It is probably not urgent, but very important.  
  • Abandon one thing that has been on my to-do list for the last few months. If it has not yet gotten done, perhaps it is neither urgent nor important and I don’t want to carry it into the New year.
  • Sleep 7 hours every single night between now and January 1 (not counting the two red-eye flights I have between now and then).  
  • Plan for 2018. I have scheduled three 4-hour chunks of time to think and plan. 2018 goals. 2018 budget. 2018 marketing and branding strategy.
  • Hang that one piece of art that has been siting on my living room floor for more than two months.
  • Finalize the Alchimie Forever retinol serum formula to stay on schedule for a pre-summer launch.
  • Get a pedicure. I want to start 2018 with perfect toes. (Something I can actually control).
  • Send gratitude notes to the Alchimie Forever partners who helped my team and me make 2017 such a great year.
  • Be present and focused during all of the family togetherness that comes with this time of year.

May the rest of your December be healthy, productive, happy, and the perfect stepping stone to 2018.

What are your productivity tips? Here are mine.

There is nothing I love more than staying in touch with my Alchimie Forever interns long after they have graduated and / or moved in to full time jobs.

Recently, my lovely former intern Ting, whom you might recognize as she is the face of our Asian-facing marketing (not only is she the face, she also translated our merchandising materials in Mandarin!), reached out to me to share that she had received a promotion at her job, and wanted some advice about the work / life balance. I began composing a long email to her and then thought that perhaps others would benefit from some of my tips.

I have written about rituals and productivity tips in the past, but this subject is never old, and forever changing. In this post, I will focus on three aspects of productivity – goals, calendaring / scheduling, and lists.

Balance versus Harmony

Let me begin by admitting that I do not believe in balance. To me, the work/life balance goal sets me up for failure. It’s like asking a see-saw to stay in balance – it is almost impossible, requires so much effort, and in the end goes against the reason for being of the see-saw. I think instead of harmony. At some moments, I will have to give my all to work – as long as those actions are in harmony with my goals, then I am ok. Likewise, sometimes I am 100% focused on a personal goal or project, and works goes by the wayside. And that is fine too.   

Moving on…


If you don’t know where you want to go, you won’t get there, no matter how “productive” you are. For me, productivity starts with goals. I set goals for the calendar year, for the quarter, for the month, for the week – both personal and professional. I write them all down, and then look at my goals weekly, it helps me to see them to remember them. The most useful tool I have found for goal-setting are 9-grids

Calendaring & scheduling

I calendar and schedule everything. If you look at my Google Calendar, you see my life. Of course, I schedule meetings, calls, trips, all things related to work. But I I also schedule SoulCycle. I schedule my runs, I schedule time with friends. I schedule book club. I am as strict about my “personal” meetings (including those with myself) as I am about my work meetings.

In Google Calendar, I color code my meetings. This was one of my favorite things about a paper calendar, to be able to use pens of different colors, highlighters, etc. Google Calendar is not quite as versatile, but almost. I always have it on Weekly View – so that I look at my weeks, not my individual days.

I share my Google Calendar with my team members, and with my husband. Given the amount of travel that I do, this helps with co-scheduling things and visibility into my availability.

Usually around the start of the 4th Quarter, my husband and I will do a very high-level “next year calendaring.” We decide (tentatively of course) which conferences and tradeshows we will attend. We black out dates we know we have commitments for (Mardi Gras, for example!). We share important family events we would like each other to attend (for example my sister Roxane’s medical school graduation in February next year). We share, we discuss, we compromise. This helps guide calendaring every month moving forward.

One of most useful Harvard Business Review’s Management Tip of the Day I read is to schedule a meeting-free day every week. I can’t do it every week, but I do it every month, and it is incredibly productive as it allows me to catch up on various projects in the office. I highly recommend this strategy in particular if your typical day is filled with meetings.

Finally, when I feel truly overwhelmed and like I am about to lose my mind, I cancel two meetings / calls for that week. They can be personal or professional – it doesn’t matter. Just the act of cancelling makes my blood pressure go down. (And sometimes, I don’t even reschedule, realizing that that was an un-necessary meeting).


I have lists for everything. I live by lists. The most important list I have is my Weekly Gameplan. This lives in Evernote (you must get Evernote), and I look at it many times per day. I have an Evernote Notebook called Gameplans, and a Note for every week. At the very top, in bold, I put three priorities – these are my three main goals for that week. Then I break my week down into the five weekdays, plus “weekend”. And I list everything I will do every day. I use the check boxes, so that I can check things off as I do them.

Here is an example of the list from Tuesday this week:

Email update

New business calls

SF calls existing clients

SF calls potential clients

Call RAH Stephanie

Call RAH Kristin 

Call Rhea 

NF: call EHP; text Caitlyn; call Tiffany  

Jrink delivery – juicing 

LB: followup signage store 356

LB: all recaps 

LB: November schedule 

LB: followup on pick up of signage for 14123

LB: contract update 

LB: followup basket building strategies

QB update

Pay bills 


Pay CC perso 

Call Megan re: her dad’s doctor’s appointment 

Tayller: (list of all Tayller’s tasks)  

Emily: (list of all of Emily’s tasks)  

Relook at beauty boxes

Review customer sales YTD 

Review budget / actual YTD 

As you can see, I list calls, work responsibilities, personal reminders, as well as an item for each of my team members I will connect with that day.

Many days, some items get moved to the following day, sometimes to the following week.

I also have a “Parking lot” Note for the things I know I need to do, but I have not yet scheduled or found time to do. An example would be working on next year’s budget. It helps me empty my brain to write everything down, so that I know it is somewhere and I won’t be worried about forgetting it.

I hope these tips help you (Ting especially you!) be and feel productive. I have many more, involving email strategies, self care strategies (it is impossible to be productive if you don’t take care of yourself), and tracking strategies (I track everything from what I eat and drink to how I spend my time.). We can continue this conversation in a future post.

Thank you Ting for inspiring this post!  

This is 40

As I sit in my Georgetown office with a cup of coffee on this crisp fall morning, my phone beeping every few minutes with a new call, text, or social media note wishing me a happy birthday, I am happy, grateful, and excited. Today is my 40th birthday, and it feels fabulous and free.

I have so many reasons to be grateful.

I work in an industry that makes people feel better about themselves, surrounded by team members that I have the privilege of coaching and mentoring. My skin care brand is growing in sales and visibility, I am working with my sisters on a new spa project in Lausanne, and I contribute to my husband’s family business. Thank you for the opportunity to do work I love, which often doesn’t feel like work.

I am surrounded by girlfriends who help me be my best self. I am in a four-person accountability group who weekly keeps me focused on the right things, working on the right things. I am in the most amazing book club where we discuss the books we read, and also life, love, marriage, children, and more. I have girlfriends who take me to Wizards games on my birthday eve, I have girlfriends who come with me to SoulCycle at 6 am on my birthday morning. Thank you for your friendship.

I have a husband who understands me like no one else does. He understands that today, I wanted to wake up in my own bed, alone. He understands I need solitude and quiet time by myself. He understands living together in the traditional way husbands and wives do would not work for me. He understands I don’t want children and love being a step-mom to his son and a godmother to five amazing kids. And he respects those desires, embraces them. Thank you for your unconditional love.   

I can’t remember what I used to think it would be like to be 40. But I never thought it would feel this good.

As I look forward to this next decade and beyond, I am reminded of the advice and notes of a few people.

  • One’s career peaks around 42. I can’t wait to test that theory!
  • Your forties feel free. I can already feel it…
  • Your body changes. Embrace it, accept it, and adjust your strategies as need be. This I need to work on.
  • Your eyes will start to see things differently. Yep, my driver’s license now says I need glasses to drive.
  • Add a retinol serum to your routine and spend one more minute on your beauty routine. Luckily I am testing a retinol formulation for Alchimie and more time with my skin care products has never been a problem!

If you have any words of wisdom about embracing this 4th decade, please comment below!