This is what has been keeping me busy…

The last time I blogged was May 10th in honor of Mother’s Day. It has been a busy month. A busy year actually! I might blame this writing hiatus on the redesign of my blog (I hope you love it), or on running out of time. But as my Mom always told me, “you don’t have time, you make time.”

And I did not make time for blogging. Instead, I made time for this:

The arrival of the newest member of the Alchimie product family – our Pigment Lightening Serum. I worked on this product for 3 years, and it finally launched at the end of April. As always happens with a new product, the first few weeks after launch kept me busy with press interviews, reaching out to our partners to follow-up on the The three most common questions have been:

  • Is there any silicone or any silicone derivative in the formula? The answer is no – the silky texture comes from the hyaluronic acid.
  • Will this serum sensitize my skin to the sun? The answer is no. There are no sun-sensitizing ingredients in this formula, so it is safe to use year-round, including during the summer (and of course, remember to layer our Daily Defense SPF23 on top of it).
  • What form of Vitamin C does this serum contain? The Vitamin C we chose is Ascorbyl Glucoside, which once it penetrates into the skin, is converted into L-Ascorbic Acid. This form of Vitamin C is more stable (hence easier to formulate with and retains its efficacy in the formulation longer), and non-sensitizing to the skin.

The launch of our partnership with the pharmacy chain Look Boutique. On May 29th, we launched in 21 boutiques throughout the country, bringing greater awareness and approachability to Alchimie Forever. Having had success in pharmacies in France, and in New York City (including favorites Clyde’s, New London, Carnegie Hill, and more), this is the next step in our penetration in this channel. We are thrilled to be next to brands including Nuxe, LaRoche Posay, Avene, Dr. Haushka, and innovative brands such as Vincent Longo, and to be working with an amazing team of Beauty Advisers.

Serious Business 2015: On being naked

As always at the close of Serious Business, I feel inspired, excited, and exhausted. The theme was transparency, openness, authenticity, and this year’s conference was the best one yet (although I do find myself saying that every year). A number of one-liners from the general session speakers keep running through my head…

From Brené  Brown:

– “Tell me what you love(d) about this.” Use this question when someone says “I wish we still did X.” It opens up the dialogue and allows you to understand what is really the question at hand (and is a more productive response than the defensive reaction that might come automatically).

– Don’t use the “invisible army” when making a point. What is the “invisible army” you might ask? Is it the “Everyones” and the “Alls” – “everyone loves it” or “we all think.” State your opinion as your own opinion, Brené says, before adding “The invisible army is chicken shit.”

– “What is worth doing even if you fail?” is an even more powerful way to look at failure and risk than the well-known phrase “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

From Marcus Buckingham:

– Who is on your personal board of directors? Have one, and let them know.

– “What are your priorities this week, and how can I help?” Ask this question of each of your team members each week, instead of status updates or “one on ones.” Instead, every week, ask each of your team members

– Remember that a year is 52 sprints. We are on sprint #3 already for 2015… 

– Don’t give feedback. Coach. As my brother-in-law Tatum says: “feedback is a problem without a solution.”

– A person will grow most in the areas she is already strong in. Don’t focus on “fixing” your weaknesses; instead, focus on growing in those areas you are already strong in.

See you next year Serious Business!

Notes from Cosmoprof: sales advice from one Shark and four retailers

During his opening remarks at the Professional Beauty Association keynote breakfast during Cosmoprof, a week ago today, Mark Cuban focused on sales. His remarks were short and to the point, and the two key messages I took away, and have written on postits now strategically placed in my office were:

“Sales cures all ills.”

“Keep on grinding. Keep on working. Keep on selling.” 

Not that I don’t know this already – but a reminder that I (and most entrepreneurs out there probably) need to focus my time and energy on revenues is always welcome. No business can exist without revenue…

This message informed my attendance at a panel the following day, The Retail Evolution: What’s New In Stores. This panel, led by Andrea Nagel of CEW, included:

–       Marcia Gaynor, DMM Prestige Beauty, Walgreens. Her Duane Reade Look Boutiques focus on making shopping easier and more convenient for the consumer, who is already shopping there for her family.

–       Shannon West, VP Beauty, Costco. 1.5 million people walk in a Costco every day. The company offers items at a 14% markup from their full landed cost, launches a line with their hero SKU, and never wants to be more than 25% of a brand’s business (i.e. they like to work with established brands).

–       Nicky Kinnaird, Founder and Creative Director, SpaceNK.  She built a beauty empire on two continents, with 62 stores in the UK and 22 in the US (including store in stores at Bloomies). Her role with the company recently shifted away from day to day operations, as she launched her own consulting business (of course with SpaceNK as a key client).

–       And Richard Parrott, President, Ricky’s NY. Ricky’s has 29 stores in New York City (of which 15 have salons), and segment their business between tourist-based business and the neighborhood store (in which of course relationships and clienteling are much more important).

Not surprisingly, the panel was sold out. I guess I am not the only indie beauty brand looking for more distribution… Here are my key takeaways.

–       Apparently, the difficulty of establishing new relationships goes both ways. While I often feel that retailers are not being as responsive to me as I would hope, Marcia, Shannon, and Nicky all expressed that finding brands is not easy, and that when they call brands they would like to have represented in their stores, they often do not even get a call back.

–       Stores like to cherry pick from lines. Nicky said she likes to offer in her stores what reflects the consumer’s bathroom, which is most often an assortment of the best products from a number of different brands. Shannon echoed this stating that Costco’s philosophy is usually to pick the brand’s hero product to launch… “Exactly what they don’t want to sell us” she admits…

–       The trends identified by the panel include:

  • From Richard: anything coming out of Japan, products for men, and sexual wellness
  • From Shannon and Marcia: devices
  • From Nicky: supplements and smart fabric

–       Apparently, boutiques are looking for new brands! Nicky told the brands in the audience “email me and you will get a response” (which I confirm is true), and Richard admitted freely “we are looking for new brands.” Indeed, he urged brands to “stick with it and be persistent.” “Don’t stop,” he concluded, echoing Mark Cuban’s exact advice.

And with that, my focus on sales, prospects, leads, and cold and warm calls just doubled!

The politics of fashion…

This past Tuesday evening, I realized something important to me. I realized that I am not the only one to whom people raise eyebrows and ask “but why would you base your business in DC.” I get asked that because I am in beauty. I realized many, many others get asked that because they are in fashion. And I realized that we are all in this together.

On Tuesday evening this week, The Politics of Fashion. premiered at Mazza Galerie. The baby, the brainchild of my amazing friend Elaine Mensah. Well – truthfully, she had “real” baby Sage in fewer months than it took her to conceive and birth this movie.

This movie was both a political statement and an industry overview. Elaine captured the thinking of designers, retailers, marketing and PR experts, stylists, fashion and beauty entrepreneurs, and more, who all get the question about “But, why in DC.” And we all answered, in our own way.

While some of the specifics of our answers may have differed, we all agreed on the following:

  1. DC is amazing and should not wish to be what it cannot be (i.e. New York).
  2. We should all stop giving DC a bad fashion rap (us insiders and you outsiders). And DC should stop being so defensive about its fashion status. We look great, and wear outfits that do not include dark suits or flat shoes.
  3. We are all in this together. The success of one indie brand or boutique is the success of all indie brands or boutiques.
  4. DC is special – for many reasons, including for the fact that we do not have a presence in Congress similar to that of the other states’. And yes, that does influence our industry (and many others).
  5. We can do anything we set our mind to. Elaine is the perfect example. “I want to make a movie about the fashion industry,” she said one day not that long ago. In various iterations, haven’t we all said something like that some time? And how many of us actually do what we say we want to do? Not many. Thank you Elaine for reminding us we can do anything we set our mind to. If we work hard.

And to DC, to my fashion and beauty industry friends, who said no to New York and many other cities, who chose DC,  I say, I love you. And I love our city.

(Next screening is on 6/17 at E Street Cinema and tickets can be purchased here.)

Last impressions from the WWD Beauty CEO Summit… and Lynn Tilton

On the plane heading back to DC from Florida, my mind is going a million miles an hour, stimulated as it was by some 40 hours spent at the WWD Beauty CEO Summit. WWD sure knew what they were doing when they scheduled Lynn Tilton, Founder and CEO of Patriarch Partners, as the closing speaker, so that we might end on a high, inspired note. While it never was a question that I was going to stay until the very end (after all, this is my Dad’s early birthday present to me and I was going to enjoy every minute of it), I have to say seeing Ms. Tilton speak was the highlight of the Summit and I am sorry for anyone who had an early flight and missed her. As corny as this may sound, I knew there was a reason I had to be at the Summit this year, and when she started speaking, I realized that reason was her.

I also realized that while I like to think I know who’s who in beauty, and in women-owned businesses, I didn’t know who she was. A self-made billionaire. The owner of the largest woman-owned business owner in the country. The owner of Stila and Jane (and 73 other businesses). A Yale-educated, diamond-wearing, Barbie-looking (tan, hair, cleavage) powerhouse. A writer of poems. And a self-professed introvert who says it is lonely at the top. Exactly my kind of woman. Madame Butterfly.

She knew her audience, of course, and so spoke mostly about Stila and Jane. She talked about how with Stila she learned how she could empower women, what beauty brands have the power to do for women: “I came to realize that when we feel beautiful and we feel confident, our inner beauty shines. We become our more compassionate self.” She continues:  “Beauty has become a tool with which I can touch women. It is so important that we be kind to each other. We talk a good game, but we don’t do it very well. … Beauty humbles us, excites us, and bonds us.”

With Jane, she traveled the country to women’s shelters and “saw for myself how we transform lives by transforming looks. This completely changed our strategy with the brand, and now when you buy a product, we give one to a neighbor in need. It is my hope that I can teach young girls that compassion is contagious and kindness is cool.”

And then, she shares with us a poem she wrote. Uncannily, the theme of the conference is “Metamorphosis.” And her poem is entitled Madame Butterfly (and her first company was called Papillon – butterfly in French). The poem brings tears to my eyes (and maybe even to Pete Born’s…), as do her closing words: “I have always thought of butterflies as I touch the world; I have always wanted to touch the world lightly and be remembered for the beauty of my flight. Let us all be butterflies, and fly.”

First impressions from the WWD Beauty CEO Summit

Last night was the opening night of the WWD Beauty CEO Summit, an event that takes place at the Breakers in Palm Beach every other year. For the last four years, I have wanted to go. I kept thinking “when I grow up, this is the conference I want to attend.” While I am not yet all grown up (and neither is my brand), I decided it was time to see for myself what this is all about (thanks Dad for the early birthday present!). And if the rest of the Summit lives up to last night, this trip will have been well worth it.

First stop, of course, a blowout (with Chardonnay and my computer of course). Unthinkable to attend such an event with my usual low-maintenance hair!

Second stop, my room – with a view! Upon walking in, I immediately decide that even if the entire Summit is cancelled right this second, the trip will have been well worth it. I am already planning my next visit to the Breakers…

Third stop, opening cocktail reception and dinner. And here, the fun really starts. From finally meeting Jill Beraud, CEO of Living Proof and realizing how many people we know in common, to running into Cassandra Lappe, beauty buyer for Zappos (who, we realized then, had had her hair blown out right next to me earlier that afternoon), I realized once again what a small industry this is, and how fabulous the people in it are.

The keynote speaker during dinner was Frederic Roze of L’Oreal USA – but at my table, the keynoters were really the founders of GlamGlow, Shannon and Glenn Dellimore. I could not stop listening to them tell their amazing story. The fabulous and glitzy couple met on Match.com,  never meant to start a beauty company, created a product for their friend Keanu Reeves, and the rest, as they say, is history. Launched in 2010 with a single product (a mask at that!), they will end this year with $200-$250 million in sales (from 4 SKUs!). They are in 84 countries, and in all in the “leading retailer, in all their doors” and are looking to the spa, travel, and cruise ship markets to expand. Five years from now, they project being a $1B+ brand, and present in many categories beyond skin care (think hair, fashion, lifestyle…).  Like a groupie, I asked question after question, but stopped just shy of asking if I could take a picture with them…

And now, on to Day 2!