Wisdom from Jacques Courtin

I got away this past weekend – to a magical, beautiful place filled with soul and serenity – Tulum, Mexico. It was the perfect spot to rest my body and resource my mind.

Listening to the waves of the Caribbean Sea, I read a book that I have been carrying around with me for over a year – A Beautiful Success by Jacques Courtin – of Clarins fame. This is his story, his family’s story, his brand’s story. Established on March 15, 1954, Clarins began with a weight-loss device and a body treatment Institute. The first Clarins product was the “Tonic Body Treatment Oil,” a product that is still sold today. From an assortment of body products that complemented the Institute’s treatments, Clarins expanded to a full range of facial products, makeup, and fragrance. Combining the best of nature with the best of science, combining at-home products and treatment centers, Clarins came to represent “serious beauty.” A great example of what I want Alchimie to become!

While this book can’t be reduced to one-liners, there are some great ones, which are relevant beyond the world of beauty, and worth remembering on a daily basis.

“Do more. Do better. Enjoy what you do.”
(His key to success, and to happiness)

“Listening. Thinking. Acting. My company was based on this.”
(How often do we do those three things, but not in that order?)

“Everything starts with the word no.” He continues: “If someone says no you can immediately ask why. It’s pretty certain that with a little persistence you’ll wind up finding out the reason. At that point, you have all you need for adjusting your argument to fit the situation; you’re suddenly armed to win.”
(This reminds me of the most important lesson my sales teacher taught me: “No is just the start of a conversation.”)

“Always begin a difficult conversation with the magic words ‘You’re right.’ “You’re right’ is a sentence that everyone should be required to learn – human relations would take a huge leap forward.”
(He says this in the context of customer service challenges, but really it is true in general.)

“I sometimes ask people who work with me: ‘Would you like to be the one hearing what you’re saying?’ Sometimes nothing more is needed to help someone see they could maybe express themselves less awkwardly – and to make them want to try again, with different words.”
(We can never do this enough… in all personal and professional conversations.)

ISPA: highlights from the exhibit floor

ISPA day 2 is nearing the end, and I feel energized, inspired, and so glad to have seen so many of my spa friends. Wise Voices, the general sessions, and the professional development sessions have been amazing. And the show floor has impressed me… Here are some of my favorite booths. If you have not yet had the chance to walk the exhibit floor front to back and back to front, here are brands and people you will not want to miss.

COOLA Suncare (booth 613)

When my brother-in-law could not find a sunscreen that did not irritate his skin, I turned to COOLA upon the recommendation of a friend. And the brand lived up to its promise: “healthy sunscreen people want to wear.” I chatted with Michelle and learned more about the brand – and had my burning question answered: this is not organic sunscreen. Why? Because that is impossible, it is an oxymoron. The active ingredients (both in the physical and chemical blocks) are not organic. But the inactive ingredients are 70% certified organic. We had a great conversation on ingredients, marketing, and labeling, and agreed that “the best sunscreen is one that is worn.”

Dog Fashion Spa (booth 251)

If you know me, you know I am not a dog person. So seeing this booth was just so intriguing to me I had to stop by. Elena was wonderful, she explained the brand to me – which answers the needs of “how do you cater to a dog parent?” Apparently, 60% of our spagoers are dog parents. They take care of themselves, and of their pets. So expanding beyond the pet market made sense for this luxury pet brand – selling products and accessories for pets that have the best parents!

Hydrafacial (booth 1005)

I had a birthday during ISPA and so was looking for anything that would make me look fresher, younger, more glowing. Come in Greg and Mechele from Hydrafacial, with the best gift – a 20-minute treatment to accomplish all of the above. Mechele, one of the Hydrafacial therapists who has been with the brand for 12 years (and you won’t believe her age!) is technically perfect and a wealth of information on the device. It’s a facial with extra “oomph.” My skin confirms it. Stop by and get your treatment.

Magaschoni (booth 106)

I know this brand from my favorite clothing boutique in DC, Betsy Fisher, and did not realize it was so present in the spa world (this is their second ISPA). Known for its quality cashmere clothing, which comes in a rainbow of colors, Magaschoni is represented in the leading spas of the world, including Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons. If nothing else, stop by to feel the merchandise… so soft and luxurious.

SalonBiz (booth 154)

I am biased as I think this company (you might know it as SpaBiz) has the best-looking CEO in the history of CEOs. But seriously, stop by and drop your business card to have a chance to win an Apple watch. While there, speak with Bradley about hotel integration, the mobile checkout system (for iPad), and learn more about the SalonBiz app, which therapists have embraced wholeheartedly. You might even meet your loved one at that booth…

Universal Companies (booth 1010)

There are many reasons to stop by this booth. The Universal catalogue is, and has been for 30 years, the “Spa Bible.” And Universal is always re-inventing themselves and growing. Case in point: their September acquisition of A La Mode Partners. In a sign that the Universe goes full circle, Tracie Wertz, who used to work for Universal Companies, left to launch her own retail company (A La Mode Partners), is now back with Universal. She will be expanding and managing the retail division at Universal. Stop by the booth to speak with her about the experience of selling her company – and to discover two new brands: Vita Jewel (water bottles with gemstones to purify and alkalize water) and Sparkle (ingestible collagen).

Enjoy the rest of ISPA, and explore the exhibit floor. And when you’re done with that, head over to the Relaxation area for more amazing brands including SpaRitual.

A Day in the Life

A day in the life

5:00 AM – 5:45 AM
Alarm goes off; check phone, texts, emails, and social media while not quite awake.
Coffee, then review priorities for the day.

5:45 AM – 7:00 AM
SoulCycle or morning run. My goal is to exercise three times a week, which I do almost every week.

7:00 – 7:30 AM
Morning call with Anne & Dad, Geneva Switzerland; Discuss European distribution and Alchimie marketing calendar for Forever Laser Institut.

7:30 – 8:00 AM
More coffee; chat with Husband before the day starts; sometimes I eat breakfast… but rarely. Shower, shampoo and DIY blowdry, Alchimie morning product routine (face and body), red lipstick always, head to Alchimie office.

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
Budget review; sign checks; email check-in with all team members.

9:00 AM – NOON
Sales focus: follow up phone calls to existing clients; get feedback, share marketing plan for relaunch of body products. Coffee with potential new client.

NOON – 1:00 PM
Order lunch from Stachowski’s Market (club sandwich, no bacon); eat half while regrouping my to-do-list. Calls with sales team and freelancers.

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Weekly Accountability call meeting (with 3 other women business owners who have become my best girlfriends): review accomplishments of last week, share priorities for this week, provide input and ask for input as needed.

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Meet with my EA Sherrod: discuss various projects and priorities, review travel plans and calendar for the next week. (Thank goodness for him, he keeps me sane)

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Weekly Skype call with my PR Director, Catherine: review pending press, makeup artist partnerships, future launches. (Always reapply lipstick before Skype!)

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Return calls, follow-up on overdue emails. Write at least three thank you notes to clients, friends, and team members.

5:00 – 6:00 PM
Writing time: work on my blog, Adamant about Beauty, write style piece for Huffington Post, research next trade magazine column.

6:00 PM – 6:30 pm
Alchimie Forever team has left for the day, office to myself. Regroup. One glass of well-deserved wine. Return emails.

6:30 PM – 7:00 PM
Call with my Husband to “calendar” i.e. plan our schedule for the next two months.
He lives in New Orleans, I live in DC. Long distance love requires planning.

7:00 PM
Dinner with BFFs at Peacock Café in Georgetown, my absolute favourite!
Harvest fettuccine is my current go-to on the menu.

9:30 PM
Last email check; review calendar for tomorrow – realize I am on the road for the next three days and need to pack. Do said packing, with a brief fall into the black hole of Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter / and the latest social media craze.

10:45 PM
Evening beauty routine; delightfully get in bed, read a few pages of the current selection for Book Club (all DC authors, they often attend Book Club so reading is a must!).

11:00 PM
Sweet dreams! I need my beauty sleep!

How to deal with our digital lives

One of the women in my accountability group recently posed a question to our group of four: how do you deal with your emails? How do you manage your inbox? The three of us to whom this question was directed had little to say except to agree that this was a question we struggled with ourselves.

This encouraged me to explore the subject further. Indeed I struggle with an email inbox that feels “under control” when it “only” has 937 emails in it. I struggle being distracted by emails during important tasks. I struggle with checking email on my phone in the middle of the night, and first thing in the morning (which everyone says not to do).

My current “email management” are:

  • Flags: I flag emails that are time sensitive or very important, and sort by flag at the end of every day to make sure I responded to everything that I absolutely had to address.
  • Folders: Once an email has been handled, I either delete it, or file it. The emails in my inbox are only emails that need to be dealt with. Emails that have been handled but need to be filed for potential reference purposes go in one of 20 folders I have (ranging from a folder for each employee, a folder called “customers,” and one folder per quarter for random things as I usually remember the timing of an email when searching)
  • Email catchup hours: I try twice a week to spend about 2-3 hours on my emails, sorting my inbox alphabetically so that I am dealing with one person’s emails all at once. I like to do this in the evenings or on the weekends so that I can actually go through my inbox without having it be constantly flooded by new emails.
  • Unsubscribe: I try to unsubscribe to those emails I delete without reading. It takes time and feels like a never-ending task but it still is worth it to me.

Yet these strategies are not enough – so I turned to some of my family and friends and asked for their pearls of wisdom.


Jenn Mapp Bressan, Cibu Brand Leader

I use one gmail account to manage all of my emails. It looks like I separate my personal and my business email, but it’s all the same inbox. The desktop version is great because it automatically filters priority / social / promotional so I can manage workload without distractions from J. Crew and other favorite brands.

Heidi Kallett, CEO, The Dandelion Patch

I try to “touch an email once.” Meaning I answer it, I delete it, I forward it, or I file it upon reading it. If it’s something that needs work or attention, I put it on my written to-do list for the day/week. And save for later in a file.

Garrison Neill, Assistant Director of Operations, Paris Parker Salons

I love the VIP feature on my iPhone! It’s set to notify me as soon as one of my VIPs emails me. I also allows me to only view VIP emails so I can prioritize my responses.

Charles Perer, Founder, Intermix Capital

Keep your inbox like your desk – clear and organized. Great executives have clean desks that present good organization and structure, there is no reason the email inbox should not follow.

Rachel Polla, PR Manager, Union Bancaire Privee

To me, emails are key to communicate with colleagues that are physically hard to reach – for example their offices are located in another city. If I see an email chain that gets out of hand between people in our immediate office, I call a meeting or go speak with the key person instead of “replying all.” A conversation can be so much quicker and more effective than a million emails!

Ada Polla Juice Cleanse

What I learned on my juice cleanse

“Let’s do a juice cleanse” are words I never thought I would hear my husband utter. So I was surprised when he announced he was going to do a two day cleanse, and was buying me juices for Day 1. I agreed reluctantly (read kicking and screaming) mostly because I was curious about what it would feel like (or how bad it would feel I should say).

We purchased juices at Raw Republic in New Orleans. I asked the lovely juice attendant if doing this for “just one day” was even worth it. I was hoping she would say “absolutely not,” yet she explained that any break I gave my digestive system would help your body, my health. My plan at escaping this adventure failed.

Mondays are not my favorite days of the week, but the Monday that I will forever remember as “Monday Day 1 of the Juice Cleanse” was atrocious. I was told that typically Day 2 is the worst, as it takes a full day for your body to start cleansing. Either I was overfull of toxins, or my body is super efficient (I prefer the latter), but it took my body just 6 hours to start feeling the effects of the cleanse. By 2 pm on Monday I had a horrendous headache, was feeling nauseous, and had the most upset stomach I can remember. Of the 6 juices, I could only drink 4. I felt so ill I was in bed by 8 pm to try and make the day end as quickly as possible.

I was only going to do a one day cleanse because I was flying to DC Tuesday morning. And flying with juices is not overly practical. However, I woke up feeling amazing and craving the beet juice from Day 1 that I hadn’t been able to even smell the day before. I had that on my way to the airport (breakfast of champions) and packed the almond milk juice in my suitcase. Upon arrival in DC, almond milk tasted delicious and then it was noon and I thought I might as well finish Day 2 since I was halfway through Day 2 already.

I headed to MINT Spa to purchase a Pure Cleanse from Puree Juice Bar. There, I met Kirby who works for Puree. She told me two things. First, that a cleanse should be done one day at a time – don’t say you are going to do it for 5 days. Start with day 1 and then figure out the morning of Day 2 if you want to continue. Second, that it is ok to have a glass of wine (which, after all she said, could be considered grape juice) or a salad during a cleanse – the worse thing, she said, is to think that if you do either of these things you are negating all of the benefits of the cleanse. I liked her immediately (she had me at “wine is grape juice”) and Puree is now my go-to juice destination in DC.

I continued the cleanse for 7 days – having 3 salads (lettuce and olive oil), two avocados, and a few glasses of wine only during that time, in addition to the juices. And I felt amazing.

What I learned:

– I should not have worried about being hungry; I was not hungry for a minute

of those 7 days.

– As Puree puts it on their website: “be in awe of how little your body actually needs to sustain itself.” Who knew I needed so little food?

– I will continue to incorporate some juices in my “normal life” – Puree’s Mean Lemonade with a shot of Ginger is something I now crave and indulge in regularly.

– I don’t (yet, perhaps?) want many of the foods I used to relish.

– I always thought I ate healthy, meaning mostly fresh foods, but the cleanse made me realize how much better I could do.

– I love and always will love champagne and wine; but I drink just a little less of each.

– My husband’s ideas, no matter how crazy they sound, are usually brilliant.

Suelyn Farel

“Life is too short to eat salad without dressing” – advice from Suelyn Farel

Almost a year ago, I met Suelyn Farel, CEO of Julien Farel Group at the WWD Beauty CEO Summit. I was struck by her oversized black sunglasses (we were at the Breakers), her connection to France, and the air of kindness about her. We made plans to connect back in NYC, which finally happened a month or so ago when she treated me to a salon service and to amazing Julien Farel hair products, including the Magnifique Fortifying Serum. During our simultaneous blow-drys and over coffee, we shared stories of the beauty industry, compared notes on our favorite products and spas, and became friends, discovering we have much in common (including a 5 am wakeup time, the necessity of having champagne in the fridge at all times, and the fact that working with family means work/life balance is not something we can even begin to comprehend).

AP: What city were you born in? SF: White Plains, NY.

AP: What city to do you live in? SF: New York, NY.

AP: What is your middle name? SF: I do not have a middle name. My maiden name was “Bogdanoff” and with Suelyn being my first name, my parents couldn’t find something that would fit in between the two!

AP: What is your astrological sign? SF: Sagittarius.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? SF: I graduated from college in 3 years.

AP: What is your most prized possession? SF: My family.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? SF: My husband.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. SF: Elegant, sporty, and black.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? SF: Yes. I switch between a Panerai / Bulgari for work, and wear a diamond Cartier Pasha for evening.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? SF: DIAMONDS ALL THE WAY!

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? SF: Sleep.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? SF: I’ll never tell!

AP: Botox or not? SF: Not but I’m weighing the options as I age.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? SF: Hair color definitely NOT NATURAL.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? SF: Diet tip #1: Starbucks for breakfast. Diet tip #2: Eat everything in moderation. Don’t limit yourself in the foods that you eat, just eat the right quantities. Life is too short to eat salad without dressing!

AP: What do you do for exercise? SF: I have a fantastic personal trainer, Christina De Almeida, at JF Fitness at Julien Farel Restore Salon & Spa.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? SF: Pommery Champagne, Evian and mustard.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? SF: Tigre Blanc vodka with a splash of cranberry and two slices of lemon.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? SF: There is no such thing as balance in my world. Work permeates every part of my life, being that I work with my husband. There is no separation between who I am and what I do!

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? SF: 50-60,000 miles.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? SF: 1) Pack lots of layers and scarves, 2) For my hair: Julien Farel Smooth Crème to smooth flyways, Janeke mini travel brush+always have an elastic on my wrist, and 3) Alchimie Dry Skin Balm for my super-dry ‘airplane hands.’

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. SF: Blank Space by Taylor Swift, which I sing with my girls plus two workout songs always on my iPod are Survivor by Destiny’s Child and Lose Yourself by Eminem.

AP: What book are you reading right now? SF: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr which takes place in St Malo, France.  I loved the book so much that I’m bringing my mom there this year, because she gifted that book to me after having read it!

AP: Quote to live by. SF: “Work hard, play hard!”

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? SF: Laziness and dishonesty compete for the top spot.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? SF: I wake up at 5:00am because my husband goes for a run every morning and I am an early riser! I usually sleep about 6 and a half hours a night.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? SF: The beauty industry is filled with amazing women who are supportive, smart and savvy. The mentality is that “we are all in it together,” which is very different from fashion and what’s in many other industries. I really admire most, if not all, of the women I have met in beauty. It is a great club to be a part of.

AP: Least favorite thing. SF: Well, as the mother of young girls, I worry about the influence this industry may have on my girls… the look of perfection in an industry where everything is so nipped, tucked, buffed and perfect. I love the Dove Real Women campaign where they show true beauty by being yourself regardless of imperfections. A lot of marketing around beauty and fashion is so airbrushed and plastic. I love looking great but most days of the week I don’t wear makeup. And I’m okay with that real image being presented.

AP: Who is your mentor? SF: I’m not much of a follower, so I honestly haven’t really had a mentor. I do have women in beauty who inspire me and who I admire like Essie Weingarten, Jane Lauder, Debbie Perelman. And Bobbi Brown!  Bobbi remains so tied to her brand and down to earth. When I met her, a few years ago, she smiled and gave me one piece of advice and that was, “Don’t fuck with your face.” Since we are in the beauty industry, it is hard to stay away from the invasive options out there!  But, hearing that from Bobbi Brown, that will stay with me forever.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. SF: Find what you love. If it feels like work, change jobs or careers. Nothing replaces hard work. There is no real magic. If you keep working hard, you will get there. Never stop dreaming. If you keep dreaming, you can make it happen. Don’t be afraid to stick to what you believe in. Young women have many innovative & interesting ideas and insights that they bring to companies, that are completely different from the insights of professionals more senior in their career. Don’t be afraid to share them!