One burger, two presidents

A few hours ago, just after finishing a fabulous burger with brie at Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, I shook the hands of President Obama and President Medvedev. I don’t get star struck (well, unless I get to brush up against amazing beauty CEOs such as Leslie Blodgett of Bare Escentuals). But I still have goose bumps about it.

About halfway through our burgers, my friend Michael Ortner, Founder and CEO of Capterra and I (and the rest of the restaurant) are told by a very serious looking Secret Service agent that the President is on his way, and that we have to be “wanded” and our belongings checked. Unless of course we prefer to leave. Yeah right. We aren’t done eating!

On the importance of girlfriends

I am the eldest of four daughters. I work in the female-dominated beauty industry. And I am surrounded by girlfriends. I had drinks last night with a few of them, and it reminded me about their importance to me, and their role in my life.

In alphabetical order, please meet some of them (and learn about their favorite Alchimie Forever products).

Heidi. The BFF among all BFFs. She makes me feel like I can do anything, anytime. Including run a ½ marathon on my 31st birthday (that was her gift to me), without any training whatsoever other than my biweekly short runs. She also makes me feel like no matter what kind of trouble I get myself in, she will be there for me if I need it. It is an amazing feeling of safety. She is my get out of jail card. Hopefully she knows I am hers. (Kantic+ intensely nourishing cream)

Jen. We met at a beauty tradeshow in Las Vegas, completely randomly, the two beauty people from the greater DC area. She is the CIBU muse. She is the Fresh Lunch enabler. She has taught me about Youtube, Twitter, and more. We share industry stories and discuss the latest WWD articles (and the men in our lives of course). (Kantic calming evening cream)Jilinda.

We went to business school together, but somehow only became friends at the very end – actually at a rooftop pool in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Her, her husband, and their two children (of which my god-daughter Margot) are like my family away from home. When I crave a home-cooked meal, as well as the routine of playing with toddlers and reading bed-time stories, I invite myself over. (Kantic calming evening cream)

Kassie. We launched our businesses around the same time, we are growing our businesses one along side another, and sometimes I just need to have another woman entrepreneur’s perspective. She always listens, offering encouragement and words of wisdom. She also feeds my shoe addiction. And she has taught me that a fight only makes friendship stronger. (Kantic brightening moisture mask)

Maiya. My freshman year roommate. My early morning sister (5 am alarms throughout most of college!). She got me to watch the X files back in 1995 – our Sunday evening tradition. Even if we don’t see each other more than once a year these days, she always remembers my birthday. She always sends a Christmas gift. We email almost daily. She has been a constant in my life for 16 years now (and not many other people or things have!). (Diode 1 + 2 age defying serums)

Megan. Possibly the most gorgeous of my friends. Heads turn when we have cocktails (and those heads are not turning for me). The thing is, she isn’t just gorgeous. She is smart, professional, kind, a little shy – and not a girlie girl. She reminds me to be kind to myself, to take some time off, to work less hard. (Kantic calming evening cream)

Minal. The perfect example of how a business acquaintance becomes a friend. We met through a common industry connection, and stayed in touch. Over the years, through dinners and cocktails, we became friends. From Minal I have learned to network better, to write better, to be more involved in the community. She is the one who got me involved in NFTE. It was at her table that I had the amazing experience at their recent Dare to Dream gala. (Excimer purifying facial cleanser)

All of my girlfriends are an integral part of my life – the ones I described here, and all the others, Lindsey, Lisa, Vikki, Julie, Jen (other Jen), Severine, the list goes on. They are invaluable to me. Their successes are my successes. Their struggles are my struggles. They make my life richer and more fun. Thank you!


A day in the life

I often am asked to describe a typical day – and my answer is always the same. There is no such thing as a typical day. But I wanted to describe this day. Between right now and 36 hours from now, I will have flown over the Atlantic, been in three US states, been on QVC live, all with a conference call and some emails in between. Welcome to my life. This is going to be a loooonnnggg day!

Friday May 14th, 5:50 am, Geneva, Switzerland (11:50 pm Thursday May 13th EST)

I am up, packing, getting ready for my flight. Coffee is a must, as is checking email at the kitchen table (next to my Mom, who is drinking tea checking email too, and to my Dad, who is eating breakfast and getting ready for a day of patients). 67 email messages between last night 11 pm (ie 5 pm DC time) and right now. I hate different time zones, and I hate sleeping when business is open on the East Coast.

8:30 am, Geneva airport, gate C-15 (ie 2:30 am Friday May 14th EST)

Continental Airlines is having a computer problem. We are supposed to board now, but only half the passengers are checked in. Luckily, I find an espresso bar and Wi-fi. I start up a conversation with the English gentleman next to me, who is also on that flight, and also on his computer. We talk about how traveling really is not that glamorous after all.

First few hours on the plane

I fall asleep before we take off, but wake up for the meal – am famished. I catch up on my reading – my two favorite magazines, Entrepreneur Magazine (the May 2010 issue has a great cover story on the founder of Le Labo, a fantastic niche fragrance company), and Inc. Magazine (where I read about virtual offices and sales tips). Next, some real work on a proposal for a potential distributor.

Next few hours on the plane

One more short nap (better sleep while I can), more work (need to revise the Alchimie Forever brochure), some distraction watching two episodes of CSI. Apply Kantic+ intensely nourishing cream, and Superpulse rejuvenating eye balm to eye contour. Repeat. Drink water. Repeat.

1:30 pm

My girlfriend and “QVC enabler” Nadia picks me up at Newark airport in her cute green Saab. The drive to QVC is scheduled to take about an hour and a half. We chat, catch up, then stop at a rest area for gas, Diet Coke with lime (need caffeine), dried mango (tastes like candy but gives the impression of eating something healthy), and our last call with QVC before the show – with their legal department.

2:30 pm

Call with QVC legal team. Notes to self: I can say firming, but not tightening; I can say my parents are both MDs but can’t talk about our medical spa Forever Laser Institut; I can say décolleté, but not bust. Nadia and I get back on the road, and talk about our respective boyfriends (of course).

4:30 pm

Nadia and I have arrived in the general QVC area, and should be heading to the hotel so I can take a nap, but we have an emergency – I need to get a manicure. Nails are key to looking good on TV. The cameras will do some close ups of me holding my product, and at this point, my hands are not ready. We walk in to “Nail Paradise,” and since we’re at it, both ask for a pedicure in addition to the “necessary” manicure. I love the new OPI Hong Kong summer colors and have been meaning to try them out. I pick “Jade is the new black” for my toes (Nadia looks at me like I am a crazy person, but then reasons that “green is the color of money, so why not.” And it matches my flip flops.). And “Lucky lucky lavender” for my finger nails. Nadia goes with a much more muted sheer for her fingers and coral for her toes. I explain to her that both green and purple are Alchimie Forever corporate colors. She is still looking at me funny.

6:30 pm

Check in to the Hampton Inn Great Valley. It is 7 miles from the QVC studios. The idea is now for me to take a nap, but I can’t sleep. Toss and turn. Give up and get up. Check email. Lie back down. Try to sleep. Finally fall asleep around 9:30 pm.

10:30 pm

Alarm goes off. I think by now I have been up for almost 24 hours, but I actually don’t feel that bad. A shower helps. Eye drops and makeup help too. I am supposed to arrive at QVC all dolled up, even though I have a salon appointment – that is for touch ups only. I never have a problem deciding what to wear, but tonight is a challenge. I am pitching our Alexandrite gel for neck and bust, so I want a top that shows off my décolleté. I brought four options (but two are red, which I forgot is a no-no color for TV), and Nadia brought 5. I end up borrowing her coral Banana Republic top. I don’t have the proper bra, but smart as she is, she jerry-rigs my braw straps with a hair band. What would one do without girlfriends in this situation? We pack a couple other tops, just in case the host is wearing the same color or something that really doesn’t match coral, our laptops, drinks, more dried fruit, and deviled eggs (I wanted an egg salad sandwich, but apparently no egg salad is to be had anywhere in this area).

11:45 pm Friday May 14th

We arrive at the QVC Studios. This is the third time I have been on air, and what has now become somewhat of a routine is comforting. Check in as a guest, walk through the long hallway, pass the QVC cafeteria, the QVC store, and enter the studio area. The hustle and bustle is amazing. TV producers. Guests. Guests’ entourage. Hosts. Hair and makeup people. While I am going on air at 3 am, my host, Gabrielle, starts much earlier, so I have to be here now to meet with her. I have been on air with her before, almost a year ago to the day, for our Diode serums, and I love her. We reconnect. We discuss the key selling points of the Alexandrite gel. I remind her I am Ada (pronounced Ah-tta) from Alchimie (pronounced Al-shee-mee) and not Ada from Alchemy.

It’s finally Saturday May 15th, 12:00 am

It’s time for hair and makeup. Tonight, this is a 30 minute process, apparently my at home makeup job wasn’t so great. I will never get used to the airbrushed foundation. I look great, but it’s not really me. You can’t see my skin through the makeup. The fist time I went on air, I asked the hair and makeup people to not use foundation. They laughed. I don’t ask anymore.

12:30 am

I have 2.5 hours to go. It’s pouring outside, so there is no going back to the hotel (what with the hair and makeup and all). I watch Leslie Blodgett of Bare Escentuals on QVC – she is great, I try to learn from her about how she connects with her consumer (in particular as she is speaking about her Extra Firming Neck Cream). When her show is done and she walks past me, I almost want to introduce myself but can only imagine how exhausted she is. She gets to sleep for a few hours before having to go back on the set. Her product is on air 17 hours this week-end.

1:30 am

Time to catch up on emails again. I put in a good hour of productive work, eating my deviled eggs and more dried mango. I listen to the other guests, who seem to know each other, chat about flights, travel schedules, when they are going to sleep, when they will next be on air, and somehow my 36 hour day seems relatively normal. This is a different world.

2:45 am

I have butterflies in my stomach. I get miked. “Test, 1, 2, 3, Test, 1, 2, 3.” I look at my notes one more time (especially the list of things I am not allowed to say). I walk over to the taping area. This always calms me down. As electric as the air in the studio is, the room in which this is all happening is completely quiet except for the host and the guest currently on air. There are two people moving furniture around, but otherwise the room is empty. There is no audience (even though millions are watching). There are no camera-men. Everything is computer-controlled. The huge cameras move around like alien robots, I love watching them.

3:00 am

Beauty Beat starts. The first product on air is the TSV – Today’s Special Value – the Bare Escentuals Faux Tan self tanning product and brush. I watch Gabrielle and her guest Jessica, a trainer for Bare Escentuals. I watch the model and her long tanned legs and wonder to myself if I can purchase the legs. Focus. Concentrate. I look at my notes again. I look at the screens below the huge cameras, and see that in 30 seconds I’m up. 30 seconds is so short on a normal day, but in the QVC world, 30 seconds feel like an eternity. In 30 seconds, thousands of dollars worth of product could be sold. In 30 seconds, props could be moved and furniture rearranged. In 30 seconds…

 3:09-3:14 am approximately

Watch it here. A few seconds into it, I remember to smile… I am not nervous anymore, I am thrilled to be on air.

3:15 am

As soon as it started, it is over. This part is always anti-climactic. Must be the adrenaline working itself through my system. Months of preparation, of coaching, of calls with various members of the QVC team, all for 5 minutes. Now, the moment of truth. In the “Green room”, there are computer screens that show the numbers. Every possible number, but the key number is $ per minute. I spend the next 35 minutes watching the screen, watching the numbers go up, watching the other guests on air (I met Dr. Denese, she thought I was in my 20s, I told her I was 32 and thanked her for the compliment; she is gorgeous!), watching their numbers too. Nadia and I rehash every second of my 5 minutes and discuss what worked, what I could have done better. We finally make ourselves get up and leave (we could both have spent the rest of the nigh – morning – watching those screens).

4:00 am

Back at the hotel. First stop: bathroom to wash off all of this makeup. Our Excimer cleanser does the trick. Too much adrenaline to sleep, so we open a bottle of cab and chat, like two girlfriends at a sleepover. We debate the pros and cons of sleeping in pajama pants versus pajama shorts. I open my computer and write parts of this. We chat some more. Nadia’s last words “I’ll stop talking soon.” Then, finally, sleep.

7:00 am

Alarm goes off. Where am I? What day is it? Right. Must. Get. Up. Autopilot. Brush teeth, get dressed, pack. Drive to Paoli train station. Begin the journey back to DC. As I finish writing this, I am on the second train, from Philly to Washington DC. Listening to Citizen Cope and typing and happy. The sun is shining, the scenery is beautiful. At this point, I don’t know if I am tired or not, but I am happy writing and sharing this with you. I’ll be back in DC by 11:30 am, and it will still be Saturday May 15th (ie 5:30 pm Geneva time). By then, I will have been up just about 36 hours. And it won’t even be noon… Anyone want to go out tonight?


Everything I learned about life I learned from my Mom

This year Mother’s Day is falling so early in May, I am remiss in shopping for a gift. Somehow I thought I had at least two more weeks. So I thought I would gift my Mom this blog (and my arrival in Geneva Monday morning, and our Alchimie Forever mother’s day gift set!). Typically, if I were to have a conversation with you about pretty much any topic eventually I would say something like “Well, as my Mom always told me…”. Here are her top rules to live by, which I try to live by too (although she would never call them rules – she is not much of a rule person).

Happy New Year!

I love the 31st of December. It is the promise of a New Year, of endless possibilities, of a clean slate. To me, it is a bit like Friday night – the week-end is ahead but has not yet started. And, of course, December 31st is the day to make New Year’s resolutions. At the end of every year, millions of us (50% of Americans, actually!) resolve to live better, be better, and abandon our vices.

From Entrepreneur Magazine, December 2009, here are a few New Year’s resolution factoids:

– 99% jump in web visits to Weight Watchers in January, more than in any other month
– 1 million boxes of smoking cessation gum, lozenges, and ptaches sold in January 2008
– 42% jump in traffic on career sites in January
– 12% of gym memberships are sold in January, more than in any other month

My list of goals (I like that word better than resolution) for 2010, both personal and professional, is long. You can read about some of them on (nice to end the year with a homepage photo!). Others include reading more; taking up running again; and for a third year in a row (is there an expiration date for goals?), learning to play pool!

Whatever your goals for 2010 may be, I wish you a New Year filled with happiness, success, and beauty!

With love,


What I am grateful for this year

A girlfriend of mine (who shall remain nameless so as not to completely spoil the surprise) is eloping the day after Thanksgiving. She told me she wanted to have something fantastic to remember 2009 by. Indeed, many of us would rather forget about 2009 alltogether. As she was telling me about her plans, I started to think about all the great things that happened this year, positive things that I should be grateful for and that make up for the economy…

It seems particularly appropriate to think about this during this holiday week. So here goes. I encourage you all to make your own list and celebrate 2009.

I am thankful for:

1. The birth of the first Polla grandchild, my niece Sasha. 

2. The new Alchimie Forever showroom located in the heart of Georgetown.

3. My new apartment, also in Georgetown, with its hardwood floors and wood-burning fireplace.

4. The fact that I can walk to work!

5. My first experience with live TV.

6. My first Mardi Gras spent in New Orleans, “the city that care forgot.”

7.  My first trip to the wine country.

8. The launch of our newest product, Superpulse Tightening Eye Contour Gel for Men.

9. The new Alchimie Forever clients who brought our line in to their spas and boutiques despite the current climate.

10. The existing Alchimie Forever clients who still trust and support us and make everything else possible.

Happy Thanksgiving!

With love,