My Louisiana Sunday

This past Sunday was what I think of as a typical Louisiana Sunday. The day started off with an early lunch at Middendorf’s, a seafood restaurant and local institution that opened in 1934. Broiled catfish, shrimp, and oysters, and the best coleslaw I have ever eaten. “No crawfish,” the waitress sadly announced, as the BP oil spill has caused such a price increase that the restaurant can’t afford them. That brief mention of the oil spill led to an hour long discussion of what could have and should have been done to prevent it, to fix it, and what the consequences will be for this magical area.

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).

Daring to dream, making it in business

I am writing it is 10:51 pm on Wednesday April 28th. I am wearing my favorite LBD, heels, and makeup (yes, I am at the office). Until an hour ago, I was at the NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship) Dare to Dream MIB (Making it in Business) Annual Gala.

I have been involved with NFTE for the last 2+ years, thanks to my girlfriend Minal, who is on the board. For the first time (after judging a business class competition, inviting a glass of students to my Georgetown showroom, and hosting a joint shopping event), I went to “the” party. And what a party it was.

Ada's travel beauty tips

If you know anything about me, you know that I travel a lot. I love to travel, I travel for work, and for business. Some of you have been asking me about my travel beauty tips. So here goes.

Typically, the day before I get on a plane, I will apply our Kantic Mask. It helps to nourish my skin (airplane air is so dehydrating), and gives me a nice glow – i.e. makes me look like I travel less than I do.

Important versus urgent, or how to be a better CEO?

About 5 weeks ago I wrote about my trip to Asia, and how I loved to travel, and promised you all some of my beauty travel tips. I’m sorry, but these will have to wait another week. The travel theme is still here – I am typing on the plane back to DC from Halifax. But what is top of mind, rather than beauty rituals, is the concept of scaling my business.

I have been thinking about this since the last Network of Entrepreneurial Women Breakfast Brainstorm during which Kathy Korman Frey spoke about women’s responsibilities for not just being business owners, but striving to grow our businesses to be bigger, better, more profitable.