Fall Forever

I know, I know, it is still summer for 10 more days. Yet in my heart, autumn has arrived. I love fall for so many reasons… the changing foliage, my birthday, sweaters, boots, pumpkins, richer moisturizers.

I also love fall because with it comes the feeling of a New Year – like the start of a New School Year, with all of the possibilities and opportunities (and new office supplies) that come with that feeling.

Here are my fall rituals.

1.Spring cleaning. I am purging old papers (and you know my love of paper), making room for new, embracing the feeling of lightness.

2. Goal setting. The arrival of fall is a reminder that there are only 110 days left in the calendar year. That’s 110 opportunities to check things off my list and accomplish what I set out to do January 1st.

3.(Mental) Space clearing. During fall, trees let go of their leaves, releasing the old, to make room for new buds. Following their example, I work to let go of something I no longer need, be it a feeling, an obligation, a regret.

4. Seed planting (not literally). Fall is a time of incubation… seeds of ideas planted now will bloom next spring. I make myself take time for creative thinking and brainstorming.

How do you celebrate the arrival of fall?

Family business…. Business family

Today, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the inspiring Maimah Karmo in the context of providing insights to business owners in the greater Washington, DC area.

Maimah is the President & CEO Of the Tigerlily Foundation, the publisher of Bliss Magazine, the voice behind the Pure Bliss podcast, a mother, a breast cancer survivor, and much more.

She asked me to speak about one of my favorite topics, family business.

When I tell people I work in family business, I get a wide array of reactions and questions…

“Oh, wow, how do you do it?”

“Well, that must be really hard!”

“I could never work with my family.”

“I wish I had a family business!”

I love the opportunity to work with my family. It’s not always perfect, but I would not trade it for anything. Here are some of the insights I shared on my interview today.

What I love about working with my family:
– There are no politics (or less).
– We do not question our motivation: we all, in the end, want the family business to grow and prosper (even if we may disagree with the how).
– Work feels more personal (some may say this is a con, but I love this aspect so much!).
– I now know my family (Mom, Dad, sisters, uncle…) in a work capacity, at a different level than “just” a sister.
– Working with my family has made me feel closer to them.

The challenges about working with my family include:
– There is no family time that doesn’t involve some work conversation; it becomes a lifestyle more than anything else.
– Family dynamics tend to seep into work dynamics (for example, my oldest child behavior is sometimes very visible in my work interactions…)
I hear stories from other people working in family business, who share with me that working together destroyed the family; I suppose this is a con, but I do believe that with respect, love, and some best practices, this is a very avoidable con.

Our family business best practices include:
– We work on the idea until we all agree: if we disagree it’s because the idea we are debating is not yet right enough or good enough.

– The above notwithstanding, we also agree to disagree (then the project or idea we disagree on does not get executed).
– Respect always – even more so because we are family members.
– We each have our areas we work on / in, so we aren’t all involved in the same thing, and we each have “ownership” of something.
– We actively work on our family business dynamics and frameworks, as this in itself is an important success factor. For example, all members of the family involved in day to day operations attended a 4-day family business seminar at INSEAD, one of the best family business experiences I have ever had.
– We have family meetings every other year to update those family members who are not working in the business, so they feel informed, involved, and cared for. This also enables us to benefit from their “outside the business” ideas and perspectives, which is quite invaluable.

– Finally, my sisters and I have a monthly Skype meeting to talk life, work, family business, and everything in between. That communication helps us be better sisters, and better business partners. In the end, whether it’s business, family, or family business, it really is all about communication.

Never Ending Wisdom From Mom

In 2010 for Mother’s Day, I shared my mother’s life tips – which are still incredibly relevant today, and which I still prescribe to 100%.

Yesterday, on the Polla Sisters blog, I shared her beauty tips – which I utilize every day.

Yesterday, upon reading that latest post, she called to say how lovely it was, and also that she had a lot more tips now that she is reaching her late 60s. Tips about beauty as you age. So today, I share these – with gratitude that I have a mother that makes me look forward to aging, makes me look forward to everything that lies ahead, and never makes me feel like the best is behind me – in beauty or in life.

In Mom’s words:  (and here are more of Mom’s words)

“My daughter Ada just published on her blogs my beauty tips — and they were and are my beauty tips indeed, for everyday! When I turned sixty, I felt that I should add at least one each year.

60 : Think about your weight and check it everyday. A few kilos more make for a rounder face, fills in the fine lines: this is nice. A lot of kilos more make too round of a belly. Find the right balance.

61 : Beautiful hair is essential. I add one more Aveda product every six months to my collection of hair products, and now have almost as many hair products as I do skin and body care products.

62 : Lower the height of your heels just a little bit. Keep the highest just for home parties and sex of course. Otherwise, I prefer ankle boots and booties rather than low heeled shoes. 

63 : Cherish the scent of your skin. Use products that always make you smell delicious – whether lotions or perfume. I love blueberry, rose, … 

64 : Be smart with alcohol: champagne, but with ice (and even some sparkling water mixed in).

65 :  Double the frequency of medi-spa consultations. Never look “done” but take care of those brown spots as they appear. Mix a drop of the Alchimie Forever Kantic brightening moisture mask every day with your day cream and night cream.

66 : Dare to add some glittery powder on your arms whenever you do not wear long sleeves. And wear a lot of long sleeves.

67 : Tell young women how beautiful they are. They will look at you and see you how beautiful you are, and say the same back to you. Forever.

68 : Never say, nor even think, you are « old » . Just say your age as a number, not as a judgment: I am 68. 68 is what I am, I can feel it as I wish, and others will feel it as I make it feel.”

And as we get off the phone, she reminds me to smile. Smile at the sun, smile at the clouds, smile at life. That will make you “une beauté qui traverse le temps” – hard to translate as such poetic French words are, but something like “beautiful through the ages.”

Thank you, Mom!

Preparation H for the eye contour? Dr. Polla doesn't recommend it!

Being in the skin care industry, I love to hear about people’s skin care routines, beauty tips and tricks, and product use and mis-use. One of the strange things that I have heard on more than one occasion has to do with the use of Preparation H in the eye contour area to alleviate puffiness. I heard this one too many times this past week, and had to research this. Does Preparation-H really help the eye contour area? Here is what I found out.

Of the Preparation H family of products, I have really ever heard of two being used for “anti-aging” and “beautifying” purposes in the eye contour area: Preparation H Cooling Gel, and Preparation H Ointment. Here are the ingredients:

PREPARATION H COOLING GEL

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS Phenylephrine HCl 0.25% Witch hazel 50.0%.

INACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Aloe barbadensis leaf juice, edetate disodium, hydroxyethyl cellulose, methylparaben, polysorbate 80, propylene glycol, propylparaben, purified water, sodium citrate, sulisobenzone, vitamin E acetate.

PREPARATION H OINTMENT

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Mineral oil 14% Petrolatum 74.9% Phenylephrine HCl 0.25%.

INACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Benzoic acid, butylated hydroxyanisole, corn oil, glycerin, lanolin, lanolin alcohols, methylparaben, mineral oil, paraffin, propylparaben, purified water, thymus vulgaris (thyme) flower/leaf oil, tocopherols excipient, white wax.

Dr. Polla’s comments?

When in doubt about anything skin related, I turn to my dad. What does he think of this? I asked him first about the Phenylephrine HCl ingredient. “It is an adrenergic derivative known for its decongestant and vaso-constricting properties.” Translation into lay speak, this means this ingredient may indeed reduce swelling or puffiness. However, my father cautions: “This is a temporary effect, and when it subsides you often see the opposite, i.e. vaso-dilation of the capillaries, which increases the look of redness” (think darker under-eye circles in the eye area).

The cooling gel contains witch-hazel, which is known to also have decongesting properties. This ingredient is actually often used in facial skin care formulations, so no concerns there.

The ointment contains ingredients that, well, make it an ointment: mineral oil, glycerin, paraffin, wax. “These ingredients are meant to sit on top of the skin,” my father explains, “rather than penetrate. They are thick, oily ingredients that can clog pores.” Imagine putting Vaseline on your face. Possibly beneficial if you suffer from serious dry patches, but not recommended on a daily basis.

Other than not being ideally formulated for the eye contour area, I finally ask, would using this product in this way potentially be nefarious? “There are a couple ingredients that may over time irritate the eyes,” replies my father, “including sulisobenzone in the cooling gel, and various alcohol-derived ingredients in the ointment.”

Conclusion: using Preparation H products in the eye contour area won’t kill you – but it is not “Dr. Polla-recommended.”

BeautyView: Neil Scibelli, Celebrity Makeup Artist

One of the things I enjoy the most about the beauty industry is the amazing people I have a chance to meet, and stay in touch with through the years. I met Neil (or Aniello, as I still like to call him) back in to 2008, when I needed help with the Alchimie counter at Henri Bendel’s. Over the years, we have stayed in touch (even though neither of us are at Bendel’s anymore), and I have come to think of him as my little brother. He has since become a celebrity makeup artist, and now I can say “I knew you when…” We caught up in NYC last week, enjoying some wine and guacamole at Sarabeth’s.

AP: What city were you born in? NS: Queens, NY.

AP: What city to do you live in? NS: I live in Manhattan, NY, down in Little Italy.

AP: What is your middle name? NS: Alessandro.

AP: What is your astrological sign? NS: Virgo.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? NS: Two things: I hate elevators (and always have). And I am a songwriter.

AP: What is your most prized possession? NS: My dignity. It slips away sometimes but I always find it again!

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? NS: Oprah. Love her. Or Britney Spears.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. NS: Classic, edgy, comfortable.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? NS: Yes. It is a gold Timex with a fun vintage-looking band.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? NS: Diamonds!

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? NS: WATER! Concealer is also a beauty must-have. And confidence.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? NS: Molecule 01 by Escentic Molecules.

AP: Botox or not? NS: Not. Lots of serums instead.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? NS: Natural. Lots of leave-in products.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? NS: I eat low-carb. I remove the bun from everything. Protein and veggies is the answer.

AP: What do you do for exercise? NS: When I do it, I do 20 minutes of cardio at the gym and then I lift.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? NS: 1. Some kind of fruit, usually oranges. 2 White wine. 3. Coconut water.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? NS: Tequila ginger with lime. Maybe with Cointreau.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? NS: Staying humble and being true to yourself. Also, cardio is like a therapist – totally necessary.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? NS: Not as many as I would like…

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? NS: Love to travel, would love to travel more.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. NS: My Kind of Love by Emeli Sande. The entire album by Sara Bareilles. And The Truth about Love album by Pink.

AP: What book are you reading right now? NS: I always read three at a time… All non-fiction, all have lessons to them. The latest is Creative Mind and Success by Earnest Holmes.

AP: Quote to live by. NS: I’m a big believer in The Secret and whenever I need to re-focus I always think: “where energy goes, energy flows.” It reminds me to put my thoughts in the right direction.

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? NS: Rudeness.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? NS: As a makeup artist, that changes a lot. I have had 3:30 am call times for which I have slept 2 hours, and later mornings. On average, I try to get at least 6 hours.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? NS: That we all have an appreciation for beauty and art and want to further that vision.

AP: Least favorite thing. NS: Some of the egos…

AP: Who is your mentor? NS: Christina Zilber, the founder of Jouer. I have gotten to know her personally and it has been wonderful.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. NS: Always follow your vision and find your passion.

Building a cult brand…

Today, I had the privilege of speaking on “The Business of Beauty” at the first Fashion 360 conference organized in DC. On a panel with other DC beauty experts, I was asked to discuss “building a niche beauty brand.”

Building a brand, creating a connection with consumers, establishing a unique selling proposition in what is an overcrowded marketplace is indeed the most challenging part of my job.  To be truthful, if I had the answer to “how to successfully build a niche beauty brand,” I probably would be spending time on my own private island instead of working on a Sunday. I am still learning.

As I continue to learn, I am lucky enough to surround myself with advisors and mentors. One such mentor successfully developed another Swiss beauty brand, La Prairie. And to him, I owe perhaps the most insightful discussion of how to build a nice brand, beauty or fashion. Today, as I prepared for the “Business of Beauty” panel, I turned back to my notes from that meeting.

In my pre-Evernote world of paper notebooks, I knew exactly where to look. That meeting happened early February 2010, and since I date my notebooks, it was no problem to identify the right one. Why do I remember the specific date, you might ask. Well, on Sunday, February 7, 2010, the Saints were playing in the Superbowl. And I could have gone, with my husband no less, a die-hard Saints fan. Instead, I boarded a plane to Geneva in order to attend a Board of Advisors meeting that had been scheduled for months for Monday, February 8. That meeting, I decided, was more important than the most important football game of the year.

During that meeting, I learned about building a cult brand. And while this was over three years ago, the lessons from that day continue to influence the marketing choices and strategies that I define for Alchimie Forever. The lessons of that day centered on the premise that the Catholic Church is one of the most successful brand builders. My advisor was very specific in his comparison, listing what a cult brand (whether fashion or beauty) needs to have, and what we can learn from the Catholic Church (I was raised and baptized Catholic, and mean no disrespect to this or any religion by drawing this comparison).

  1. A cult brand needs a cathedral, a physical place that believers can come visit. Aka a flagship store or showroom.
  2. Ideally, this cathedral is located in a sacred area, which in retail speak means Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, Madison Avenue in Manhattan, or Avenue Montaigne in Paris.
  3. Just like the Catholic Church has altars, physical manifestations of the sacred, brands need merchandised physical displays.
  4. Every brand needs its own “bible,” a brochure perhaps, a way to tell its story and weave its tale.
  5. The Pope is essential to the personal connection believers have to the Catholic Church. Just like the person behind a fashion or beauty brand (entrepreneur, brand founder, brand owner) is key to personalizing the brand’s story.
  6. Every brand needs Apostles. The founder cannot spread the gospel by his or herself, brand ambassadors are essential to creating buzz and reaching more consumers.
  7. Every brand needs a Holy Grail, namely, a hero product. Think of the Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (one of my favorite products of all time), or the Kiehl’s Crème de Corps.
  8. People crave rituals. With rituals come mystery, myth, and magic. In the skin care world, rituals represent the method of applying the product. Think of the Eve Lom cleanser and muslin cloth.
  9. The idea of Pilgrimages can be translated into a distribution strategy. The places consumers go to see or purchase a product are special, unique, and rare. Think exclusivity of place and quantity.
  10. And finally, we have religious holidays. Brand translation meaning products or collections created for a specific and special event.

Now, to take this theory and make it reality…