Taking my own advice

On Saturday, I turn 42. And today, I received perhaps the best birthday gift ever: Sarah Akram herself told me I looked 30. “Good genes and good skin care,” I responded. When I then confessed that I didn’t remember when my last facial was, however, she did remind me that these facial treatments are a necessity to stay youthful-looking and that Botox does not replace the need for facials (Amen, sister. I preach this every day…).

Much like the cobbler’s daughter, while I work in the world of facials and skin care products, I do not take my own advice frequently enough. While the last time I had Botox was in June and the last time I used our Advanced retinol serum was this past Monday evening, I truly cannot recall when the last time I had a facial was.

With my birthday looming, I decided it was time to complement great home care with a really good facial. On the recommendation of a friend of mine who has particularly glowing skin (and I realize now somewhat naively) I called Sarah Akram Skincare to schedule a facial with the eponymous founder for mid-November. While I I thought this was lots of advance notice, I was gently told the next availability was January 30, 2020. “Not meant to be,” I thought, while putting my name on the wait list. Yesterday, the lovely Nyles called me back to let me know of a last-minute cancellation for this morning – so I rearranged my meetings, all the while thinking “totally meant to be, this is my early birthday gift to myself.”

Extravagant, yes. Worth every penny, absolutely. Akram is everything I love in a facial therapist: gorgeous with flawless skin, super knowledgeable about her craft, serious, friendly but not too talkative – and has magical hands. This treatment was 90 minutes of a beautifully balanced combination of technology (LED, microdermabrasion, cryo, something warm I forgot to ask about) and touch (the facial begins and ends with amazing massage). Akram uses products from Environ and Biologique Recherche, two brands I admire yet had never experienced firsthand (I did of course bring her some Alchimie to try).

I left with glowing, bright, plumped, rejuvenated skin (this photo is immediately post treatment, zero makeup) – ready to enjoy my last three days as a 41-year old and looking forward to 42 – and to my next facial at Sarah Akram Skincare, scheduled for February 2020.

Seven things to love about Puerto Rico

Over the last ten days, I have been in eleven planes, six states, and five hotel rooms. To say I am homesick is an understatement – I cannot wait to be reunited with my home tomorrow.

Luckily for me, I am ending my trip in one of my favorite places, Puerto Rico. I am as travel weary as I am enchanted by this beautiful place.

If you have not been, here are some reasons to visit PR:

1. The people. Kind, welcoming, friendly, open.
2. The food. Caribbean, Cuban, and of course Puerto Rican. Have the traditional Mofongo, a local specialty of mashed plantains with herbs and pork.
3. The weather, sunny and summery with an occasional warm rain shower.
4. The beaches. There are so many to choose from, whether in Isla Verde close to the airport or on neighboring island Culebra (Flamenco Beach is a favorite).
5. The sunset in Rincon, on the West part of the island. Breathtaking.
6. The mountains. Lush and green and gorgeous.
7. Old San Juan, with its beautiful architecture, forts, and citadels.

I can’t wait to get home tomorrow, and I can’t wait to come back to PR!

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.

Alchimie Forever… The Story Behind Our Name

It is Marketing 101 that when choosing a brand name, something short, easy to pronounce and spell, and memorable in various cultures and countries is the way to go.

My sister Cyrille and I chose Alchimie Forever as our brand name, many years ago in a delightful tea shop in the Old Town of Geneva. If I had a penny for every time our brand name was misspelled or mispronounced… What were we thinking?

Watch me tell the story here or keep reading.

As we started brainstorming, we identified four guiding principles:

  • We wanted a name that started with A (first letter of the alphabet, A like Ada, who knows…)
  • We wanted a link to Forever Institut, the medical spa our skin care brand was born in
  • We wanted a word in French (elegant, Swiss, international), and a word in English (universal, American, approachable)

We started listing French words starting with A… and suddenly my sister lit up and said “Alchimie!” And then we switched from drinking tea to celebrating with champagne!

It made sense for so many reasons. Alchimie (pronounced al-shee-mee) is the French word for alchemy. And alchemy is very much at the heart of our skin care philosophy.

  • Alchemy is the medieval science that became chemistry. And how can you formulate skin care products without chemistry, without labs, without clinical studies? There can be no skin care without science.
  • Alchemy is also part magic. The Alchemists were involved in such mystical pursuits as transforming lead into gold and finding the stone of eternal youth (both endeavors somehow related to beauty and youth). And skin care is indeed part magic…
  • The Alchemists were also among the first to identify plants as having healthful benefits. And potent botanicals are at the core of our formulations.

So yes, our brand name is hard to pronounce, and hard to spell – and now you know why: science, magic, and powerful botanicals!  

What Does Kantic Mean, and Why Do We Use That Word?

If you have been using our products for more than five or six years, you probably remember words such as Nd:YAG, Superpulse, Alexandrite, Q-switch, and one of the most complicated to spell and pronounce, Yttrium. These words are all related to the field of lasers. We loved the idea of highlighting my father’s pioneering role in the field of laser technology (remember, he was the first to introduce lasers for use in dermatology in Europe back in the mid-1980s) by having laser-related words on the packaging.

Feedback from the field suggested that while our idea might have been brilliant and made complete sense to us, our customers were confused. They could not pronounce many of the names. They asked if the Alexandrite product was named such because it was meant to be used after an Alexandrite laser treatment (that would have made sense… but was not the case). So, after many family dinners, internal debates, and a couple of arguments, we made the decision to remove these product names from our packaging and brand verbiage.

We made an exception for the word “Kantic” however. My father was attached to the laser names, and to the idea behind using them, and loved Kantic the most. So, we compromised, and three products still have this laser name – forming the Kantic collection of products:

So what does Kantic mean? Kantic is a “misspelling” of the French word Quantique (we liked the K and the C), which translates as quantum. It comes from quantum physics, which studies how atoms and particles behave, including in the field of lasers. It is true to our heritage and to the pioneering role my father played in the field of laser technology. You can find out more here.

Luckily, Kantic is one of the laser terms that is most easily pronounced (in both French and English).

Luckily, the three products that form the Kantic collection share benefits and appeal to a similar skin type:

  • Anti-aging and antioxidant
  • Nourishing and hydrating
  • Calming and soothing
  • Anti-redness and anti-irritation

And luckily, every year, my father and I get better at debating and compromising.