What we are doing right now, right here, to help

Two weeks ago, my youngest sister Roxane, a Medical Doctor at the hospital in Sion, Switzerland, asked a very pointed question on our Polla sisters Skype: “What can our beauty businesses do to help during this time of crisis?” I did not have an answer, but I did hear her question. A few days later, I saw on LinkedIn that Mathilde Thomas of Caudalie donated products to numerous hospitals in France. And I thought, well, we also have products that help with chapped hands and irritated faces… 

So I began my week with a donation of products to Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, the hospital that is affiliated with the business school I went to and that is less than one mile from my office. Similarly, in Switzerland, we donated products to my sister Roxane’s hospital (in Sion), the one affiliated most closely with my heart since she works there every day. 

In speaking of this with my sisters and my team, I was amazed to hear about their own initiatives to help and contribute to their communities. Here is what they are doing: 

Angie (NYC): “I gave a donation to New York’s Food Bank last month. This month, I am donating to José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen. I like that some restaurants are feeding healthcare workers and that also helps support the restaurant during these times.”

Emma (Arlington, VA): “I am buying books (used and new) from eBay US sellers instead of Amazon. It makes me feel better that I deal directly with real people and contribute something to them instead from big companies such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The sellers that I’ve dealt with so far shipped everything from their house which is listed on the shipping label of the packages that I received.”

Jenna (Reston, VA): “I baked assortments of cookies and sent them to friends and clients to cheer them up. Also, I live across the street from a trauma hospital so every night at 7 pm people in my building and surrounding buildings go outside on their balconies to cheer for the hospital workers at shift change. A small gesture, but it makes everyone (including myself) feel good.”  

Kelli (Charleston, WV): “I have compiled lists of local restaurants offering delivery or carry out and local businesses doing online sales or online classes that I share regularly on social media.”  

Mandi (Washington DC: “I have been ordering food from all of my favorite local restaurants and taking classes from my favorite yoga instructors (some donation-based and some free) and posting pictures to my social media to help build their client base.”  

Rachel (Geneva, Switzerland): “I have been buying groceries for a few older women who are high risk and should not leave their homes, both among my neighborhood and among my Forever Institut teammates.” 

Roxane (Sion, Switzerland): “I have been extra ‘gifty’ to my friends who have had birthdays in the last few weeks, since they can’t celebrate as they usually would. I have been having cupcakes delivered to them (from a brand called Melazic, a business owned by two sisters) as well as personalized cookies with positive messages from the brand Bobiskuit, also a woman-owned brand.” 

There is no right or wrong way to help or contribute. There is no act of kindness too small or too insignificant to matter. And it makes me so proud to be a part of a family, a team that instinctively takes care of their communities, of their world, of our world. 


Georgetown, How I Love Thee…

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending Carol Joynt’s Q&A Café. She interviewed Nancy Taylor Bubes, during a fabulous lunch at the Georgetown Club. (Read more about the interview here). There is hardly anything more Georgetown than that, and it reminded me how much I love this neighborhood I live in…

The sights

  • The amazing architecture, the row houses, the hidden gardens (and swimming pools), the cobblestones. Every time I walk down the street, I discover something new, beautiful, and captivating.  (Go on the House Tour and Garden Tour to discover some of these secrets…)
  • The Potomac, with its boat houses and rowers.
  • The trees, which change their dress with the seasons, and also look magnificent.

The tastes

  • Thunder: the best burger in Georgetown, and heaven if you like beer. Also, Bernard and Josh are possibly the most entertaining bartenders you will come across…
  • Peacock Café: the best fries in Georgetown, and my personal favorite lunch spot.
  • Bourbon Steak: the best Manhattan (other than the one my husband makes), and fascinating people watching if you want to see (foreign) Government-looking types in suits.

The smells

  • Georgetown Tobacco. Every time I walk by there, I am reminded of when my Dad used to smoke the pipe, and then Blue Gitanes… (shhhh, don’t tell him I told you).  
  • I even love the ginkgo trees around Olive street… stinky in the fall, yet so Georgetown.  

The sounds

  • The birds of Spring. They start chirping at 4:10 am, like an orchestra of happiness for things to come.
  • The sound of tennis balls hitting racquets on the courts of Montrose Park. There is nothing quite so civilized.

The feels

  • The community feel of the neighborhood, where people still say “good morning” and nod and smile to each other when walking down the street.
  • The international feel of the neighborhood, enhanced by the embassies nearby and the international Georgetown students.

Flashback to Warren Buffet – and his great advice

If you have seen me travel, you have seen me with a pile of magazines, going through them methodically, tearing out articles that seem relevant and of interest. Sometimes I read them immediately, sometimes I “save them for later when I have time.”

I brought such a pile of magazine tear-sheets with me to Tinos to read during my two weeks of R&R. And in the middle of them, somehow, I found very old notes (like from 11/14/2002 old!) about a speech I heard Warren Buffet give at the McDonough School of Business. I am not sure how these notes go into this pile, and I am not sure how they survived the last 16 years (!!) but they are timeless and still so very relevant today.

Buffet’s advice:

  • Do work you love and are passionate about.
  • Always follow the front-page test: if you don’t want your words or actions on the front page of the Washington Post, don’t say or do the thing.
  • Think about who your heroes are.
  • Don’t marry for money, especially if you’re already rich!
  • Don’t save sex for old age. (Yes, he did say that!)
  • Your life’s success is measured by who loves and respects you.
  • There is no such thing as “business ethics.” There’s just ethics.
  • Don’t pay attention to the economy. Focus on what is knowable and what is important.
  • Don’t be envious, it only makes you feel bad.
  • Run your business like it’s your only asset and you can’t sell it for 100 years.
  • Don’t be bought.
  • What you are later in life is determined today. Have good mind and body habits.
  • There are a lot of things you can’t control – but you can control the type of person you are.


A day in my life…

As I write this, it is just past 7 pm somewhere in the skies. I spend a lot of time here – a lot of time in the sky, in airports. As a beauty entrepreneur, I travel most of my time. Also as a beauty entrepreneur, I get asked frequently what a “normal” day is like. The short answer is there is no such thing as a “normal” day. No two days resemble each other; no two weeks are the same. That is part of the fun and challenge of being an entrepreneur, and being on the road all the time.

Nonetheless, today was a great day, and a good example of what I spend my time on when I am in DC, where our Alchimie Forever US headquarters is located, and where I pay rent (when people ask me where I live, I say the skies).

4:30 am. My (phone) alarm goes off. This is about 30 minutes earlier than my usual wakeup time, and somewhat more painful than expected as I had a social dinner engagement last night that lasted until near midnight. I can’t help myself but set the alarm for 5 am and get 30 minutes more of shut-eye. (Very rare for me, this happens maybe once a month; I don’t even know how to snooze my alarm…)

5:00 am. My alarm goes off again. I wake up (again) from the deepest sleep, and don’t feel much more rested than 30 minutes ago, but this is the latest I can get up and still do everything I need to do today. This first hour of my day is spent checking my emails on my phone (which I do while still in bed; a habit I am desperately trying to break); making coffee (my Krups coffee machine is one of my most prized possessions); putting in a load of laundry (oh the glamorous life…); showering and other morning routine things; slathering on a half dozen Alchimie Forever products; deciding on my outfit – a Trina Turk black dress and Kelsi Dagger 5 inch silver heels.

6:00 am. Skype conference call with the General Manager of my family’s medical spa, Forever Laser Institut. My 3 sisters and I are now majority shareholders of the spa, which means we are all much more involved than 3 months ago. Working with Europe means frequent 6 am calls… on days like today I don’t get to work out (I can only work out in the am), but that’ s ok since I went to spinning yesterday and will wakeboard twice this weekend).

7:00 am. Blowdry with Enver. For the past 11 years, ever since I moved to DC really, my blowdrys have been with Enver at George at the Four Seasons. Today, for the first time, it is as the new salon that Enver just opened, Georgetown Salon and Spa. A rare treat, I splurge on a blowdry maybe once a quarter… given how I feel with my hair perfectly blown out, however, I am thinking that I should definitely do this more often.

7:45 am. At the office I answer a couple of emails, mostly from my team in our Geneva office (it’s the afternoon there already), and then tend to the real reason why I should have gotten up at 4:30 instead of 5, which is to put the finishing touches on my slides for this afternoon’s presentation at Georgetown University. Nothing like waiting for the last minute to do everything… this happens too often.

9:00 am. Breakfast with favorite client, Mike, owner of the Grooming Lounge. A couple times of year we have breakfast at the Mayflower, a favorite tradition of mine, to talk business, share industry news, check in with each other, and have a laugh or two. This is one of the favorite parts of my job, the relationships I create with other business owners. I respect and admire every entrepreneur I work with, they all inspire me one way or another.

10:30 am. Phonecall with the new spa manager of the Salamander Resort and Spa. This is possibly one of the biggest developments in the regional DC spa and wellness industry, a beautiful resort opening in August in Middleburg, the brainchild of Sheila Johnson. Penny, the spa manager, and I have known each other for about 6 years we figure – from her Mandarin Oriental days – and finally, we have the opportunity to work together. Good things come to those who wait. She confirms with me that Alchimie will be one of the lines she will carry at the spa, we talk opening order and training. This is a great day, my favorite type of call!

11:30 am. Meeting with Erin, owner of Homebody, a design store in Capitol Hill. While Alchimie is mostly sold in spas and beauty boutiques, some of our more gift-oriented products also do well in concept stores such as this. I show her our hero Kantic brightening moisture mask and our newest body product, our Dry Skin Balm. I try to use the SPIN selling techniques I learned earlier this year…

12:30 pm. Back in the office. No time for lunch, which is quite typical unless I have a lunch meeting. I keep basics in the fridge in the office, such as apples and slices of muenster (and of course Diet Coke and champagne) for days like today, but I have not had a change to replenish. That’s ok, the muesli from this morning will tide me over. My fabulous intern Maggie is working on our Youtube videos, and came up with the great idea of doing a “what’s in your bag” video of everyone on the Alchimie team. Today, it’s my turn… Then, I answer a couple of emails, and then it’s time to go again.

1:45 pm. Maggie and I arrive at Georgetown University. I have been invited to speak to a group of about 30 graduate students who are visiting for a week from the University of Versailles in France. There, they are pursuing an MBA with a concentration in Cosmetics and Fragrances. I can barely believe it when they call me, who knew there was such a program… only in France! They come to Georgetown for a week, and have a program that combines academic lectures with professional briefings. I fall in the latter. I have been preparing these slides for about a week, combining general industry information with my company’s history, and a few of my favorite “rules of life” to spark discussion at the end. As always when I speak in public, I get butterflies in my stomach… only until I actually start. This time, I start with a few sentences in French, which makes them laugh. I love public speaking, and they are a fabulous audience. Maggie is here to film tidbits of this presentation, again for our Youtube channel.

3:45 pm. The presentation was fabulous, and is followed by a site visit. Maggie and I drive back to the office, where Sherrod, my executive assistant (without whom my life as I know it would not be possible) has prepared samples, business cards, and wine for the students who are making the way to the office. They arrive, I give them a quick tour of the office, answer more questions, show them our products, and we all enjoy an early glass of wine.

5:00 pm. The students have left, and I finally have a chance to check in with Sherrod in terms of his projects, catch up on a few of the day’s 250+ emails, pay a few bills, text with my PR director in New York about pending press, and off I go again, this time to the airport.

7:00 pm. I board my flight to New Orleans. I travel about 70% of my time, either to see my husband, as is the case tonight (he lives in New Orleans, we split our time between the Big Easy and Washington DC, I will be working from his office tomorrow Friday), or to visit clients, attend trade shows, and do press meetings. I love flying. I fly so much that US Airways is kind to me (!!), I do my best thinking and writing in the sky. I will land around 9:30 pm, will have a cocktail at home to catch up on the day with my hubby, and will hopefully be in bed by 11:30 pm (Central time).

Tomorrow (today by the time you read this), it’s Friday. My day will look very different, packed with a conference calls, and serious email catch up, as well as a review of our May and June numbers to date, and some more writing. I can’t wait!