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Dermalogica Founders Tap Industry Vet to Reach Next Level

Jerry Wenker is entering new territory at Dermalogica.

Jerry Wenker is entering new territory at Dermalogica.

The health care industry veteran and former president of KV Pharmaceutical has joined husband-and-wife founders and co-chief executive officers Jane and Raymond Wurwand at the helm of the California company known for face-mapping skin analysis and gray and white packaging. Wenker is the first person at Dermalogica to fill the role of president and chief operating officer.

“All three of us are very aware that this action represents a proactive move to try to avoid the founders’ trap, where the skills and experiences of the founders really are not the same as where they [need to be] to take it to the next level,” said Wenker. “Jane and Ray have done an incredible job leading the organization. The decision with this move is that now is the time to pass the baton.”

Still, the Wurwands, majority stakeholders of the $100 million-plus, privately held company, have no plans to exit Dermalogica, and Wenker will report to them. However, they are ceding operational control to concentrate on international expansion and product development. Already, as Jane Wurwand noted, Dermalogica employees in the Carson, Calif., headquarters no longer report on an everyday basis to her and her husband.

“Ray and I have been leading the company for over 20 years. No matter how much we think we are innovative, we are historians. That is not conducive to growth,” said Wurwand. “Most entrepreneurs usually stay too long at the party — at the head — and they end up drowning in their success and sell. We didn’t want to do that. We wanted to position the company so it would be focused on growth.”

For the last several years, Wenker said Dermalogica’s revenues have increased each year by 20 percent. The company’s revenues are principally generated in three areas: International Dermal Institute facilities, where students pay an average of $110 a day to attend postgraduate classes to become skin therapists; Dermalogica products, available at 5,000 professional skin care outlets such as salons and spas, and branded skin treatment centers, including the 1,660-square-foot flagship in Santa Monica, Calif., that opened in 2004.

In 1983, the Wurwands established the first International Dermal Institute in Los Angeles, and Dermalogica skin care products were introduced three years later. The IDI concept has since expanded to 19 facilities in the U.S. and 17 abroad. Last year, Dermalogica began a push into China with a Beijing institute; a Shanghai location is slated to launch this fall. This spring, Dermalogica bowed in South America and India with facilities in Buenos Aires and Mumbai. The company is set to enter Poland next week. Third parties operate retail skin treatment centers in Tokyo, London, Berlin, Beijing and other select foreign cities.

This story first appeared in the May 25, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Our goal is to accelerate growth even faster than we have done today. Doing exactly what we have done in the past is not going to be satisfactory for us,” said Wenker. In addition to furthering the company’s global penetration, he added, “we have an opportunity to make the United States a bigger part of our business. It is the biggest market and has a great understanding of skin health.” Revenues are currently split evenly between the company’s foreign and domestic business.