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Donning a cap and gown, Fashion Institute of Technology graduate Leslie Blodgett spoke about the importance of trusting your gut during the 67th commencement exercises of the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology and the School of Liberal Arts on Tuesday at Javits Center North.
Blodgett, who is executive chairman and founder of Bare Escentuals Inc., discussed the importance that instincts play for a successful business career and shared highlights from her own journey to beauty industry stardom. Blodgett, who graduated from the school in 1985, was also presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for her entrepreneurial spirit and determination in the beauty industry.
Blodgett began by telling the crowd, “Fabulous shoes. I’ve looked at every one of them.” Blodgett shared personal stories of her days as an FIT student, including a few questionable fashion choices (think white leather pants) and her stint as in-house tarot-card reader for her dorm mates. When it comes to business, “trust yourself,” was Blodgett’s main message.
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“Explore a little and start by saying yes,” said Blodgett, who asked the graduates to consider “what makes you crazy excited? What makes your heart race?” To illustrate her point, Blodgett admitted that during the early days of Bare Escentuals (which was sold to Shiseido in 2010 for a reported $1.7 billion), she “was a nervous wreck.” Despite her initial apprehensions about selling foundation on television, she introduced her brand on QVC in 1997, and sold out the inventory in six minutes.
Soon afterward, Blodgett said she was made aware of online forums where women across the country were talking about her brand. Despite the lack of Facebook and the inundation of social-media pages of today, Blodgett realized “a small community was forming.” Her reaction? “I hopped online and got into the conversation, answering questions, getting to know them,” said Blodgett, who found her calling was “more than makeup.” It was relationships. “It’s what I’m passionate about,” she said. Among the advice she imparted, “conviction gives fear a run for its money. That’s when you start taking chances.”