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Gail Federici, Queen of the Cold Plunge

The business mind behind Color Wow and John Frieda counts on cold plunges to sharpen her competitive edge.

Veteran entrepreneur Gail Federici is no stranger to the shock to the system.

The founder and chief executive officer of Color Wow, who also cofounded John Frieda, knows her way around the daily challenges of scaling businesses. To keep herself agile, she’s also mastered the art of the cold plunge.

“It sets your mind up,” Federici said. “This is hard to do, and we do hard things. It makes you feel optimistic, and you feel good about what you have to do.”

Federici plunges in the morning before her exercise routine, before exercising and showering. “I do it at home, but we’re going to start doing it at the beach,” she said, after the rest of her team at Color Wow took an interest in the buzzy wellness practice.

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“Funnily enough, the team wants to do it. I’ve got the cold plunge at home, but maybe once a week or once every other week, we’ll go to the Long Island Sound and run in there in the early morning,” she added.

Team building is a key piece of Federici’s leadership strategy. She pulls inspiration everywhere, from Stoic philosophers to the Navy SEALs. “[The SEALs] motivate me. My mind is strong, and from a work standpoint, I’m extremely disciplined….I like to be motivated, I like to keep learning, and they are motivational to me.”

Part of her mandate as CEO is to energize her team with the same appetite for challenge. “When there are challenges, it brings out the best in you and your team members,” she said. “We find the humor when everything wrong is happening, and then you fix it.”

“There’s a lot of fun that you have when everyone works really hard,” she continued. “There’s a shared sense of purpose, and that’s what motivates me. That’s what I love about working.…It’s rewarding, and it’s fun.”

At Color Wow, that shows in the business’ upward trajectory. Last year, the brand introduced Curl Wow, a range with proprietary technology that targets curly hair textures. At launch, industry sources estimated the range would hit $8 million in sales for its first year on the market.

“Forever, I’ve called the board room the war room — through my John Frieda days,” Federici said. “The better you do, the more the big artillery comes out from the big giants. Hence, you need an amazing team when you’re a small company and winning a lot of awards and you’ve got lots of innovation.”

Though the business has shifted dramatically since Federici first started on John Frieda, it’s the fight that keeps her going. “At times, it’s very frustrating. With John Frieda, we didn’t even have a website. Now, all the algorithms are changing all the time. It’s difficult to keep learning because everything keeps changing, but learning is what I really like,” she said. “I like learning with the team, and I love the team aspect. When things are difficult, I always say I wouldn’t be in the trenches with anybody else.”