There’s no shortage of female leadership at L’Oréal. The company recently released The Founders, a trilogy of videos featuring Jamie Kern Lima, founder, It Cosmetics; Lisa Price, founder, Carol’s Daughter, and Wende Zomnir, founder, Urban Decay. The videos tell the stories of the founders who created their own businesses from scratch and ultimately were acquired by L’Oreal.
To supplement their videos, WWD asked the innovators for advice for those looking to build their business and also about the most pressing issues in the beauty industry today.
WWD: If you were starting your business today is there anything you would do differently? How do you keep your brand relevant in today’s market?
Wendy Zomnir: I would have a bigger focus on the actual business of the beauty business: finance, opportunities, sales and infrastructure. I know that’s not an exciting response, but at the start, I thought if I made great products, it would sell itself. Not so.
From early on, I realized that to keep UD relevant, we had to constantly evolve. This hit me one day when I was trying to come up with a plan for making all the packaging consistent. I realized that building this brand should be a journey, not a destination. We keep our DNA and brand “litmus test” constant. The expression of it evolves.
WWD: What made L’Oréal USA the right partner? And what surprised you the most about being part of a larger company?
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W.Z.: We knew it was time for us to grow outside of the U.S., and L’Oréal was the right partner to get us there. While we are now a part of a corporate structure, they have been really supportive in our way of doing business. They have encouraged us to operate somewhat independently, allowing us to uphold our brand integrity, our DNA and what we stand for.
Jamie Kern Lima
WWD: It seems daily we’re besieged with the newest, greatest, color/skin brand. How can you stay fresh and do you feel we’re getting to “churn and burn” where customers don’t develop loyalty? You’ve built it, but is it harder than ever?
Jamie Kern Lima: You can’t fake authenticity, and the most important thing a brand can do is stay focused on their authentic DNA and not get distracted by what other brands are doing. That combined with superior products are both necessary to build a lasting brand.
WWD: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
J.K.L.: Mentoring other women to break through and spread their wings and fly in their career. I love seeing employees grow and blossom into superstars; inspiring other women to truly believe all things are possible is the best part of my job.
WWD: How does it feel to be part of the textured hair explosion and how can retailers do an even better job to stock stores for what shoppers want?
Lisa Price: I have been in this industry since 1993. And before being in the business, I was an African-American woman who wore many different hairstyles and had been natural and braided back in the Seventies. When I started Carol’s Daughter, what I was doing was considered to be weird or niche, strange even. I love watching what was once strange become the norm. It is beautiful.
My experience with retailers is that they are working to understand it all and navigate the process. They need our help as companies who know this consumer, and they also need the consumer to tell them what she is looking for in their stores.
WWD: What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
L.P.: Know that there is no “right time.” You should research and prepare and be organized, but when you begin, and throughout your process, you will have moments of fear and doubt. That is OK; it shows you are alive, human and discerning. The trick is to not allow the fear to paralyze you — accept it as a part of the process and push through.