LONDON — With almost 1 million Instagram followers, Maria Hatzistefanis — or Mrs. Rodial as she is known on the social media platform — has become an influencer in addition to a beauty entrepreneur. Her day job is chief executive officer of the London-based beauty brands Rodial and Nip + Fab, which she founded, and now she is keen to evolve into a modern-day media brand.
In 2017 she released her book “How to Be an Overnight Success,” sharing her career journey, from getting fired from her finance job to coming up with the concept for Rodial and growing the brand from a back room in her house.
The book received strong reviews from budding entrepreneurs and, since then, she has been blasting out all of those messages of entrepreneurship, empowerment and glamour via Instagram as she continues to expand Rodial and Nip + Fab.
Now, with the debut of a new podcast series also called “How to Be an Overnight Success,” she is delving even deeper into the topics she discussed and turning the book into a brand of its own.
“I’d been getting a lot of questions after publishing my book and I felt that on Instagram, which has been my key platform, there just wasn’t enough opportunity to go deeper into those topics,” Hatzistefanis said in an interview. “I wanted to find a platform to communicate with my audience in a different, more interactive way.”
She added that her aim is to keep her audience engaged with “educational yet fun and light” content that will offer a variety of insights and approaches to success. She certainly has a lot to offer: The business, which was founded in 1999, is a rarity in beauty, having remained independent and privately owned by Hatzistefanis.
Episodes so far have featured conversations with the likes of beauty influencer Mario Dedivanovic, Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist, or model, DJ and influencer Atlanta de Cadenet Taylor, who discussed body image, as well as solo talks by Hatzistefanis on topics as diverse as self-care, parenting and securing investments for entrepreneurial businesses.
Similar to her approach on social media, beauty naturally crops up in conversation on the podcast, but it’s not the focus, nor are her Rodial or Nip + Fab projects.
“Even in the first episode with Mario Dedivanovic, we didn’t talk about highlighters and concealers, we talked about what made him successful with the Kardashians and all that,” Hatzistefanis said. “Everything that I do with the Overnight Success brand — and it is becoming a brand — I do it because I have a personal interest in connecting with people. Now, if people listen to the podcast or read the book and they become curious about Rodial, that’s great but it’s almost like an afterthought. Consumers these days are very clever, and if your aim is just to create something that looks like content, but just aims to push product, they just won’t connect with it.”
Her approach to Instagram has been similar, with her posts more lifestyle than beauty focused. Her aim, she said, was to create a space of her own to share anything and everything that inspires her, from Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga collections to celebrity culture and career advice. Hatzistefanis’ expanding online audience — and growing sales in a saturated beauty market — is testament to how authentic community-building on Instagram can keep customers engaged.
She can often be found sharing street-style snaps of herself in a Phoebe Philo-era Celine coat, selfies with the Kardashians, and shots of the latest products she’s been creating and the stories behind them.
“There is no agenda and, in fact, I get the least likes when I post a beauty product,” Hatzistefanis said. “I’m interested in beauty as a tool to empower women, so from that point of view, I will talk about beauty and why I created a certain product. But I’m also passionate about fashion, which has nothing to do with the business, and I often post images and talk about the stories behind them and what I’ve learned. I always try to make it relevant to my brand of empowerment, rather than [just saying], ‘Look at me, I’m pretty.'”
With regard to communication and marketing, she said she’s been keeping a distance from the beauty industry as a whole and “cutting out the noise of the competition” by looking to fashion to inspire new launches or strategic moves. The creation of Nip + Fab, a more affordable line dedicated to younger customers, was inspired by the buzz around H&M’s early designer collaborations.
From a product point of view, both Rodial and Nip + Fab have been expanding from skin care into color cosmetics and in the next year, Hatzistefanis is looking to widen their distribution in partnership with Bluemercury, particularly targeting the U.S.
Hatzistefanis is also banking on further growing her brands by “attacking all points” and equally embracing new and old media channels, from print titles to YouTube and Instagram. The company’s strategy will be to work with a pool of different influencers rather than make a big investment in one single name, while experiential events will be another focus in the coming year.