Purse Strings: Lisa Price

WILES MAGAZINE’S EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH

CAROL’S DAUGHTER FOUNDER LISA PRICE

 

You’ve seen Carol’s Daughter products in premium retail stores like Sephora and Macy’s, as well as in their stand-alone stores.  You’ve probably also seen Lisa Price on the Home Shopping Network. And a select group of you actually received Carol’s Daughter products when the line was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show’s “Oprah’s Favorite Things” special.  But what do you really know about the enterprise behind the phenomenal beauty products?

Wiles Magazine recently sat down with Lisa Price to discuss the amazing journey that she and her brand have traveled.  Here’s what she told us about how to build a sustainable brand, growing pains that come when growing a business, and the “overnight success” that was 18 years in the making.

 

Wiles: What is your philosophy regarding customer service and how has it changed as the business has grown?

LP:  Initially, making fragrances was something I did as a hobby.  I started selling the products at craft fairs and flea markets.  From interfacing with customers there, I was able to identify what she needed and liked regarding skincare products; and when she said she wanted hair products, I began working on a line to meet those needs.  I learned very early to listen to the customer and give her what she’s looking for.

Having a solid relationship with your customers is critical to your success at every level.  Even now, we put a premium on providing excellent service to both our online and in-store customers.  If she’s on our website, navigation should be easy, information should be readily available, and everything she sees should be pleasing to her eye.  She should be able to find what she’s looking for and have a smooth, seamless shopping experience.

In the store, I want customers to be greeted, and if they want assistance, associates should be available.  But if they don’t want help, they should be allowed to browse and have a pleasant experience.  Even if customers initially come in to purchase some of their favorite products, I want each customer to always have an opportunity to discover something new from Carol’s Daughter.

 

Wiles:  What are some of the challenges you experienced as the Carol’s Daughter brand began to grow?

LP:  There are lots of challenges that come up in business –  both professional and personal. As an entrepreneur, you’re the head of the business in every area. You have to set the tone, provide direction, be the spokesperson, and sometimes, all 3 of the above at the same time.  It’s critical that you manage your time effectively in order to balance your personal and professional life.  Having optimum energy and good stress management skills are essential, as well.   Being an entrepreneur pushes you to be the best person you can be because everything you do is so directly linked to the business.

As the business grows, it’s important to bring in new people who can help you in specific areas, and that sometimes means saying good-bye to people who have been with you from the beginning.  And that’s difficult.  But you have to stay focused on what your goals are, watch your finances, make sure you’re getting optimal ROI, and keep your original vision for the business paramount.

 

Wiles: Describe the transition into mass production and distribution, and how you preserve the integrity of the brand?

LP:  As my business grew, I had to learn to deliver products in a smarter way.  When you’re smaller, it’s easier to cater to different people’s requests.  I found that I soon had a lot of inventory, so once the business grew, I had to scale back some of the product offerings to make sure I was investing as much time and resources as possible into the products that resonated with the broader spectrum of customers.

Regarding quality control, it’s actually easier to maintain the quality of your brand when you’re a bigger enterprise than it is when you’re smaller because you have so many more eyes watching – in different points of distribution, from various retail partners, and so on. The decisions you make have to be well-planned and executed, because when you’re doing business on a larger scale, the mistakes in areas such as marketing and packaging are much more costly.

 

Wiles: What is your advice to emerging entrepreneurs regarding how to build a sustainable brand?

LP: Knowing what it is that your brand is, what it will do and what it represents is very important.  I recommend putting up visuals and images on paper or up on a board to help you clearly identify the mission of your business.  A lot of times I speak to entrepreneurs at conferences, and they really don’t know what they’re business is about, so even though they’re out there networking, their efforts aren’t as meaningful and driving the results they would like to see.

 

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Wiles: What best practices, strategic alliances or key personnel do you feel have been critical to Carol’s Daughter’s growth and success?

LP: You have to be able to identify the needs of your business and honestly assess which needs can you fulfill directly and which ones you have to farm out to someone else.  In the beginning, you may not be able to afford to bring in the specialized talent that you need. One of the most critical areas I needed help in was with finances – making sure things were recorded properly, tax preparation and preparing balance sheets. Marketing, packaging and inventory management are also vital. Identify your strengths then, as soon as you’re able, add people to your team who have the skill sets that can help you grow in key areas.

 

Wiles: What are some of the challenges and benefits that come with taking on partners? As the Founder, how do you manage these relationships (and yourself) in this changing dynamic?

LP: At some point, I knew that I had done everything that I could possibly do for the company on my own.  I watched the company grow, and then I saw that it was beginning to plateau. Sales continued to increase, but only to a degree. I got on the Oprah Winfrey Show without the help of a public relations firm, I secured a book deal, but I knew I couldn’t grow the business any further without help.  When the opportunity presented itself to take on an investor, I was initially nervous about the changing the dynamic of the company; but the possibilities of what could happen if I didn’t take on an investor were even scarier to me. Taking on partners was not an easy decision, but I knew it was the right decision.

 

Wiles: How would you describe your leadership style? What are some of the key attributes you think a good leader should possess?

LP: I’m a person who tends to work alongside the people who work for me, because I use that as an opportunity to learn from them, as well.  I was working in television and film before I started my beauty brand, so I surrounded myself with a team of people who have beauty industry backgrounds. I don’t feel it’s my responsibility to sit at the table and tell them what to do, I respect their expertise.  Conversely, they respect mine.  For instance, because I have a television background I’m comfortable showcasing the brand on the Home Shopping Network.  I know what works on television and what doesn’t work, so I’m able to make decisions that will enhance the overall aesthetic and provide the best production value.  Being able to listen, knowing what to delegate to whom and when, and navigating that fine balance between listening and being someone people can talk to, yet being exacting and firm when you need to be – those are all attributes of a good leader.

 

Wiles:  What are some career accomplishments that make you most proud?

LP: We’ve had amazing successes.  Some successes can’t necessarily be measured in money, but the fact that the brand is still here, is something that I’m most proud of.  More than anyone, I know how many evolutions Carol’s Daughter has gone through, and it’s remarkable that we’re still here and we’re still relevant.  So many businesses don’t make it beyond the first year. A lot of people have just discovered us within the last 3-5 years, but our success hasn’t been overnight.  To have been here for 18 years, I feel a lot of pride in that.  I’m also really proud of the new Monoi Repairing Collection product line we launched this year.  The product line is perfect.

 

Wiles:  What are some of your goals for Carol’s Daughter?

LP:  I want Carol’s Daughter to always remain relevant and to continue be successful and innovative.  I hope that we will continue to surprise people.  I don’t ever want to be stale.

ABOUT CAROL’S DAUGHTER: Carol’s Daughter is Lisa Price, a woman whose passion for fragrance led her into the kitchen to create “good for you” products, for her friends and family. Inspired by the delicious recipes and irresistible smells from her Nana’s kitchen, Lisa’s creations all began with a beautiful fragrance and the best ingredients.  Family and friends could not get enough of her homespun fragrance oils, body butters and hair pomades. Her dedicated following only grew as she took her formulas from the kitchen to the flea market to her first boutique in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Today Carol’s Daughter products can be found in Carol’s Daughter retail stores and on carolsdaughter.com, at Sephora, Macy’s, Dillard’s, Regis, and on HSN. Carol’s Daughter continues to honor every woman’s individual beauty with universally effective formulas and the award-winning fragrance, My Life by Mary J. Blige. In 2011, Carol’s Daughter welcomed a new generation of Spokesbeauties who reflect the brand’s emphasis on a new beauty ideal, embracing all colors and textures of hair. Continuing the legacy of current Spokesbeauties Mary J. Blige and Jada Pinkett Smith, Solange Knowles, Selita Ebanks and Cassie represent the latest chapter in the evolution of Carol’s Daughter.

For more information, please visit: www.carolsdaughter.com.

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