In The Boss, women share how they became successful and the lessons they learned along the way.
I started my MBA or “master’s degree in beauty administration” before I even finished grade school. My father, Dr. Terry James, became a partner in one of the top research and development cosmetic labs in the United States. I would find his latest creations stowed in his black medical bag or recall finding an HGH formula next to the ketchup in the fridge. I started making my own potions in the bathtub from a young age and was always a chatterbox full of queries. I became enchanted with skincare and the idea that you could put a topical ingredient on someone’s skin and see a visible change. This whet my appetite for chemistry and then ultimately brand building, which led me to study marketing. I understood clearly that you can have the greatest product in the world but if no one knows about it, so what, who cares. A powerhouse brand is built with incredible, disruptive formulas paired with carefully curated distribution. Upon graduation, I joined my father at his company in Dallas and the two of us worked together and created ingredients for some of the world’s most popular beauty products.
However, after about a decade of watching prestigious brands misuse our ingredients by only offering customers a sprinkling of the necessary dose, my calling became clear and I decided to launch my own company: Beauty Bioscience, or known for short as BeautyBio. The goal was simple — give clients what they’re paying for and help them understand the ingredients behind their skincare products.
In order to do this, I knew I needed a megaphone, so I decided to launch my line to the public on HSN in June 2011. We immediately sold out of all of our products, and continue to be a top seller on the network to this day. After our patent was issued, we launched our top-selling GloPRO microneedling tool in the spring of 2016, and rolled out the second phase of our omnichannel plan to carefully selected prestige U.S. retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom. We quickly became the number one selling tool and launched our companion new Core Collection skincare line in late 2017 — it too became a bestseller.
BeautyBio is still 100% family owned and self-funded, and I’m the majority owner. The runaway success of GloPRO started as a brainchild 15 years ago when my father and I sought to create a tool that penetrated the skin deeper in order for topical skincare products to be more effective. We filed for the patent over a decade ago and when it was issued in 2013, we knew we needed to design a version for at-home retail use. After two and half years of testing and perfecting, we launched GloPRO with a sellout success: $4 million in 24 hours.
Getting to work with my father in the early days of the company was a dream come true. There is no one I respect more intellectually and he has taught me more about hard work than anyone I know. He started with absolutely nothing and received a scholarship to get through medical school while working three jobs. Whenever I’m on a stretch sleeping only a few hours a night while juggling three young children and a young, high-growth brand, I am reminded of his example and the inspiration he has been to me. Everybody wants to be good, but few are prepared to make the sacrifices it takes to be great. My father isn’t involved on a day to day basis in my company, but I certainly keep him in the loop on highlights and love getting to work with him. My husband is also an owner in the brand and provided enormous help serving as interim CFO in the early days of the company. He is still an excellent sounding board.
Since founding Beauty Bioscience, the company has experienced double, and now triple-digit sale increases year over year and is tracking to hit over $100M in sales in 2018. Part of that success has come from my strong background in research and development, and some has come from having grit and realizing that nothing worth having comes easily. I don’t think of failure as failing, but rather as a chance to edit my thinking and refine what I’m offering.
I’m also constantly pivoting, and believe it’s one of the most important skills an entrepreneur can possess. When something isn’t working, I pivot quickly in order to minimize the financial and emotional strain.
I’m also a mother, so balancing motherhood and being a great CEO is a challenge — but I never apologize for being either. I have one son and two daughters, and I don’t want my daughters to ever to feel guilty about pursuing their passion and creating a livelihood for themselves. I would never expect my husband to apologize if he had to go to San Francisco to meet with investors, so why should I? I always arrange my flights so I can drop the kids off at school, and I tell them: “I’m going to do my job, you do yours and rock that test. We’ll high-five when I get home.” For me, it’s about framing the dialogue correctly and always working as a team.
When we launched at Harrods last summer, I loved hearing my sweet 8-year-old say: “Look Mommy! It’s our brand!” All I wish for them is to love whatever they do one day as much as I love what I get to do every day.
I firmly believe motherhood has made me a better leader. Anyone who has ever negotiated with a two year old learns to quickly expand their threshold for patience. I consider my team part of my extended work family, and am fortunate enough to have incredibly talented members who can self-manage and are as committed as I am to our brand. It helps that they know their leader is burning the midnight oil right beside them.