Customer service is critical. — I have found that serving your customer is critical for positive brand experiences. You want people to recommend your brand to their friends and family, and also come back and re-purchase from you. It’s more than just selling products; it’s making positive memories.
As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Samantha Cutler, founder of Petite ‘n Pretty.
Petite ‘n Pretty founder Samantha Cutler has used her 15-years of experience developing esteemed beauty products to create the Beverly Hills-based brand for young creatives. She is no stranger to innovating and launching new concepts, having formulated some of the industry’s favorite cult products for brands including MAC, Smashbox and Stila. Becoming a mother gave her new perspective and guided her on the journey to creating a new, essential category in the beauty industry. Having been makeup-obsessed from a young age, Samantha always viewed cosmetics as an outlet for individuality and self-expression, which has inspired her to set off on a glitter revolution, developing a brand specifically for the next generation. Samantha is an alumnus of George Washington University and currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Joshua, their son, Shia, and daughter, Gia — the namesake of Petite ‘n Pretty’s 10K Shine in Gia Pink.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have always loved makeup my whole life. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in beauty, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. During college, I interned at MAC Cosmetics in several different departments — Artist Relations, Store Events, Pro Artistry and Public Relations. I realized by working these different internships, that I wanted to be on the creative side where I was involved in product creation. Upon college graduation, I worked at MAC Cosmetics in Product Development. I worked in product development for 17 years before I started my company. Working in product development for larger, prestige color cosmetic brands such as MAC, Smashbox and Stila, I was able to learn the fundamentals that are essential for creating and building a brand.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I would say that Covid has really shifted our “traditional” working environment as well as our brand strategy to drive awareness and growth. Living through Covid is something that will have impacted everyone around the world. Leading a company through Zoom, FaceTime and E-mail only for months on end, was something that was a challenge. Especially being a brand that relies on team creative brainstorm sessions, on-site product testing and addressing customers… working from home was a challenge for the team. In addition to internal challenges, one of our supplies who creates one of our core product SKUs went out of business, putting us in a six month out of stock situation.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There have been a lot of mistakes along the way, but one of the funniest mistakes is allowing my 5-year-old daughter to use my phone. I let her use my phone one day, and she accidently started a Petite ‘n Pretty live video. She started to do her make-up on live and ended up doing an entire 45-minute show for our followers. Now, I really monitor her phone use when she has my phone in her hands. It was a great and quite funny learning experience.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are many role models and mentors I have in my life that have helped guide my career. Aside from my parents, who have always believed in me and helped support my dreams and goals, I am thankful for my mentor in my career, Jennifer Balbier. Jennifer is a product development guru, who has built her career working in brand and product development. She is responsible for helping grow MAC Cosmetics, as she started with Estée Lauder in 1998. Over her career at Estée, she then moved on to oversee all Artistry Brands including Smashbox, Bobbi Brown, Too Faced, Becca, etc. I truly am thankful for her teaching me product branding and development.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
As a busy CEO and Mom, it’s hard to find time for self-care. To best prepare for meetings, I will review the content the evening before and the morning of. It helps me feel comfortable and up to speed. Prior to Covid, I always felt like having a good blow out would give me confidence for any in person big meeting. I think with Dry Bars success, most women would agree.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Personally, I feel that having a diverse team is critical for the success of a brand. Especially, working in beauty — it’s imperative to have women and men who are diverse because it’s always important to “bounce” ideas off before you implement them. It also offers varying perspectives and experiences, which are crucial to developing and growing a brand in a thoughtful, respectful manner. It’s nice to have a team that is aligned.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
As a brand that has a strong social media presence, we pride ourselves on being inclusive and represent young creatives from different backgrounds. We align our brand with advocates for social equality, talent that represents diversity across many factors [race, religion, talents and disabilities], and we treat all of our talent fairly and equally.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
I do so many different things as a CEO & founder. I am very much involved in all aspects of building my company. I am very involved in the creative, product and package development, marketing and influencer strategy, forecasting, warehousing, copywriting, PR, testing, digital marketing, retail and sales strategy and web design. Everyday there are so many things to tackle; it’s literally never ending. I also spend a lot of time on customer service, which gives me great insight into what customers are looking for and what is important to them from a brand.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
I feel that when I was younger in my career, I was often very intimidated by “senior” level executives. As I have aged in my life and grown in my career, I realized we are all people. There is nothing to be scared by. I am a mom, I am a friend, I am a wife, a daughter and a brand founder.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
I would say one of the biggest challenges in balancing work and home life. Many times, “home life” falls onto the woman in the family dynamic. I think that being organized and having a strong support system is critical to balance everything.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I would say that my job is much more detail-oriented and time consuming than I would have ever imagined. I am involved in every single aspect of building my brand. I also have had to learn a lot of about different departments, such as digital and back end operations.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
I feel that if a person is very “type A” or a perfectionist, then it would be difficult to be a successful executive. I believe being organized and detail oriented is important, but there are many times when you have to be flexible, and react on a whim — to be a strong leader, you just have to “figure it out.”
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
As a female founder, I feel that building a strong and empowered team is critical for success. Currently, I have four female employees who all multi-task and wear many hats. I do not like to micro-manage them. A positive work environment is also very important. You want your team to be excited about coming to work.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
My job is very empowering because we embrace children, tweens and teens around the world to have fun and be creative through our products and social platform.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
There are many things that I wish I knew before I started a company. Some of my experiences are:
- You cannot predict the future — Covid is a perfect example. Covid is something that no one could have ever predicted or prepared for. I believe that being nimble and flexible has helped us react and be successful during this time.
- You WILL wear a million hats. — Starting a company is a time where everything you know, plus everything you never knew, will be imperative to your success and ability to thrive. I feel that my expertise was really in product development and brand marketing, and since starting my brand, I have learned about all departments.
- Building employee morale is not easy, and doesn’t happen overnight — Building your team is easy, but building a united team is hard. It takes time for your team to get into a “groove” and all work together for a common goal. Being a start-up, there are days that are more challenging than others. At Petite ‘n Pretty, we will do fun team dinners, order in lunch on Friday, and do fun “out of the office” activities [before Covid].
- Brand success takes time. — I feel that with certain celebrity brands that have success “overnight” it is not realistic. Petite ‘n Pretty is a little over 2 years old, and it has taken time to build. We still have a TON of growth to do, but patience is key.
- Customer service is critical. — I have found that serving your customer is critical for positive brand experiences. You want people to recommend your brand to their friends and family, and also come back and re-purchase from you. It’s more than just selling products; it’s making positive memories.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I could inspire a movement, it would be to listen to the young creatives in our society. I have learned so much having a brand for children, tweens and teens. They truly are our future and it’s important to listen to their words and ideas. I love engaging with them on a daily basis and I always feel inspired by them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I saw Jamie Kern Lima, the founder of IT Cosmetics, post the following,
“During all the years of rejection, I’d always say to my team, “what? That retailer said NO to carrying our product again? I feel bad for them, they’re robbing their customers of a great experience and I would truly believe it.”
When I saw this quote, it really hit home to me. I truly believe in my brand and being in a white space definitely has taken time to build category awareness. Over the last year, we have grown tremendously which has really proven that there is a need for the category in the beauty landscape.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
There are so many inspiring women leaders who I would love to have a private breakfast with. I would love to meet Jamie Kern Lima. I am her fangirl. I follow her on her social channels, and she is truly an amazing woman who has accomplished so much. She is a wife, a mother, a leader in both beauty and investing. She is a visionary and a forward thinker.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.