Alisa Metzger: “Equality and opportunity”

The challenge I’ve faced as a woman is being doubted more often than men, even with 15+ years of experience, with all the data on my side and market trends point in my direction. I try to channel the frustration into action and work really hard to prove the doubters wrong. As a part of our […]

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The challenge I’ve faced as a woman is being doubted more often than men, even with 15+ years of experience, with all the data on my side and market trends point in my direction. I try to channel the frustration into action and work really hard to prove the doubters wrong.

As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alisa Metzger, Founder of INNBEAUTY PROJECT.

Alisa Metzger is a beauty industry veteran with 15 years of experience working for major brands like L’Oréal, La Prairie, Proctor & Gamble, and Coty. She founded INNBeauty Project with the intention of bringing clean beauty “to the masses” by making it inclusive and affordable to everyone.

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 was going to be a ballet dancer. I attended the School of American Ballet and La Guardia High School, from the movie Fame. I even performed at the New York City Ballet, in various junior and children’s roles. I loved the creativity and discipline that goes into classical ballet, it was art with boundaries. It was my first true love and passion.

To make a long story short, I developed a spinal condition in high school, had to have my spine fused with titanium rods and could no longer physically perform at the level required to be a professional ballet dancer.

I needed to quickly pivot. It wasn’t easy but as they say, everything happens for a reason and it’s how you handle a situation that makes it either positive or negative.

So, I switched gears, decided to attend NYU, studied psychology and loved every minute of it. I stumbled on a career in beauty, I never really thought it can be a real job. I met some individuals from L’Oreal at a recruitment event and have not looked back. I loved the combination of creativity, discipline, and business that the beauty industry entails, which also took me back to my ballet training (without the business part).

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I’ve got a very interesting story! Launch a company in November. Have the world shut down due to a global pandemic 4 months later. Continue to launch products, grow the brand and acquire customers in the meantime. Interesting is an UNDERSTATEMENT. No one had a playbook for what happened to the world and commerce. In March 2020, when everything shut down, we were a company in its’ infancy, without a huge customer base and product portfolio to fall back on. Suddenly retailers are closing indefinitely, unemployment is skyrocketing, and people are fearing for their health & lives. My thought was how do you sell clean skincare during this time?

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?

Hopefully you get to a point in your business where you look back at mistakes and are able to laugh about them. I have to admit, none of them seemed funny at the time. Having thrived through a very challenging time for business during the last couple of months, I am able to look back at mistakes, learn and smile.

Picking the right partners and vetting them closely is important. We picked a fulfillment partner early on who ended up sending our customers empty boxes. Wasn’t funny at then time, when we received customer emails and complaints but it sprung us into action to find a new partner and taught us a lesson to be vigilant in our due diligence next time.

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?

I am a believer in learning something from everyone that crosses your path. I’ve been very fortunate to have some incredible managers and mentors earlier in my career at L’Oreal, P&G and Coty. The strong women (mostly) I’ve worked with taught me respect for your work, respect for your team and how critical it is to understand your consumer.

I also owe a lot to my father. He is the harshest critic I know and is the epitome of tough love, but I believe it’s made me better and never settle for anything less than 500%. As a child, he was the parent who was not impressed with 99% on a test, he would ask where the last 1% went.

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?

Stress is a constant for me, which I’ve learned to channel into action. From an early age, I felt pressure and stress associated with that pressure. Performing in Lincoln Center, as a 12 year old was daunting and stressful. Something ballet taught me was the importance of rehearsal and repetition. If you know something so well, that you can’t get it wrong, it’s much less stressful.

A good performance leads to confidence, which then makes future performances more about excitement and execution than potential failure and stress.

Throughout my 15+ year career in beauty I’ve compiled many different experiences which help me make decisions, feel confident public speaking and build insights into the future of the category. My experiences and years of repetition, so-to-speak, give me a level of confidence in making decisions for INNBEAUTY today.

What I need to be able to function as a business owner and mom of 2 is sleep. 8 hours is a must. When I am well rested, I am able to act with focus and be a better collaborator.

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?

The beauty industry is all about bringing innovative and effective products that make your customers feel good. Whether they want to enhance, treat, hide or celebrate consumers want products that they feel are made for them. A diverse team is essential to deliver on this promise. As the next generation of beauty consumers, Gen Z, are gaining more purchasing power and attention the ideals around identity and beauty are rapidly shifting. It is impossible for a team to understand and create products for the most inclusive generation ever if the team itself isn’t diverse.

To put it simply, it’s not just important to have a diverse team, it’s imperative to have a diverse team, because it’s representative of our society. Otherwise, you’re truly living and leading under a rock.

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.

My co-founder, Jen Shane and I, created INNBEAUTY PROJECT because we saw a lot of beauty brands that were really expensive, really feminine and targeting a narrow skin type. Our dream was to create a brand that appealed to all genders, all skin tones and skin types, plus, be affordable!

It was important for us to have a democratic approach to pricing which is fundamentally inclusive. It was important to have ingredients and benefits that helped all skin tones, from the melanin rich to the most fair and everything in between. The aesthetic and faces that represented our brands had to be diverse. As we look to the future and the team we will build, inclusivity is the highest priority.

As a small business we make sure to support causes that matter to us and empower and enable our community to join in. When Covid hit we are so proud to have raised enough money to provide over 10,000 meals to NoKid After the death of George Floyd we donated to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the UNCF, the nations largest charity providing college scholarships to black and minority youth. Another organization we are passionate about is Rainbow Railroad that help rescue LGBTQ+ individuals from dangerous and hostile places all over the world. We are vocal to our community about why we are donating and supporting these organizations and helping educate to shed light on the issues they deal with.

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?

Being a co-founder/ CEO of a startup is actually very hands on. In a few words — you are accountable for everything! There’s no one to blame, fall back on, or point at, you’ve got to drive the business forward, in every way possible.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?

That it’s glamorous and you sit in a fancy office, delegating all day. This is definitely not representative of my life. Building a new business takes grit, hard work and long hours. I believe that if you have a pretty good understanding of the various functions within your comapny you can be a much better and faster decision maker. I enjoy packing boxes, talking with the digital agency, brainstorming product concepts, speaking with press and my favorite, customer service. You learn so much, it’s priceless.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

We’ve come a long way, but there’s still so much ground to cover. There is an inherent trust of male leadership whether it’s within the investor community, colleagues or business partners. For some reason, when a male says something we believe it more than when a women says it. It’s kind of like the British accent bias, you know how people think that anything spoken with a British accent sounds “smarter”, well that’s simply not true.

The challenge I’ve faced as a woman is being doubted more often than men, even with 15+ years of experience, with all the data on my side and market trends point in my direction. I try to channel the frustration into action and work really hard to prove the doubters wrong.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I’ve always worked for someone, whether a huge conglomerate, a private equity investor or a founder. This is the first time I am my own boss and I enjoy it much more than I thought I would. The lines between work and life are blurred and I enjoy every minute of it.

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?

Great question! To me this is directly linked to inclusivity and diversity. The rules have changed and no longer do you need an ivy league MBA to be a great executive. The traits I respect and look for are passion for the category/ business, hunger to succeed and endless drive. Being a daughter of immigrant parents who came to the US with 500 dollars, I have met many incredible individuals and leaders who didn’t come from wealth or privileged backgrounds achieve some remarkable things.

What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?

Listen, learn and direct in a way without telling people what to do. Let them learn from mistakes, teach without being bossy and be there for them no matter what. Their loyalty, passion and commitment will drive the business ten-fold.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Standing behind causes that help change the world are important. We’ve recently partnered with an organization called rePurpose Global to be the world’s first plastic negative beauty company. For every product we sell, we fund the removal of 3 units of plastic from landfills, waterways and marine environments. The plastic waste is a global issue, but is much more acute in developing regions like India, Southeast Asia, Africa and Columbia.

I am really proud to be able to make a measurable and quantifiable impact in the plastic pollution problem and hope to do more and more in the future.

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.

Equality and opportunity in education for all children and youth. Our future is in their hands and we owe it to every child in the world, in every country to get a high quality education to realize their true potential.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.

I am not a believer in luck, I believe in hard work and dedication. It’s definitely my life’s motto 😊

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

This is easy — I’ve loved Oprah since I was a little girl. She is the ULTIMATE FEMALE ICON! Would be so grateful and blessed to meet her, even on a zoom, for just 5 minutes. I think she would really love our brand.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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