Always come from a place of optimism. This is especially important for when problems arise: be the leader that turns an obstacle into an opportunity
For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Lisbona.
When thinking about conventional hand sanitizers, Andrea Lisbona identified a number of issues: there’s one brand dominating the entire market that hasn’t innovated in 20+ years, and the formulas leave your hands sticky and dry for an unpleasant experience.
To combat this, she moved from Barcelona to Miami in 2018 to create the Touchland Power Mist: a cosmetic-grade hand sanitizer that leaves your hands soft and non-sticky packaged in a sleek spray component. Even better, she created eight different fragrance options (including neutral), so everyone can find a scent that suits them. Following the success models of Apple’s design-forward innovation and Glossier’s social media success, Touchland closed its first year in business (2019) with $1.5M+ in sales bolstered by new distribution with Urban Outfitters, Revolve, Forever 21, Sephora Mexico & others such as ULTA in 2020. The brand also recently launched a B2B product, the Touchland KUB, for commercial spaces and offices (which can already be found at WeWork, Sheraton Hotels, Purple, Joe & The Juice and more TBA soon!).
Leveraging the power of influencers and celebrity endorsements (including from supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whitely), Touchland has built a passionate following on social media. Looking ahead in the coming year, Andrea will be adding new Power Mist fragrances, new products, expanding distribution even more and will be focused on their charity initiative, touchlives. Via the touchlives program, Touchland leverages 5% of all proceeds to sending sanitizing hygiene solutions to developing countries and areas with water crises (example: to Puerto Rico after their devastating hurricane and earthquake).
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Hand sanitizers play a key role to stay healthy on the go, but this commoditized industry didn’t innovate for 20 years! Existing formulas would dry out your skin, leave your hands feeling very sticky and smell strongly of alcohol. We wanted to disrupt the industry and create solutions that make your life happier and healthier. I was born in Barcelona and I studied business administration and then design. When I was 24 years old, I started working in distributing hand sanitizer solutions from other brands to really learn the market, the pain points and the opportunities to improve everything from the inside.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Running a business like Touchland is an ongoing learning process, so we have experienced many stories. One of the stories — the story that changed my life — was when I was called to the accelerating program of the multinational manufacturer called Zobele and got selected for them to invest and become our strategic manufacturing partner. That changed my luck! It was incredible to realize that Zobele believed in me and my dream and because of their partnership, I was able to make this dream materialize. Soon thereafter, I moved to the US and to chase my dream: to revolutionize the hand sanitizer industry and bring to market products that would make people’s life healthier and happier.
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?
This isn’t the funniest mistake I’ve made, but it is the most important because it brought the biggest lesson: be careful not to trust the wrong people! When you are young and you are starting your own business, you will need help sometimes — that is perfectly normal! But, there are opportunistic people that will try to take advantage of you. I learned to not hasty decisions, to always follow my instinct and to always listen to the opinion from someone you trust — someone that puts your company’s interest first, not theirs.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
We do everything differently, from design to experience to ingredients to communication, which makes it easy to stand out. We wanted to clean up the face of hand sanitizers by disrupting all angles possible. We are focused on completely authentic across all departments and areas.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
It’s my nature to never stop dreaming, so when I achieve one goal, always have a next one. We are currently working on new product innovations and new experiences.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Always come from a place of optimism. This is especially important for when problems arise (because they will!): be the leader that turns an obstacle into an opportunity. Every company goes through ups and downs, and leaders should be able to manage their energy so they do not give up. That’s why CEOs are also known as “Chief Energy Officers.”
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
To share their passion, to engage them with their vision and mission. It’s very important your team shares your goals and your excitement in order to make a difference.
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?
My husband, Ruggero Grammatico. He quit his job to join forces with me at Touchland. He believed in me and stayed by my side through our darkest moments of Touchland. We have gone through hard times, experienced manufacturing problems, hit roadblocks raising capital, moved to another country to chase this dream, etc; and having him by my side has been the best support I could have ever asked for!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We have our social initiative, Touchlives, where we ship our hand sanitizers to developing countries where hygiene is crucial and during outbreaks or natural disasters where hygiene products are the most required during crisis times. My goal also is to create a platform where entrepreneurs and leaders can inspire by sharing and mentoring. I would love to be able to share what I have learned through the years.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
– Find people that share your values: I have always been more successful having a team that shares my values. Whenever I tried to make it work with people who were not humble or who weren’t hustlers like I am, it didn’t work out.
– Lead by example: if you want your team to hustle, you have to be the number one hustler. That’s what makes your team fight for your dream.
– Share the glory: our success it’s not thanks to me. It’s thanks to my amazing team. This is like team sport, you don’t get to the top alone and you have to glorify your team, all of them are pieces of the puzzle that completes the picture.
– Be confident and fearless: even when there’s a storm outside, be the ray of sun that inspires your team.
– Be a leader, not a boss: I tend to build a good relationship with my team, I care about them and I think this helps them also feel special and valued.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would like to set up a platform where leaders from different sectors and industries can share their stories — but not the fancy, good story that they share with the press. I think truth inspires people more than we realize. Sharing bad experiences also inspires people because if they see you were going through tough times and then you succeeded, it gives them motivation to chase their dreams.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t let success get to your head, don’t lead failure get to your heart” — I have had many ups and downs in life and I have always remained the same, there’s people that get too entitled when they are successful and they change. I am the same person always — humble, energetic and stubborn.
Some of the biggest 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 🙂
Sara Blakely from Spanx — she’s a business hero of mine!