Be open to changing your mindset and take unexpected opportunities — After you have kids, your life will change so much, so stay open to those changes, do not beat yourself up, and just try to figure out a system that works for you and your family.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Carole Diarra of Arbonne. As Chief Marketing Officer at Arbonne, Carole Diarra leads the global strategic vision and brand image, brand and product marketing, research and innovation, consumer insights and PR/strategic partnerships. Arbonne has been a pioneer in clean beauty and wellness for nearly 40 years, and she is excited to be a part of a company whose commitment to people and values are a core part of the mission and vision. She is a strategic marketer and business leader with over 20 years of experience. She is passionate about empowering women and understanding consumers for businesses and entrepreneurs.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I grew up in a small town in South Carolina, mostly with my grandparents. My grandmother was a passionate educator who also owned a beauty salon and ran a rather successful direct selling business. My first job was helping my Nana sell beauty products to her friends — I dropped off the catalogs and delivered the packages on my bike. Later on, I attended Duke University, where I studied abroad in Central America and developed an awakening and desire to see women uplifted everywhere. I’ll never forget seeing young girls sifting through trash in the Acahualinca landfill in Nicaragua. As I saw those young girls working in such terrible conditions, I reflected upon my own experiences. I thought about how my grandmother taught me to work hard and dream big. I saw myself as a young girl picking pecans and raking leaves to earn extra money, and I thought that all girls and women deserved the power and opportunity to pursue their dreams. My humble background gave me a connection to the most vulnerable people, and it also made me infinitely curious and determined to succeed while using my positive energy to help others, especially women, come into their own.
I spent a large portion of my career in the beauty industry at cosmetic giant, L’Oreal, where I had a fantastic business career in an industry that celebrates the beauty of women. I started as an Assistant Product Manager and rose to a Brand Vice President managing a portfolio of skincare brands. Fast forward to now, I am the Chief Marketing Officer of Arbonne, a beauty and wellness company. I joined Arbonne just over one year ago. As someone who is passionate about empowering, uplifting, supporting and encouraging women, Arbonne has been an excellent fit. And I love that we are a Certified B Corporation committed to doing good in the world, improving our sustainability footprint and helping people flourish around the world.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
I moved to France in 2006 to work at the headquarters of L’Oreal. I was there for a two-year assignment, but I ended up working for nearly five years in Paris. I was so excited to be there, but in the early days I could not get anything done. I didn’t speak French very well, but I realized it wasn’t only a language barrier holding me back, but a culture barrier as well. One afternoon while listening to my boss explain her feedback on a product concept and packaging, I clearly stated that I disagreed with her and explained the reasons why. We ended up passionately discussing the topic for over an hour, and I left the meeting feeling super embarrassed because I argued with my boss. However, our relationship changed after that. I learned that she greatly appreciated our debate, as she learned to understand my thinking. As a result, we were then able to work better together. She shared that other people were waiting for me to share my opinion even if it was in direct opposition to theirs and encouraged me to have coffee in the morning with the people that I was emailing because I would be more effective if I started with the relationship first, and then the work.
My time working in France taught me several valuable lessons, most importantly, to be open and attentive to people’s culture, adapt to the circumstances and build relationships first. I learned to ask more open questions, listen to people’s backstory and appreciate the “why” behind people’s actions — all of which I’ve taken into my career at Arbonne. While in France, I also ended up meeting my husband who is originally from Mali, and I have continued my lifelong journey to be flexible and open to others’ cultures and perspectives.
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?
Throughout my career, I’ve worked with a dynamic group of individuals who have made a lasting impact on me. Early in my career, I had a boss who became my first work mentor and encouraged me to attend Harvard Business School for my MBA. He was personally vested in my growth, guided me with honest direct feedback and gave me deep insights into key leaders. I still use his favorite mantra today when times are hard, “keep hope alive.”
My time at L’Oreal brought me two lifelong friends and confidants who have provided me with great perspective in navigating my career, making work transitions, and being my own champion. In fact, one of these women was the first person that I called when I received the opportunity to join Arbonne. Both women have helped develop my strengths personally and professionally, demonstrating it’s ok to show vulnerability as a leader and being candid with your hurdles and challenges to gain perspective on your own strengths and weaknesses.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Arbonne has a strong mission focused on empowering people to flourish with sustainable healthy living. We launched a new platform, that we call our Mind. Body. Skin.™ platform, which is a holistic approach to beauty, health and wellbeing, focusing on the whole person to help them flourish inside and out. It is this mission that is our guidepost and lens we use for everything we do.
On a product level, we offer a portfolio of products that is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. And we are thinking about the impact we’re making — from the sourcing of product ingredients to our recycling program, ArbonneCycle, that takes hard-to-recycle materials and turns them into something that can be reused.
We believe everyone can flourish, by being good to themselves, their community and the planet. This year, Arbonne became a Certified B Corporation and joined the ranks of companies participating in a global movement to use business as a force for good. As a purpose-driven company we are committed to being accountable for our actions and to building a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
I have two young kids, ages 5 and 3, so I am constantly on a journey to incorporate small little habits in my life and my family’s life to improve our wellbeing. While some of these tweaks I had in place, many new ones emerged as COVID became a reality.
Self-care is so important to me personally in order to maintain a healthy balance between personal and professional life. I’ve been doing these “tweaks” for years, but they really fit into the Mind. Body. Skin™ platform I mentioned earlier. Taking baths while listening to the Calm app allows me to re-center and decompress which is crucial to my wellbeing. I have a trainer that I work out with every week to keep me accountable and allow me time to focus on my health with such a busy schedule. Planning my meals ensures that I get the right nutrition to fuel my energy and sustain my busy days without impulse eating. Getting outdoors, riding bikes and just spending time in nature with my family has helped to relieve the pressures of the day and increase our happiness and is something we never take for granted living in California. Lastly, ten minutes of yoga with my kids before bed which helps all of us unwind.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would start a high-tech wellness movement for low income families, that can be super stressed and lack the resources to implement good holistic approaches for their families. Wellbeing often seems like such a “high brow” concept for people that have extra time to take care of themselves — go to the spa and do yoga. COVID-19 really exposed that low- income families, especially minorities, are more vulnerable because they can lack access to health care and are underinsured.
To promote holistic wellness, I would create a Mind, Body, Skin™ approach to wellbeing and emotional health designed for resource-strapped and time-strapped women and families, including: Power of positive mantras; More electronic self-help books; Gratitude practice, all done in a fun, engaging way that motivates and captures the mindset and cultural nuances.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Balancing a career and your family can be hard! My husband and I both have very dynamic careers. Making decisions together about our careers, raising kids and where to live has been complex. We are constantly trying to figure it out.
- Invest in friendships at work — not because you need something, but because people enrich your professional and personal lives. Having friends at work is shown to increase people’s engagement and happiness at work. I have two of my very best friends that I met at work, and they made the tough times bearable and the great times more memorable.
- Be open to changing your mindset and take unexpected opportunities — After you have kids, your life will change so much, so stay open to those changes, do not beat yourself up, and just try to figure out a system that works for you and your family. Also, don’t be afraid to do something that may be an enriching learning experience even if it is not a promotion. I took on a category management assignment after maternity leave and it turned out to be one of my most rewarding experiences. I reported into the head of sales and I learned to understand the value of building those deep retailer relationships
- Ask for feedback, don’t assume. Ask about your progress, and how can you do better.
- Work on your emotional intelligence first — understanding your stressors and emotional triggers will better set you up for success in the future.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental and emotional wellbeing are precious topics that have personally affected me. My mom suffered from mental illness that was not easily understood or approached with any type of comprehensive care, much less a holistic vision. Unfortunately, she lost her life quite young due to her mental illness. Even more broadly, I have seen the emotional and mental trauma that happens in the Black community that is simply not addressed. We are taught to be so “strong” and overcome all obstacles with little emotion, yet there is often anger, hurt, frustration and sadness that can linger within if not addressed. I love that there’s a shift happening though, championing people, especially Black people, to be more vulnerable and focused on their emotional health, a call to shed the façade of being “strong”. As a young girl I was taught to be a “strong” Black woman, but these mantras can actually hurt more over time because it is important to deal with your emotions and pain. We are taught that we can endure anything, and we teach our kids those same mantras. I read that black women are more likely to die in childbirth, often related to high stress levels. We do not talk about these things in a meaningful way, and I am glad that times are evolving and we are opening dialogue.
I’m also proud that Arbonne places high importance on mental health through the Arbonne Flourish Foundation which is committed to building resilience in the minds of future generations. As a society, I would love for us to embrace our emotional and mental health and to be vulnerable and experience love, light and pain so that we can address our health holistically.
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