Carolyn Aronson: “Failures and disappointments are learning experiences”

Failures and disappointments are learning experiences — It’s easy to be discouraged when you face roadblocks in your business, but those are the situations when your creative mind has to expand and find another way. Sometimes, this new path might even be a better fit than the original one anyway. As a part of our series about Inspirational […]

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Failures and disappointments are learning experiences — It’s easy to be discouraged when you face roadblocks in your business, but those are the situations when your creative mind has to expand and find another way. Sometimes, this new path might even be a better fit than the original one anyway.

As a part of our series about Inspirational Women of the Speaking Circuit, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Carolyn Aronson.

Carolyn Aronson is a successful entrepreneur, philanthropist and the founder and CEO of It’s a 10® Haircare, one of the only female-owned professional hair care brands in the world. She recently announced full ownership of the company. A self-made entrepreneur, Aronson began her career with 20+ years as a hair stylist and salon owner, and continues to hold licenses in multiple states. It’s a 10® Haircare was born out of her frustration with brands that produced dozens of products with single benefits and hard-to-follow claims. She envisioned a line that was for everyone and delivered full, salon-quality results in just one bottle. She began with a star product, Miracle Leave-In, and the line quickly rose to fame through pro hair stylists, who shared the cult-favorite product with their clients. Now a successful, global hair product company with a passionate celebrity and consumer following, It’s a 10® Haircare products are sold in more than 25,000 professional independent salons and 15,000 professional salon chains. Carolyn’s brand has helped women and men across the globe look and feel their best, while also allowing Carolyn to pursue her key priorities: Making the world a better place through various philanthropic endeavors, raising a successful family, and creating a culture that embraces diversity.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in New Jersey, adopted at the age of 2 and grew up in Michigan with my adoptive parents. I was also the only girl and had three older brothers, so that fun, competitive dynamic has definitely influenced who I am today. As I got older, I fell in love with hairdressing and became a hair stylist and salon owner for over 20 years.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was a hair stylist, I became so frustrated with all of the products that over promised and under delivered and hated recommending a bunch of products to my clients so that they could achieve actual results. From then on, I was dedicated to creating products that yielded high-quality results instantly at an affordable price because that’s what the market was lacking and what my clients wanted.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I always say that there’s no point of creating a business if it doesn’t have a purpose, so one of the most interesting and exciting things that I’ve gotten to do in my career is create a national holiday: National Love Your Hair Day on October 10th. It’s been four years now, and each 10/10 day gets better and better because it’s evolved into a celebration of confidence and charity. We give back to communities and “hair heroes” annually through The It’s a 10® Grant, donate hundreds of thousands of products nationwide, and this year we’re taking it globally!

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?

Back when I was in beauty school, I needed to practice different styling and cutting techniques on real hair, and it was so scary! Luckily, my three brothers volunteered to be my Guinea pigs, and one time I needed to give one of my brothers a perm. It took me five hours to get all of the rollers in, and I was nervous how it was going to turn out. Thankfully, the perm came out exactly like it was supposed to, and my brother actually liked the way it looked. Talk about a win-win!

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 wouldn’t be where I am today without my Dad. From a very young age, he started teaching me the foundations of business, and “daddy and me” activities sometimes included going to a tax seminar. He always called me his “little business woman,” which I adored, and made sure I was financially prepared for life. Not every kid can say that they opened bank accounts when they were 8 years old, but the early lessons my dad taught me were extremely valuable and still stick with me today.

Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Failure is inevitable, but it’s such a valuable learning experience! Before I founded It’s a 10, the first business I founded was called LINQ. I was learning about entrepreneurism on my and hit a lot of quality control issues — I had sprayers that didn’t spray, bubbles in my labels, inconsistent textures, and more. If I didn’t run into those issues the first time, I wouldn’t have had the knowledge and experience to ensure that didn’t happen with It’s a 10, so it was all worth it.

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

When I speak on panels, record podcasts and do live interviews, I always hope I spark that entrepreneurial spirit in someone because anyone can build a business around their dreams if they’re passionate about it. I was a hair stylist and surrounded myself with people smarter than me that I learned from, so I just hope to be that guiding inspiration for others.

Can you share with our readers a few of your most important tips about how to be an effective and empowering speaker? Can you please share some examples or stories?

Over the years, I’ve been able to hone my speaking ability and become an effective speaker, and so can you! The most important thing about being an empowering speaker is to share your authentic stories — the good and the bad — because they inspire people the most. When you speak to people about your personal journey, it allows them to put themselves in your shoes and makes them realize that they have the power and tools to purse their dreams, too.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

My best advice for those struggling with public speaking would be to surround themselves with brilliant people so that you can learn from them. In any situation, you have to be willing to learn in order to excel, and a great way to learn is to spend time with people who have mastered public speaking. As you do this, you’ll pick up their nuances, consistently hear what great speech sounds like, and gain more life experience — all of which will increase your comfort level when speaking in front of others.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

In retrospect, I’m so grateful and proud that of everything that I’ve learned about business, entrepreneurship, the haircare industry, manufacturing, accounting and everything else that a CEO deals with, but along the way I wish I’d know that:

I can’t do it all myself — With my first brand, LINQ, I tried to orchestrate a bunch of independent vendors to build my one product, however the coordination was lacking, and I should have found one vendor to do it all since I was already spread thinly.

You have to take things slow and steady — Every business needs a good foundation and those can’t be built overnight.

Financial planning is the key to any success — Businesses (and people) need to live within their means in order to be successful and be prepared for the unexpected.

Failures and disappointments are learning experiences — It’s easy to be discouraged when you face roadblocks in your business, but those are the situations when your creative mind has to expand and find another way. Sometimes, this new path might even be a better fit than the original one anyway.

It’s not as easy it looks — People are inspired by seeing other people’s successes, but they don’t see all of the years of effort that went into making it what it is today. Entrepreneurs need to note that the road to success is a jagged one, but it’s worth it in the end.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

I always have a ton of projects in the works, so right now I’m focusing on two exciting collection launches: Be a 10 Cosmetics and Tiny 10s (gentle hair products for toddlers)! Additionally, I’m building It’s a 10 Enterprises, which is the umbrella company for It’s a 10 Haircare and my other brands that help people look and feel like “a 10” — It’s a 10 Haircare, It’s a 10 Hair Tools, EX10SIONS, He’s a 10, and more. People are busier than ever, so I wanted to create a place where people can shop for beauty and grooming products quickly and easily, knowing that everything under the umbrella is high-quality, affordable priced, and are a 10 out of 10.

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

When I want to unwind and relax, I like to do my self-care and beauty ritual because I feel really good when I put myself together. It has a tremendous impact on my psyche. When my I do my skincare routine, style my hair, apply my makeup, and paint my nails, I feel like I can conquer the day — and that’s extremely soothing and empowering to me.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Philanthropy and giving back to others is something I’m sincerely passionate about. My mantra is “there is no business without a purpose,” and I am in business to make the world a better place. From donating to timely causes, like hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico and frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic, to ongoing organizations near and dear to my heart, like Best Buddies International or Comfort Cases, I love to make sure that people everywhere have basic needs, like a roof over their heads and hygiene products. If I could bring even more good to people, I would make sure all young people have the basic necessities — nutrition, safety, and a roof over their heads — because if they’re supported early on, then they are set up to succeed later in life.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why?

I’d love to be able to have lunch with Jennifer Lopez because we are both strong, successful Puerto Rican women who inspire others and have powerful stories to tell. Also, I’d like to make a movie about my life, and I would love for her to play me in the role.

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

My favorite phrase is “some of the best deals you make are the ones you don’t” because hindsight is 20/20. In the moment, you may feel discouraged or defeated when a business deal doesn’t go through, but it’s in those times where you get creative and search for other avenues for success, which oftentimes lead you to even better deals.

You might also like...


Entrepreneur & Philanthropist Carolyn Aronson on why it’s so important to encourage your employees

by Akemi Sue Fisher

Sara Viklund of Saratonin Haircare: “Benefit people who work with you and choose your partnerships wisely”

by Fotis Georgiadis
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.