I don’t care. Work harder — On a daily basis I’m pushed to my limit, it’s important to have a strong will. However hard you think it is, it’s harder. Congratulate yourself on the wins, never take no’s or rejection personally and move on. Especially, if you’re self-funded with limited resources. You literally can’t afford to waste your energy on anything that isn’t productive.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lara Eurdolian.
Lara Eurdolian is a fashion + beauty expert, on-air-talent, entrepreneur, and founder of Pretty Connected, the award winning, beauty, fashion, and lifestyle blog and accessories line. She also serves a council member and guest editor for NewBeauty magazine and Expert Circle for Rhyme & Reason haircare. In 2014 she co-founded the non-profit, Share Your Beauty, an initiative that collects unused, unopened hygiene and beauty products and delivers them to shelters in NYC and the tri-state area. Since launching, Share Your Beauty has collected and distributed over 150,000 products.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in Belmont, MA with a single mom and immigrant grandparents that looking back really inspired that spark of survival, hard work and will to succeed. My family thought I’d be a veterinarian. I always loved animals and at the age of five, I declared I would be a vegetarian to the utter dismay of my kebab-loving Armenian family. I quickly grew out of the idea of being a vet when the TV show, ER came out and I would hysterically cry at every scene when the doctor had to tell the family they lost the patient. I’m still a vegetarian to this day.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t do what everyone else is doing, figure out what’s next or a void in the market.” And, “Think bigger.”
This advice has fueled me since my early career. I started in marketing at NARS and then Jurlique as their US Marketing Manager which focused on conventional marketing and didn’t touch digital.I remember my counterpart, the head of our online business saying digital was the future. I shortly after, started Pretty Connected as a beauty blog. This was well over a decade ago (before Instagram) and before blogger or influencer were coined terms. But getting into that space before it became a viable one opened many doors. It coupled with my marketing background landed me the job of launching and running Kiehl’s social media for two years, campaigns with major beauty brands in my dream magazines, and many more opportunities.
When everyone started blogging, and then getting on Instagram, I knew it was time to shift again. Or keep asking the question of what sets me apart? I started doing more on-air spokeswoman gigs, hosting influencer events and public speaking.
In 2018 after carrying the same Sony mirrorless camera for 5 years attached to a chain strap I made myself, I decided to manufacture them. Back then when you went on Etsy or searched chic camera straps your options were scarf-like or guitar looking straps. I wanted something chic and versatile I could wear with a dress to a fancy party or match my street style.
While we did well, by the time I launched the camera chains, the iPhone cameras we’re getting better, and we weren’t carrying our cameras as much, so I decided to think bigger. I started using the chain with my water bottle, to carry my flip flops, wearing it as a necklace and to hold my flip flops… and the more I spoke to it as a multi-use the chain, the more my audience started sending and posting photos of how they used them. Everything from on their strollers to hand shopping bags to as a belt and as a bag strap. With the pandemic and increased use of masks, the mask chain became a natural additional use for our straps.
My career has evolved over the past decade and the entire progression of my career is looking at what’s next, what isn’t being done and trying to stay ahead of the curve.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
There was a speech. I remember being at a panel discussion during SXSW that Neiman Marcus was putting on and Rosario Dawson was one of the panelists. It was during a time when I remember feeling a lot of pressure to pick a lane and stay on brand and not color outside the lines and mix messages. The moderator asked her something along the lines of how she picks her projects accordingly and she vetoed the entire concept. She said something like, if you’re passionate about multiple charities, companies, acting roles… do them all. And basically suggested she wants to do everything that excites her and not be limited.
That’s the moment I knew I wanted to be limitless and felt empowered to pivot and evolve my brand however I wanted and to not be boxed in or fear trying new things.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), where I got an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Merchandising Management and Bachelors in International Trade and Marketing. One of my classmates interned at NARS Cosmetics and was hired upon graduation. She saw an opening in their international marketing division and recommended me. I went from NARS to several beauty brands, Jurlique, Avon, Kiehl’s, before doing my blog, Pretty Connected full-time and consulting on the side. The blog opened many doors, weekly events, on-air appearances, event hosting, magazine collaboration, hosting and speaking on panels, brand collaboration… As I mentioned I launched my multi-use chains in 2018, that also lead to a number of fun collaborations. We paired them with Instax cameras and did events with It Cosmetics, Sunglass Hut, Burt’s Bees, Eliza J and many more across the country.
I also started working part-time at New Beauty magazine as a guest editor and being on camera for some of their videos and hosting influencer events.
For 2020, I had a 1-month k-beauty trip planned in Asia, a segment in LA for Extra, and several panel talks in LA, Chicago and Nashville, and press trips which we’re all canceled.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
I had a major aha moment. The hero item in my accessory line are multi-use chains of all different styles and lengths. During the pandemic, everyone began wearing masks, and my chain was the perfect mask chain! I was so lucky, because we already marketed these chains as multi-use and so many influencers, editors and customers already had them. When I started posting about it my audience got so excited and they started posting and writing about them and suddenly we were the major accessories trend of 2020 garnering over 50+ press hits.
As they began gaining popularity, I created more styles to the line to accommodate all types of personalities and needs. Not just fashion and our classic ‘cool girl’ chains, but we listened to our audience and what they wanted and expanded into men’s, kids, lightweight ones for frontline workers, chains for sporty occasions, all multi-use and designed to out-live the pandemic.
I also continued working with NewBeauty but without video and events, we shifted my role to focus on hosting digital events, helping to curate NewBeauty’s beauty subscription service, TestTube and focus on my column.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
It was two-fold. In January 2020 I was in Asia and so many people were wearing masks. With all the dust and air pollution in the air, especially when you’re riding a scooter around, they come in handy.. I remember thinking these would be cool for my chains and maybe I should buy some masks and post about it. My friend and I spent a day in Vietnam at the markets looking for this specific mask we had wanted but couldn’t find it. And it was one of those, no big deal, probably not something I would wear or be practical in the US anyways. Fast forward a few months into the pandemic, which like many I was in a state of shock. All my jobs were canceled and I wasn’t leaving the house. My best friend, Nikki called me and was like, I’m using your chains for my mask, what about adding that to your multi-use uses and was about to explain what she meant. I think I cut her off and was like, “Say no more, I know exactly what you’re saying!” And it was like every creative bone in my body was ignited. I asked my neighbor to do a social distance photoshoot. I asked friends who already had to chain to send me photos and updated my website to add it to my many uses.
How are things going with this new initiative?
It’s been an incredible ride! We’ve had so much celebrity and media support. Sarah Jessica Parker has worn them in almost every public appearance since September and considering what a fan I am, seeing my chain shot on someone I admire so much has meant the world to me. And the amount of fan mail and notes I get from customers, on how I’ve made their lives easier helped give me purpose.
I’ve also had the opportunity to collaborate with so many brands I admire, from BeautyBlender, to Sequin Jewelry, Boy Meets Girl, Simple Satch, 41 Winks and now we’re about to partner with a major celebrity for a new collection. It’s been such a blessing to be able to use this time to grow and learn.
We also had an incredible amount of media support, which for a small business I still get goosebumps seeing a list that includes, Today with Hoda & Jenna, Good Morning America, EXTRA, Wendy Williams, PIX11, Vogue, InStyle, Today, USA Today, Elle, Allure, The Zoe Report, Page Six, FabFitFun, Seventeen, Bustle, DailyMail, CNN, POPSUGAR, Shape, New York Magazine, Good Day NY, Yahoo!, Well+Good, PureWow, The Observer, Self, Fashionista, Refinery29, Town & Country, Betches, StyleCaster, The Observer, SheKnows, US Weekly, Manhattan Magazine, Guest of a Guest, Betches, NewBeauty, Motherly, Hamptons Magazine, US Weekly, Just Jared, Motherly, Bella Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, Footwear News, The Daily Front Row, Star and many more.
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?
Honestly it takes a village. However, fashion icon and costume designer, Patricia Field has been a major inspiration. She was the first to carry my accessories line in her showroom, put my chains in Emily in Paris and always picks up my calls and talks me off a ledge. But she doesn’t coddle and is incredibly direct, which I appreciate. Great example, I was at Coachella, almost 5 years ago and I was staying at the Westin Hotel. They had a pet adoption program and this 7lbs senior Pomeranian was in dire need of a home. I remember calling her and going into this long pro/con list of should I/shouldn’t I adopt him and with my travel schedule and lifestyle… she cut me off and was like, “what’s the big deal, get the dog.” She’s incredibly good at cutting through the noise and just giving me direction.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Being a small business and literal one-woman show is challenging, especially in a pandemic. You’re in sweats, working 12-hour days, weekends and feeling anything but glamorous. My chains on the other hand — if they were a person — have had an incredibly, glamorous year. They have been in a commercial, countless media outlets, been featured in the Netflix hit series, Emily in Paris and on so many celebrities. And they get fan mail.
Pre-covid, I was getting magazine campaigns, press, television exposure and there’s something so funny about his shift. And in fairness, they outshine me tenfold.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Create an affiliate link for your website or put your products on a site that offers one (like Amazon/Etsy). Magazines/influencers like to make a commission when they write about you and unless your website or one you work with offers one you might not make the story.
- I don’t care. Work harder — On a daily basis I’m pushed to my limit, it’s important to have a strong will. However hard you think it is, it’s harder. Congratulate yourself on the wins, never take no’s or rejection personally and move on. Especially, if you’re self-funded with limited resources. You literally can’t afford to waste your energy on anything that isn’t productive.
- Watch your spending. It can get very expensive, very quickly. Product insurance, trademarks, packaging, legal, sales tax, freelancers, PR/Marketing, website plugins, accountant/bookkeeper, monthly fees… make sure you’re prepared.
- Network, network, network — I feel enormously blessed to have a wide network of friends I can call for advice. Even people I’ve never met on Instagram I’ll DM questions to. If they don’t know the answer, they’ll send me emails or numbers of people that might. When you’re a small business you need to be super scrappy and everyone will try to sell you some service via Facebook Ads or email. It’s better to tap your network first and figure out what you really need and shop around for what you can afford.
- Get a mentor. I’m still working on this one. I pivoted so quickly I never had time to join female entrepreneur groups or mentorship programs but figuring it out as you go is extremely challenging and having someone who can see the big picture and guide you is invaluable.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I’m naturally a very relaxed person but that’s only because I used to be an incredibly anxious one and over the years, I learned to overcome it. However, when the pandemic hit, all of my strategies and old life cycles went out the window. My pre-pandemic life looks nothing like my current one and I found myself in uncharted territory unable to have access to what used to fuel me before. It started to affect my sleep and my dentist has me on a mouth guard because I’m grinding so much. So, I’m right there with the rest of you. Here’s what’s helped:
Zoom nights with friends. In one form or another it’s important to get it out and talk about your life, especially when you’re isolated.
My dog/nature. From snuggles to walks it gets me out of my head. This is about the only familiar thing that’s always helped me. Also getting out of the city. My primary residence is NYC but my fiance and I bought a small cottage in Woodstock and being up in nature and having a yard has helped calm me. Prior to buying we were doing monthly airbnb’s for 4–6 days which really helped.
For sleep, CBD. Specifically, the Pride Gummies from Kush Queen and their bath bombs before bed have done wonders for relaxing me at night.
Writing to do lists. I have a master list and then I write 3 things on a post-it I need to accomplish. I find more than 3 overwhelms me and then it might not get done.
Scheduling time off. I try to do all my meetings on the same day so if I need a slowdown day to not work at hyper speed I’m covered.
Prioritizing and giving myself space to make mistakes or not do things all at once. Nothing irks me like a missed opportunity but sometimes that means saying, “no”, or moving something to the following month because you don’t have the bandwidth.
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?
An organization that shares resources for small business and mentorship all in one place — lawyers, accountants, bookkeepers, systems, filling out paperwork for vendors, government support… I’m great at what I’m great at but it’s managing and learning the other ends of the business has taken me away from doing what I’m good at. And you can hire a ton of freelancers and consultants, which I have but the hit on your bottom line makes it so challenging to be profitable and you then have to manage everyone which still takes you away from what you thrive at. Alternatively, if there was a one stop shop you could outsource all of it together that would help the structure and productivity.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Sara Blakely, Jamie Kern Lima. Sophia Amoruso. Basically, anyone that’s self-funded, started their company out of their home and then was able to scale their business to grow it. There’s a lot of value in learning from entrepreneurs that see the whole picture and what the key players are at each stage of their business. Or Richard Bransen, he’s my hero.
How can our readers follow you online?