Lyda Djarar Fischer of ‘Lyda Beauty’: “You will doubt yourself”

Having diversity within the company, especially at the executive level, helps bring perspective which is beneficial to both the company and consumer. Why wouldn’t anyone not want that? As a company we broaden our understanding of the market we cater to, and the consumers feel acknowledged, it’s a win-win. Lyda Beauty was created around this […]

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Having diversity within the company, especially at the executive level, helps bring perspective which is beneficial to both the company and consumer. Why wouldn’t anyone not want that? As a company we broaden our understanding of the market we cater to, and the consumers feel acknowledged, it’s a win-win. Lyda Beauty was created around this philosophy and when hiring team members, it is important to us, that we hire people who understand that we are all one race, the human race. Everyone deserves love and respect, and anything less than that is unacceptable, period.

As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lyda Djarar Fischer.

Lyda is an inventor and the CEO of Lyda Beauty. Bringing representation to marginalized women and cultures is the core of her mission, and the inspiration behind her brand. Lyda hopes to broaden the beauty scope through wholesome, innovative, 21st century-forward cosmetics, make-up tools and imagery.

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?

The backstory is a bit romantic. Up until I started dating my now husband, Robijn, I never wore make-up. Truth be told, growing up, I was not the girly type at all — and still. I grew up with two brothers and my friends mostly consisted of guys who were heavily into sports and underground hip-hop. I had little in common with other girls. All that changed when I met Robijn and started wearing make-up in effort to soften my tomboy appearance. In a way, I am in debt to the beauty industry as it helped me tap into my feminine side.

Oddly enough, make-up taught me patience and self-love. Not exactly what you would expect from something considered to be so vain. Evidently, the time I spent in front of the mirror, forced me to pay attention to my details and I started liking my unique appearance. Another unexpected blessing gained is the development of my appreciation for processes. The lessons I learned have really helped me slow down and enjoy the journey. Who would have thought that make-up would be the catalyst that helped me step into my womanhood? Not me, that’s for sure! Then I thought “what a perfect tool to help other women”. Shortly after I came up with the Cleopatra Cat Eye Stamp concept, I decided to create a brand whose mission would be to highlight marginalized women. The goal would be to help said women find their confidence through cosmetics, the way I did — thus Lyda Beauty was born.

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

The most interesting story I can think of is watching the dynamic within the company shift. I noticed that, even though it was I that decided what direction to take Lyda Beauty, it was my team that brought things to life.

I was brought up with an old school boss mentality and quickly realized how outdated that way of leading was! I encourage the Lyda Beauty Team to speak their truth, even if we disagreed. When making a big decision, I want everyone’s input considered, after all we are all in this together. I found that you just never know what genius surrounds you if you do not provide a nurturing environment and allow people to express themselves. Some of the best feedback I have received has come from the unlikeliest people.

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?

I think the most laughable mistake for me, was believing how cut and dry this venture was going to be. I really believed that it would be as easy as creating a plan of action, manufacturing the CCES, hiring a publicist to get the word out, and then sitting back to watch my bank account grow. I learned quickly that even with a good business plan, publicist, and an awesome original idea, everything truly is harder in application than in theory.

I ran into the inconceivable! Firstly, no prototype company wanted to take on my idea because achieving ink flow to both ends of the Cleopatra Cat Eye Stamp, without compromise, was “impossible”.

They were not entirely wrong. Robijn and I had to figure that part out on our own before any prototype company would agree to take on the project.

Then, I found out that having a publicist does not necessarily translate into sales — that is what marketing is for — and so on. What I learned from my venture is that no matter how prepared you think you are for the task at hand, know that you will run into unforeseen predicaments, without fail. There are just too many moving parts not to. Be sure to leave wiggle room for the unpredictable.

None of us can 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 grateful for every single person that helped me get where I am. I could have never made it without my team. However, I owe an extra dose of gratitude to two people — Robijn Fischer my husband, and Karina Y. Garcia, my Managing Director. Robijn, is my rock and has been my greatest supporter since we met some 15 years ago. He has always believed in me and supported all my crazy ideas. I could not have asked for a better life-partner — so to Robijn, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for putting up with me.

Then, in 2017, I met Karina at a mutual friend’s NYE party and became fast friends. The moment Karina came into the picture, my life changed. She “imposed” herself into my company, as she calls it (laughs). Although, I would say it was more like I wished her into existence. At first, I made it a point not to discuss business with her as hanging-out was my downtime and I did not want to mix the two. One day after diner she asked how I was doing with the company. I explained that I felt overwhelmed with work and had not slept in days. Karina offered to stay and help. Since I could not hire her at the time, she worked Uber to make ends meet and to be able to help me as much as humanly possible. After a few months of this, I expressed to her that I felt bad because I couldn’t pay her and saw how hard she worked, to which she replied, “I’m not asking you to pay me. I want to help because you’re my friend and I believe in your mission”. This went on until I was able to secure the budget to hire her fulltime. The proposition came as a pleasant surprise to her. Robijn and I had some reservations about working with a friend as that never worked out in the past, but we decided to take a chance and now Karina basically runs my company. To me, this story is a clear indicator of what can happen when you follow your heart and operate from a place of integrity and purpose — you meet the right people and things just seem to fall together — just “build it and they will come”.

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?

I have tried many things — meditation, working out, quiet mornings with coffee and my thoughts, name it! Honestly, I find that consulting with my team produces the best results for me. I have succeeded in creating a team of brilliant and diverse individuals, who believe in Lyda Beauty’s mission to expand representation of marginalized women and cultures. Lucky for me, they also happen to be very outspoken, sometimes a little too outspoken (laughs), but I would not have it any other way. They help me see angles that I may have missed otherwise, their opinions are greatly appreciated and valued.

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?

As someone who grew up being the only brown kid on the block, this is something very dear to my heart.

I believe that having a diverse executive team is more than important, it is necessary. As the world advances technologically, there are more cultures being put on the map, and they want to be acknowledged.

Having diversity within the company, especially at the executive level, helps bring perspective which is beneficial to both the company and consumer. Why wouldn’t anyone not want that? As a company we broaden our understanding of the market we cater to, and the consumers feel acknowledged, it’s a win-win. Lyda Beauty was created around this philosophy and when hiring team members, it is important to us, that we hire people who understand that we are all one race, the human race. Everyone deserves love and respect, and anything less than that is unacceptable, period.

Its 2020, we really need to outgrow that ridiculous phase of humanity where we are discriminating based on someone’s God given features.

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.

As previously mentioned, this is a very personal topic to me, and a huge part of my creative process.

When I was one, my family migrated to Switzerland from our motherland Iran in search of a better life. An exceedingly difficult decision to succumb to, especially for those of us that come from a strong family-oriented culture. As the only brown Persian girl in my neighborhood, I more than noticed the need for inclusivity and representation, I embodied it. Everywhere I looked there were images of beautiful women and none of them resembled me. I felt alienated. It was that ambiguity which inspired me to bring marginalized women and cultures to the forefront, and Lyda Beauty would be the vehicle I would use to achieve this.

They say that “to whom much is given, much is required”. As business leaders, it is our job to identify what is needed, and to think beyond what the eyes can see, we must think bigger, we must think with our heart. Personally, I have found that operating from a place of love opens more doors than operating from a place of reason. It brings me joy to say that we are in a time where people are starting to care more about an organization’s approach to humanity, rather than their products or services. So, how can we truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? — The answer is simple, just do it!

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 CEO is not as luxurious as it sounds. The weight of the entire company rests on our shoulders and can be quite stressful. I believe the biggest responsibility of a CEO is to make sure goals are attained and bottom lines are met. We must be clear on the company direction and make decisions accordingly, and at times that can be quite challenging. For example, in March — at the beginning of the quarantine — instead of laying off people and hoarding money, I decided to invest in improving our online presence. The team made improvements to our website, social media and we acquired new marketing tools. The result was that while other beauty companies were seeing a decline in sales, Lyda Beauty saw an incline. I also decided to hire an internal publicist. This was a huge gamble as the world was in the middle of a pandemic, but I decided to go with my gut feeling. I wanted someone that would just be focused on my brand. This move worked out well and even exceeded my expectations.

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

The biggest myth about executives is that they see employees as just another number. That is just not true across the board. I am not saying that they are not out there, but I believe most executives do care about their workforce, I know I do and so do other executives I know. Many of us had to work hard to get to the top and understand how tough it can be starting at the bottom. I will say this, at times, over the course of a long career (in any high position) some do forget what it was like being “the little guy”, and give the rest of us a bad name. For that I apologize, know that most of us are not like that.

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

I hate to say this, but I believe the biggest challenge female executives face is being labeled a heathen if we are firm in our decisions. Often, we get labeled as shrewd if we have strong convictions or are assertive. I find this unfair to say the least. All while our male counterparts can behave borderline rude at times and no one even bats an eye. We need to change that. Some women are simply confident and are not afraid to stand their ground and should not be demonized for it. On the other side of that, women tend to be more in tune with their feelings and equally can bring a humanistic aspect to situations. This level of humanity helps broaden understanding and can even help close deals. Companies would be smart to expand their female C-suite members. There is much we can learn from one another.

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

Where do I begin?!? I jumped in and was immediately doing ten different jobs. Everything from coordinating shoots, hiring PR, manufacturers, editing content, and designing, to name a few. Contrary to popular belief, starting your own company is not easy. I thought being the “boss” was just going to be pointing a finger and assigning tasks — kind of the way a conductor guides an orchestra. It is far from that! As CEO, you are working three times as long as the team. The entire workforce’s wellbeing rests on your shoulders, quite literally. One decision can be the difference between raises and furloughs. What a rude awakening!

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?

The traits one should have to be a successful executive are many. One should not take themselves so seriously as to inhibit joy, be impeccable with your word, be a good listener, have great problem-solving skills, be punctual, stay creative and learn from your mistakes fast. As an executive we are the face of the company, represent it well. Reputation is everything and can make the difference when conducting business, so operate from a place of integrity and take care of it. For me, at the top of the list of people that should not hold an executive position, are narcissists. Those kinds of people are not good at being team players. They are often arrogant, self-absorbed, selfish, and hard to trust because they operate from a place of self-interest versus the organization’s interest. This can jeopardize the company’s reputation, and it is easier to maintain a good reputation than it is to repair one. Choose your executives wisely.

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

The advice I would give is what helped me the most — get to know your team instead of just giving directions. Humble yourself and see yourself as their equal. Provide a nurturing and welcoming environment so they feel comfortable enough to speak freely and without judgement. I found this to be the most helpful, as it cultivates creative flow, and this is how amazing ideas are born. It is life changing!

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

Does inventing a time saving stamp eyeliner tool count? (laughs). In all seriousness, I have received many messages from women around the world, who feel that the CCES is a life saver. Many of whom have always wanted to rock fierce winged eyeliner but have never been able to draw it on adequately. Calling it a life saver is clearly a hyperbole, but it is a time saver. Furthermore, Lyda Beauty is dedicated to taking beauty to a new level of wholesome. The skin is one of the largest organs we have, and it absorbs whatever we put on it within 26 seconds. We aim to provide clean high-quality cosmetics, that take all of this into consideration. We refuse to settle for lower quality ingredients just to save a few bucks.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Do what you do best and hire the rest.
  2. Do not be afraid to make mistakes.
  3. You will doubt yourself.
  4. You are not going to have a personal life.
  5. Enjoy the journey.

(click video for full answers)

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.

There are already so many good movements, why start another one when you can strengthen one that already exists by adding your voice? It would be wiser to join a pre-existing movement as opposed to starting from scratch — unless of course you do not find one catering to your cause — then starting a new movement would make sense. There is strength in numbers.

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

I had to think long and hard about this question — there are so many inspirational quotes that I love and apply to my daily life. Humbly, I share my self-authored quote, “You have not attained much if you have not achieved inner peace”. In my journey, as far as material things are concerned, I have been very blessed. Growing up, my father owned a lucrative rug business, and we were more than comfortable. Looking at me you would have thought I was happy and fulfilled, but I was not. To my surprise when I looked around neither were those around me. I had to reflect on this because it did not make sense. Here we were well off, living the life most dream about, and yet lasting joy eluded us. Why?

Much later I realized that we were so distracted by facades and trinkets, that we rarely had time to look within and deal with ourselves. Unresolved issues ensued and brought a sense of emptiness. I was not pouring into myself, this led to a disconnect that caused internal turmoil. I share my quote in hopes that it will inspire you to pause from life and spend quality time with the person that needs you the most, you.

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

I would have to toss a coin on this one. There are two for me, Elon Musk and Michael Jordan. They both represent and inspire a part of me. One is an unparalleled legend that changed an industry, and the other is a legend in the making — who is currently changing several industries. In my opinion, Elon is the most eccentric guy on the planet and that is what makes him so interesting and brilliant. As for Michael Jordan, well he is Michael, need I say more?

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

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