Maria Hatzistefanis changed her career three times and was fired from her first job before founding global beauty brand Rodial. “Sometimes you have to figure things out for yourself, as no one else has followed the exact same path as you,” she says. Her path led her to launch a small beauty startup in 1999 that would grow into two successful brands: Rodial and Nip + Fad, which are sold across 35 countries, and feature celebrities and notables like Kylie Jenner and Sofia Richie in their campaigns. The London-based beauty entrepreneur has since written a bestselling book, How to be an Overnight Success, and hosts the podcast Overnight Success.
Hatzistefanis chats with Thrive about what brings her energy, how re-starting from scratch can lead to even bigger success, how to prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do, and her best advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out.
Thrive Global: What is your morning routine?
Maria Hatzistefanis: I like to wake up really early and take an hour to myself to get inspired and start the day on the right foot, around 5 a.m. I read a few pages from an inspirational book, listen to a podcast, or scroll down Instagram for inspiration, all while sipping an organic double espresso and hot water with lemon. I hit the gym at 7 a.m. I have a protein smoothie and am ready to start the day at 9 a.m.
TG: What causes you stress? How do you manage it?
MH: I used to be very stressed when I started the business, and every little thing would get me worried. I am now more zen about everything, and can compartmentalize any issues and deal with them one day at a time.
TG: What gives you energy?
MH: I love being in the store. I get such a buzz spending time on the floor, interacting with the customers, and seeing people react to my product. It’s my happy place, and gives me so much motivation. This is where the heart and soul of the business is, and when I have a tough day at the office, going to visit our stores always raises my vibe.
TG: What advice would you give to a hopeful entrepreneur just starting out?
MH: Believe in yourself. So many people will tell you that you’re wrong, or you don’t have what it takes, or your product or business won’t make it. Listen to them, thank them for their advice, and then discard it and listen to your gut.
TG: What are some challenges you run into in a self-made business?
MH: Cash flow is always an issue: making sure you have enough cash to grow your business and fund the growth, but also make sure that you are profitable. There are ups and downs along the way, but at the end of the day, if you have a good product and the passion to sell it, you will come out on the other side.
TG: How do you think we can inspire others to use gratitude as a form of self-care?
MH: I think that people hear and read about gratitude, but it takes a certain level of maturity and self-awareness to be able to be grateful. Even for me, on days that I may be frustrated or things don’t go my way, I need to force myself to think about what I am grateful for. It’s not easy, but it does get easier the more you do it. I recently came across a quote from the Dalai Lama that resonated with me, and relates to being grateful and dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. He suggests taking things one day at a time: “There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday, and the other is called tomorrow. So today is the right day to love, believe, do, and mostly live.”
TG: How do you manage your team? What are your tips for effective communication?
MH: I hold a Monday meeting every week for all managers and departments. Monday is the most important day of the week, and all of us need to plan our schedule around it. This is the time that we all get together, discuss our successes and challenges, and brainstorm ideas. After we have this meeting, I let my teams run with it and own their success. I never micromanage; I want to empower them. If they are happy and successful in their jobs, that reflects back to the overall success of the business.
TG: How do you stay relevant in such a competitive industry?
MH: We never sit still. We recently deleted 3,000 images and cleared our @rodialbeauty and @mrsrodial Instagram accounts and started from scratch with a new direction. You always need to assess and reconsider, and not be too attached to the past.
TG: What daily habit or practice helps you thrive?
MH: Working out is the one thing for me that I can’t do without. Even if I am in a bad mood, working out helps me clear my head and give me the energy that I need to get through the day.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
MH: My phone is my office; everything is on there and I couldn’t live without it. I don’t take it in the bedroom with me, though; I leave it out to charge and only take my iPad with me to watch a movie, but I never check emails or messages when I am in the bedroom.
TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?
MH: I strip everything back, go back to basics, and write a list. I make sure I delegate accordingly, and look at what needs to be done now, next, and later.
TG: What are your top tips for prioritization?
I always like to “eat the frog first” as they say, meaning I do the most boring task first thing in the week or morning to get it out of the way so I can focus on more creative tasks.
TG: What brings you optimism and hope?
MH: I have realized that we are the only ones who can make ourselves happy. By waking up every day healthy and ready to get on with my day, being productive, and having positive people around so we can work hard together and have a laugh — that’s what’s important. It’s the small daily things that bring us happiness.
TG: Can you share a time you went from surviving to thriving?
MH: I feel that we go through ups and downs in life all the time, but the first big break for me was when Rodial was 5 years old, we were just surviving as a business, and didn’t know if we were going to last for another month. And then we launched our “Snake Serum,” which was a big risk to take, but that was the product that put Rodial on the map and moved us from an unknown brand to a household name. The lesson there is that if you have nothing to lose, just take the biggest risk you can. The biggest rewards come from the biggest risks.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
MH: “Live it, breathe it, or simply forget about it.”
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