Don’t let anyone bring you down, but be strategic. Know when to pivot and learn to take constructive advice if what you are doing isn’t working. Don’t be afraid to try it another way.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewingJillian Wright is the co-founder of Indie Beauty Media Group, producer of Indie Beauty Expo/Uplink Live, Beauty Independent and BeautyX Summit. A skin health expert, Wright owned and operated Jillian Wright Clinical Skin Spa prior to founding IBMG in 2015. During her tenure there she also launched her eponymous skincare line.
IBE is presented in five strategic international retail markets: New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, London and Berlin. IBMG has launched a range of services to better support beauty entrepreneurs on their path to success, including Beauty Independent, a digital publication geared towards beauty entrepreneurs, BeautyX Summit series focused on entrepreneurial learning and networking, and Retail Partnerships with Neiman Marcus, Feelunique and Douglas, offering retailers a program to seek, secure and sell differentiated indie beauty collections. Wright was recently honored by receiving the INNOCOS’ Emerging Leader of the Year award and is currently spearheading IBMG’s newest launch, Uplink Live, a companion event to IBE New York specifically designed to connect beauty entrepreneurs with qualified solution providers positioned to serve emerging brands.
“I didn’t have a platform to do serious business with press and retailers, so I created one. I teach, I lead, I write and I prevail.” -Jillian Wright
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve been a skin health expert and clinical Aesthetician since 1999 in Manhattan. I launched my own skincare line in 2014 with no success when it came to meeting retailers. Since I was so busy at my spa, I never had time to network or promote my new skincare line. I was frustrated as I was 5 blocks away from Bergdorfs and couldn’t figure out how to meet the buyer. That is when the idea came to me about creating a platform specifically for indie beauty brands to meet retailers, press, and beauty professionals that would help them scale their business.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
100 New York-based female execs, founders, and influencers were flown to San Francisco to meet 100 other power house women for a whirlwind 36 hour trip, hosted by Marie Claire editor in chief Anne Fulenwider and Nancy Berger. I listed to stories and insights from Sharon Stone, Ellen Pompeo, Jennifer Gardner, Jennifer Rubio from Away and Amirah Kassem; the Founder of Flour Shop was my row mate on the plane. I got the chance to interact with executives from Pinterest, Netflix, Dell, Lamborghini, Sorel to name a few. Specifically from Beauty, I connected with Karissa Bodnar from Thrive Causemetics, Charlotte Cho from Soko Glam, Nancy Twine, founder of Brigeo and Siqi Mou from Hello Ava. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much! It was truly an inspiring, once in a lifetime experience.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
We needed to start processing exhibition fees and didn’t have a credit card processing company. Even though I had been in business for over 15 years with my spa, they considered Indie Beauty Media Group (IBMG) a new company. Our only choice was P$*Pal and that was a disaster. They treated us like criminals and didn’t release our funds for weeks and weeks even though we had financial responsibilities. It was a nightmare. Even though it wasn’t really funny, it was the biggest mistake we made. Luckily, my spa’s processing company finally came through so we were able to switch, and pay our bills.
Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Make a checklist of EVERYTHING that could possibly go wrong, even the most remedial, silly things and try to iron out the kinks before you start your business or launch. This way you are prepared for just about any scenario that comes your way. It is always better to stay ahead of the game, rather than trying to problem solve after the fact.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
1. Our team. Our team is equally as devoted and passionate as my co-founder and I are. They see and feel the vision that we have created and are committed to taking it beyond the status quo. We are not following a blueprint. We are innovating, testing, and pushing the market to new heights.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
IBMG is constantly growing and creating. Currently we are piloting this really interesting influencer program called onTUWI(Team-Up With Indie). We hosted an innovation showcase this past July highlighting the state of the indie beauty market and allowed the influencers to choose products that resonated with them from a list of curated brands who are exhibiting at IBE New York. Our team then created a platform for the influencers to promote and sell the products directly to their followers via digital boutiques. The site will launch on Day 1 of IBE (Aug.21) but will only be live until Oct 20.
On the other side of things, we launched Uplink Live,a companion showcase of service providers that specifically want to work with the indie beauty brands. We curated the floor to include ingredient suppliers, packaging, manufacturers, EDI, distribution, PR, strategy, design, staffing and more. We believe the lifeline of a brand starts with service providers so we invited them to be a part of the show. We will be expanding Uplink Live to LA in 2020.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
1. Write things down. Writing allows your brain to process the information in a way that looking at a screen cannot.
2. Think crazy and don’t be cookie cutter! Bring to market something new, innovative and that people will really need or desire. Get excited about it, but always know that you need discipline in order to succeed.
3. Don’t let anyone bring you down, but be strategic. Know when to pivot and learn to take constructive advice if what you are doing isn’t working. Don’t be afraid to try it another way.
4. Be patient and humble. Work hard, but take good care of yourself. Your mental and physical health are your greatest assets.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
1. Have leadership and subteam meetings every week. Learn how to delegate, for example, assign a captain (or lead) to each department. Always create agendas to make the best use of everyone’s time and hold people accountable for their targets and responsibilities.
2. Know your capabilities and work with other people that have different strengths. Think Yin and Yang.
3. Use a system like Slack or Airtable to streamline communication and information.
4. Document everything.
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?
My co-founder Nader Naeymi-Rad who believed in my idea without any hesitation 5 years ago. He never gave me the run around, he just encouraged me to “go for it”. We haven’t looked back since January of 2015.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My #1 priority is to provide a viable platform for beauty entrepreneurs to grow their business. We build people up and bring them together in a highly competitive industry. We help them along in their journey and will continue to build IBMG in ways that will breed success.
What are your “Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please
share a story or example for each.)
I had to learn how to work with a team. I went from working alone in a treatment room with a single client, to working with dozens of people, across several teams. Many of the projects and initiatives I have spearheaded over the years were new and I had never done that particular type of work before. Often, I initially wouldn’t want to do the task at hand and I would feel overwhelmed; I didn’t think I could do it, or I felt it was too much work to handle. Once I overcame my own insecurities, I blazed through what was needed to be done and built was was needed to be built. Just look at Uplink Live!
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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think the ecosystem we’ve created to support the beauty entrepreneur is set up in a way to help support a countless number of people. It is a domino effect. When a brand knows they can rely on IBMG to meet industry professionals, they can in turn create their own micro ecosystem that supports whomever or whatever they desire. There is a lot of power in building people up, fueling their confidence and providing the tools, knowledge and a platform to generate success. Being an entrepreneur is a long, arduous and lonely journey. When you are able to validate someone or something, it catapults them to their next level.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
You have to be patient, driven, methodical and know when to take calculated risks in order to succeed. Listening is equally important as leading.
Some of the biggest 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’ve been inspired by Madonna my whole life. I love her commitment to feminism, art, people and her children. She is the ultimate business woman who goes after what she wants and makes the world a better place through her music. I admire her greatly. I always wanted her to contact me to do a facial, but it never happened! But now that she is a beauty entrepreneur herself, we can talk shop!