Enjoy the process. The journey to your goal is the most difficult thing, but also the most rewarding.
As a part of our series about powerful women, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa Molica. Vanessa is the founder and CEO of The Lash Professional, an eyelash extension supplies & training company based out of Scottsdale, AZ. Though she successfully heads multiple international businesses, she never loses sight of her biggest motivators — family and friends.
Thank you so much for joining us Vanessa. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
13 years ago, my girlfriend was competing in pageants, and she added eyelash extensions to her beauty regimen. They were beautiful, and I wanted them. All of our friends wanted them. The thing was, they were expensive, so none of us were actually able to afford them. I was bummed, of course, but it got me thinking.
I just knew eyelash extensions would be a big thing once they became more affordable. I learned how to apply eyelash extensions that year and started my career in the lash industry. Throughout those 13 years, I opened six successful lash salons and created my own product line. I guess you can say I was right, lash extensions did become a big thing; a very big thing.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I’m leading a company? I have to remind myself that I’m leading people almost every day. I look at my employees as a group of friends working hard for the same vision. As a “leader” of this group of friends, I focus on keeping that vision fresh in our heads.
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?
When I started my business, I ordered a bunch of merchandise from overseas. I told the manufacture exactly what I wanted. I was so excited to get a product with my name on it. But, when it arrived it was not what was promised. The company wouldn’t remake the merchandise and I couldn’t sell what they sent. I lost a lot of money. But I gained a lesson.
What is it about the position of CEO or executive that most attracted you to it?
My intent was never to be a CEO. My intent was to offer a service to my friends and family that they would love, and I could make enough money to live comfortably. I didn’t have plans to love it this much or that it would grow to so much.
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?
Even on days that I feel like everything is falling apart, I have to walk into the office with the biggest smile on my face and keep everyone motivated.
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?
Every day I’m learning something new. Being an executive has forced me to grow my skills and emotional maturity. I’m a better person, not only because I wanted to be, but because I had to be.
What are the downsides of being an executive?
There are so many wonderful things about being an executive, but there are downsides too. The most challenging thing I deal with is feeling alone. I deal with a lot of battles that I can’t always share with others or battles others can’t understand.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
People tell me how great it must be to do what I want all the time. It’s the farthest thing from the truth. I do what my employees need me to do. I do what our customers need us to do. To be a good leader, you must put yourself aside.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
The biggest challenge I face as a woman in my position is that I’m likely to be labeled negatively when I’m direct. Even though it’s 2019, there still is a stereotype that women are supposed to sugarcoat everything.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Since I didn’t plan to be here, I didn’t know what to expect. Life just led me here.
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?
Unselfish, Aware, Reflective, Self-Motivating
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Be there with your team: be the first one to the office or the last one to leave, do the hard stuff alongside them, mop the floor…
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 grandparents came here from Croatia with nothing but the American dream imprinted in their minds. My grandfather, Deda, bought some land and over the years and grew the family farm to one of the biggest grape farms in California. I was taught at a very young age what hard work and dedication to a vision looked like. I was taught to be kind and giving, even when it wasn’t easy. I was taught that the people in our lives are the only thing that has true value. I wake up every day with the purpose of being half of what this man was. I wake up every day to show him that the sacrifices he made for his family were worth it.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I focus on creating an environment that my team thrives. If they are happy, they will pass it down to others and those others will pass it down too. It’s a ripple effect.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It’s harder than it looks.
- You will lose people on the way…
- It will take longer than you think to reach your goals
- It’s okay to take a break. Recharge.
- Enjoy the process. The journey to your goal is the most difficult thing, but also the most rewarding.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Sometimes you win. Sometimes you learn.”
Every time something didn’t go the way I envisioned, I learned. I got stronger, smarter, and better. When I look back, I didn’t have any failures, I had lessons that led me to wins!
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?
Emily Weiss, because she worked a day job while working on her blog. She was turned down by 11 out of 12 companies she pitched the idea of Glossier to…keep pushing.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.