If you aren’t out there in the pit getting your hands dirty, don’t expect your employees to do the same either. The best companies are the ones who have leaders at the helm, not bosses.
For my series on female founders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy Ouriel.
Wendy Ouriel is a skincare biologist and founder of the luxury skincare line OUMERE. Wendy began OUMERE while earning her Masters of Science degree in cellular biology. Wendy cured her own skin by making her own skin care after extensive research on how to strengthen her skin through proper formulation. She felt the need to make her own skin care because she was jarred by the fact that all skin care either made skin issues worse, or merely treated a symptom. Wendy was determined to find a cure. And the OUMERE was born out of a need for a skin care renaissance.
Thank you for joining us Wendy. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was earning my Master’s in Biology, studying black widow spider reproductive biology and during this period I used skin care for the first time in my life. At first my skin looked great, it glowed and felt hydrated. I received compliments all the time. After a month those compliments stopped because now, for the first time I had acne. I thought there was something wrong with my skin (and not the skin care I was using), and bought more skin care. It didn’t work. I tried anti-acne products, and it made the acne worse. I tried natural products. Luxury products. Medical products. Nothing. After doing some research of my own, I determined it was the skin care that was making me sick, so I threw everything away and made my own. And the acne was gone. It was through this experience I created a passion for skin care and OUMERE was created.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
My interesting stories usually revolve around me falling asleep outside, experiencing environmental consequences and learning something about skin care.
A couple summers ago, in Malibu, I fell asleep at the beach for about 2 hours, woke up and I was tomato red. Now, we all know sunburns are bad because they increase your risk for skin cancer. But they also accelerate the aging process because it causes your skin to peel, that premature cell death causes rapid aging. The skin peels because the body forces those damaged cells to die so that mutated DNA doesn’t become cancerous.
So I went to my lab and made about 5 gallons of UV-R and filled my bathtub with it. And for the next 8 hours I watched Seinfeld and I Love Lucy reruns and soaked in the serum. After that I went to bed, and covered myself in towels soaked in the serum.
When I woke up the sunburn was gone and all that was left was a light tan. The fascinating part here is not that the burn was gone, it’s that even days later no skin peeling ever occurred.
Another time I went out in the middle of the night for target practice with my crossbow. I fell asleep and woke up a couple hours later because my face was itching. I had all of these mosquito bites on my face because I left my lantern on and they were drawn to the light.
That morning, I carried on with my skin care routine as normal and applied my №9. I let it sit for 30 minutes before doing anything else, and I noticed after about 5 minutes the itching was gone. So from this I learned №9 can help with mosquito bites. That bit of knowledge has come in handy whenever I visit Florida in the summertime.
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?
A friend of mine introduced me to a very well-known celebrity friend of hers who wanted to try OUMERE. So I went to her home in Bel Air to do a facial, and brought my 8 week old German shepherd, Coco with me. The facial went great, but Coco drank too much water and hadn’t learned bladder control yet. I learned to not bring a puppy to a facial. Luckily, the home wasn’t carpeted.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Someone recently asked why OUMERE products look different than a particular major skin care brand who I won’t mention by name. He said, OUMERE and this brand both have a ton of natural oils and extracts in their ingredient list, but why does the OUMERE product have a rich color and consistency, while this brand’s serum is clear? And one reason why OUMERE is different is because OUMERE doesn’t water down the formulas. The product you are receiving is a pure product, rich in oils and potent plant extracts. And without filler. This is why the results are so powerful.
The extracts OUMERE uses are unadulterated and not watered down. We make them in our lab, and use the highest concentration in the skin care industry. In other products, you may see grapeseed extract, but it is 1% grapeseed extract and 99% water. OUMERE doesn’t dilute our extracts down to nothing and we use a high concentration of each ingredient. Grapeseed extract is red, and this is why the №9 is red. Carrot seed oil is deep green, and that is why the oil in Serum Bioluminelle is emerald in color. Each ingredient is so important in the overall formulation that we don’t waste even a single percentage on emulsifiers. Why take up that space that can be used to make a more potent product when you can just shake up the bottle to mix the oil and water layers.
The proof of pure formulation is in the product, and this is one reason why we use clear glass to house OUMERE Skin Care. The clear glass is so you can see the high quality of our products. It is a common myth perpetuated by skin care companies that they house their products in opaque packaging to protect the plant extracts from antioxidant degradation. But you aren’t storing your skin care on a sun deck and antioxidants don’t degrade when exposed to a bit of sunlight. Now, I am not a botanist, but last time I checked, plants tend to live outside and are exposed to sunlight often. If sunlight degraded antioxidants then there wouldn’t be any plants. The reason why companies house their skincare (other than sunscreen) in opaque packaging is because they don’t want you to see what you’re not getting.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am currently working on a sunscreen, and we are still in the formulary stage. I have been working on the formula for over a year now and I believe we will be ready for testing in about 6 weeks. The sunscreen will be mineral and natural. The reason why this sunscreen is necessary is because I have not found a single sunscreen on the market that both looks great on the skin and doesn’t have skin-sensitizing ingredients such as fragrance, alcohol or essential oils. We need a sunscreen that people want to wear, and won’t harm their skin because melanoma is an increasing problem, and it is easily preventable.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
There is a reason why in the event that the aircraft is in freefall you need to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting the child sitting next to you. If you aren’t alive, you aren’t any good to those around you. And then they die too. It is easy to work a 15 hour day until you burn out, but in the end the company suffers. Self care is part of your job.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
The morning before Disneyland opened, Walt Disney was out in the park doing repairs and fixing the garden. He wasn’t sitting his office delegating tasks to the staff. If you aren’t out there in the pit getting your hands dirty, don’t expect your employees to do the same either. The best companies are the ones who have leaders at the helm, not bosses.
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?
Other than skin care, my passion is horse racing. I used to (and still do) go to the races every weekend. When I was in school, and starting OUMERE I used to sit outside in the grandstands at Santa Anita and Del Mar with my books and read in between races. There is nothing like the roar of a crowd, the pounding of hooves and the exhilaration of winning a race.
My winnings gave me the funding to start OUMERE without investors or selling a portion of the company. I’d like to thank the horses and the jockeys. They are tremendous athletes whom I have the utmost respect for.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I believe that with OUMERE we are having more and more people who are comfortable in their own skin. I receive a lot of heartfelt emails from customers who tell me how for the first time in decades they left the house without makeup, and the joy they felt when they received compliments on their skin. I hope that we can move past this notion that we need to wear makeup to be presentable, or to just be satisfied with how we look. Skin care makes us look the best with what we have. We can be happy with who we are, as we are. And without a mask of vanity covering us up.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- If it is valuable, it is worth paying for. If someone wanted to do something for me for free, there was always a catch or a hidden agenda. I learned early on to not accept anything as a favor, and to pay for anything that I felt was of value.
- No excuses, only action. Everyone makes mistakes, but if those mistakes aren’t followed up by a call to action and effort for improvement, then more mistakes will happen in the future. I choose those who address their mistakes and fix them.
- Business is a game of chess, always think 10 moves ahead. Whenever I make a business move, no matter how small I think of 10 different ways it could go, and prepare for each and every way. For example, if I have a supplier, I consider what if that supplier is late, provides the wrong product or goes out of business. And I work on backup plans and alternatives for those possibilities.
- Depend on yourself for success. No one else is going to care about your company as much as you do.
- The work is done when you can put your name on today and say you did a good job. I don’t leave the lab unless I am satisfied with the work I put in that day. If that means a 24 hour day, so be it.
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. 🙂
There is no point in having great skin if the planet we live on is destroyed. The first step is to reduce the amount of factory farming and animal-based agriculture on this planet. I hope that we can persuade more people to eat a plant-based diet.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Just do it. If you want to start a business, you have a passion, and can make a great product that people want, then just do it. I didn’t go to business school, or seminars or trade shows. I didn’t watch a bunch of “inspirational” lectures on Youtube or read self help books or weigh the pros and cons of the risk of business start ups. I just researched day and night, made the best skin care I could create and sold it. And I didn’t rest until what I wanted to accomplish was done.
If you hesitate, then your competition already has a head start and you’ll be behind before you even begun.
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’d like to be interviewed by Ken Auletta from the New Yorker. He writes about disruption, and OUMERE is a disruptor of the established ways of doing things in skin care.
How can our connect with you on social media?
Our Instagram is @OUMERESKINCARE