Indie Beauty Brand Founders Name Their Dream Business Mentors

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 13 founders and executives: Which major business leader would you like to have as a mentor?

Lucy Splichal Co-Founder, Cheeky Physique

I would love to have Spanx founder Sara Blakely as a mentor. I admire how she built an empire on a great idea, bold moves and grit, all while staying connected to her intuition and faith. She self-funded Spanx with $5,000 and went on to become the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire.

We are also a self-funded business, so it’s incredibly inspiring that she still owns 100% of the company. I love that she took a humorous approach with Spanx to challenge the staid shapewear industry, proving that fun sells and that it pays to break the rules. With social media, it’s so easy to see what everybody else is doing and become a copycat brand. Trailblazers like Sara Blakely inspire us to differentiate and forge our own path in the beauty industry.

Peter Lee CEO, Saranghae

A leader that I admire is John Wooden, the legendary coach of the UCLA Bruins basketball team. What's important to me is life lessons, not just strategy and tactics.  

From the beauty world, I'd love to be mentored by the current chairman of AmorePacific, Suh Kyung Bae. The founding story of AmorePacific is similar to ours, and I would love to hear the story of how his family grew AmorePacific to a worldwide brand valued at $7.3 billion.

Laura Stearn CEO and Founder, Just Pure Essentials

I have two. Gregg Renfrew, founder of BeautyCounter. She is incredibly smart and experienced both in building a significant brand and building a large following in multi-level marketing. Jordan Rubin is another brilliant CEO who has recreated himself and extremely successful new brands multiple times in the natural health industry, with the most important ones being Garden of Life and Ancient Nutrition.

Both of them have exceptional skills that are so important to success: vision, clear concepts, strong branding, great packaging and marketing styles, fundraising capabilities, leadership, organization, passion and drive.

Marlene Weber Founder, PureCeuticals

I really admire Barbara Close, founder and CEO of the holistic beauty brand Naturopathica. Barbara is a pioneer in the wellness field, and I am so inspired by her. She has managed to build a successful business and brand that remains true to its mission of inspiring people to live healthy lifestyles and choose natural products with active ingredients that deliver results. Barbara’s success has shown that good skincare doesn’t have to be full of harsh chemicals in order to be effective. This is something I want to emulate with my own brand. 

Kimba Williams CEO and Co-Founder, Kushae

I met the CEO and founder of Image Skincare, Janna Ronert, at a women's business event not long ago. She was so humble, down to earth and approachable. Her headquarters is in my town, and I would love to be her mentee.

I have a few brands that I admire, but knowing the personality you may be dealing with makes all the difference. I'm so inspired by her humble beginnings and would love to hear more about her journey and her milestones. I'm hoping this grows legs and finds its way to her. Hi Janna, call me!

Natasha Jay Founder, Pump Haircare

Bethenny Frankel, founder of Skinny Girl Cocktails, author and reality TV star. I love that she is such a strong businesswoman and mother. I have read all her books and followed some of her methods, and she is such an inspirational person.

With a big workload, she even made time to create b strong, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency relief for people going through a crisis. I think her strong personality and “let's do this” attitude is what has made the foundation so successful.

Lori Gildea Founder, ThePureBag

I am impressed with Nancy Green, CEO of Athleta.  She is creating a special dynamic at Athleta, growing with brand evolution and balancing strength with softness, diversity, inclusion and genuine authentic approaches to expand their understanding and impact their customer base.


At the moment, I think it would have to be Jeff Bezos. He is so innovative and out of the box, so I would love to pick his brain.

Sebastien Tardif CEO, Veil Cosmetics

The founders of the company SSense for its visionary approach to online shopping way back in 2008 and 2009, which made it one of the most successful e-tailers of high-end fashion today.

Eugene He Founder, Ceramiracle

I wanna say Richard Branson, but I don't think I have the stomach to jump off a cliff, so I'll stick to Jack Ma of Alibaba. I respect him for his resilience, but also to emerge as a self-made top entrepreneur in a country with over a billion people takes a lot of guts, hard work and foresight.

DANUTA DUDEK Founder, Cotarde

Helena Rubinstein, if there was a chance for it. Although she had horrible character, she was an incredibly successful self-made woman on a global scale when it wasn’t obvious for women to take such path in life. She basically laid down the foundations of the beauty business as we know it, with all innovations in color category (modern mascara), skincare (from her first Valaze cream to her city-SPA salons), understanding of consumers and negotiating skills.

Out of the living ones, I would pick Frank Toskan, the founder of MAC, whom I had the pleasure to interview for my book about the most successful beauty brand founders. He is not only a very intelligent man, but also a very warm, natural person, very humble and has a great sense of humor. He’s a very open-minded individual with a clear view of where the beauty industry is going. I truly enjoyed meeting him and learning about his ups and downs as he built the biggest brand in color category.

MATTHEW STILLMAN Founder, Primal Derma

I would choose two, a man and a woman. The woman? Roxanne Quimby the co-founder of Burt's Bees. She understands deeply a plant-based hand-crafted skincare brand, and its connection to environmental stewardship and how to transition from a kitchen to markets worldwide. Primal Derma might be on a similar path, a small handmade local product trying to connect to an older tradition. She is amazing in how she has leveraged the sale of Burt's Bees into stunning activism.

Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, would be my other. His devotion to sustainability as a purpose and mission statement for the company is stunning. His approach to ethics and community from a corporate perspective couldn't steer me wrong.

Holly Harding Founder, O'o Hawaii

If I were to select a brand founder or CEO as a mentor, I would probably go with someone at a non-cosmetic brand like Free People, Revolve Clothing or For Love and Lemons. There's a lot to learn from the fashion industry when it comes to branding and marketing. I think these brands do an excellent job of tapping into inner romanticism, eternal youth and self-assertiveness that converts the millennial shopper in addition to a more mature consumer at a higher price point.

These brands prove you can market youth (not necessarily just to youth) at a premium price. Typically, in premium beauty, you see more static branding and less youthfulness even though the end goal is typically anti-aging. I'm personally very youthful for my age and am drawn to premium brands that still celebrate youth.

I think, as a society, we grow old too fast because of lifestyle and diet. So, to come full circle, in my teachings as an integrative nutrition expert, I focus on improving my client's lifestyle, diet and exercise routines so they stay younger longer and can lead active, fulfilling lives. You'll see this ideology manifest in my brand's packaging and lifestyle marketing, so it would only make sense to look to other parallel lifestyle brands for influence, and I see it as happening mostly outside of the cosmetic and beauty space.

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