With Mother’s Day Around The Corner, Brand Founders And Execs Share How Their Moms Inspire Them

In this Mother’s Day edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 20 founders and executives: What role has your mom played in inspiring or helping your brand?

Shelley Davis CEO and Founder, Kinky-Curly

My mother is my mentor and someone I look up to because she was a Caribbean immigrant who came to the United States in the 70s. She worked full-time during the day and went to school part-time at night to get her college degree in computer science. She understood the value of a college education and taught me that education is so important because it is the one thing that no one can take from you. My mom isn't a famous celebrity, and she didn't invent a wildly popular app. But she used her degree to gain a higher paying job coding and writing programs for the City of New York. She worked hard to pursue the American dream and to provide a better life for her family.

Alison Romash Deputy CMO, BH Cosmetics

From day one, my mom Cindy Cifrese has always been my biggest cheerleader. Her outsider’s perspective has given me some of the best career (and life!) advice: Never stop believing in yourself 100% and that you deserve that seat at the table. Especially as women working to break glass ceilings, I find it invaluable to always keep this simple, but powerful mantra in mind.

Olowo-n’djo Tchala Founder, Alaffia

My mother Ina was the inspiration for Alaffia, which guided me in how to manage a women-led organization in a traditional setting. She helped me understand the importance of cultural heritage, and it is this heritage that Alaffia preserves with traditional recipes and methods as well as handcrafting indigenous ingredients. She also made sure that the cooperatives were inclusive to all of Togo’s 42 different ethnic groups. 

My mother embodied a selfless existence that guides us as we continue our mission to alleviate poverty and gender inequality. As a young boy, I would sell items in my local market to help support my family. It became a growing responsibility, and I eventually dropped out of school in the sixth grade. It was at the marketplace where I began to witness first-hand the inequality and injustice taking place in our local economy. My time spent in the marketplace was my rally cry for what would become Alaffia.

Emily Heitman CMO, LEEF Organics

My mom Ming Yang instilled a work ethic in me that I am forever grateful for and has always empowered me that I am capable of whatever I put my mind to.

Wilma Mae Basta Co-Founder, DRK Beauty

My mother has and always will be my best mentor. She was a spiritual teacher whose name was Shakmah. Much of the wisdom my mother shared with me and many people around the world still resonates and is part of my daily mantras. The one I go back to the most deals with fear. 

There were times when I worried about almost everything everyone thought about me, and I feared outcomes which hadn't yet happened. People always talk about conquering fear, but never tell you how to do that. To conquer is to kill, eradicate or sublimate, but where do you begin? Even the thought of that process instilled fear in me.

My mother essentially shared a super simple tip for how to take the first steps to dissolving fear. It starts with the pressure to get rid of it. Instead, she would say, "Put it in your pocket." It sounds a bit too simple, but it is a very powerful tool. She was basically saying that fear blocks us from moving forward because it sits right in front of us like a brick wall. 

Instead, imagine it as a pocket-sized wall that you don't have to get rid of. By mentally putting it into your pocket, you take the pressure off, and you can clear the path to move forward. So, just put it in your pocket, whew! That has helped me so, so much throughout my life. Over time, I began to realize that the fear wasn't necessary in most cases, and gradually it dissipated and I no longer needed to put it in my pocket! Like ice, it just melted away.

Tallulah Marcelin Founder, I Love Lulu

My mother has been my mentor. When I was young and struggling with my self-image and major scalp issues, she told me, "Where your misery is, your ministry is.” She took me to a local beauty salon for the first time, and it literally changed my life! The way I felt after my hair was professionally done made a lasting impression on me and my view of myself catapulted in the right direction. 

Mother also made me take care of my three sisters' hair, the church ladies, and family—my first beauty school. Little did I know, she was setting me up for success. By the time I got to beauty school, I was literally showing the teachers new and innovative techniques. I could braid, relax and style hair like a pro. We all have a ministry in us.

Tiffany Staten Founder, London Grant Co.

One of my earliest memories is "playing boss" in my mom's giant office on the campus of North Carolina A&T SU. On weekends and summers, I helped her file paperwork, lick stamps and type addresses for envelopes. As a mom, I look back in disbelief that she trusted me to answer the phone when she received a call. I watched her with awe and reverence. She was my earliest example of influencing with grace and poise. 

On the home front, my mom was constantly creating, sewing Halloween costumes, dresses, hats, an Easter this or a Christmas that. Pulling it all together, I have always had a yearning to wield things by hand. Throughout my life, I saw the beauty in handmade goods, and the joy it brings to both the giver and receiver. It was my mother who birthed in me that desire to make beautiful things. She showed me the magic that ignites when a vision comes to life for others to enjoy. As a result, I'm an eternal creative crossed with a love for leadership, and I'm thankful that I can look to her for that inspiration.

Chloe Kwak Co-Founder and Co-CEO, 107

The women I admire for their strength and courage are single mothers in Tanzania. I was first introduced to their story through my volunteer work with my co-founder, Seyong Shin. They didn't choose themselves to become a single mother, yet they are shunned and lack support from society. However, their energy and kindness shine and lift other people's spirits. 

Whenever I'm faced with difficulties, I think about those powerful women who support each other and give encouragement to uplift one another. The advice I received from them is seeing their determination to take an undesirable situation and still striving to provide for their family. Regardless of their current situation, their asset is much larger than others, which is the extraordinary strength that keeps them going. They are truly the definition of beautiful.

Carolyn Aronson CEO and Founder, It's A 10 Haircare and Be A 10 Cosmetics

My mother was a huge help during my times of growth over the years and someone I could turn to when I needed mentoring or support. A highly intelligent woman—Columbia University grad—my mother mentored by her actions and not by her words alone. She would say, “I designated myself to the balcony in the opera theater to watch the story of my daughter’s life unveil.” She would give an occasional “Bravo” or “Boo,” but never leaving the balcony was her style of mentoring. It was brilliant! If I needed her, she was my first call, and I was always provided with level headed, intelligent advice that I could trust my life on. This is true mentorship.

Anna Brightman Co-Founder, UpCircle

I co-founded UpCircle alongside my brother William, so it’s most certainly a family business. Our mum has had a major input from day one. Firstly, she allowed William and I to take over the top floor of our family home for the first two years of the brand. This was so important as office rent in London is extremely expensive, and we simply couldn’t afford to rent the space we needed in those early days. 

In case you weren’t aware, UpCircle is most well-known for making coffee scrubs from used coffee grounds that we collect from London cafes. During COVID, the vast majority of these closed for long periods of time, causing huge issues with our supply chain. Our mum started reaching out to cafes that she saw thriving during lockdowns in much more residential areas and set up her own substantial coffee collection in her local area. She collected in excess of 100 kilograms a day single-handedly in the latter half of 2020. So, it’s not an exaggeration to say that she kept our coffee scrub range from being out of stock for the best part of a year. What a hero!

I also have to acknowledge that it must’ve been terrifying for her to have both of her eldest children quit their jobs to go it alone at the same time, turning their backs on successful careers and job security. I think it’s clear my mum has influenced me a lot with regards to the person I’ve become. She’s an absolute grafter, and I think some of her work ethic has rubbed off on me and William. It’s what’s enabled us to grow so quickly in our first five years. I am hugely thankful to have her as my mum! She backs us all the way.

Ulli Haslacher Founder and CEO, Pour Moi Skincare

My grandmother taught me that patience is the most important virtue in raising anything successfully, kids, plants, animals and, yes, businesses. I found that to be true.

Natalie Novak-Bauss Founder, KPS Essentials Skincare

My mother has backed me in every conceivable way since I was a little girl. I was blessed enough to watch her build a flourishing business as an independent artist, and that entrepreneurial spirit was passed down to me in the form of Keeki Pure & Simple, the predecessor to KPS, and, now, obviously in KPS Essentials. My mom has also collaborated with me on a few designs and some social media work as well, and she continues to be an absolute blessing for me in so many ways.

Teju Owoye Founder and CEO, Clean Rebellion

There are so many incredible women who have helped me on my journey and have served as invaluable mentors. My mother and my sister are both entrepreneurs—founders of Sweet Equationsand they have mentored me through the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship. They always remind me to keep persevering, even when the going gets tough. From them, I learned to trust my instincts and to focus on getting better one day at a time.

KAYLA JUAN Creative Director, J Beverly Hills

My mom owns a cosmetic manufacturing facility called Advanced Cosmetic Research Laboratories that has been women-owned and operated since 1986. She is by far the No. 1 person I go to when I am looking for advice because she believes that strong, smart women can make anything work. The best piece of advice she has given me is, “You should never stay at the same level. Always push yourself to the next.” 

Josie Maran Founder and CEO, Josie Maran

My mother taught me that life is like cutting a straight line with your scissors. When you want to get somewhere, you have to look ahead at where you’re wanting to go. When you look straight down, you go straight down. When you look ahead, you get ahead.

PREETI LUTHRA Founder, Pure & Cimple

I have been raised to believe that the beauty of a woman reflects from her inner strength, her ability to focus on her beliefs and nurture them. The stronger she is inside, the more she accomplishes outside. Many women in my life who I know personally, professionally, as well as women who I idolize, are instrumental in shaping my beliefs and strengthening them. I am fortunate to have a couple of them as advisors in my indie label to encourage women to discover their inner beauty and feel comfortable in their own skin. 

It may seem a mammoth task to build that inner strength, but where I get my inspiration is from a simple quote by Mother Teresa: “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” This quote helps me every day to channel my energy to get the core right, knowing that everything else will fall into place automatically.

Beyond that, through all twists and turns, what always stays with me is advice from my biggest mentor, my mum, she says, “When you feel unsure, just breathe, smile and go back to your core. You will get your answer!”

NATALIA BEDNAREK Co-Founder, Herla

Certainly, I have a couple of female mentors that support me in my career, help with Herla’s growth and provide wonderful advice. As an immigrant who has been living in the U.S. for only six years, I feel blessed to have met such people. One of my mentors is my grandmother Krystyna, who is also my business partner and co-founder. One of the best pieces of advice I have received from her is that luck only comes to you when you work at it. It’s a matter of positioning and timing.

Sylwia Wiesenberg CEO and Founder, Bawdy Beauty

I am celebrating women and being a woman daily. I was brought up by my strict and hard-working grandmother and a very liberal mother. Both of these women were my childhood mentors to look at the world through rainbow glass, watch the constantly evolving nature and smell the air. They taught me to use my senses and to feel myself, to feel alive and be present and never stop dreaming. As an adult, I don’t have one particular mentor. Instead, I celebrate and admire women who are strong, independent, hard-working women who have fun in life, know how to live it and work it, women who continue to dream big.

Molly Landman VP of Global Marketing, Jane Iredale

My peers and fellow working moms really are the women I look up to the most and learn the most from. They range from CFOs to doctors to partners at law firms to college professors to marketing/communication pros to work-at-home moms. They each are working to balance life as strong women, contributing to their community and family, and to their chosen professions.  

Their pursuit of their own unique path with passion, dedication and grace inspires me on my own journey every day. And having friends as your mentors means good advice is always just a text message away. These days, the best advice has been to keep calm and carry on. It feels like every day brings new surprises we didn’t think we could handle, but this advice keeps me grounded, seeing the world as bigger than just my piece, but knowing that how I handle mine makes a difference for those around me.

Angela Jia Kim CEO and Founder, Savor Beauty

My mentor was my mom who taught me beauty and self-love lessons. She always said, "Treat your skin like the most expensive silk in the world." When I watched her lovingly massage her Korean skincare nightly, I realized that it wasn't just skin deep. It's an act of daily self-care and nourishment that I hope to pass on to my own daughter.

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