Cheryl Yannotti Foland, founder and CEO of lilah b., was once a fast-paced New Yorker whose focus was on finance, not makeup. In 2004, she found herself immersed in the beauty industry with Arcade Marketing, where she worked with beauty brands to design product launch strategies. “The beauty space intrigued me. I learned a lot, particularly how cluttered and confusing the world of color cosmetics had become,” said the 48-year-old. Several years later, Cheryl moved to a slower, healthier lifestyle in California. It’s also where she founded lilah b. Launched in 2015, the makeup company is a minimalistic, streamlined color collection offering luxurious, multi-purpose products. Concentration is on precise formulations and luscious textures housed in sophisticated pebble-shaped packaging. “Finding vendors who will work with a small brand and believed in my idea, was not an easy task,” she said. And yet, retail partnerships followed, including Sephora, Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Net-a-Porter. Expansions have started internationally into Australia and New Zealand with Mecca. This month the brand launches Lovingly Lip Tinted Lip Oil, a power-packed hybrid of lip treatment and pigmented gloss. “It’s my most exciting launch yet as it’s truly marrying the two products that most women wish were in one,” she said. Somehow, Cheryl found time to talk with CEW Beauty News for our 5 Minutes with… feature.
Beauty News: What made you go from a successful career in finance to starting your own makeup company?
Cheryl Yannotti Foland: When I moved to California my life changed dramatically. I embraced a simpler, healthier lifestyle. Lilah b. is truly the result of my desire to bring things back to basics – believing it was important to create a collection to make beauty simple again for the modern day woman. I set out to create a healthy, ‘good for you’ collection that offers a flawless finish with ease. And so lilah b. was born.
BN: What was the inspiration behind the stones?
CYF: As a teen in the 80s, I was obsessed – and still am – with the organic, fluid and contemporary designs of Elsa Peretti. I was inspired by her pieces created for Tiffany as I designed our signature stone compacts. Our customers are drawn to the tactile experience of the product in-hand, how sleek and easy they are to clean. They’ve quickly become iconic to the brand.
BN: Why create a decluttering program?
CYF: In line with our philosophy of ‘with less, you are more’ and to encourage women to declutter, simplify and minimize what they have in their vanities or makeup bags, we launched our declutter program three years ago on Earth Day. It’s become a huge success. We offer prepaid return shipping labels off of our site – lilahbeauty.com – where you can send us empty or unwanted cosmetic products (lilah b. or otherwise). We work with our partner to recycle it all – encouraging a movement of simplification – and allowing women to declutter and make room for only what they need.
CYF: The Wellness category is no longer a trend – it is the new norm. Clean Beauty is, by far, the segment gaining significant momentum and I cannot imagine a new brand coming to market without having a mindful, clean ingredient story.
BN: What are some specific strategies you’re using to reach a younger consumer?
CYF: We have an incredible community of influencers and use a robust social media strategy to talk to the younger consumer who is focused on ingredients, transparency and – most important– embracing the simplicity and ease of lilah b.
BN: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the years?
CYF: You have to vet the advice you receive carefully – this industry shifts constantly and what might have been a good decision yesterday may not be aligned with where you are heading today.
BN: Greatest accomplishment thus far?
CYF: I’m only as good as those who surround me and I’m fortunate to have built a team that is passionate, steadfast and knows where we are headed.
BN: What’s a specific business mistake you’ve made?
CYF: Not properly anticipating the supply and demand of my product and the challenges that occur with manufacturing internationally. On the flip side, being a smaller brand allows me to be nimble and navigate quicker and faster to market.
BN: What beauty product (not your own) is your favorite and why?
CYF: I’m currently obsessed with Lockwood New York’s Ginger Basil Body Lotion – an efficacious, sustainable product that is clean and effective.
BN: Best advice for newbies entering the business today?
CYF: Surround yourself with people who will root for you along the way – there’s no time for naysayers.
BN: What’s something no one tells you when starting a business?
CYF: How much money it will take… it’s always a lot more than you think. Also, it’s easy to have an idea – the challenge is bringing it to life.
BN: What’s a mantra you live by?
CYF: Work hard and persevere even when hitting the inevitable road block. Always lead with integrity and be sure to take time to enjoy the journey along the way!
BN: If you were to write the note found in a fortune cookie, what would it say?
CYF: If you wait for the right time, it will never happen.