Over the past 20-years, Tina Hedges, a strategic marketing professional based in New York, has worked for some of the biggest beauty brands in the world, including L’Oréal, LVMH and The Estée Lauder Cos. A product-creating-chameleon of sorts, some career highlights include launching brands in wellness, beauty, beverage and digital, including the famous Jonathan Product line of hair care in 2005 with hairstylist and OG reality star, Jonathan Antin. Her latest effort is LOLI [Living Organic Loving Ingredients], the first zero-waste beauty brand that’s completely waterless. It also uses food-grade reusable containers and compostable plastic to package products. The mostly blend-it-yourself line, sold on the brand’s website, utilize ingredients from across the globe, literally changing the way consumers use and look at beauty. Somehow, Tina found time to talk to with CEW’s Beauty Insider for our 5 Minutes With… feature.
BI: What’s a challenge you’ve experienced working for global brands?
TH: Big corporations, beauty or otherwise, are always on the hunt for innovation, but the reality is that these companies are also inherently risk-averse. Change is risky. There were many times in my corporate career that I wanted to make the invisible visible, but the rationale did not stand up to risk-management scrutiny. In the start-up world, you are required to take risks quickly, and fail fast to learn.
BI: Can you share another challenge?
TH: Time efficiency is not on your side. Your calendar is often filled with meetings upon meetings to talk about doing things versus just doing them. This is to make sure large global teams are part of the process and decision-making required to green-light projects. These meetings can take several hours and often are a sequence of planning meetings to have the meeting. At LOLI Beauty, we borrow from tech companies and have five-minute stand-ups to make a decision and get going.
BI: Can the beauty business become too insular with big brands?
TH: Yes. In the corporate beauty world we can get too attached to looking sideways at competitors versus looking anywhere else. The best ideas usually come from unexpected sources. For LOLI Beauty, I was inspired by the clean food movement – from sourcing to formulating to packaging.
BI: What are some advantages to working with corporate brands?
TH: Exposure to some of the best talents in the industry and committed budgets. It can be exhausting to always be scrappy and not know when or how you will get financing as a start-up.
BI: What made you start LOLI Beauty?
TH: I had an aha moment that begged the question – why are we developing and purchasing personal care products made up of primarily water and then overpackaging these formulas in plastic? During my career in beauty, we always turned to time-tested, ancient remedies for product inspiration. Most of the time we would get inspiration from food trends and ingredients. A few years ago, I looked at the trend of DIY and the fact that 60 percent of U.S. millennials are purchasing food-grade ingredients to blend their own natural products, and asked – why isn’t there a food approach to customization of skin and hair care?
BI: Why is making a completely waterless product a positive?
TH: For the consumer, most beauty and personal care products are 80 percent to 95 percent water, which means the active ingredients are diluted. Other synthetics are also added to impart a texture or scent to the product experience. The active is usually low down on the ingredients list, meaning it’s not a significant portion of the formulation. With LOLI Beauty, we choose pure ingredients and formulate at potent levels – and never water them down. The result? Less product is needed to get effective results. Like with our Plum Elixir, a little goes a long way.
BI: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the years?
TH: Never underestimate or overestimate your product-market fit. When I began my marketing career two decades ago, you would launch a hero product in an identified white space and watch it unfold into a multiple-decade franchise. Today, a hero product may have a moment and then be over before you’ve even blinked. The marketplace has become incredibly commoditized, and the consumer is finicky, asking brands daily, “What have you done for me today?” So I like to begin each day asking myself, “Are we making something people want?”
BI: Greatest accomplishment thus far?
TH: By far, launching LOLI Beauty and successfully raising from strategic investors is one of my career highlights. Although spending two seasons on a BRAVO reality TV show to launch the award-winning, breakthrough hair care brand, Jonathan Product, in 2005 was a close second.
BI: Biggest mistake you’ve made?
TH: If I look back, which I’m not a huge fan of, I wish I had left the corporate world earlier. I find the start-up world so exhilarating and the past year, most especially, has been an incredible experience having a spot in Grand Central Tech’s Accelerator.
BI: What product (not your own) is your favorite and why?
TH: I’m always looking for the best detox bath soak. Master acupuncturist Dr. Shyam Singha has a wonderful organic mustard seed bath soak that helps eliminate toxins and acid waste, encouraging your body to sweat out the toxins.
BI: Best advice for newbies entering the business today?
TH: Seek out a mentor or advisor as early on as possible in your career. Everyone needs a fairy godmother or godfather who can be a sounding board for those freak-out moments that we all have at some time or other, and fast track critical introductions.
BI: What’s something no one tells you when starting a business?
TH: Just how many dark nights of the soul you may have during the lifespan of your business. I recently read Phil Knight’s book, Shoe Dog, and really loved when he wrote, “The cowards never started and the weak died along the way.” The recipe for a founder requires a magical blend of grit, optimism and tenacity.
BI: What’s a mantra you live by?
TH: I have two. The first is a personal mantra, ‘Never build your happiness on top of someone else’s unhappiness.’ And the second is a reminder from the words of Steve Jobs, ‘The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.’