Words of Wisdom: Beauty Execs’ Key Learnings From 2020

As one of the most tumultuous years of modern times comes to a close, WWD Beauty Inc asked beauty leaders to share their biggest lesson from the year.

I learned the importance of approaching these global challenges from a mentality of “we” instead of a focus on “me.” We’ve witnessed how leadership plays a big part in the success and encouragement of coming together. Leadership can save lives, create jobs and reinforce either a “We’re in this together” or “You need to figure this out on your own” culture. —Anisa Telwar Kaicker, founder & ceo, Anisa International 


Now more than ever, we’re grateful to be a 100 percent family-owned, global business. It allows us the agility and flexibility to adapt to changes while staying true to who we are. We’ve been able to shift as needed per market and learn from the teams how to adapt to this new normal. —Mathilde Thomas, founder, Caudalie


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To be a resilient leader in turbulent times you have to be brutally honest about the reality of the situation while also providing your team a rational basis for hope—that sort of cognitive dissonance is a muscle you have to build in order to operate day-to-day with optimism while maintaining trust. —Savannah Sachs, ceo, Tula


I’ve learned that, despite the difficulties this year, we are all deeply connected and that gratitude, compassion and love will always unite us.

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The self-care and sustainability movements are examples of embracing time for yourself and honoring our planet. During this time, we’ve slowed down, reflected, and inspired change with collective, positive power and resiliency. I believe this is lighting our path forward to a brighter tomorrow, together. —Catherine Gore, president, Biossance


Listen to your intuition. As much as being intuitive can sound “fluffy,” to me, gut feelings and intuition are also grounded in science. They’re often based on our experiences and the minutia of our knowledge compounded over time that gives us each a unique perspective. Intuition has become increasingly important to me in navigating the beauty business during such uncertain times. —Maeva Heim, Founder, Bread Beauty Supply


I see the power of human resilience, the strength of our community and our shared sense of humanity in caring for our neighbors and loved ones. The experience of loss, the constant anxiety, the outburst of emotions and the fragility the pandemic has brought about have created some fundamental changes in the way we interact with each other. People have adapted and united together in beautiful and inspiring ways.

I was deeply moved by New Yorkers who opened their windows every night at 7 p.m. and clapped to show their love and support of first responders. Young people bringing groceries to the elderly or lonely. The tireless sacrifice of doctors, nurses and technicians who put their very lives on the line to save others. The armies of front-line workers who helped us maintain a sense of normalcy by keeping shops open, trash collected, postal services running. I’m particularly moved by the dedication, drive and professionalism of our own employees, who work night and day for our customers to create products essential to the health and safety of people around the world.

The indomitable spirit of humanity around the world is providing the light. It is shining brightly, guiding us to rise above and navigate through these turbulent times. —Nicolas Mirzayantz, Divisional ceo, Scent, IFF


Amid periods of uncertainty and turmoil, I remember the importance of staying grounded and true to who we are as individuals and collectively as a brand. Our mission has always been to make SPF an indispensable part of everyone’s routine in order to eradicate the epidemic of skin cancer, and that hasn’t changed. This year has left us more committed than ever to educating and growing our global community who are helping us change the way the world thinks about sunscreen. —Holly Thaggard, Founder and ceo, Supergoop!


Team support and positivity has never been more important. In a world where nothing is predictable, our Hilma team has come to rely on one another for a sense of normalcy and even joy. —Nina Mullen, cofounder and co-ceo, Hilma


In times of uncertainty and adversity, lead with equal parts empathy and decisiveness. —Cara Sabin, ceo, Sundial Brands


I’m a big believer that crisis brings forth opportunity. The opportunity brought forward with the chaos of COVID-19 was to be able to pivot or execute a dramatic shift in strategy with the absence of data. We had to make key decisions based on intuitiveness, humanity and compassion—for example, shutting down our boutiques and fulfillment center before any lockdowns to ensure the health of the team. I’m proud of the team and all we accomplished together. And we knew we succeeded when our consumers thanked us for putting people first.  —Jill Scalamandre, president, BareMinerals, Buxom and Shiseido Makeup


I’ve learned to not be afraid of change. To remain creative and positive but light on our feet and ready to embrace new territories and forms of expression. —Sylvie Chantecaille, founder and ceo, Chantecaille


What a wild year. There have been so many learnings that will affect the way brands will operate for years to come. The biggest was the importance of messaging and controlling the appropriate narrative at the appropriate time to your consumer. With an ever-changing world, it’s so critical that you account for the current conditions that we are facing daily as humans and that we’re thoughtful about the platforms we have as brands and how to appropriately use the platform to spread goodness and positivity alongside of pushing the brand message and products. —Shaun Neff, cofounder, Beach House Group


The adaptability of our organization in embracing new working styles and business practices by far surpasses our previous assumptions and provides ample opportunity to implement lasting change for a better tomorrow. —Achim Daub, global president scent & care, Symrise AG


Without question, 2020 has reinforced the power of building a positive, highly engaged, values-based culture. As Ulta Beauty faced the many dynamics of the year, the long-term commitment we’ve made to our team really paid off. The ways we navigated the many operational and organizational disruptions of 2020 was only feasible because of the strength of our culture. As a leader, the importance of culture can never be secondary; it sets the tone and allows for care, confidence and collaboration in good and challenging times alike. —Dave Kimbell, president, Ulta Beauty




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