For someone who founded a successful skincare company, Jane Wurwand tries to avoid using the word ‘beauty’. “I believe the term beauty when applied to a personis both objectifying and limiting,” she explained. “It is coded with gender, age, and limits our perceived opportunities. Ultimate beauty is to be unique, significant, and authentic to our true selves, no matter what our appearance, shape, or anything else about the superficial, it is about our identity.”
Wurwand is the founder of Dermalogica, a professional-grade skincare brand beloved and recommended by over 100,000 skincare professionals worldwide. She first put up the International Dermal Institute in 1983 when she noticed the lack of available training opportunities for aspiring skin therapists. Three years later, she up Dermalogica because her students kept requesting for quality products that they could use and recommend to their clients. Today, Dermalogica is the most requested brand of skincare by professionals. In 2016, Wurwand was named by then President Obama as the Presidential Ambassador of Global Entrepreneurship.
She Talks Asia chatted with Wurwand about the key lessons she has learned from putting up a business and how can we pave the way for more women to succeed:
A lot of women tend to feel paralysed by self-doubt or fear of failure when going after what they want. What gave you the courage to put up Dermalogica in 1986?
Naivete is a powerful thing. Success isn’t about knowing what to do. None of us are born knowing what to do. It’s about figuring it out when you don’t have a clue. You have no idea how much you can actually do until you try, fail, and do it again differently. When we started Dermalogica I had absolutely nothing to lose. I was an immigrant from the UK with a beauty school diploma as my only qualification. Bravery isn’t about not being scared. It’s about finding the courage to do something even though you are terrified. Courage allows us to pursue or defend something or someone that we care about deeply. When you don’t know something, you’re not afraid to try. It’s when you know a little too much that you become afraid.
What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from building a business?
Build Purpose. Building a business around purpose comes down to asking yourself a few questions at every opportunity: Who will benefit from this, in what ways does it serve them now, and how could it serve them in the future? Finding your why isn’t always easy, but once you do, you can use it to help connect the dots you have been keeping track of for so long. Suddenly you can see how all the parts and pieces fall into place. The doors burst open and everything you’ve been building, for what feels like a lifetime, starts to make sense in a way it hadn’t quite before.
Be yourself. There will always be people who try to minimize you because it helps them feel bigger. Don’t join them, don’t help them, don’t aid and never abet them. Just disprove them by being you, authentically you, all the time. Even when your voice is shaking, speak your truth.
Diversity in everything. This is critical to success at all levels. When the first ten people in a company are highly diverse, that sets the tone going forward. Not just diverse by gender or by race. It’s also age, people with different life experiences, people who have traveled, people who’ve never traveled, people who speak languages, people who don’t.
What are the values you strive to live by and how are these reflected in the way you lead your business, and the way you develop your products?
I frame my work as having a huge and impactful purpose of human connection, kindness, health, and even more—independence, entrepreneurship, and creating an industry that creates more business owners and jobs for women than any other. If I didn’t believe that deep in my soul I could never have stayed in the same industry for my entire life and loved it throughout.
Ask any successful person who is genuinely motivated and fulfilled: They believe have a higher purpose in their life and work. Find yours. It’s critical.
What is your advice for business leaders who want to make sure their company culture is conducive for more women to take on senior leadership roles?
The culture that creates growth for everyone requires empathy, kindness, seeing and knowing each other, and building relationships. Inclusion in the workplace is a collaborative effort where all people team up, sharing, collaborating, and helping others to do the same. I believe today’s workforce is more productive and happier in the team-building collaboration model that women tend to model better. And by the way, diversity and inclusion doesn’t only build a more successful business, it’s also a hell of a lot more fun.