Lisa Price

Lisa Price: Entrepreneur, Innovator and Carol’s Daughter

The founder of the beauty empire explains why being a Black woman CEO is a plus

by Melanie Yvette, December 11, 2012

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Lisa Price

Lisa Price

Believe it or not, Lisa Price isn't one to jump in front of a camera or a crowd. But she surely did jump in front of her brand. Over two decades ago, the founder and creator of Carol's Daughter started mixin' and fixin' in her kitchen alongside her husband. But what she didn't know was that she'd become one of the forces behind a natural hair care movement that would soon rock the entire beauty industry. 

EBONY: Can you tell EBONY readers where Carol's Daughter really began?

Lisa Price: The line began as a hobby of mine. I was making products in my kitchen and using them on myself and giving them to family and friends. Nineteen years ago, my mother suggested that I sell at a church flea market, and that was the first time that I sold something to the public. My business began to grow from there. In terms of the name, one day I wrote a list of stuff that I felt I was and what I wanted to become. Of the things on that list, I wrote that I was a daughter and my mom's name is Carol. For some reason, I just liked the way it sounded when I said it. So eventually, [Carol’s Daughter] was the name that stuck.

EBONY: Why did you focus on natural products as a part of the branding?

LP: Well, the main reason is because I started in my kitchen, so I was using ingredients I could get my hands on and that I can actually put on the stove and make. It wasn’t a decision based on a movement in beauty because that wasn’t even a conversation back then.

EBONY: Tell me about the operation. Was this just a one-woman show in the beginning?

LP: In the beginning, it was my husband and I. My husband made deliveries for me and he would help me sell. I’m not as gregarious as my husband, so I don’t walk up to strangers and start up a conversation. I would be the one making the product and making things look pretty, and he would be the one standing up and getting people to come in and buy it. It expanded through friends and family. My brother worked for me for a couple of years, my husband worked for me for a number of years, and some other brothers came to work for me. There was a point where I had 10 to 12 people working inside of my house. I always feel like it’s a team that really makes things work, because there is only so much a person can do by themselves.

EBONY: I agree with that.  I think that a team makes the brand, the product and everything else just a little bit more special.

LP: And it helps you to grow. There are so many things that you will never get the chance to do because there aren’t enough hours in the day.

EBONY: Do you remember the moment you realized Carol’s Daughter was going to be something special?

LP: I think it hit me at different times. There is one moment in particular that I remember, when the business was very, very young. It was just my husband and I, and we were coming up on the holiday season. I was still working in TV, but I had planned not to work from that November to January, because during the holiday I could make a lot of money from selling Carol's Daughter. I chose not to look for freelance jobs during those months and took a leap of faith [to focus on Carol’s Daughter only]. I remember we went out shopping for bottles and spent close to $900, which is something I’d never done before. We lugged all these bottles up to our fourth floor apartment in Brooklyn. I remember trying to find storage for $900 worth of bottles in my apartment and I had this moment of, “What the hell am I doing?” When I got to the end of that holiday season and I sold out of all of that stuff, and had to go back and buy more glass jars to finish my orders, I felt like I was on to something. I didn’t even think I was going to sell out what I invested initially.

EBONY: Can you share a very specific mistake or regret you made during your journey?

LP: There are lots of mistakes that we make along the way. Sometimes the mistakes are different, but what I’ve found is that they have the same underlying theme. One of my biggest mistakes was making a decision based on someone else’s experience. Your gut could say, “Maybe we should do this or that,” but you instead rely on the expertise of other people to think for you. I can’t really say that it’s a regret, because you learn from every experience. But, what I try to do now is trust my gut instinct. There is no way for us to know without trying, and then you try to medicate the loss as much as possible. I feel like I’ve gotten to a place where I’m making more educated guesses. 

EBONY: How has your inner voice driven you from being this small brand in your kitchen to a national celebrity-driven line?

LP: I’ve definitely had to rely on myself a lot. I’ve learned a lot because of it; I’ve grown a lot because of it. I’m very much a different person today than I was five and 10 years ago. I’ve gotten stronger; I’m less fearful of taking risks. I still get nervous, but less so. What I’ve learned is, I can’t always control what’s going to happen around me. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the economy sometimes. We don’t even know what’s going to happen with the weather. We can’t control the curve balls that will come to us, but I can control how I react to that. Am I going to let it get to me or stress me out, or am I going to learn how to flow with it? I had to recognize that things are going to happen and to take time to breathe and pray, because if I don’t do that I will just jump off a building.

EBONY: What have been the hurdles of being a Black woman boss?

LP: I feel like being in my business, being an African-American Women is a plus. It doesn’t hurt or hinder me. There are not a lot of African American-owned companies out there. There are more than there were when I got started, but still not a lot compared to our Caucasian counterparts. So that works as a positive as well. The only time it’s a negative is when you have to get people to recognize that, “Yes I’m an African American woman, yes my core customer is African American women, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t use it too and benefit from it.” But as far as handling the stress of it, I consider myself and take care of my health. I make sure I work out. Because I know that when I work out, I release stress. Although I don’t like being away from home, I try to use that travel time to just be quiet and order a movie. It’s amazing how nice it is to just be silent sometimes. If I know my kids are safe and everybody’s okay, I can set aside a few hours and take a break.

EBONY: How did you balance the transition of appealing to various women of color?

LP: It’s something you do through your marketing. Our language is, I think, more conversational. There may be some little things that African American women will pick up on more so than Asian women. But in general, I feel like our language is very open and conversational; we don’t talk down to you or over you. 

EBONY: Did you ever feel pressure to appeal to a more "mainstream" audience?

LP: I don’t really think of it as appealing to a "mainstream" audience to be honest, because with the way our world is changing, people are going to identify less and less with the color of their skin. It’s just something that’s going to end up happening in the next 20 to 30 years.

EBONY: I think the major beauty brands that are trying to reach us have to realize there is a new generation that is not as focused on color or race.

LP: I saw Talib Kweli on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, and Anthony Bourdain was touring Brooklyn for all these different places to eat. Talib was saying when he was growing up, young African-American males had one uniform: it was Tommy Hilfiger, North Face, Ralph Lauren, etc. That was it. Everybody wore the same jeans, same shirt, same jacket and the same shoes. Then he said, "Now when you walk though my neighborhood, you have people who still wear the "uniform", but you also have kids in bright colored t-shirts, hair in mohawks, and they’re on a skateboards." Everybody is free to express themselves and to embrace the different cultures around them. 

EBONY: What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?

LP: The advice that I usually give is to know what it is about your business that makes you unique and really stick to it. I remember going through a period in my business where I asked myself, “Is my story really relevant?” I learned the hard way how important the DNA of your brand is, but you have to translate it into the day and time that you’re in. Maybe you'll change the way you deliver the message because the world around you is changing. When I first started, a paper catalog was so important. It was expensive and difficult to do, but it was absolutely necessary. If I had a paper catalog now people would be like, “Why is she wasting all this paper and killing all these trees?”

EBONY:  Any fun upcoming launches for Carol’s Daughter?

LP: Every holiday we do a vanilla scent that’s exclusive to the season, and this is our third year of doing that. This year’s vanilla is Vanilla Petals. But since we have three vanillas from past years, we have a collection of all of them. You can do Sugar Dipped Vanilla, Vanilla Truffle and Vanilla Petals all in one kit.

As for the future of the line, I just want to continue to move forward and stay relevant and keep Carol's Daughter on top.

 
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