by Brittny Robins, Founder & CEO
My mom can pinpoint to the day when she knew that I would end up working in the beauty industry. It was the day of my Bat Mitzvah. I was 13 years old, and having grown up not overly observant of the Jewish religion, my parents enrolled me in a course that culminated in me giving a speech about someone I truly admired as opposed to the usual Torah portion. At 13 years old, I chose Estée Lauder. I chose her not only because she was Jewish, but because even in my young opinion, I felt like she had single-handedly changed the face of an industry that I loved at 13, and that I have loved everyday ever since. See, Estée was fearless – she was bold, unapologetic and passionate about perfection when it came to creating the most flawless products made for women by women. She was hands on and because she was also the face of the brand, she made sure to be front and centre in all business matters.
Her son Leonard took over later on. In my opinion, he has arguably had the biggest impact on the beauty industry of anyone. Leonard is organized, a planner, and an absolutely brilliant businessman. One example of his brilliance is when he looked at his skincare offerings from Estée Lauder, and thought to himself – what the most aggressive competition for his brand would be? What would be a brand that would embody everything that Estée Lauder was not? This is when Clinique was created. Leonard was the driving force behind the creation of Clinique to essentially create his own main competition! Like hello?! Are you kidding me?! To control so much of the industry in so many different ways, and thinking not just outside of the box, but outside of what anyone else had ever done before?! Mind blowing.
So, I digress, when I first met with Hudson's Bay Company to tell them all about my brand in hopes of working together, I told the story about my admiration of Estée Lauder and the career she had. A woman in the room, Shelley Rozenwald (who is now my mentor and one of the most brilliant women in the industry that I’ve had the pleasure to meet) told me that she was friends with Leonard Lauder, Estée’s 84-year-old son and that she could arrange for us to meet him in New York City.
To say this was a life highlight would be an understatement. The Estée Lauder office is one of the most elegant places I have ever been. Leonard was without a word of a lie one of the kindest, calmest, sharpest people I have ever met. I was trying to tell him all about my admiration for his career and tell him all about mine, while the whole time trying not to bawl my eyes out. This was the moment, this was the exact moment where I felt like my risk taking, my quitting my job, my setting myself up for judgement and a more than likely failure was behind me. That fear was behind me because even sitting next to him made me feel like I had achieved the respect of the one person who in this industry I respect the most.
He wrote me a personal letter 2 weeks later. I framed it immediately and will have it forever. However, what I want anyone reading this post to take is not that I personally had a life changing experience by meeting my hero. It is that because of the hundreds of risks I have taken over the last 2 years, and the countless screw ups along the way, I was able to have a moment – the moment – which changed me in a very subtle but powerful way. Please don’t be afraid to ask to be put in touch with someone you look up to – ask specific questions from people you respect – put yourself in a position you think is impossible, and don’t ever back down from an opportunity when it’s given to you.