Episode 127: Sue Nabi, Founder and CEO of Orveda Skincare

When Sue Nabi left her position as worldwide president of L’Oréal and Lancôme to start her Orveda Skincare line, one key question kept popping into her head, a question she had never really thought about in the C-suite of one of the world’s largest beauty companies: Do millions of Instagram likes actually translate into sales?

As she grows Orveda, she’s looking for the answer. She knows one thing—people in business are becoming number obsessed. She looks for meaning in those numbers—how many products have been sold, how many products are people buying again—and, most importantly, what customers like (or don’t like) about the products they are buying. Sue is constantly applying her corporate experience to her own business but in a much more personal way, remembering one especially crucial lesson from her early days as a brand manager peddling L’Oréal products door to door… Keep listening and your customers will tell you what they want.

Sue shares other wisdom from her dazzling career in beauty in our full WBMB™ conversation. Don’t miss this episode!

Dan Hodgdon
Jodi KatzHey everybody, welcome back to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®. I am sitting across from Sue Nabi. She's the founder of Orveda, welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
Sue NabiGood morning, everyone.
Jodi KatzIt's nice to see you.
Sue NabiNice to see you too, finally.
Jodi KatzThis is a little unusual. Usually before a guest comes into my studio, we've had some time on the phone to get to know each other.
Sue NabiAbsolutely.
Jodi KatzAnd we just could not meet.
Sue NabiNo, I had a hectic week, so sorry for that.
Jodi KatzSo, we're going to get to know each other now, while everyone else gets to know you.
Sue NabiYes. Let's go. Let's talk. Perfect.
Jodi KatzLet's start with one of my favorite questions, which is how are you going to spend your day today?
Sue NabiOh my god. Today I'm going to spend the day meeting journalists, influencers. And at the end of the day, I'm going to do a masterclass at the club here in New York. And I'm going to talk to people about the future of luxury skincare, and something that you may have heard of, which is this thing called the microbiome. Or this stuff that everyone is talking about, prebiotics, probiotics, what does it mean? How does it work? Is it good for my skin? Is it good for my gut? This is typically my days. I am educating as much as I can to skincare but also to health issues.
Jodi KatzAnd where are you based?
Sue NabiI'm based in London. The company is London-based, but we are quickly expanding now in Europe and in America.
Jodi KatzI first found the brand at Saks.
Sue NabiAbsolutely, the brand-
Jodi KatzBecause you have a nice display on the beauty floor.
Sue NabiAbsolutely. We have a beautiful presentation at Saks, which is the first non plastic counter by the way. We are obsessed with sustainability at Orveda, and we made sure our products are made with glass. But also counters are usually... I usually say that a lot of brands use too much plastic on counters. Ours is really not plastic at all, so this is also something I wanted to share with you.
Jodi KatzYou mean the physical surface is not made out of plastics?
Sue NabiAbsolutely. And nothing is single usage. Everything is washable, has to be washable, therefore reusable, so that there is no waste. For us reusable is better than recyclable.
Jodi KatzAnd do you own this company outright? Or do you have partners?
Sue NabiI am the owner and I have Nicolas Vu, who is the co founder and co CEO of the company. We are two owning and running this company. And at the moment, it's a great and fabulous moment I think.
Jodi KatzAnd how many years has it been?
Sue NabiWe've been working on the line since 2014, which was three years into the kitchen, into the laboratories in the making. And then we started to retail our products two years ago precisely. In London, in the U.S., New York and L.A. And we are strongly expanding. We just had two stores in Switzerland. We are opening stores in Germany, in Austria. We are going to have stores in Italy, and of course across the U.S.
Jodi KatzLet's get down and dirty here because when I saw your display at Saks, I thought, "Oh my god, somebody spent a lot of money on this."
Sue NabiI think it's probably the least expensive counter of Saks because everything has been thought to be to sustainable, to stay there for some time, et cetera. And in fact, we've been doing it... I know the prices of traditional displays because I've been the CEO of Lancome for what? Five years, some years ago. And we are something like maybe five to seven times less expensive.

And this is also part of our sustainability thinking, which is let's not put money, too much in things that are just visual, and let's put money in the formulations. We were obsessed with creating formulations that were highly-concentrated. We say professional dose of skincare every day on your face. And at the same time, probably the cleanest, the greenest and the most sustainable you can find on the market at the moment.
Jodi KatzI have a lot of clients in my day job at Base Beauty that are startups, and they certainly... Supporting Saks or other international department stores is... It's a heavy lift, right? When I saw your display and how thoughtful it was, it makes me think somebody's really investing here. Maybe your display is not as costly as a different prestige brand, but certainly there was a lot of investment.
Sue NabiAbsolutely. There is investment in fact in the thinking behind it. Because we wanted, for example, you cannot... Our products are not testers. Traditionally brands, they put a product on the counter and it becomes a tester, where thousands and thousands of people put finger in, which for us is a kind of... It's a sin to put your finger in such a beautiful product. There are Petri dishes, glass dishes where the texture is displayed, and you can try. Every time you try it, you try a fresh dose of products. This is the investment, which is more a creative, and also a kind of, let's put back high-end skincare and high-end products where they should have always stayed, which is something desirable, something that makes you dream and something precious, and not something that's basic that you could use everyday, like any kind of moisturizer. We wanted to have that in mind.
Jodi KatzAre you saying on the dishes, it's an individual dose to experience, and then you wash it out and start again?
Sue NabiAbsolutely.
Jodi KatzVery much like, we have some makeup artists in the studio today.
Sue NabiAbsolutely.
Jodi KatzShe's always washing her brushes and washing her pallets.
Sue NabiYou got it. That's exactly the way we want to do things because we hate to put things in the bin. For example, we have a product called the Prebiotic Emulsion. It's sold with a silicon mask that you can rewash, therefore reuse. For example, I'm a bit shocked by all these sheet masks that everyone is raving about across Instagram-
Jodi KatzYou said sheet masks, but in your accent it sounds like shit masks.
Sue NabiI know, I know. it's on purpose. To be honest, it was on purpose because I strongly believe that they shouldn't sell this kind of things to people. Because they tell you that there is half a bottle of serum into one sheet mask. Is your skin going to be able to absorb half a bottle of serum in what, 30 minutes? Impossible. Your skin will absorb what it needs and the rest would stay in the sheet mask that would end up in the bin.

Would you throw half a bottle of serum in the bin? No. Especially if it's very expensive. On top of the waste that comes from the sheet mask itself. This kind of thinking is, people are always, what is the latest trend? But the main thinking is does it work? Is it efficient? Is it going to do something to my skin? And at the same time, what's the impacts on the environment but also on the society? Is it made by artisan? Does it make people work? Or is it again another factory that does millions and millions of units and at the end of the day, this is a huge stock, and if you don't sell your stock, you're going to destroy it because you don't want your products to be discounted? It's a whole different thinking, the fashion industry is just starting, and the beauty one I think should do its own act.
Sue Nabi
Jodi KatzLet's go back in time. Where did you grow up?
Sue NabiI grew up in North Africa. I was born in the country called Algeria. I spend there, my what? First 16 years, and then I got graduated from high school. And then I remember my father telling me you should become a doctor or something like that. And I love this, everything that's related to health, et cetera. But this was not my dream.

And I said to him... I remember it was in 1985, so something like 30 something years ago. And I said to him, "I dream of biotechnology." And he said, "What is biotechnology?" My father was in the oil industry, which is the opposite of biotechnology in a way today. It's funny that I did something that's the opposite of my father did. And he said, "Okay, let me check if I know some people who know which studies to do to work in biotechnology field." I ended up going to France, where I did an engineer school, engineering school, I become an engineering biochemistry and environmental science. And then on top of that, I added an MBA in business of luxury products in Paris business school.

And I started in 1993 at L'Oreal as a simple brand manager. I was sent to the South of France, where I was driving a tiny car in the middle of nowhere and trying to sell shampoos to supermarkets. This is how I started at L'Oreal.
Jodi KatzReally?
Sue NabiYes.
Jodi KatzIn the fields?
Sue NabiIn the fields. For what? Nine months.
Jodi KatzDid you get your MBA right after undergraduate?
Sue NabiYes. I had my engineering diploma from the engineering school. The year after, I did my MBA.
Jodi KatzAnd why luxury goods?
Sue NabiI was fascinated by fashion to be honest with you. And I wanted to work in the fashion world, and I had the chance at that moment to have some connections. I have had the chance to meet one day, Mr. Yves Saint Laurent, when he was alive, et cetera. I was fascinated by this world. And I remember meeting somebody who told me, "Sue, with your background, you're an engineer and biochemistry, you should go into beauty. This background will be much more useful in the beauty world." And that's the way, I ended up sending my resume to L'Oreal, and I started some months after.
Jodi KatzIsn't it interesting that a random comment by someone could really change-
Sue NabiChange your life.
Jodi KatzRight?
Sue NabiI listen to everything. And I always think everything is a sign. From time to time, people write to you on LinkedIn. Most of the people on my level, don't even have a look. I read everything, and I always think, "Why did this person propose that to me?" And sometimes it changes the whole path of your life and your career. Sometimes it's a super opening in terms of business.

Recently, we got an article in the Wall Street Journal Magazine. We had two pages. They came to London. They spent the day with me, et cetera. And I got hundreds and hundreds of people writing to me saying, "We would love you to be here. We would love you to be there, et cetera." And sometimes you talk to these people, and you see that there is a world that you didn't see, that you couldn't even imagine. That was a world very interesting for us.
Jodi KatzWhy do you think executives don't spend time in responding to people on LinkedIn?
Sue NabiI think they like to fill up their agenda with meetings and meetings and meetings. And I hate meetings. I try really to keep my brain as open as possible, my eyes and my ears. It's a fight to be honest because your agenda gets full quite quickly if you let it fill by itself. I really try to keep it open, so that I'm still receptive to the waves, and everything that people can say and ask of us.
Jodi KatzI think that those little moments with strangers are sometimes really profound. And I try to stay on top of the LinkedIn, and on top of the people just emailing me that I don't know. And while I don't get back to all of them myself, I'll forward them along to the different team members where it's relevant.
Sue NabiAbsolutely. You're totally right.
Jodi KatzBecause I'm on the other side of those emails often too. Right? I think I have a service that would be a value to you and I believe in it, and how else could I contact you except over email or LinkedIn?
Sue NabiAbsolutely, absolutely, absolutely. People do it, and they're surprised when I get back to them because they say, "Oh my god, you are... Is it really you?" I said, "Yeah, it's really me." And I try to understand why people are writing to me. 90% of the things are people who want to work with you, et cetera. And I try to read their resume, see if they can fit with our needs. But sometimes people open business opportunities that you didn't even think of, or they give you information about something you were not aware of.

So, it's, everything has to be taken. Especially when you're a business owner at a moment where so many things are changing so fast. The things of the past from one day to another, they can become obsolete and if you're still concentrated on this, you lose opportunities. It is very important to keep it open. What's next? What's the retail tomorrow? Where can... And in fact, our obsession is not to say we're going to go here or there, our obsession is, where is our customer? Where he or she, because we're a genderless line. Where he or she can look for vegan, ethical, highly professionally concentrated skincare products, where do they want to find them? And where can we meet them?

If somebody tells me, "It happens in a tiny store in the middle of nowhere," we'll go there. Because the only thing that's important is to meet your customers and not just say, "I am here because this is a famous distribution channel. I am there because everyone is there." So I know where are they, and we go to them.
Jodi KatzOn LinkedIn, when people message me, I always write back, "Thank you for reaching out." Because that's really my genuine feeling.
Sue NabiOf course. Absolutely.
Jodi KatzMaybe nothing comes of it at this moment for either of us, whatever their intentions are, or my intentions are, but I do want to thank them.
Sue NabiIt's very important because I always put myself in the shoes of the youngest person I was, and I say, "If I wrote one day to these people, I would hate to have no answer or to have something that says we're not interested." Even not just thank you for writing and reaching out to us, et cetera, so that's very important.
Jodi KatzI do delete the spammy ones, the ones that feel really aggressive.
Sue NabiSometimes. Yeah, you have to do it. A lot of them, they... The ones that I really either delete or I don't get back to, it's people who'd say, "Do you have an internet site? We can help you." And they can check it easily. We have one, hopefully it's great. It means that they didn't even check. Please check, have a look, try to understand what's doing good with us and maybe where you can help us, and there, I listen to you.
Jodi KatzYes, yeah. Let's go back in time, where you're driving around the South of France, going from supermarkets to the grocery store.
Sue NabiExactly.
Jodi KatzWhat was that job like?
Sue NabiMy job was to go and... At that time, L'Oreal company was launching something called Jacque Dessange, which is a professional hairdressers, like a John Frieda from France. And they were launching the first professional haircare line, which was quite advanced, versus it's growing today. But it was 20 something years ago, and my job was to really promote it in the middle of nowhere.

Can you imagine? I was going in the store. I remember this story. This is a funny story. I remember visiting a store that I never visited before. It took me something like two hours to go there, and when I arrived, the lady told me, "I'm sorry you don't have an appointment. You have to come back another day." In my head, "Oh my god, it's going to be 200 kilometers back. And coming back another day."

I went on the parking, and I called and I said, "I would like an appointment for this afternoon." And she said, "Okay, I have some availabilities at 3:00." I went, I had lunch, and I came back at 3:00, and she saw me, she said, "Are you back?" I said, "Yeah, I took an appointment." And she said, "Fine, fabulous."
Jodi KatzThat is awesome.
Sue Nabi"Tell me what you want." I said, "I want the whole shelf for my new line." She said, "You got it." So that's, for me also a great way to do business. It's really to surprise people, to make them smile. And then business is all about human connections. It's not just a question of numbers.
Jodi KatzRight. I mean that's what it always comes down to. And I used to live in a world where I thought it was about accessing things from different points of view, and you had to know somebody. And the reality is, is like you can meet someone tomorrow that will change the course of your career or your life.
Sue NabiYes.
Jodi KatzAnd if you're open to meeting people and building real connections, not looking at people like they're a piece of meat, right?
Sue NabiExactly.
Jodi KatzBut really wanting to get to know them, everything can change.
Sue NabiAbsolutely.
Jodi KatzAnd it's way more fun that way.
Sue NabiAnd people feel it. Most of us have this kind of instinct to feel something that's genuine and a real interest, versus I'm here just because I need you. Even if you need somebody, that's fine because we all need each other. But it's important that also you get to know the person in front of you. You get to know her needs, you get to know maybe her disappointments in the past, and then you can do fabulous job together.
Jodi KatzYou were essentially doing local, regional sales for L'Oreal.
Sue NabiAt that moment, yeah.
Jodi KatzWhat came for you next in your career?
Sue NabiAnd then after I was sent back to Paris, which was my city, the city where I was living. And I was brand manager on a brand called Mennen. It does Speedstick, etc. I was creating deodorants, shaving foams, and things like that. I loved it because it was my first... I remember creating my first skincare balm. And I remember putting it on a shelf before it was already registered in a store, just to see if people have a look at it.

I did my own test with one single product in the middle of a store of nowhere. Again, it was funny because it was a kind of, "Wow, it stands out on the shelf. It looks good and therefore the people might notice it." And then I noticed that the things that were written were written too small. And then I said to my factory, "We need to change the label quickly before doing the real market launch." And we changed it and made everything bigger. And it was my first off, that kind of real life testing.
Jodi KatzAnd who at the company taught you how to do this?
Sue NabiNobody. They don't teach you to do this. It's really something that you hear because you talk to people. I remember having, my mother, she was by definition older than me. She was at that time, probably in her 50s, and she told me, "Please don't write things too tiny. I know it's chic. I know people from design companies love things that are tiny, et cetera, but we need to read what we are selling, we need to read what we are buying, et cetera." And this stayed somewhere in my mind, and when I saw the product on the shelf, I said, "Oh my god, there is the name of the company that's visible but not what it does. And people are looking for what it does."
Jodi KatzThat's great. You spent a lot of years within L'Oreal.
Sue Nabi20
Jodi KatzWow. That's a long career.
Sue NabiYep.
Jodi KatzWhat kept you there for so long?
Sue NabiI grew with the company and I was very quickly noticed by the CEO of the company, because at that time, even big corporations, you had the chance to do some presentation in front of the big CEO, Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, who retired today. And I remember hearing him saying to somebody, "Who is this person?" And I said, "Oh my god, if he says that, it means that I did something that was unusual or good." And in fact, he ended up asking me, "Where did you learn English?" And I said, "Why?" And he said, "Because your English is more British than American English." I said, "It's true. I learned it in my high school in Algiers, where I was living. And I went to a British school to learn English." He noticed my English and hopefully he noticed the project I was showing to him.

And then very quickly, I was promoted as a marketing manager. And very quickly, I was promoted as a worldwide marketing manager for L'Oreal Makeup, which was at that time quite ugly. It was aubergine packaging, so I took it to gold, et cetera. I hired the best spokesperson. And they said, "Oh my god, you're doing something so good, that we would like you to become the big boss of L'Oreal Worldwide." So it came quite quickly.

But before that they sent me as a general manager of L'Oreal in France, so that I am not just managing marketing people. I was managing salespeople, I was managing back-office people, et cetera. And it was fabulous. I did it for two years, I loved it. Most of my connections with what's happening in stores come from there.

When I was at L'Oreal, when I launched the product, I always called a representative in the South of France, saying, "So how is it doing? Do people like it? What do they think of it?" And this was key because when you are at the top seats, sometimes what's happening in stores is so far from you. So this was an amazing experience.

And then in what? It was 2005, I was probably the youngest president of L'Oreal Worldwide, the brand, where I really worked for what? Four or five years to change everything. I wanted to give a new sense to, "Because I am worth it." It became, "Because we are worth it," to make it more inclusive. And I walked the talk by hiring not only blondes, but also brunette, dark skins, people from all around the world to represent this brand.

I hired Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, who were over 60 years old, which was also another way to say we're selling anti-aging products, but the models that we're doing the advertising were under 30, which didn't make sense, and this was a huge success to be honest with you. I hired also men... Men actors like Matthew Fox from Lost, Patrick Dempsey from... What's the name of this? This show on TV that's in hospitals, very famous one, et cetera. He represented the brand. Pierce Brosnan. It was amazing. It was probably one of the most exciting moments in my life. Because I felt that I had the trust from my management, and therefore you can do what you want, which is quite rare in big corporations, but because figures were good also.
Jodi KatzRight. If sales are good, you have more room to play.
Sue NabiAlways.
Jodi KatzWhat type of emotional pressures did this job leave on you? I mean, imagine you're traveling quite often?
Sue NabiYes. That's was the thing I hated, is the trips you had to. Because when you are the CEO of L'Oreal, and or after more, it was moreover on Lancome. I had to be in China, I had to be in the U.S. I had to be everywhere in Europe, Brazil, and you spend your life in planes. I'm tall and when you are tall in planes, even if you are in the business class, because we are not allowed to go in first class, this was reserved to some people. For somebody who is my size, it was complicated.
Jodi KatzHow tall are you?
Sue NabiI am in centimeters, 185. I don't know how much that is in inches. But I'm quite tall. And you end up having your back broken in two, so you spend your life taking painkillers and things to relax your muscles, et cetera. This was really the part I hated. Plus jet lag, you add jet lag, et cetera.

I remember one story, I was in Shanghai just being promoted as the president of Lancome. It was in 2009, in June, 2009, and I got a phone call from somebody in L.A., CAA Agency. He was the agent of Julia Roberts and said, "Sue, Julia Roberts want to meet with you." And I said, "Fabulous. When?" "Tomorrow." "But I'm in Shanghai." "Yeah, but you can fly to L.A." And I did it. And I did it, but it killed me. It was fabulous. I met her in a tiny cafe in Malibu, and we had a strong connection, and that's, after that, they assigned her as the spokesperson for Lancome and for the fragrance La Vie Est Belle. But this is, the way I say it is funny and makes you smile. But for me it was huge in terms of energy, et cetera. But that's life.
Jodi KatzAnd tell me about how you're able to manage your personal life when you're traveling and running that part of the business.
Sue NabiI speak to my mother every day, wherever I am. This is something I try to keep in my mind. Today, I speak to Nicolas, the cofounder of the company, Nicolas Vu. He lives in Paris, I'm in London, and we spend one hour a day talking together. It's very important for me to talk about, of course the business, et cetera. But also to go down to earth and to talk about what's happening. "Are you sick? You shouldn't do this, you should do this. What did you eat yesterday? Who came to visit you?" Because this in a way relieves stress from you. If you talk only about the figures, the issues, there are so many things that are difficult when you create a business, that you can spend your life talking about things that do not work.

It's great for me to both speak about things that are doing well, but also about normal life. That's very important.
Jodi KatzRight. That's sort of the whole point of this podcast is to humanize our business because we can become robots of marketing.
Sue NabiAbsolutely.
Jodi KatzRight? Right, easily.
Sue NabiBut you know what you do, you copycat the others. I consider this industry like a copycat industry to be honest with you. I'm sorry, I shouldn't say that on a podcast like this one where everyone is from the industry listening, but people look to each other too much. Don't look to the others to have an idea, get it in your mind and try to make it happen. And because if you look to the others, you end up doing what they do. And since people are always looking, they call it benchmarking in big companies, and they're obsessed. "Oh, they did a serum for the under eye, I am going to do a serum for the under eye. They did something for the feet, let's do something for the feet." No. Think about what is your brand all about, what your customers are looking for, and do it. And normally it should work.
Jodi KatzAt larger companies there's a pressure to do this. We talk about staying in our own lane, like what is our lane and just stay in, and it doesn't really matter what's going on in the other lanes. But bigger corporations, the teams are under pressures for like, "Oh, we reached this number of billion impressions last year, so now we have to meet that." Even though like what do the impressions mean?
Sue NabiExactly.
Jodi KatzLike is it really what we want to measure everything against?
Sue NabiAbsolutely.
Jodi KatzBut there's so much pressure.
Sue NabiThere is a lot of pressure because at the end of the day, people are becoming figures obsessed, and you need to show figures. Sometimes as you said, you show a lot of figures, but nobody knows what it means. If you have thousands or millions of likes on Instagram, does it mean you have sales? I'm not sure. If you have people you know complaining about your products, but what are the silent majority thinking? Which are those who buy your products, et cetera.

I think we should always question what do things mean. And this I think will lower the pressure. The pressure is when everyone is competing on something they don't understand. And the only thing you are doing is let's increase this number that everyone is looking at. It could be the stock of your company, it could be, as you said, the number of views. It could be how many products have we sold? Is it important to know how many products have you sold? Or is it important to know how many people are happy with the product that you have sold?

These are typically the kind of question I try to ask myself. I had the chance to have a cofounder who is not daily in the business, and I want to keep him outside the business because he comes once a month, and he asks all the questions that no one thought of. And this is very important to have somebody that's outside the daily business, who can ask sometimes questions like, "But why are you doing this? Is it sure that it's working?" "Everyone is doing it." "Yeah, but why should we do it?" So these are the kinds of things I try to keep in my daily life.
Jodi KatzWhat kind of advice could you give to somebody who works at a strategic, who is... And maybe they have a seat at the table. They might not be the CEO, but they can certainly be very high up, and who realizes that people are spinning out of control with this obsession of figures. Like how can she really make people think about what matters and not what these random numbers in isolation mean?
Sue NabiI think they should listen to people, talk to people, exchange with people, customers. It could be people who have... And get out of your industry. I love to talk, when we created Orveda, the skincare line, I spent a lot of time talking to one of my best friend in France. He's the best plastic surgeon. And I was talking to him and said, "What are these women and men who come to your office and ask for a procedure, at the end of the day, instead of explaining to me the way you do your lift, et cetera, which is passioning, but I would like to understand what words do they use? What do they say to you? What do they complain about?" And he says things like, "They don't want to look tired. They don't say, 'I want to look younger.' They say, 'I want to look refreshed.'" Which is new words, et cetera.

And when you understand that, you do things differently. Versus if I look to what the others are doing, they are all doing a lifting product, "Let's do a lifting product." And this takes you somewhere else by listening to what people are really looking for on a daily basis. And how are their lives, you need to understand that. He says, "A lot of my clients, they travel a lot, they always look tired." And when somebody complains about looking tired, it's not the same thing as somebody who complains about looking not the right age.

So, you do different things, you use the different words and you use also different ingredients. And that's the way Patrick Bui helped us to create a line which is to be used pre and post procedure, and that's precisely made for this clientele. And it's all about recovery, recovering from the procedure, but also recovering from fatigue, recovering from jet lag, recovering from using maybe harsh skincare. Sometimes too much retinols, things like this. And this, you cannot learn it by looking at what the others are doing, so really get out of your natural field, I should say.
Jodi KatzWhy leave a giant corporation with beautiful budgets to hire interesting people-
Sue NabiAnd a beautiful salary.
Jodi KatzAnd a beautiful salary. Why leave that and start your own business?
Sue NabiI was 44 years old when this happened, and I had the option to stay at L'Oreal, maybe to climb the stairs to hopefully the highest seat, because when I do something, I like to do it to the maximum. I don't have any kind of boundaries, no glass ceiling neither, or create something my own. And I said to myself, "This is the moment. If I don't do it now, I will never do it." Because it's more complicated to do things when you are 50. Just because the body is not as young and energetic as before. And this is going to require a lot of energy.

This week, in the U.S., we've been visiting four cities in eight days, and every time in this country when you visit a city, it's minimum four hours of plane, so you have to be in good health. And you cannot do it if you are not, let's say in your forties, fifties. You can do it, but beginning is harsh and difficult.

I thought that was the right moment to do it. But also because of social media, and this is for me the main thing about social media, it gives you the opportunity to build your own audience and to create a relationship with them that you couldn't do ten years ago. Ten years ago, you had to do TV, which is very expensive, and too strong to target a tiny target. Or you had to buy print pages in magazines, et cetera. Today, you can really build a community around yourself because of social media. But also because of the birth of things like CRM, so that you can have a discussion with your customers or with those who have a strong opinion, who are opinion leaders.

So I said to myself, "Let's try it." I proposed that to be honest to the L'Oreal company, and they said, "Sue, we need you on big things." And I said, "Okay, this is your need, but there is also my need and they don't meet for once, so I have to go and create my own thing." And the other thing is that we need people, I don't know where this is going to take me, but as some people say, if you don't try, you will never know. So, maybe creating the L'Oreals or the Lauders of tomorrow, you need to start somewhere, so voila, that was the thinking behind it.
Jodi KatzAnd the day after you left the company, did you feel any regret or fear? Or-
Sue NabiLost.
Jodi KatzYou felt lost.
Sue NabiLost.
Jodi KatzTell me what that means
Sue NabiLost because you are... I was the CEO of one of the biggest beauty brands in the world, probably the biggest luxury brand in the world. I had just launched the fragrance called La Vie Est Belle, which was 100% coming from my mind and from my nose, etc, which became today I think maybe the best selling fragrance in the world, etc, which nobody has been able to achieve before me because Lancome was launching and launching fragrances that were not successful. And suddenly there was nothing.

And I was even going to the hairdresser, somebody took care of me to go there. And you have to rebuild your life.
Jodi KatzRight. You have to do things for yourself.
Sue NabiExactly. You have to book planes for yourself. You have to book the hairdresser for yourself.
Jodi KatzI'm laughing because it's really true and honest and sweet that you talk about this.
Sue NabiAnd you have to pay a lot of things yourself. Before, people offer you everything, and suddenly you have to pay everything. So, voila. But it was a nice... How do you call that? Reminder. It was a nice reminder that this is real life, and I love it. Honestly, I love it.
Jodi KatzRight. Well, you can get closer to the customer when you're actually walking through the world the way that she does. Right?
Sue NabiAbsolutely, absolutely.
Jodi KatzEven if your haircut is more expensive than hers, but making your own appointments, sitting down, paying for it, "Would I pay for this?" Right?
Sue NabiExactly.
Jodi KatzAnd that's something I think is hard for us in our business, we get a lot of things for free, and I think... My whole team does, we think a lot about like, "Is this something that would pay for myself?"
Sue NabiExactly. That's a key question.
Jodi KatzIt's very hard to transition from being... Your time being managed with all these forces that are not around your control. Right?
Sue NabiAbsolutely.
Jodi KatzThe people put appointments on your schedule, you have to be at board meetings, whatever it is. To go from that to getting to choose how you spend your time.
Sue NabiAnd you said the word that's key, you said control. And I think in big companies, we all become control freaks because everything has to be controlled, and your agenda, who you meet, what you're going to say in the meeting, what you're going to say in an interview, et cetera. And at the end of the day, you learn something that's for me is probably the most valuable thing, don't try to control everything. This will relieve your brain, your body, everything. Just try to control things that you have control on. You cannot control the universe. I have this thinking that comes from Taoism, which was the basis thinking when we thought about creating Orveda, which is don't try to control everything. Do your best, put it in the middle of the universe and let the forces in the universe do the rest.

And this is so, it releases you from so much stress and so much pressure. Because pressure kills us. I am an industry that was raving about anti-aging, but people, what they don't know is that stress creates cortisol in your body. And cortisol is the aging hormone, the perfect aging hormone. In laboratories, if you want to make a skin age faster, you put two drops of cortisol on it, and you'll see it thinning in front of your eyes, losing its collagen and everything. That's why, for example, at Orveda, we don't use the word anti-aging. Because we feel at the moment when you say to people, "This is anti-aging," they are aging instantly. Because biologically inside you're producing cortisol and cortisol is a stress hormone that makes you older and weaker because it makes your immune system go down.
Jodi KatzWell, Sue, this has been so fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today.
Sue NabiThank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Jodi KatzIt's been great to get to know you.
Sue NabiThank you. Thank you very much.
Jodi KatzAnd for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Sue. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes, and for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @WhereBrainsMeetBeautyPodcast.

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