Starting her career in advertising, Wende Zomnir, Founding Partner of Urban Decay Cosmetics, figured out pretty early that writing cat food copy was not going to cut it for her. A serendipitous call connected her to the partner with whom she would launch Urban Decay, the ultra-disruptive brand that took the girly, sugary makeup of 25 years ago and turned it on its head, offering looks for women who didn’t fit—and didn’t want to fit—the conventional beauty-consumer mold.
Wende shares her story, including thoughts on empowering the women around her while doing the same for herself.
|Announcer||Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.|
|Jodi Katz||Hey everybody. It's Jodi Katz, your host of WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® Podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in. This week's episode features Wende Zomnir. She's the founding partner of Urban Decay Cosmetics. If you missed last week's episode, it featured Emily Culp. She's the CEO of Cover FX. I hope you enjoy the shows.
Hey everybody, welcome back to the show. I am thrilled to be joined with Wende Zomnir. She is the founding partner of Urban Decay Cosmetics. Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
|Wende Zomnir||Thank you. I'm glad to be here.|
|Jodi Katz||I am so happy to have you here. You are a goddess in my mind. I have known of you for so long. I am a super fan. I wear a lipstick that's a very old lipstick that you make. I don't even think you make it anymore, but every time I wear it, people stop me on the street, no joke, sometimes multiple times a day.|
|Wende Zomnir||Well, you should tell me what it is because maybe we'll make it again.|
|Jodi Katz||It's the revolution lipstick and anarchy.|
|Wende Zomnir||We still make anarchy.|
|Jodi Katz||You do?|
|Jodi Katz||Is it in that same... It's not a matte. It has a little of a satin finish.|
|Wende Zomnir||It's got a little bit of sheen, satin finish to it, and it is in a slightly different case, but it is the same formula.|
|Jodi Katz||The color's amazing.|
|Wende Zomnir||Do you use the lip pencil with it?|
|Jodi Katz||No, but I have to start using lip pencils because I'm having age to skin.|
|Wende Zomnir||Yes, so you have the feathering, but it also keeps the lipstick on all day. Instead of having to wear one of those dry out, long wear lipsticks, if you apply really carefully, take your time and use a lip pencil and then put the lipstick over it, I always say ultimate pair for ultra long wear.|
|Jodi Katz||This is a signature color for me. If you look at any photography that I'm in, I'm almost always wearing that lipstick.|
|Wende Zomnir||Well, if you like anarchy, I recommend you try big bang. It is a metallic version.|
|Wende Zomnir||It's really beautiful if you just want to add a little sizzle or something different to your look.|
|Jodi Katz||Cool. I don't know that I want to be fuchsia, but I just am fuchsia. It just works for me.|
|Wende Zomnir||It works for you. I usually am often fuchsia. Today, I'm red, but I'm often fuchsia.|
|Jodi Katz||We're going to chat about your whole journey, but first, I want to start with minutiae because it's my favorite thing to do is talk about the day to day. How are you spending your day today?|
|Wende Zomnir||Today, I'm running around the city. I did a interview on the phone already, so I'm doing a lot of PR stuff. You saw my little PR army that's here with me. So I'm just going to be running around the city doing PR stuff.|
|Jodi Katz||I think it would be fascinating to look back on your career since you started the business and started hiring publicists to think of all the different people that you've shepherd through their careers as publicists, right, like how many meetings you've taken where there have been team members beside you and where they've gone off in the world after that.|
|Wende Zomnir||I think there have been, but my MO is I stick with people for a while, and so I've really only had two agencies here in New York in the whole time that I've done this. A lot of the people at my current PR firm have been on the business for a really long time.|
|Jodi Katz||That's so nice.|
|Wende Zomnir||So they don't move around a lot, but it has been great to develop longer term relationships. I don't love the conveyor belt of people. That's what I love so much about Urban Decay is that we had such a core group for so long.|
|Jodi Katz||Who has the longest tenure at the company other than you?|
|Wende Zomnir||A woman named Tammy Bartel who works in PR, she started as the receptionist and then quickly moved into being my part-time assistant slash PR, and then full time into PR. Now, she's in charge of that department.|
|Jodi Katz||Do you know how long she's been there?|
|Wende Zomnir||I think she's been there almost 20 years.|
|Jodi Katz||Oh my God, that's amazing.|
|Wende Zomnir||It's pretty amazing. She's very passionate about the brand, but I always tell her like, "You're the best receptionist slash office manager we ever had. No one's come close to you in that role."|
|Jodi Katz||Do you guys do special anniversary gifts for people who've been there that long?|
|Wende Zomnir||Yes. I personally have picked out some snowboards, jewelry.|
|Wende Zomnir||I want picking out things for people that have put their time in and had been there for a long time.|
|Jodi Katz||It's not a clock or a vase.|
|Wende Zomnir||Well, I think they get that too, because we were bought by L'Oreal, so through that whole thing, they get that too, but I always find a way to get them something special at the same time.|
|Jodi Katz||At my agency, we're just now starting, because we're growing very much, though there's been a lot of growth this past year, so the retention strategy for people who have stayed for two years are going to get Rent the Runway.|
|Wende Zomnir||That's awesome.|
|Jodi Katz||That's a big deal. It's so fun, and to have the company pay for your Rent the Runway would be incredible.|
|Wende Zomnir||I think that's really cool.|
|Jodi Katz||We're going to be starting that.|
|Wende Zomnir||That's so great.|
|Jodi Katz||They can decide like, "I want my three months of Rent the Runway in the summer because I have a lot of parties to go. I want it in the winter because I'm traveling." They get to choose when they want it.|
|Wende Zomnir||That's really cool. That's you thinking of your people and what's important to them. That's why I said I bought a snowboard. We had a guy who has been working for us since he was 18 years old in the shipping and receiving and just the operations, changing light bulbs and just making the place work. He's great. He actually, when I was pregnant with my oldest son, came over to the house and helped put my crib together. He had a big anniversary, and I went out and bought him a snowboard and bindings because he'd never had a new snowboard before.
To me, I'm a big snowboarder. I know the excitement of getting a new board, and so I wanted him to have that same thrill. I think business gifts should be thoughtful just like personal gifts.
|Jodi Katz||I agree. Let's dive into your history. I asked you why beauty, and you told me about being sent home in eighth grade for wearing too much makeup.|
|Wende Zomnir||Yes. I grew up in Texas. Texas is big on big hair, big on makeup. I loved makeup. I remember when I... My mom was really strict. She didn't really let me read all the teen magazines like Seventeen, but I went over... We went to family friend's house, and they had a slightly older daughter, and she had Seventeens lying everywhere. I was just in the corner just eating it up, just looking at everything. Then my mom did relent, and she bought me one of those blockbuster makeup sets for Christmas.
I swear it was the best gift I ever, ever got. I would-
|Jodi Katz||This is a multi tiered box that has everything in it, right?|
|Wende Zomnir||Yes. I like one of those blush, eye shadow like a pencil that was a really crappy pencil at the time and probably bad makeup. I was in love. I think it was the first iteration of Calvin Klein makeup is what it was. So I was so excited by it. I would just experiment. I would try to recreate looks out of magazines that I would find. I would show up at school, and I just remember one time, I was student of the month because I had good grades.
I was a good girl, but they were just like, "It's just too much makeup." You can imagine in Texas, that's saying something.
|Jodi Katz||Do you remember the look that you created?|
|Wende Zomnir||I do. It was a super brown smokey eye. Yes.|
|Jodi Katz||Did you have mascara on? Was there a big cheek look?|
|Wende Zomnir||I always had mascara on. I don't remember about cheek. I just remember it was really like... I was like, "I want to do that brown, sexy smokey eye thing." It was probably very round, probably not elongated at all. It was probably very round and very dark.|
|Jodi Katz||What did your mom say when you came home?|
|Wende Zomnir||I just remember her... I don't actually remember what she said. I don't remember being in trouble. I think my mom was... She was pretty supportive like, "Okay, if that's what she wants to do," but...|
|Jodi Katz||Why don't you think that she didn't want to give you Seventeen Magazine at that point?|
|Wende Zomnir||She was very strict Catholic, and I think she thought it would give me ideas. I think she thought they probably talked about dating boys and kissing. She didn't want me looking at any of that. It wasn't really the fashion or the beauty. I think it was the other content.|
|Jodi Katz||I read a lot of the Teen Beat. Were you allowed to-|
|Wende Zomnir||Like Tiger Beat or Teen Beat.|
|Jodi Katz||Yes. Were you allowed to have those?|
|Jodi Katz||Because there's cute boys in those.|
|Wende Zomnir||Cute boys in those. No. I mean, every once in a while, a friend would bring one over, and she didn't say no. It's like I am with my kits and pizza. We don't order it, but if you're at a party, you can have it.|
|Jodi Katz||Your kids and pizza.|
|Jodi Katz||Tell me about pizza.|
|Wende Zomnir||It's not that good for you. So we just don't make it a regular meal at our house. It's just not a meal at our house, but if you go somewhere else, it's fine. Have some pizza.|
|Jodi Katz||I think that's how some people approached Kosher. They're kosher at home, but when you go out, they just do whatever they do. You said something to me that I thought was really compelling, because I've been there. You were working in advertising, and you told me that you didn't want to spend your whole life agonizing over 30 seconds of cat food copy.|
|Jodi Katz||Take us back to the time when you worked in advertising.|
|Wende Zomnir||I went to the University of North Texas, and I should not have gotten a job at Leo Burnett. I was really lucky because I entered this competition for an internship, and it was the first year they'd done it. They're still doing it, and it was sponsored by the LA Times. They placed me at Leo Burnett. I was really excited to have this job. I loved it, but it became apparent to me that like my life, if I wanted...
I was in account management, and that wasn't really where my heart was. I was really more of a creative person. I thought, "I want to be a writer." Then I started thinking about like, "What I would be writing?" I thought, "I'm going to be writing cat food copy. I'm not sure if I want to do this." I went through all the clients at the agency at the time, and the only one I wanted to work on was a makeup company that they had. I don't think that makeup companies around anymore, but...
|Jodi Katz||Do you remember who it was?|
|Wende Zomnir||I don't even remember who it was. It was like a mass brand.|
|Jodi Katz||They come and go, more so now.|
|Wende Zomnir||Yes. More so now. I always say, "What's interesting is when I started, the barriers to entry were incredibly high, but the noise level was very low." Now, the barriers to entry are almost nonexistent, but the noise level is extremely high. The challenges are still there in terms of getting a brand off the ground. They're just really different.|
|Jodi Katz||Back at this time when you won a place at Leo Burnett, what did you have to do to get that job? This is a contest.|
|Wende Zomnir||It was like an internship you had to apply for and write an essay and do this whole thing. I was just like, "I'm going to go win that thing. I'm going to go get it."|
|Jodi Katz||It doesn't surprise me that you won it, because you do belong in advertising.|
|Wende Zomnir||No, I'm not surprised that I won it. I wasn't from a big name school or anything like that, so I think if I had gone out into the regular job market and tried to interview, I'm not sure anyone would have gotten past the fact that I didn't go to Harvard or Wharton or a lot of the places that their recruits came from. So I thought, "This might be my best chance to get in at a place that doesn't really recruit from my school."|
|Jodi Katz||When I worked at my first job, it was also in advertising at an Omnicom owned brand called BBDO. My job was to make dubs, to made copies of tapes, and actually just walk them up to the other floors or walk them down to the FedEx.|
|Wende Zomnir||Yes. I had to do that too.|
|Jodi Katz||That was basically, I think, most of my job. Did you have anything else that was more challenging?|
|Wende Zomnir||Well, I did a lot of that. I will tell you that I actually feel like I got promoted pretty quickly because I was really good at getting dubs made. If you're starting out in your career, I think this is really important to remember. Like I said, I was in a recruiting class of people who are starting in account management, and a lot of my peers were people that had MBAs from Harvard or Wharton, or went to a big name school, and they did not like having to make dubs.
They felt like it might be a little bit beneath their skill set and their degrees, but I was really good at going down to the dub room and hanging out with the guys and getting them to turn my orders around fast. So while their stuff would be languishing and they were late, they couldn't get it out of there, and they were in trouble with their boss for not getting their dubs made, mine were always early, well, made quickly, extra copies.
Whatever we needed, I could go down there and get a dub made. Don't ever underestimate the power of being good at something very small. I think that's really important. The other thing I was good at was I had taught myself, and this sounds like so elementary now because everyone's got a laptop and kids are so good on their computers, but I had in college taught myself how to be really good on what was the Macintosh at the time.
I remember being in there, and one of the senior executives had to make a last minute presentation. This was back in the late '80s or early '90s. Being able to make things on your computer wasn't as widespread. They had a department when you had a presentation to make, and they literally mark or comped everything with markers and hand wrote out your presentation. Well, there was no time for this, so I did it on the Mac.
I found a giant copier, and I mounted this guy's presentation. It was in actually palette in font, which they all thought I was like a genius. I was like, "Well, you can think I'm a genius all you want," but it's those ability to do these like little things and to be really resourceful that I think are so important and help drive your career in the early stages.
|Jodi Katz||I had experiences like that as a temp, so I would get temp jobs in between college and I guess college breaks and stuff. I was really taking these tasks that nobody wanted to do. I remember being in a storage room and having to reorganize the storage room, and I would do it in two days. They thought it would take three weeks. To me, it was so important to do the task well. To be super efficient at it was so important to me too.
I got noticed. I was like a super temp. I was the temp they wanted to keep hiring because I would take these things that maybe they were crazy mundane or really boring to other people, but for me, it was a chance to just be good at something. It was easy for me being good at that. I do think that everybody should strive to just be good at the very simple things.
|Wende Zomnir||Yes, I totally agree with you. That's how you get noticed.|
|Jodi Katz||You make good money as a temp. You were in a corporate environment at an advertising agency, not desiring the future, which would be to write commercials for cat food. What happened next in your career?|
|Wende Zomnir||I was dating a guy who was from California, so I was living in Chicago, dating a guy from California. We both were just really tired of being really cold, because Chicago is a really cold city. It's a great city, but a cold city. He had been offered a job at a great design company back in California. It just seemed like a great adventure to me to go out West and see what was out there. I actually went to go work for a promotions agency. That was the job I could find in Orange County because that's where his job was.
I didn't love it. It was fast food. It wasn't very exciting. It wasn't even the advertising. It was promotional.
|Jodi Katz||What does that mean like coupons and stuff?|
|Wende Zomnir||Like signage in store and things like that and cups, but I learned a lot there. I learned about collaboration, but I always knew that I wanted to do something on my own. So I thought, "You know what, I'm going to actually... I'm going to just become a freelance writer." I had done a little bit of it in Chicago. I'd actually gotten a cover story for the Chicago Reader. I thought, "I'm a good writer. I can do this." So I started writing little local articles, and I'm starting to get some interesting travel assignments.
Then I got a call out of thin air. It was a guy named David Soward. David called me and he said, "Hey, I got your name from your friend Tara." David used to be her fiance, "She thinks you're exactly the person I need to call." I'm like, "Okay, what is it about?" He said, "Well, I work for a woman named Sandy Lerner, and Sandy is this brilliant woman who started Cisco Systems." He goes, "Sandy thinks she might want to start a makeup company."
I was like, "This is exactly what I always wished for. I always loved makeup. I want to do something entrepreneurial," and I'm over the kind of grind of the agency life, and I wanted to be my own boss. So I flew up and met with Sandy, and we were just like, "Let's do it."
|Jodi Katz||We have to back up because it sounds like the first 10 minutes of a Jennifer Lopez movie like, "I put into the universe that I want to do something else, and the phone rings and hear it is."|
|Wende Zomnir||It literally was like the phone rang, but I actually was at a conference speaking to young women that want to be entrepreneurs. They're amazing. They're high schoolers. One of the things I told them is there's this quote I love, and it's like luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I feel like I had been preparing my whole life, whether it was through my passions or work or school or anything I had done. I just felt like that preparation led to that phone call.|
|Jodi Katz||What did Tara know about you to tell David about you?|
|Wende Zomnir||She knew I loved makeup. I met her in Chicago. It's weird because I was moonlighting from my agency job teaching aerobics. So this girl was in the class who was really lovely, and we got to be friends, and then she introduced me to her friend Tara. Tara and I have gotten to be really good friends, and we're still friends. We have kids. Many, many years later, we still hang out. She knew I loved makeup. She knew I was really good at my marketing advertising job.
She knew I understood youth culture, because some of the accounts I had been on at Leo Burnett were Reebok and Nintendo. She just thought, "Wende would be perfect for this." I think even he told me like, "Well, I don't know how you're going to do it, but you should call my friend Wende," and so that's how it got off the ground.
|Jodi Katz||This is situation that would play out in my head like as I'm falling asleep and then like, "I wish that this moment would happen for me," and it happened for you.|
|Wende Zomnir||It did.|
|Jodi Katz||This is incredible. You met with Sandy. Tell me about that.|
|Wende Zomnir||Sandy is a really interesting and unique person as you can imagine. She and her husband Leon invented the router, which changed all of our lives dramatically. Basically without routers, you don't have the internet. They had started this giant company. She really felt like there wasn't makeup out there to speak to her. I felt like there wasn't makeup out there to speak to me because if you look back in the mid '90s when we did this, there was Prestige makeup, and it was pretty boring.
It was department stores. There was no... Imagine a world, no Sephora, no Ulta. So Prestige makeup is sold in department stores. It was pretty much pink, beige, red. If they were going out on a limb, they'd do a mauve lipstick. It was crazy. You could find interesting color in the mass market, but it wasn't what it is today where you can find nice high quality stuff. It was chalky. If you found a blue eyeshadow, it looked white when you put it on your lids.
There was no great pigment out there. So she and I had just when we met this meeting of the minds like, "Yes, it needs to be this great quality pigmented color because we want to wear color, and there's nothing good quality out there." At the same time, we both felt like everything was so girly and so sugary sweet, and we were grungy feminists that wanted to spin it on its head. We were like, "Let's not knock on the door gently of the cosmetics department. Let's knock it down."
That was our philosophy. We were like, "Let's call it urban something," and someone said, I think it was actually Leon said, "Call it Urban Decay."
|Jodi Katz||You did what you set out to do.|
|Wende Zomnir||We did, yes. I kind of thought at the beginning like, "This'll be a great project. I'll do this for couple of years. It'll be super fun. I don't know where it's going to go." Here I am still doing it because it's a passion. It's as much a passion about the makeup now as it is about cultivating other women and mentoring other women and inspiring young women to be entrepreneurs and telling my stories to let them know like, "It can happen, and you can do it, and you can will it into reality."|
|Jodi Katz||I mean, you've done that too. There's a flock of entrepreneurs that are doing this because they've seen you do this.|
|Jodi Katz||I mean in so many ways, not just brand owners, but freelance makeup artist, freelance hairstylist. They saw what you did, and now they're doing whatever their version of it is.|
|Wende Zomnir||Right. I think the beauty influencers, they have their own brands now. I think it's really amazing. I always say one of the coolest things I think we did with Urban Decay is we really helped along with some other social forces help democratize beauty, because really, it used to be the corporate executive, usually a man in a tower, corner office deciding what the standard of beauty was. I always say most of us didn't fit it. Most of us aren't tall enough, pretty enough, wide enough, feminine enough, skinny enough, none of it, but really we're all enough.
We're all really beautiful. That's really the point of Urban Decay is if you just scratch the surface of a crumbling brick wall, it's really beautiful. There's more to people than first glance. So back to this whole democratization of beauty, we really felt like if we can just make people think about it differently and not subscribe to these typical notions of beauty, we can change the world and how people feel about themselves.
Then you think about then Sephora showed up, and so you had a crazier retail playground to work in, that they were more open to new and different things than a department store. Then you had social media show up. That was a slow build, but then once it exploded, it really exploded. Then all of a sudden, people were seeing images of people that look like themselves and not just images of these perfect models and realizing like, "I can create these great looks, and they look awesome on this person."
It just fueled itself. I feel like it really turned the industry around.
|Jodi Katz||Let's talk about the images that you and I grew up looking at as idealized versions of beauty. They were all created by men with probably very few women in the room or maybe zero women in the room.|
|Wende Zomnir||Probably yes.|
|Jodi Katz||I think about that a lot because I don't know why I ended up in advertising-ish worlds. I was always just drawn. I think I wanted to be part of pop culture, but I feel like now I realize the reason I'm here is because when my team is planning a shoot or creating content, we're all women, number one, all very different women, and we're creating for ourselves, not an idealize version of somebody else, but for ourselves. I think that's why I'm doing this, because I get to set the record straight.|
|Wende Zomnir||I think that's a big part of why we did it was to... It was all about empowering women. It was all about self expression. I've told this story a hundred times, so I hope whoever's listening hasn't heard it from me before. When I was about 16, I remember walking out a church, and the parish priest came up to me, and he's like, "You're hiding behind a mask of makeup. You're wearing too much. You're hiding yourself." I'm like, "I'm not hiding anything. I'm telling you a story. I'm showing you who I am."
It was a really pivotal moment for me when I realized like, "No one can hold me down. No one can stifle my self-expression." I don't think, looking back, I'm very conscious about that that was a pivotal moment. I don't think I necessarily realized it then, but that really changed my perspective on who could tell me what to look like and what to wear. I felt that way too. When we started Urban Decay, I felt it for guys too.
They weren't ever allowed to wear makeup or anything else. I remember just recently we were looking back on old brand statements, and one of the original things I wrote was, "This is makeup for girls and boys who want to show the world who they are and put their own stamp on it." I do think there's something about not commoditizing women and not creating these aspirational images that you have to feel bad about to like, "Oh, I don't look like her. I have to wear this makeup, so I look more like her."
That's not what Urban Decay was ever about. Urban Decay was, "Here's my story." I've wanted that for guys too.
|Jodi Katz||Well, I think what your brand did is it changed the definition of what aspiration can be, right? So aspiration used to be the yacht and caprice or the private plane. That's how brands showed aspiration. We can point to many departments stores or prestige brands who do that still today, but aspiration, and I really do believe that your brand led us this way, is about how do I feel about myself? Am I feeling complete today? What is my inner beauty? Do I feel confident?
Am I at ease? Am I searching for serenity? That's what aspiration looks like today in the beauty industry.
|Wende Zomnir||I think that's a great definition. That's awesome.|
|Jodi Katz||I'm so curious about this. You're newly in California. Tara talks to Dave who talks to you, and you get to Sandy. In that moment when you guys are planning like, "Let's invent this brand," were you thinking, "Oh, I'm an employee of this brand?" Did you realize you're a partner in this brand?|
|Wende Zomnir||I think at first, I wasn't savvy enough to think about that, but we sat down, and David was... That was his job. He was the business manager, so he's like, "Here's the deal and partnership and the whole thing." I was like, "This is great."|
|Jodi Katz||How old were you at this time?|
|Wende Zomnir||I just turned say 27.|
|Jodi Katz||This is amazing. Then Sandy, so I don't know her, but I would have imagined that she's pretty corporate coming from the world that she was in.|
|Wende Zomnir||No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.|
|Jodi Katz||Tell me about Sandy.|
|Wende Zomnir||Sandy's not corporate at all. When I met Sandy, she had purple hair and rode a Harley. What I loved about Sandy was she was this contrast. Everything about her was a contrast. She was like biker chick who lived in a French chateau that she had built with every detail all perfect and a rose garden out front. Everything about her was a contrast. She seemed hard on the surface, but she was super sweet and would baby talk to her animals.
She was a really interesting person, wicked, super smart, and yet super into makeup at the same time, and not that that should be a contrast, but it wasn't what I expected from a tech entrepreneur. So it was really refreshing to meet her. I think one of the coolest things about her was that once we felt a connection, she's the one that made me believe this can be done, because she had done it in a man's world in tech. I would have never thought in a million years like, "Let's shake up the beauty industry."
I think her just having done it before, she just believes she could do anything. Then she passed that on to me. So now I feel like it's my job to pass that on to other people.
|Jodi Katz||Was she the first investor? Did she found the company in the beginning?|
|Wende Zomnir||Yes. Sandy is the founder founder. She invested and got it off the ground.|
|Jodi Katz||Do you remember your first big chaotic day at work? Do you remember feeling like, "Oh my God, this is crumbling. This is too hard. This doesn't make sense?"|
|Wende Zomnir||I don't ever remember feeling like it's too hard. I do remember being up all night just having to grind, grind, grind to get stuff done and get it launched. I got it launched in probably... I mean, I met with her in September. We probably shipped product in January.|
|Wende Zomnir||I mean, I made it happen super, super fast. I bought stock materials. I made connections. I use one person to meet another person to meet another person. We made it happen really, really, really quickly. I was up late at night. There was a lot of dumb stuff that I did. I always tell this story about how when you look at those UPC codes, the first five digits or six digits are your brand, right? You register it with the Code Council, which I call them. I'd call them on the phone and register the brand, and then you assign the next five numbers.
Then there's an algorithm that gives you a check digit to make sure the number is valid and accurate. I didn't know that if you just call the label printer guy that they have a program that does it. No, I was up at night doing the algorithm on my calculator, so dumb stuff. You make dumb mistakes that suck and waste time, but you don't really know when you're starting out what are the dumb things and what are the important things. I mean, we were talking about dubs at the beginning of this conversation, and people might think that's a dumb thing, but it was actually a really important thing.
It's hard to know where the investment of your time, when you have to get into the weeds in the minutia and really grind out at it, and when you need to just brush that away and delegate. Those are lessons you've learned as you go.
|Jodi Katz||This is 20 years, is that how long it's been?|
|Wende Zomnir||It's been 24 years.|
|Jodi Katz||So 24 years. Let's talk about your emotional growth journey, because I imagine you've evolved as a human as a company has. Have you seen any personal emotional growth in that time period? Were you a nervous person before and now you're calm, or were you stuck in self doubt and now your confident? What kind of emotional journey have you been on as the brand has been growing?|
|Wende Zomnir||I think I'm calmer now. I think I used to get a lot more wound up about things. Now, I've realized all that little stuff. You can work around it. It's not that big a deal. I think I also used to expect the same from other people as I did from myself, and that's not realistic. Other people are not going to be able to keep pace with you in some ways, but in other ways, they're going to exceed you. So you have to really remember not everybody else is you, and to be a good manager, you really have to take a step back and try to help that person really maximize their potential and their strengths.
I've really learned that. I think being a mom has helped me really learn that. I actually did notice that the people I would hire that had already had kids, they were really good managers, and they were really good about managing their time. I do think that I embraced that when I had kids and really tried to maximize time with them. It made me a better manager, and it made me not sweat the small stuff as much.
|Jodi Katz||You were just talking about supporting people in the way that they need support. We did a workshop recently with... My coach led it, and it was our leadership team and everyone was going around the room talking about what kind of, I guess, voice calls to them when they're about to make a decision. Most of the room was like, "I want some data, or I need some facts to support it." I'm like, "Totally gut, totally gut."
As I was hearing people speak about what motivates them or what gives them comfort in decision making, I realized like, "Oh right. I can't assume that everyone just has confidence in the first decision that comes into their head the way that I do. I think they have a process, and I need to respect that process, but I also can't expect them ever to have what I have because they just operate differently."
|Wende Zomnir||A lot of people do operate differently. I've had brilliant people who work for me who love the data-based decision. I'm more like you. I like to feel it from my gut, but I like to check in with those people that make decisions differently and really question. I don't really question my decision but I like to do a double check on it, and make sure I'm not completely off base.|
|Jodi Katz||Has that desire changed since you've been acquired? Is being owned by the Giantess Global Beauty company changed your reliance on your gut?|
|Wende Zomnir||I think because there are so many people in an organization that are data reliant, I think it's more important now that I say what my gut thinks. I had something come up the other day, and I was just like, "I don't really feel it." They're like, "Oh, but they did research, and it turned out really well." I'm like, "Still not feeling it," so I just have to put that out there.|
|Jodi Katz||Well, it's interesting because I think at every event I've been to in the past few years where there was the most senior leadership on stage talking about where their strategic company is going in the future, they all said, and using the same words just re-jumbled together, that they want their teams to be more entrepreneurial. They want them to think like they're smaller, more nimble brands. That's just so hard for them to do because of everything you just spoke about.
Being gut-driven is so scary for people who are fearing that they're going to get fired. Basically, it comes back to fear of financial insecurity I think and most of these things. The more founders and people who are part of these larger organizations who actually talk about their gut, the more other people are going to learn how to trust theirs as well. So you're doing a service that the leadership actually wants you to do. Maybe it's not comfortable, but they need it.
|Wende Zomnir||They need it. I do have to give credit to L'Oreal though. They do let people fail, and they don't lose their jobs. You know what I mean? Like, "I's okay as long as you take a position, and you go for it." That's encouraged. There's positives to even making database decisions that may not turn out right.|
|Jodi Katz||The last topic I want to talk about is I asked you what your mantra is, and you told me balance. Where's your balance point with money and time? Talk to me about what that means to you.|
|Wende Zomnir||Well, it's not just money and time. To me, it's with everything. So I always say, "What's your balance point with giving back and trying to make money? What's your balance point with family and work? What's your balance point between anything that you do in your life?" It's always finding that perfect balance. It's really, really hard to do. If you've ever been in one of this balance boards, it's like you're working hard the whole time.
Your core is totally engaged, and you're just trying to keep from hitting one side of the other. I think it's like that with anything in life. It's just like finding that right balance between letting people into your life and setting boundaries that protect you. Anything you bring up, there's gotta be balance.
|Jodi Katz||I was in a situation recently where one of our clients, a client I love and adore, had a big thing going on, and they said, "Oh, be available, I don't know, 7:00 PM to do a call with us." I didn't realize till later that night my son's wrestling match was at 7:00, so there was another person on my team that said, "Call me," not Jodi, but call the other person. As I was walking into the school gym, I was like, "Oh, are they going to call me because they're forgetting to call her?"
Then I was able to just let it go. This is life. If I don't pick up, they'll call her and, but that thing would have given me a lot of anxiety. I think I've mellowed a little bit too like, "If it's not 7:00, it could be 8:00. They can find me later," but that kind of stuff is hard to navigate. I think this idea of balance or equilibrium, it's not this like parachute I can just throw over my life and just accept that things are going to be easy to navigate.
Each instance, I have to think about what's important to me in this moment, and what is the consequence if they can't reach me at 7:00.
|Wende Zomnir||Because every situation is different. There might be occasions where that 7:00 PM phone call does trump your son's wrestling match. Probably not very many, but there might be a few, and it's really hard to navigate which ones of those are more important than others, but good for you for going to the wrestling match.|
|Jodi Katz||Guess what? They didn't call at 7:00.|
|Jodi Katz||No. I don't even know if they called 9:00. They might've called 0:00 AM the next morning. My point is, I guess, I'm learning to not worry as much, which feels better, and I think because I'm thinking about these balance points as you call them.|
|Wende Zomnir||You just can't. You've got to keep your eye on the prize. I was at a really awesome birthday party. It was a surprise birthday party. It was in Cabo. It was really amazing. At the dinner, I was sitting with a couple I'd never met before. They were from the Midwest, and I was talking about work-life balance with them and my kids being so important to me.
The guy looked at me and he goes, "Your children are your first ministry." I just thought that is really a great way to think about it, just they are your first ministry, and you have to... They trump everything, I think, at least in my book. I mean, other people may have a different balance, but that I always go back to them is like, "Okay, what do they need right now? Do they need me, or did they not need me?" Sometimes, they don't need me, don't want me.
They want to go be independent and be on their own. Again, there's more balance there as they get older.
|Jodi Katz||I think about the time with my kids as like... Of course, I feed them breakfast, although they could probably make breakfast themselves at this point, but I think about my desire for spontaneous time with them. That's what fills my bucket. The making breakfast or the driving them to wherever doesn't really fill my bucket. I do it, but the spontaneous times, so just running around or playing a game or going somewhere we haven't been before or having adventures, whether they're in the house or out and about.
That's what fills me up. I think that that's my barometer. Is my bucket empty? Then I need to fill it up. They're always going to get what they need out of me because they'll find me, but I think about what do I need out of motherhood? That's what I need. I need spontaneous fun with them. I'm just so grateful to have you on the show. You're such an inspiration to me and so many people.
|Wende Zomnir||Thanks. It was really fun to talk to you.|
|Jodi Katz||Thank you. I'm so grateful, and thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with our listeners.
I hope you enjoy this interview with Wende. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes. For updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.
|Announcer||Thanks for listening to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.|