Episode 155: Alicia Grande, Founder and CEO of Grande Cosmetics

Grit and grace come naturally to Alicia Grande, founder and CEO of Grande Cosmetics. At a young age, she learned the importance of hard work and sacrifice, fueling her desire and passion for business. Since 2008, Alicia has grown her brand from a single product sold at a tradeshow, to a best-loved brand of over forty products that help enhance the natural beauty of her customers. For her, it isn’t about the money — success is measured in goals.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey everybody. It's Jodi Katz, your host of WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® Podcast. I'm so grateful that you tuned in today. This is the week, I don't know, forever of COVID quarantine, so I am recording over Zoom. This week's episode features Alicia Grande. She's the CEO and Founder of Grande Cosmetics. If you missed last week's episode, it featured Manon Crespi. She's the co-Founder and CEO of Manon de Sources. I hope you enjoy the shows.

Hey everybody. I am so excited to be joined by Alicia Grande. She is the CEO and founder of Grande Cosmetics. Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
Alicia GrandeThank you for having me, Jodi. I'm so excited to be here.
Jodi KatzIt's so nice to see you over Zoom. You look so beautiful in the hot pink.
Alicia GrandeOh, this is my color. Everyone knows me and fuchsia, pink. Today it's a little more hot pink. That's right.
Jodi KatzI have a signature lip color and it's the color of your dress.
Alicia GrandeOh, there you go. It pops.
Jodi KatzYeah, it really works.
Alicia GrandeYou got to stand out.
Jodi KatzI've tried to change it up through the years, but I just keep coming back to it.
Alicia GrandeIt works good with dark hair.
Jodi KatzYeah. Yeah. Well, you look beautiful.
Alicia GrandeThank you, you do too.
Jodi KatzWe are in, I don't know, week 10 or something of COVID and working from home, having the kids at home, my kids are not going back to school this school year, so tell me what's going on in the business. How have you guys been pulling through this time period?
Alicia GrandeCrazy. I mean, actually I'm embarrassed to say, because I know so many people are suffering with their businesses, but Grande Cosmetics has actually been on an increase of 35%, even with COVID. Due to the fact that we're really like do-it-yourself type of products, Grande Lash, as you know, is a lash enhancer, right? A lot of people who can't get false lashes are using that product and brow-enhancing serums, it's a great time to enhance your brows. Our e-comm has tripled. We're doing very well in Sephora.com and Ulta, it's crazy.

What I'm really happy to say is that we have been able to raise money for Feeding America through this whole pandemic. Right away, Jodi, when I found out that this was going on, I just said, "We're putting this together. We're going to raise money for Feeding America." My first goal was 100,000. Then it started just happening so fast. The sales were more than we expected and now we're reaching goal of $200,000. I'm so excited to give that donation. I mean, seeing the lines wrapping around the corner at food banks, even near me in White Plains, New York is heart-wrenching.
Jodi KatzThat's incredible. That money was raised through sales on your dot com?
Alicia GrandeYes, so we're doing a promotion, Beauty From the Heart and 15% off to the people, and then 15% off goes to Feeding America, which has over 300 food banks across the United States. We've been really fortunate and I'm just so happy that I could give back at this really horrible time.
Jodi KatzIt's so interesting. You've had so much growth during this time period, and I guess I just want to acknowledge for our listeners that you didn't just start this brand two years ago, right? This has taken time to get to this point.
Alicia GrandeOh my God. It absolutely did, so I started the company in 2008, 11 years ago with $25,000. I used to have a media buying agency called Grande Media, and I started my own radio show called The Health Buzz where I interviewed different doctors and scientists and nutritionists, skincare specialists on what's the latest trends, because that was my obsession, anti-aging as I'm 50 now. I wanted to stop the clock for myself. I was just really intrigued about what's the latest and greatest. I was able to actually find through the Jacob Javits Center while I was looking for people to interview because once a week, I'd have to interview people for a half an hour. I didn't want to just talk on the radio. I wanted to have something to really ... Somebody to talk to and something interesting.

I found a doctor and a scientist who created a product that actually enhanced your own natural lashes. At that time I was completely terrified to try it because nobody knew about lash enhancers, but they convinced me that they did testing on it, so I tried it. Funny story, my lashes, were really great when I was young. Then what happened was, is after I gave birth, they became puny. I always say like, "I lost things that I didn't want to lose and I gained things that I didn't want to gain." By the way, they're still there on my body like my legs and my arms. I'm like, "Can you please slim down?" But that's not happening, so I was able to get my lashes back. I started seeing them and around four to six weeks, I started seeing results. In three months, I looked like I had false lashes and I'll never forget you remember the show Lost?
Jodi KatzMm-hmm (affirmative). Sure.
Alicia GrandeYeah, so my husband and I are like bingers on TV clearly right now we're Netflix binging and all of that. We were watching Lost and he turns to me and he says, "Wow. Do you have lash extensions on?" I go-
Jodi KatzStop it. You're husband interrupted you while watching TV to ask you about your lashes?
Alicia GrandeYes, yes, and he notices nothing. He's the man who ... I mean, I have to tell him what to get me. Even Mother's Day I'm like, "Call my friend who has a little store and make sure you get me something there." I'd rather him pick it up. He noticed them. Then my friends were noticing. I remember I was at like this back in the day, Burlington warehouse. I don't even know if it's open, but my friend was there and she's telling me, she goes, "Do you have lash extensions on?"

I knew with the last name, Grande, I said, "This product. I need to make this product mine. I want all women to be able to reach their full lash potential like I did and feel beautiful." I negotiated a deal with them. I was very fortunate with that minimal investment of $25,000, which I know a lot of people can not start a business with that, but thank God I was allowed to, they saw something in me that they allowed me to start with a small run. I went and did my first trade show in New York, kind of where I met them, and I know I'm rambling on, but here's the story.

I did a trade show in 2008 when the whole financial crash had happened. Things were uncertain then as well. My husband was in finance, so we were a little nervous at that point. I did the spa show selling direct to spa owners. I brought my Vista Print roll up banners and some other women that they were like Grande Lash cheerleaders and we're just kind of like that booth that looks like it was just thrown up. There was some other booths in the show. It was a big giant show. I'm not going to name brands, but I was a little intimidated by them. I said, "One day I'm going to be as big as them or bigger." Every single person that stopped by and walked by, I was at the end of the show, probably the worst spot that you can have.

I got everyone. I said, "Hi, have you heard of Grande Lash?" They listened to me and they bought one, not more than one. I'm going to try it. I'm going to see if I like it. You know what, the phones started ringing, Jodi. The phones started ringing. I was doing my business in my fourth bedroom upstairs, then it went to the basement and yeah, yeah, just crazy. Crazy how it grew by being effective, having a product that actually ... When you say something that it's going to work, a lot of people are very skeptical and they don't believe it. When you actually give people a product that does what it says it's going to do, that's like an anomaly now, right, and-
Jodi KatzAlicia, are those the lashes that I'm seeing on you right now? Are those your real lashes?
Alicia GrandeOf course. You think I could wear fake lashes? I'm not allowed. I don't think I honestly ever wear fake eyelashes. Not that I have anything against them. I mean, there's definitely a moment for them and they're very glamorous, but I think a lot of women don't know that they could have their own lashes. Now lash enhancers are becoming more of a staple in your medicine cabinet,
Jodi KatzWhat's so interesting when I am getting my makeup done for events, of course the makeup artist always goes to put little inserts on me. I do have pretty long lashes, but they always want to make them bigger.
Alicia GrandeI love your brows, by the way.
Jodi KatzOh, thank you.
Alicia GrandeNice brows, yeah.
Jodi KatzFor the past couple of years, I've just been telling the makeup artists, I just want to be in my birth lashes. I don't want inserts. I don't want anything false. I just want what I was born with. I can imagine that some people just don't really feel like being bothered with having the false lashes or the application process or peeling them off.
Alicia GrandeI mean, yeah. I've always thought about that when, like imagine when you're getting married and they ask you to wear lash extension. Here you are on one of your biggest days of your life, and you want to feel like you don't have something attached to you where it's bothering you and then you're crying. Then next thing you know, like an extension could fall off. I mean, that could be like a complete travesty. I definitely really recommend to women who are getting married to try to use their own natural lashes. Now with COVID, I mean, I don't know, I think people are going to be a lot more minimalistic now. You're seeing this like do-it-yourself wellness at home movement, which it does scare me actually for the beauty industry. I mean, I'm fortunate that my products enhance your natural beauty, but when we talk about color cosmetics, like that's a whole 'nother genre that is it going to get back?

I don't know to what it was before this going out three, four nights in the week and feeling glamorous. I mean, Jodi, I have a whole closet in my house. I took one bedroom and I converted it to a closet. Now, I finally, today I put a shirt on and a necklace, but this is like never. I mean, I actually have jeans on not sweatpants. That's a big deal today. I don't even use the closet anymore. I think about how am I going to go back to that closet and these nice clothes that I have and be glamorous again? It's like-
Jodi KatzWe will all find a way, but I think what's interesting about your top performing products is they are a focus on the eyes, which is really like when we're walking around wearing face masks, which we will be for quite some time, it won't be our lips, right? My fuchsia lipstick won't matter, because you wouldn't be able to see it. It will really be our eyes that speak for us, right?
Alicia GrandeAbsolutely, so everything above the mask. We actually came up with a campaign #abovethemask and we're doing also a campaign to essential workers that we're sending them gifts to thank them for their work and hoping that they'll do #abovethemask. I didn't want to go too big on that because I'm a little afraid to insult the rest of the color cosmetics community and just ... Listen, I want to encourage wellness and that people are protecting themselves, but I don't want to be the biggest mask advocate out there because they are hard to wear and hard to breathe in. I'm hoping that we do get back to normal. I'm praying for that we get a cure for coronavirus and we could go back to normal. Wouldn't that be nice?
Jodi KatzRight. Well, in the short-term, our eyes are going to do a lot of talking for us. When we're on photo shoots, we're always talking about having the eyes smile, right. Sometimes it's not about a big mouth smile, but having your eyes smile. I think that people are going to rely ... Because if you're wearing a mask and you're smiling, you don't really see the smile. You see a little bit of a shift in the cheeks above the mask, but that's really it. Your eyes need to smile for you, right, and be ...
Alicia GrandeYes, that's a good ... I like that.
Jodi Katz... An extension of your personality in a way that they never have before. Especially in work circumstances, right? We're going to go back to work. Even if it's not normal, it will be still, we'll be together for a short amount of time, even if we're wearing masks, so how do we communicate with our eyes? It's very interesting that the focus on your brand is the eyes, because that's really where our focus is going to be for quite some time.
Alicia GrandeYeah, it's scary and hopefully changes soon. I know it will be quite some time. You're right. Maybe I'm trying to be in denial because I'm just wishing that it comes back and we could sit in our favorite restaurant and have a glass of wine with our friends. Collaborate in the office, but we'll see. I'm staying positive day-by-day. What else can you do, right?
Jodi KatzWell, I mean, my focus has been, even on a day where I'm feeling kind of meh, is I'm moving forward. Maybe I don't know what forward looks like or it's not what I want it to be, but the only thing I have control over are my ideas and putting them into action. I think it's really important to just move forward and either accepting the reality or fighting against it, but it's easier to accept it. The fighting really gets in my way.
Alicia GrandeYeah. I try to do wellness things every day. I walk my dogs. I try to take a hot bath. I do skincare routines for myself. I'm putting on masks. I was very excited, my friend saw me through Zoom and she thought I had Botox. I said, "No, this is because I'm actually taking care of myself." Although, I gained six pounds through this whole thing when I already had weight to lose, and then I gained six pounds because my mother-in-law lives next door and she cooks Italian food and it's like my comfort, I'm sitting there with my family eating food.
Jodi KatzWell, yesterday I was feeling really kind of angry at the situation. I've actually, I think I've been pretty composed this whole time. There's only been a few days where I'm really challenged. Yesterday I just felt like rebelling. I didn't even feed my kids lunch. I'm just like, forget it. They're nine as well, so they can fend for themselves, but it was just like-
Alicia GrandeThey kind of could.
Jodi KatzYeah, and I just felt like stomping my feet and having a little bit of a temper tantrum. Then I let that continue into dinner time and dessert where I was like, I'm just going to throw a temper tantrum and I'm going to act out and I'm going to act out on a chocolate cake and I'm going to act out on the bread with butter. I knew what I was doing. I just needed to have that little emotional temper tantrum.
Alicia GrandeYou're allowed.
Jodi KatzYeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Alicia GrandeWe're allowed, and it's interesting that you're talking about letting the kids sometimes fend for themselves. I actually think that's part of my success because just I'm going to dial it back. When I was eight years old, my parents got divorced. I don't really talk about this that much. I was one of the first kids on the block who my parents were divorced. It was really embarrassing. I lived in Rockland County, New York, which is a suburb it's like around a half an hour away from New York City. Then my father moved to Brooklyn with my grandmother. He became very frugal with me and he was paying child support. As I grew older, it was like anything I really wanted, I had to kind of fend for myself and I'll never forget this moment when I was, I might've been 13 or 14 I wanted a pair of sneakers and I really needed a new pair of sneakers.

My father's like, "Well, I give your mother child support money, so you could ask her." I mean, I'm not like ... I love my father. Don't get me wrong with this. This is a real story. It really got me to understand that if I needed something, I had to get it for myself. Even as young as 13, I started working. I was babysitting. Then I worked as a waitress. Then I worked in cosmetic sales, which actually inspired me to get very obsessed with cosmetics and skincare. At age 16, and I don't think many people could say this, is that I literally paid my mother $250 a month rent.
Jodi KatzOh my.
Alicia GrandeI know, and it's like, so where does it come from? Where does this desire and passion to really make it, and just have that grit? I think a lot of it comes from my upbringing also of being hungry. I don't know sometimes if you could manufacture that with people, because I think about my kids and I always say to my husband, "I'm really scared because now I'm successful and they're really not going to have to worry about paying for college and their first car and all these things."

That actually is somewhat terrifying to me because even though I used to feel bad that I didn't get things that other kids got and I had to fend for myself, I look back and I go, I think that's where a lot of my passion, hunger, and grit came from. I mean, the passion is a whole 'nother subject. I mean, a lot of us have passion, but a lot of people are afraid of risk. I think because I really didn't have anything that much, the risk of failure was not really something that I was scared of because I was never afraid to have nothing, because I had nothing. You know what I'm saying?
Jodi KatzRight, so you've told me stories about in the early stages of the business, being out on the road, packing your giant bags and carrying them around and staying in the cheapest hotel, that probably didn't feel like such a sacrifice to have to work that hard at that moment.
Alicia GrandeIt really didn't. Actually, I saw the positive because I would have to go to like 35, 40 shows that were targeting professional beauty hairdressers, estheticians and makeup artists. I was excited because I was able to support my family because my husband actually in 2008, lost his job in finance after 15 years. After I did my first trade show, I sold out, called him and said, "Hey, I sold out." He goes, "Yeah, putting my stuff in a box because they just fired me." I knew I had to support my family and he just wasn't even getting any offers. I was fine with being the breadwinner. It was really okay. I went out there, my kids were eight and five and my husband was able to kind of be more of the one who was the rock at home.

To get back to what I was saying is, yeah. I mean, I had to go to all those shows and I enjoyed it. I saw the positive part of going all around the country, seeing places that I hadn't seen, not thinking that, "Oh, I have these big bags that I could barely carry and I'm staying in a cheap hotel." I mean, it didn't matter to me. It was exciting that I was able to build the business and see it grow. I mean, even to this day that now like fast forward 11 years, a lot more successful. It's not the money, the tick tick money. It's the success of the growth is what really gets me because I mean, Jodi, I still live in my same house. I mean, it's like, I don't have a lot of things. I've never like lived above my means.

Actually, I live below my means right now. Hopefully I'll change that soon enough, but it's not the money that drives me. It's the goals, and seeing it grow is so cool. Having the team, the collaboration, the marketing, I mean, I'm obsessed with ideas. My head's like, [inaudible 00:23:37], it just doesn't stop. I love that. I mean, I can't stop that and I'm 50 years old now, and I just don't see retirement soon because it's fun.
Jodi KatzRight, so maybe you can help me because I'm having a point of my career the past like week or so, where it's feeling less fun. I know that I can unravel this and get back to the joy and that's what ... When I meditate and the instructor says like, "What do you want to be feeling today?" I say, "Joyful." That's really what I want out of my every day. It's not about the money. Although, I always seem to have better days when there's money in the bank, it's easier, right?
Alicia GrandeSure, yeah.
Jodi KatzRight now, I'm really struggling with my head space. I'm so obsessed with the future. Do I have to lay people off? What is this going to look like in two months? Will this client X, Y, Z? I'm really struggling with staying in today. I know that it's unhealthy and not helpful to focus on the future because I don't even know what the future ... Tomorrow everything could change, but I really want to get back into the present. Help me here. What can I do today to kind of screw my head back on?
Alicia GrandeRight, right. That's a good question. I mean, I don't want take it down that you're feeling that way because it's okay to feel these feelings. I mean, right now we're going through very uncertain times. I'm lucky that I'm in different situation because my products are ... People are wanting them at this time. My biggest thing, and it's funny because it comes from my mother. I mean, I love my mother. My mother has been inspirational to me, but I feel like she festers on things that she cannot change. I always say like, if there's something that I cannot change, I am not going to give the energy to that because it's wasteful of my energy and it's taking me into a negative space. Kind of like fighting that and just focusing on not that negative space, but how do I change it and do something to get me out of this, to put me in a better place? What can I do at this time to be proactive, to grow my business, to help people in the community, to do something, right?

If there's something that you can do that will put your head in a better space that's positive, I think that that's a good thing. Just like not to waste energy on something you can't control and that brings you down to fight it, just say no to it.
Jodi KatzYeah. I think I should just need to say no, like when those ideas pop into my head, I just say no, and just like push it away. Because I am doing all those other things. We just got new clients, this is amazing.
Alicia GrandeThat's great.
Jodi KatzI mean, how could I get new clients in this atmosphere? But we did it. The check is in the mail, the check's actually sitting right next to me. I know, amazing. I need to actually like talk back to these thoughts. I need to say like, "No, get away," right?
Alicia GrandeWe do need to say that, but it's not always, it's like easier said than done kind of thing. Yeah. I mean, there are times I'm not going to lie, I definitely get like, "Oh God, another day of COVID. Oh, my husband on the couch." I'm like, "We're just sitting here watching TV. Oh God." I mean, he asked me, he's like, "Is it Saturday night?" I'm like, "Yes it is," and I'm going up to my bed at 9:00 PM. He's like, "Why are you going to bed early?" I'm like, "Because there's nothing to do. The show is boring," and I could like, but what am I going to do? I mean, I know there's a light at the end of the tunnel with this. I think all Americans globally, it's just we all have to just say it is going to get better and not give into all this negative space because it's really easy to do that and say, "Why me?" It's why everyone.
Jodi KatzI want to talk about the flea market. I want to hear more about the flea market. Take us back in time to the flea market.
Alicia GrandeOkay. Rewind. Okay, so when I was 16 years old, I worked for a really cool guy named Mark. There was this big flea market in Rockland County where they would sell clothes and jewelry and miscellaneous stuff like at a great deal. You could kind of bargain with people. I was in charge of one of the three makeup booths that he had. Every Saturday and Sunday, Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, I would work at the flea market selling cosmetics and skincare and perfume to primarily women. That's where I realized that I had a major passion for beauty because I was able to really make someone's day and make them feel good about themselves and play with color, smell different perfumes. I really knew that this was meant for me.

I always loved that space. My mother actually was one who inspired me to be in the beauty industry because she was working with freelancing at different department stores and selling cosmetics. She was always my biggest critic looking at me, "Is your hair good? Have you gained weight?" I mean, even she saw me the other day and she's like, she calls me the next day, she goes, "You have gray hair." I said, she's like, "I know it's COVID and you can't go to your hairdresser, but you need to fix that."

I literally colored my own hair. I don't know, it looks a little dark right now, so that's kind of how I grew up. The flea market was something that catapulted me into this industry. From there, I knew that it was something that I was going to do. I've been in the beauty industry now for over 30 years, I just turned 50 in October of 2019. I'm enjoying what I'm doing. I mean, I'm [inaudible 00:30:48] right space.
Jodi KatzWhat kind of training did Mark give you when he sent you out at the booth?
Alicia GrandeRight. He showed me all of the private label cosmetics and how to ... Just a little bit about what the colors were about and if this person's this skin tone, you might recommend this type of palette. A lot of cosmetics is play. Listen, I never went to get a professional cosmetologist degree. I actually have my degree in business and marketing, but I love makeup. I mean, I go to those shows like CosmoProf in Italy, it was closed down this year because of COVID, but they had this big pavilion. I mean, it's like the Italian pavilion and you get to see all the newest and latest and greatest makeup trends. They show you, I mean, like I can't believe this is what I'm doing because it's fun. When you love what you do, it's fun. Then you can be successful at it. It's like my son, my son Jake, he's 19 years old. He will have nothing to do with beauty because all he does is talk about history and politics. I said, "Jake, you're going to be ... I don't care how much money you make, you don't ..."

He's going to go to school to be a lawyer, but I don't care. You don't have to be a lawyer. You could be a history teacher. You could be anything, but just do what makes you happy because it's not. I don't think it's all about the money. It's about what you're good at. If you're good at it, usually the money will come. I think for a lot of people, it's hard to really find what their passion is. I was lucky at a young age, I started working. I was able to develop a passion.
Jodi KatzI actually, in running my business, it's been 13 years of running my business. For so many years of it, I was like, "Well, I'm working so hard, but I'm not rolling in it. I'm working so hard, but where's the money? I'm working so hard, and lots of growth at moments along the way, but where was the money?" I was so fixated on this and I was in the food store and I ran into a friend, and this is only like two years ago. She's like, "Sow's your business?" I'm like, "I'm working so hard, but where's the money?" Then I'm like, "Wait a minute. If I really just cared about the money, I'd go get a full-time job at some big company." That's not what this is about. It's never been about the money.

I thought it was supposed to be about the money, but there were other places to go get the money. It was about having control over the way I live my life. Being able to have fun and feel joyful and not feel imprisoned in a job that didn't work for me or my family.
Alicia GrandeRight, like you're creating your own destiny really.
Jodi KatzRight. Right. I mean, I run this business. I get to decide where this business goes. I get to decide how hard I work. Obviously there is, if I work less hard, there's less outcome, but I get to decide that, and I don't have to follow other people's rules. All these things ever so challenging for me in employment and other companies. It was like in the aisle, I don't know we were in like the pasta aisle, and I realized like, "Oh my God, it's not about the money. If it was about the money, I would have gotten a different job a long time ago."
Alicia GrandeAbsolutely. I mean, actually I worked for a company, a big company, a radio infomercial company. They also did television infomercials where we sold vitamins and skincare basically. I was in White Plains and they were in Long Island. Then at first, they were in the beginning of Long Island, so it was maybe a 45-minute ride. Then they moved where it would be like an hour and a half ride every day. Actually, the company offered me points in the company and a great salary. I was just like, "Listen, there's no way that I'm going to raise a family and drive an hour and a half back and forth from work. It's just not who I am. I won't be happy." I said no, and I did my own business. I'm still friends, thank God with the owner, and he sold for a lot of money and I definitely could have made a nice chunk of change if I took those points.

In hindsight, I did the right thing because I followed my passion. If you need to wake up every day and be angry about where you're going and you're making a lot of money, well, what good is that? I don't really get that because your work, your career is it's a good 50-60% of your life. Probably for me and you, it's more 75, so you make decisions in life. If you decide by money, I don't think that that's really the thing. That's going to get you to the level of success that where you really feel great about it.
Jodi KatzWell Alicia, this has been such an incredible conversation, it's what I needed today. I'm feeling better already. You're like a ray of sunshine for me.
Alicia GrandeThank you.
Jodi KatzThank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us.
Alicia GrandeOh, you're welcome, Jodi. It was so amazing being here.
Jodi KatzFor our listeners. I hope you enjoyed this interview. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes and for updates about the show. Follow us on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® with Jodi Katz, tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

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