Episode 17: Tara Tersigni, COO of Beauty Evolution

Meet Tara Tersigni. COO of Beauty Evolution. Learn about her career BBB (before Bobbi Brown) and how she is helping one of the world’s most notable makeup artists forge a new path.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty, hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHello everyone. Today we are joined by Tara Tersigni. She's the COO of Beauty Evolution. Welcome to where Brains Meet Beauty Tara.
Tara TersigniHi Jody, thanks for having me.
Jodi KatzI'm so excited to have you here. Our listeners are curious about the clear paths and journeys of execs in the beauty industry. And ... Our listeners want the real, authentic, honest story. They're craving real, and not fake that they can get in other places. And you certainly have such an interesting story to tell.
Tara TersigniYeah, I mean I don't even ... It's funny, I don't even think of myself as a beauty exec but I guess I am. I guess I've turned into one over the past few years.
Jodi KatzWell that's what happens right? These things are an evolution, which is also the name of your company. Can you tell us what it means to be COO of Beauty Evolution?
Tara TersigniYeah. For me it means ... it means a little bit of everything. You know COO is one of those titles that's hotly talked about right now in the moment. And I was just reading a Harvard Business Review article on the title because apparently because there's ... they've narrowed it down to seven different quote on quote "types" of COOs. And the type that I associate with, really is bringing to life and then executing the vision of the CEO, who obviously is Bobby Brown at my company. So, for me that means working very closely with the whole team, but mainly helping Bobby bring to life anything she wants to do.

So for me, luckily with my background as a TV producer, and then working in the beauty industry for the past five years, and through publishing, and retial with her, it spans the course of being on the eyewear shoots and helping her, you know, produce those, put them together, execute them, deliver the assets, to going with her out on the press tour for the new book launch. To also then, being in the strategy sessions for are Beauty Evolution, which is going ... which is a lifestyle and content company and how we're going to move that company forward, grow it, and let it breath air. So really, anything and everything, just throw it at me.
Jodi KatzSo, can you give us a little background on Bobby, because all of our listeners might not really understand Bobby Brown the woman versus Bobby Brown the brand. Right can you just give us a little background there?
Tara TersigniOf course yeah. I'm very lucky to be familiar with Bobby Brown the person who I met just about five years ago after I move back to New York from LA at the Bottom of Bloomies 59th Street where she was in the middle of doing a personal appearance and was the only time she could squeeze in to interview me to potentially work for her as her executive assistant. And ever since those five years, I started with Bobby when she was with Bobby Brown Cosmetics, the company she founded and grew for the past twenty-five years into a ... I think they were almost a billion dollar brand when she left in October of 2016.

And, we had always been working together outside of the company, at Yahoo Beauty, on her eyewear license, on her publishing deals. So I've always worked with Bobby first and foremost as the person and not the cosmetics mogul which is not really a role many people have had other than me, and it's kind of the best I think.
Jodi KatzIt's so interesting because ... You know there's a lot of young people right ... You know I guess are Gen. Z listeners might even of known there was a woman, right? Because they are just hearing brand name all the time, right? And now that she is not part of the company they might have not even known the history. But you know your Linkedin says everything Bobby, and it really does seem like it is, everything Bobby.
Tara TersigniYes, everything Bobby. And just to say I didn't know that Bobby Brown was a real woman until I was having lunch with her neighbor in Montclair, who was my colleague at CBS who said, "Oh Bobby Brown's looking for someone, you should meet her." And I was like, "Wha? Bobby Brown's a person? I've been buying that lip gloss since I was 14." I was like mind blown. But yeah, and a lot of people don't know that she's now not with the brand because she's so successfully is and was the DNA of that brand that ... You know we meet people all the time and they're like, "Oh we love your foundation." She's like "Yeah, I made it but I'm not anymore." And they're shocked.
Jodi KatzYeah it's ... When we're so in the business right, we watch the movers and the shakers move on and do things and you know we're so tuned into where people are and what they're doing. But, the world outside of beauty, they don't pay attention to this. They absorb the marketing messages right, but don't think much more about it. It's really fascinating to see how different people understand the business in the way that we see it as insiders. Many people probably thought Bobby, if there was a person, that it was even a women.
Tara TersigniRight.
Jodi KatzRight. [crosstalk 00:05:53]
Tara TersigniWell you know sometimes [inaudible 00:05:54] are really upset. It's always funny if Bobby and I are out, you know on doing an event in a driver shows up, usually a male driver, to give us a ride and we walk to the car they're like, "Oh man, we thought it was the other Bobby Brown."
Jodi KatzOh.
Tara TersigniSorry to disappoint, no, no.
Jodi KatzThat's really funny. But you just mentioned something really interesting to me, which you were having lunch with a friend who mentioned that there was this job opportunity. And it made me just think of the power of connections. Can you just give us a little insight into what it was like to have someone connect the dots for you for this job opportunity five years ago?
Tara TersigniDefinitely, it was ... It's a great story I think for young people to hear just because I had to go a little bit outside of my comfort zone. Like I said that I had just moved back to New York from LA. I was very happily working in the entertainment business, and I figured when I got to New York, you know I would just continue looking for a job in the same industry. I had no desire to go outside of TV, film, and even when my friend Alexandra whose also Bobby's friend said, "You should meet Bobby Brown. I ran into her last night at her book party and she's looking for, not really an executive assistant, more of a chief of staff. You should just meet her, she's amazing." And you know I computed. I was like, "No, I'm not in to beauty, I don't really like makeup, you know, what could I possibly do for her."

And I had a lot of women come and say, Alexandra being the first one saying, "Please just trust me and go meet her." And, you know, my mom said the same thing and a couple of other former bosses, they were like, "Bobby Browns amazing. She's a pioneer and such an icon. What are you crazy?" And I was like, "Okay." So thank God for asking other peoples advice and getting good advice because I went to meet Bobby that day and we connect from the very moment we met. And in that room, in that moment, where she was sitting on a chair like Buddha, just being this, you know, omnipotent women sitting in the basement of Bloomingdales. She was like, Take the job. I swear to you, you will make this job whatever you want it to be, if you're entrepreneurial, you'll figure out a way to, you know, be managing my schedule, but also working on projects you're passionate about.
She was like, I promise I will let you do it if you can figure it out. And I got to be honest, she was so true to her word. Within about six months of working for her, you know, I had figured out her ... How to manage her day to day and all the different departments and then also get involve on the photo and video shoots and work on all the creative stuff that was really what I was interested in.
Jodi KatzSo, what do you think about that moment in time, allowed you to truly take the risk and not be held back by self doubt or like ... Even just playing the game about the TV and broadcast game right. Like to exit from that and tell your friends that you're leaving that business, what gave you the courage to do it?
Tara TersigniI think Bobby did. You know, I really just ... I really believed in her message and I really believed in her brand at the time. And, I had never worked for someone like her before. And it surprised me that I was so into it, especially not being a beauty lover or even interested or even a person that wears a lot of makeup. I think I realized that even five years ago, her mission was so much more than just ... Just the beauty brand itself. It was so much more than products. She really understood that the digital ... The digital world was already there, but not really as big in the beauty. You know the YouTube girls and the influencers, they were just starting to really pop, and Bobby saw that so I saw this opening in the digital realm and I knew that Bobby was interested in it, and she was ultimately going let me be her partner in crime and explore in that.

And shortly there after, her creative director at the time and I, we did launch a YouTube channel for the brand, and started really souping up Bobby's blog, and the Instagram, and all of those things that were ... We knew were going to be the new frontier.
Jodi KatzIt's so awesome that you were in a situation where you were ready to take risk, and that you had a boss who is willing to give you those chances. You know, I'm sure many of her [inaudible 00:11:05] had bosses that were inspiring, right, or really challenged their team when they wanted to try something new. So you know it's not an everyday affair that you get a situation where you have boss that's really giving you the chance to grow. It's really beautiful.
Tara TersigniYeah and I knew at the time, I was engaged and getting married, and did hope to have a family one day. And I also, just in the short time I had worked for Bobby, you know I saw, oh here's a woman, she's this badass business woman. She's also married, like long term marriage, successful marriage, and had three boys, and figured it all out, and I was like, that's who I want to learn from. That's who I want emulate because she's a person who has ... You know it wasn't easy but she kind of had her cake and ate it too. Having the family and the job. So I knew there was a lot to learn just from a life standpoint as well.
Jodi KatzIt's so interesting that you mentioned that because ten year ago, I started my own business because I didn't have any role models for that. I didn't ... there weren't a lot of people around me that were having their cake and eating it too, like having, you know, a really interesting career and had the ability to balance [inaudible 00:12:29] with a family at home. At least not the way that I wanted to do it. I didn't see it a lot so I'm like I guess I mine as well start my own business to make it happen. Like I didn't ... I wasn't seeing it around me. I didn't have role models for it so I sort of had to invent it myself. So it's so beautiful that you landed in this opportunity in that time in your life where you're ready to see that.
Tara TersigniYeah and that's why being and entrepreneur, being entrepreneurial however it looks for you, is so great for women, especially for working moms because that's the lifestyle that enables you to have a work/life balance.
Jodi KatzYes. I ... you know sometimes I think about running this business from like, this is really hard, should I just go get a job right? Like, go back and work for somebody else and I'm like, but I lose everything that's important to me if I went to go take a regular job. I get to decide what kid activities I'm apart of, I get to decide my schedule, I get to decide all of this with no interferences from anybody. And this has become what's most important to me versus oodles of money, versus fancy office space and all that, that's what's important. And through the past ten years I've met other people who are doing this and doing it well, that I've been able to learn from and I'm so grateful that I have this opportunity because I know a lot of people can't have this opportunity. You know, it's not open to everybody. And I'm so grateful for it.
Tara TersigniYes me too.
Jodi KatzWell, and now you have nine month old baby, so you get some practice at balance.
Tara TersigniYes [crosstalk 00:14:16].
Jodi KatzWhat has that been like? You know, the infant, brand new baby infant and super busy time for growing your brand with Bobby.
Tara TersigniYeah I mean again, it's just another one of these crazy stories where somehow through Bobby's mentorship and also the way that she sees and empowers women around her and teaches us, I had the baby two days before Bobby left Bobby Brown Cosmetics. And literally it was like, holy cow ... I didn't really know ... Can you swear on these podcasts because I don't [crosstalk 00:14:59].
Jodi KatzYou can do whatever you want. Sure. We can get like a little E explicit. They'll but a little E next to it on itunes [crosstalk 00:15:04].
Tara TersigniAlright. Yeah I want that, I want to be explicit. Okay so, I was like, holy shit, this is happening and Bobby wasted no time at wanting to get going on these new projects that we kind of already had in the works, but now we could really focus on full time. And conveniently, we were just about done finishing her latest book "Beauty From the Inside Out" and knowing that it would be launching in the coming months. So it was tough you know, she gave me my space, but at the same time I wanted to be with the new baby and I wanted to be with her. And I wanted to be working on this new company and all these transitions.

So, not gonna lie you know, it was not the easiest time, the past nine months, but I feel like because of all the support that not only she gave me, but I also have around me from other women, and also my husbands great. You know, we made it work and it's one of those probably a fluke story where you just ... It didn't feel ... I don't think it felt as hard as maybe it was looking back on it. You know you just kind of power through. You just power through.
Jodi KatzI had a similar situation when I had my second child. The day after I got from the hospital with her, Clinique called. And it was like major work. And I took it. And I didn't feel like ... I wasn't not going to take it. And I don't do anything alone, I have a team, so it's not like, you know, I have to toil by myself for projects, but you know, obviously it demanded some of my time. But it never, never for a second was I thinking I'm not taking it, like, we're doing this. But it was you know, looking back like, oh that's interesting that I felt like I could do it but [inaudible 00:17:12] she's a baby, she's just wanting to eat and sleep. This is actually a really good time to take it. And like you know, I had an incredible five run long business relationship with that team at Clinique. Like this is amazing.

But I guess because I have the freedom of being an entrepreneur in the other ways of my life, it didn't feel oppressive, right. The decision felt ... It felt good.
Tara TersigniWell its funny you've mentioned its kind of the good time when the babies are so little when all they do is sleep and eat. And yes you know if you're nursing, you need to be fairly close to them, but I realized during this time it's now that the ... My baby's nine months, I know your kids are a bit older, and she's so much more alert and a real person now. It's the days now that I miss hanging out with her. Back when we were just hanging out sleeping all day. You know, there wasn't a lot to do so ... I always think like, how cool would it be to have maternity leave now from you know [inaudible 00:18:19] One to two instead of zero to four or five months or whatever your maternity leave is. Yeah that's how I feel now looking back.
Jodi KatzYeah, there is ... There is great times ahead of you as well. And then there will be times where you're like, I don't need to pick up the kids from school every day because all they do is fight with each other so I'm okay not being there. Which is how I feel a lot of the times now. Like if I do take, you know the afternoon off, I pick them up from the school and I take them to gymnastics or whatever. All they're doing is like they can't keep their hands off of each other in the car, so I'll just find some other time to spend with them. Like when they're in better moods.

You know in off course, like I said, I get to make these decisions because I'm my own boss. Like, and I do feel for women who, you know, really struggle because they don't have choice over how they spend their time and having choice in that is ... You know, there is no choice. I realize every day how grateful and how good I have it because of what I built here. It's not that easy for many people. So let's switch gears a little bit. Let's talk about negotiating. It's not something I'm good at, but you and I started talking about it when we first spoke and it's not a topic we've discussed on the podcast, and it's not something I'm good at, so maybe I can learn a little bit.
And I brought it up because I have a friend who reached out to me recently cause she wanted a negotiate with her employer about her compensation. Something that she thought was more in line of what she's worth and what she can deliver to the company. And she was asking for my advice and I'm like, I've never been great at this. And by the way, I'm business development for my company and I have to do it every day and I'm not that great at it. What's your approach to negotiating when it comes to money and worth?
Tara TersigniWell I feel you. I definitely still think I learn every time through a negotiation ... Every time a negotiation comes up whether it's literally at the deli, or to do the next publishing deal or something like that. I ... Everything for me goes based on gut, just because I feel like a big part of negotiation is feeling the situation you're in and knowing ... And being able to read how hard or not hard to push at any given time. You have to know you're worth for me personally, it's the most hard to negotiate for myself. I don't know why. We talked about it a little bit. I'm such a better negotiator on behalf of someone else, or in talking to my younger cousins who are negotiating their first job, or you know, if my husbands going for something. And I just ... I feel like I'm this crazy good bulldog, and then when it comes to myself, I'm just like, oh well, I don't know. So much so much doubt and uncertainty. And that's something that I've been trying to work on.

You know luckily I don't have to negotiate for myself too often, because Bobby and I are working together for five years, but it does sometimes trickle in to the business conversations as well and I just need to remember that, a man would never think twice about asking for what they want, or what they think their client, or their business, or themselves are worth, and you just have to go for it. But with that said, my special take on it being like, yes you have to go for it, but you also have to ... You have read the room, you have to know who you're negotiating with, you have to be uber informed, and do your research, and get, you know ... Get competitive information. And the more you know about the negotiation you're going into it. Which I feel like is negotiating 101 that most people probably know, the better you sound when you're speaking to things. So that's kind of my take on it.
Jodi KatzRight. So I'm trying to think of distilling this down into like a more simple interaction. Not a my livelihood and my boss kind of situation. But like, I don't know, going over to the retail store and buying something right. I don't like a lot of anxiety around like how much does that bed cost right. Or you know, how much is X, Y, or Z cost. It's just this, you know ... There's a cost of goods and then do I want buy it. You know, I go to buy cheese, there's a price on it, and I don't really think to about, is that cheese priced right? You should it be lower, should it be higher, it's just the cost of american cheese right. And I know I'm simplifying it a little bit, but you know, I wish it was more simple for me. I wish it was like, you know, there's a ... In our agency we have a cost right.

Like we have team members, we assigned hourly rates for each team member, we've created these hourly rates based on overhead cost, and mark up, and blah blah blah. So it shouldn't be ... It shouldn't feel so hard, but it does. And I think a lot of it's driven by self doubt and, you know like this kind of people pleasing tendency that I'm still trying to unravel in my life. But I wish it just felt like more at ease, like buying cheese in the supermarket.
Tara TersigniYeah. Well because I think in that scenario, you somehow can ... You can rationalize okay, this is priced this way and you hopefully trust the store, the people, or whatever you're buying from, that it's priced fairly. So that you're not being taken advantage of, but you know, there is ... You trust them that they've priced it and you're not getting ripped off. So I think, you kind of have to bring that mentality into your own negotiations and say okay, I know that there's going to be a fair price or a fair worth for me, or for this job, or, you know, if you're a freelancer for XYZ gig.

And you just have to know what that fair price is and try to get as close to it as possible and know that people ... Everybody's trying to get the best deal. You're trying to get the best deal for yourself, and the employer is trying to get the best deal for them. So, if you walk in not ... Sometimes I think I'm a little too ... I don't know expecting other people to be as honest or as fair as I am, and I don't understand why it has to be this huge negotiation now a days. It's like, can't you just walk in to the room with the fair number that you think is great, and the other person, or people, or whatever, to just say, "You know what, yeah, that's a fair number." Great, done deal. It's just, it should be that easy, but it's never that easy anymore because people are trying to push the limits I feel like. One both sides.
Jodi KatzRight. You know that's interesting that you say that, coming into the room with like, you know, what everyone thinks is fair cause we ... When we're working with new clients, we always say to them, "What's your budget?" Like, there's a lot of ... There's so many different way we can do this. We can spend a year on it or we can can spend a week on it. Like you know, depending upon your budget and your needs, do you need a year of research or do you want us to just go with our gut? And most of the time with clients, no matter the whether they're emerging brands or you know, strategic, whatever, they're like, well we don't know we don't have a budget. And so you know, I can't leave the conversation without having some understanding of pricing right. Because that's going to determine what kind of services we can give you. So, what I've taught the team to do, which really does seem to help, and it helps the client feel better about their time. We don't want to waste their time, and it helps not waste our time.

Is this a $5,000 project? Is this a $10,000 project? Is it $20,000? Is it $50,000? Is it $100,000? Right. And then you can see on their face when you start to say a number that make sense to them, like then their face relaxes. And if they were all red in the cheeks, you know, if their complexion eases, and it gets them to a place where they can say out loud what they're comfortable with. Right, what does this feel like for them? And that's helped us so much. And I definitely didn't spend the past ten years doing that. I struggled. And I figured this out kind of recently. But it's really helped kind of even the playing field. Oh you have 20,000. Oh but you want this big elaborate shoot, well let's think of other ways we can accomplish something, right.
And that's sort of started to ease the conversation, move things forward, and stop wasting their time, right. Like why do they want to keep talking to us about something with some sort of celebrity endorser if they only have $20,000. Right, let's figure this out together. Have you ever done work that way?
Tara TersigniYes, definitely. I was just in a scenario where you know, some ... A client was asking for something that was just not at all within the reach of the budget that they had available. So, we kind of did it exactly as you just said and broke it down. Like okay, for the budget that you have, this is what you can get. For 5,000 more, if you can find it, then you can get this additional thing. Or if you want to actually not do X, Y, and Z, and save that money and then put it towards the next shoot, or some paid media, we can do this for that.

And so, I think that's great because that gives the client the power to decide what they want and how to best use their money. And it works great in that situation but the problem with this kind of tiered fees scenario is for the ... I think the more average person, especially outside of the beauty industry that just is, you know, working in a job. Whether it be their own company or at a corporation, it doesn't help you negotiate that personal aspect of it. You know [crosstalk 00:28:48].
Jodi KatzRight, like my yearly salary.
Tara TersigniYeah. Exactly. Or even your fee. It's funny, even let's say your fee for ... As the budget line in that shoot, and you know I feel like people sometimes don't react well to the realities of what your time costs.
Jodi KatzMm-hmm (affirmative).
Tara TersigniSo its ... You have to have a whole secondary, you know, rationale for why your fee is what it is. And you just have to be prepared for that and be honest and, you know, hopefully people will accept that.
Jodi KatzYeah you know for this friend who was asking me for advice it was for her annual salary, and you know, after she told me about the accomplishments she had in the business, I'm like, you know, I think you're worth more. So, I think you've already done the work in terms of like the data and the backup and all that stuff. Which is, like you said, is the beginning of a negotiation is to be informed. But, then my next thought was, well, you asked for what you think you deserve and what your contribution to the company, and if they say no then at least you know where you stand here. Right.
Tara TersigniYeah.
Jodi KatzIf they're not willing to meet you somewhere half way or closer to where you want to be, then you know. It doesn't mean you need to leave right away, it just means that, you know, you spend the next year networking, connecting, building relationships for, you know, somebody ... To get a job with somebody who really does value what you contribute. And I thought there's actually like, something really nice and calming about knowing where you stand. Right, if you don't have the conversation, you don't know where you stand. But if you have the conversation, even if you don't get that money, you know, you have sense of where you stand which means that long term, you gonna be more successful because you're going to seek out what you need.

It kind of calmed me. Like when thinking about it, like how nice to know where you stand. Right, cause that's half the battle.
Tara TersigniYeah, and it can either be, like you said, extremely motivating, or a little bit demotivating, but then at least you know, and you can set up a new goal. And by the way, everyone always says, the best way to negotiate ... You know, if you're just looking to either get a raise, some sort of salary increase, or a promotion within the company you're already in, is to have an offer from another company. So, it also doesn't hurt you to go out there, look around, see what's out there. Maybe you get an offer, maybe you take that offer to your boss and say, "Hey, these people are willing to do X, Y, and Z, so do you want to match it?"
Jodi KatzMm-hmm (affirmative).
Tara Tersigni[inaudible 00:31:28] A little bit ballsy, but ... I don't know, I've never had to do that, but other people that I know that have done that, it always works out for them. It's such a motivator for an employer to want to keep good talent, I think, is when feel like they're going to lose them. So it's a little bit of a game. You know it works.
Jodi KatzYeah, I know it would be nice if was not a game but, buying a house is a game, buying a car is a game, I guess why shouldn't this be a game as well.
Tara TersigniYeah.
Jodi KatzSo Tara, unfortunately we're out of time and this has been so incredible. It's been a pleasure to learn from you, Our listeners have really enjoyed your wisdom. Thanks for being apart of the show.
Tara TersigniThank you Jodi. Thanks so much for having me, and if you guys want to check out my Insta, or see more of Bobby and what we have going on, check here out @justbobbybrown and I'm @taratersigni. Thanks Jodi.
Jodi KatzThank you Tara.
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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