Episode 87: Lisa Price, Founder of Carol’s Daughter

In beauty, it’s always about what’s new, what’s next, what’s the latest brand to have. But only a few make it past the 5-year mark, and even fewer celebrate double-digit anniversaries. In this episode, Lisa Price, Founder of Carol’s Daughter, tells us how she kept her brand alive, relevant and privately owned for a solid 25 years before selling to L’Oréal. It’s a candid look at life before and after the big acquisition many dream of.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® hosted by Jodi Katz, Founder and Creative Director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzWelcome back, everybody. I am so happy to be sitting next to Lisa Price, she's the founder of Carol's Daughter. Thank you for joining me.
Lisa PriceThank you.
Jodi KatzSo let's start with an easy question. How will you be spending your day today?
Lisa PriceI will be spending my day at work after I leave here. I'm having an interview with our intern, who has been with us for 12 months, today is his last day, so he wants to chat with me about stuff, he's been a great guy. And then some other meetings at work. I'll be leaving work a little bit earlier than usual because I have an appointment with my daughter this afternoon, and I've got to get her to dance class.
Jodi KatzMm-hmm (affirmative). And I think a lot of our listeners would be surprised that you go to the office, right? After 25 years of this business and an acquisition by L'Oreal, I think it would be easy for people to assume that you actually don't have to work hard.
Lisa PriceRight.
Jodi KatzAre you there every day?
Lisa PriceI'm there pretty much every day. It's not every single day because I still travel for work, and I try to maintain as much of a work/life balance as I can. So sometimes that means working from home, or sometimes that means, "You know what? I really don't have to go there today and my job will still get done." So yeah, I kind of play it by ear, but for the most part, I go in.
Jodi KatzAnd around the time of the acquisition, was that a concern for you? Having your entrepreneurial experience now put in the center of a giant global organization?
Lisa PriceIt was a concern. I wasn't sure how I would adapt, and I also wasn't sure how much I would be allowed to remain myself, and there are times when there's a bit of a conflict, but then I just have to remind myself of who I am and stick to that because that's one of the reasons why they acquire brands like ours. They want you to maintain that entrepreneurial spirit and fight the system a little bit. Not fight it to the point where nothing works, but just kind of push it in that more nimble space wherever I can.
Jodi KatzRight. So in some ways, maybe you can teach this large global organization how to be more flexible, or to-
Lisa PriceTo some extent.
Jodi KatzOpen doors they're not used to.
Lisa PriceYeah. And then they teach me a lot about thinking before I do something. "But I love it. It's beautiful." "Well, let's look at it. Let's think." You know.
Jodi KatzRight. Like putting more time into the process before launching a product, right?
Lisa PriceYes.
Jodi KatzA lot of our listeners are entrepreneurs at all different levels. Some have had companies for many years, some have multiple companies, and some are just actually thinking of pivoting from where they are right now, and I would think that there's this kind of bridge of excitement and terror, right? Depending on what side of the bridge you're on, you could feel probably multiple feelings every day around this. Can you take us back to that time when you were approached by giant companies about acquisition? What were you feeling?
Lisa PriceWell actually, when we went through the process to be acquired, it was something that we entered into because the company had taken on equity partners in 2007, and their strategy was to exit within three to five years, but because of the recession, they became partners at the end of 2007, so then the recession hit. Because of that, everything was delayed a bit. So I wasn't so much nervous about companies coming to us, because I knew that I had to go to them to initiate the process, so it was more of going into the meetings with as much of an open mind as possible. But then you kind of have your favorites, you know? You meet all these different companies and you have your favorites, and then you just sort of hope that that is the one that in the end is still left standing, because at the end of the day, you have to go with the best offer, the synergy and everything. So what you want is not necessarily what you're going to get. Fortunately for me, I did get my favorite. So it all worked out.
Jodi KatzIt's like entering an arranged marriage in some ways.
Lisa PriceVery much so. And you hope you like them. And you hope he doesn't leave the toothpaste cap off the toothpaste, you know?
Jodi KatzWell, I guess, like a marriage, there's no perfect, right? There is just the best we do every day.
Lisa PriceMm-hmm (affirmative).
Jodi KatzAnd I'm assuming there's good days and bad days like everyone else.
Lisa PriceYes, absolutely.
Jodi KatzWith acquisitions, it's not all rainbows and sunshine.
Lisa PriceAbsolutely. Absolutely.
Jodi KatzWell let's talk about this theme that resonates in me when I listen to you and read about you, which is this idea of dreams coming true. You just sort of radiate this sense of glow, and faith, and comfort to me. Is that how you would describe yourself?
Lisa PriceI love that description of myself. I don't know if I would have used it for me, but I'm glad that's what I radiate. It's how I try to live, and sometimes it's easier than it is at other times. Because I've been doing this for 25 years, and I guess to some extent, I lived this way before I was an entrepreneur, but being an entrepreneur sort of forced it to be more to the forefront. I know that things will work out because they have. I know that I will come out on the other side even though something may be difficult in that moment.

And I do know that it's possible for dreams to come true. So it is easier for me to have faith now because I've watched so many things come to fruition and I've gone through a lot of times that were very difficult and I didn't think I would make it, or at least I didn't think I'd make it and still be able to smile. And I do still smile and I enjoy my life. So I'm grateful for the lessons that I've learned. When you go through those difficult times, you have this feeling of, "I don't like this. I don't want this. I don't want to do this." But then what you learn from it in the end is so valuable and so important because it reminds you how strong you really are.
Jodi KatzSo let's talk about life before being an entrepreneur because I'm an entrepreneur and I had a life before being an entrepreneur, and I think the traits that I didn't even realize I had boil up in an entrepreneurial experience. It is more than motherhood, it's really tested who I am, why I'm making these decisions, why is fear gripping me. I've chosen to evolve as a human thanks to the entrepreneurial experience, plus 11 years of therapy and two business coaches, it takes a village. But before this, I wasn't someone that had faith that things were going to work out. I experienced a ton of self-doubt. Who were you before this?
Lisa PriceBefore being an entrepreneur, I was ... I had a very good work ethic. I liked to work autonomously, I didn't like being micromanaged because I worked hard, and I didn't need someone to check on me all the time. I was not confrontational at all. I never wanted to tell someone that they did something incorrectly or that they upset me, and I would keep it bottled up, and then I would explode, which wasn't good.
Jodi KatzAt work you would explode?
Lisa PriceNo.
Jodi KatzOh, at home.
Lisa PriceYeah, at home. I never exploded at work because that ... I just ... no. I didn't understand, and it's so funny when I say it now because I know how to do it now, I didn't understand how to separate the two and how to have a conversation with someone, and I also thought that because I had the work ethic that I had and because I would never do things the way someone else did them that perhaps they didn't care or it wasn't important to them, and that's such a deeper issue than you just didn't get this done. So I was projecting. If I were them, these are the reasons why I would behave that way. But they're not me. It just wasn't that deep to them, or they didn't realize that it was a mistake. I just projected all of these other things instead of just saying, "Hey, can you explain to me why you did this this way? Because now it's going to take three times as long for us to get it done, and I'm just not clear." I didn't understand how to do that.
Jodi KatzSo-
Lisa PriceIt was like, "I have to confront them."
Jodi KatzAm I hearing that you felt like people weren't just doing something, they were doing it to you?
Lisa PriceNot that they were doing it to me, but that they were not doing it correctly because it wasn't important to them.
Jodi KatzOh, I see. Okay.
Lisa PriceAnd I didn't know how to ... that was just too much to confront, so I just avoided it.
Jodi KatzRight.
Lisa PriceBut being an entrepreneur, you're forced to learn how to do confrontations and how to have difficult discussions, and like you said, it may take some therapy and some girlfriend talks and all kinds of stuff, but you have to get there.
Jodi KatzSo let's walk through the process of confronting the situation, not necessarily the person, right? You're confronting the situation. What do you do to get yourself ready for it?
Lisa PriceWell, what I do now is a lot less complicated because the things that used to come into play with emotion and all of that, that doesn't happen the way that it used to. So do you want me to explain it now or when the emotions come into play?
Jodi KatzWell let's talk about both, because I think we can learn from where we were and the progress that you made.
Lisa PriceSo when I was emotional about it, and nervous, and unsure, I made notes. I would write down what I needed to say and what was most important, and then I would have a conversation with someone else to make sure I had removed the emotion from it. The other thing that I liked to do when I could was to preface the conversation with an email, but a very well thought out email, not an emotional email, not an angry email, just some things I'd like to go over with you today, and then sort of list what the things are so that the conversation is framed.

Today, I may communicate via email depending on the situation because sometimes you might have to speak to multiple people, and you may not be able to get all those people in the room together, so a preliminary email is a good idea. But there's always a first draft and a second draft because I always want to make sure that I'm clear and that I've taken my history out of it because sometimes, you're projecting something from the past onto a situation that's current, and then the people who were in the situation today weren't there before, so they don't understand what you're talking about. So when you go back and read it again, that's when you realize, "Oh, they don't know what this is. Let me take that out. This isn't necessary."

But there's a lot less butterflies. It's a much more calm conversation, and the fear of retaliation, if you will, has been removed. I don't fear someone getting angry with me and yelling at me. I don't like it if that happens, and honestly, that hasn't happened in a very, very long time, but that was something I was afraid of. I didn't know if I would be able to handle that. But because it's happened, and I lived through it, and I handled it, it doesn't scare me anymore.
Jodi KatzWhat was the process of unraveling the fear? Because that's essential, right? You wanted to remove the emotion, but the emotion is rooted in fear. And I find that that's ... I mean, every day, it gets unraveled a little and then there's a giant [inaudible 00:12:24] and it gets unraveled bigger. So how did you go through that process? Because someone who's in an emotional state might not even realize they're in such an emotional state, so what was the process of unraveling that fear and emotion?
Lisa PriceIt helps to have people around you that you can talk to so that you can talk through what occurred, and it's helpful when those people remind you that you're justified in feeling the way that you felt. Because that conversation did go in a negative direction, that person was rude, however, we still have the problem that has to be solved. So you kind of need that moment to understand why you're in pain, understand why you were afraid, accept that it is okay to feel that way, but now we still have to get to the next step. And I think when you give yourself permission to feel bad about what happened, it does make it easier to move past it and try to get to the next step.

And I think, also, sometimes as women, we want to be friends with everyone with whom we work. We want to get along, relationships are so important to us, and sometimes it's hard to separate the two. So we have expectations of another person that are far beyond a business relationship, and when you accept that as well. There will be people that you will be in business with who will become your friend. That will happen. But when they're really your friend, it's a lot easier to separate the two worlds and to know, "Right now, I'm your friend, but in an hour from now, I'm going to be your boss." But then there are people that you're just not going to have that relationship with, and it's okay. You can still work together and not be best friends, and when you accept that dynamic, I think you're less fearful of whatever rejection or retaliation may come from your confrontation, and your confrontation is a lot less awkward.
Jodi KatzRight. I love that you mentioned that. It's so helpful to me because right now, I'm actually going through the process of realizing that my clients aren't my friends. They can become my friends, like you said, but it's a business relationship, it's a transaction. They're buying our expertise, and we're selling it to them for money. It's very cut and dry. But I crave, I really crave relationships. I crave a deeper connection. And I'm working my way through accepting, like, I get that at home. I get that with my friends at home. And it may come, one in ten clients, but everyone else, it's work, it's business. But it's been hard because my expectation is that I should have these connections, which is dangerous, it's not healthy, it's not good when the complaints come. It makes those moments really complicated.
Lisa PriceI think that part of what makes us able to do what we do is also that part that craves the relationships. So perhaps we're able to be more authentic and connect with people, and people can relate to us because we open ourselves up and we let them in. So it's just a matter of balance. Understanding why you have that skill and that need, and now's the time to take it out, but now's the time to put it away. And I think that just comes with time, when learning when it works and when it doesn't work.
Jodi KatzRight. I mean, we do that with the end user, right? We want to be connected with her. In her bathroom with her, in her shower with her, right? This is what we do for a living. So it makes sense that both of us would feel this way because this is the end goal, that intimacy with the consumer.
Lisa PriceExactly.
Jodi KatzBut that, too, is a transaction, right? So it can't be something that we look for that kind of support from. I think that's kind of when it gets messy.
Lisa PriceIt does. And the other thing that I've told entrepreneurs is for them to remember what they felt like when they had a job, and how sometimes they would stare at the clock and, "Oh my God, it's only 3:15. When is it going to be five o'clock? I can't wait to get out of here." How sometimes their boss would say something and he or she would just aggravate them, just the fact that they were breathing was annoying, and remember those times, and then say to yourself, "You're that chick now."
Jodi KatzRight.
Lisa PriceThey can't stand you. They're looking at the clock. They want to get out, and it's okay because this is their job. It's your passion, but it's their job, and I think we come into it ... I know I did this, and you put the same expectation on them. "Aren't you passionate about this? Don't you understand how important this is?" "No, because that's your baby. Not mine. I'm babysitting. I'm just making sure she doesn't fall down and she doesn't turn on the stove, but I don't have to get her through high school." You know? "That's not my job."

So when you remember what it was like when you were at work and when you had a job, it makes it a lot easier to interact and understand the people who are working with you because they're not supposed to have that same passion that you do. They do have to care and it has to be important to them, but they're not going to be all in the way that you are, and that's fine.
Jodi KatzYeah, that is a very good lesson for everybody. Are there any employees still in the company that were there in the early days?
Lisa PriceYes.
Jodi KatzThat's amazing.
Lisa PriceYeah. Not as many as I'd like, but yes. But that happens, too. I believe that I attract people to me who come, and work, and learn, and give, and share, but then they take in what they need and they go fly. And I think because they see that and because we have an environment that fosters that, they don't feel limited, so there's no desire to stay and do the same thing. They want to branch out and do other things, and that's great, too. You miss people, but it's wonderful to watch people do what they dreamt about doing.
Jodi KatzRight. That must feel like a mom watching her kids go off in the world, right?
Lisa PriceYeah. And not like I had something to do with it. I don't want it to sound like, "They're here because they worked for me." Not at all. I just got the pleasure of watching it. Someone who had a passion for makeup for many years worked for me in PR and marketing. She's a celebrity makeup artist today, flies all over the place, and is just remarkable, and just took that leap of faith and was like, "I love it here, but I've got to do this. I've got to figure it out." And she's figuring it out-
Jodi KatzThat's awesome.
Lisa PriceVery well.
Jodi KatzWell that, I'm sure, gives you such a sense of pride.
Lisa PriceOh, absolutely. Absolutely.
Jodi KatzWell let's go back to this idea of dreams. And we can talk about the whole Oprah effect dream because I think that's a really cool story. Will you share for us way back when Oprah discovered the brand?
Lisa PriceWell there had been sort of the running joke of the office, because Oprah would be on-air every day, and every now and then you would hear about a new company or a product that you didn't hear about before, and than all of a sudden, that product can't be kept on the shelves. There was something from Origins that she loved, and then it sold, it sold, it sold, and I think the world found out about Jo Malone through Oprah. So I would always say, "Well, you know, when Oprah calls. When Carol's Daughter goes on Oprah, that's just going to be the be all and end all." And I had no idea how to get on Oprah, I didn't know anyone who worked there, but it doesn't hurt to say that. It wasn't as if I was planning financially that I was going to go on Oprah, I just said it to put it out in the universe.

And one day, I got a phone call. They had actually called my store, and my brother managed my store at the time, and he got the call. So he calls me and he's like, "Dude, this guy called from The Oprah Winfrey show. Do you want his number?" I'm like, "I'm sorry. What?" So I take down the phone number, I call the gentleman, and I went through a series of different phone calls with different producers. I started out with an associate producer, ended up with a producer, ended up with a senior producer, and I realized like third call that everyone was interviewing me because I was hearing the typing in the background and they were listening for the sound bites, because I worked in television production, so it clicked in after a while, and I got to do the show.

I found out later that the reason that I ended up on their radar was from someone that I had met two years before at a party who was interviewing for a job at Oprah, so I was always very grateful to that person and thankfully did get to meet her after that again to thank her that she mentioned my name during a lunch after her interview and the producers looked into me and call me, and that's how I ended up there. But it was an amazing thing to happen because for me, one, as an African American woman and an African American woman who is 56, Oprah was the first black woman that I saw on television every single day, and she was normal, and she was not a perfect size, and she wasn't fair, she wasn't the African American type that would have been on television. And she was having these open and honest conversations, and just the way she did her show and the way that she showed herself in what she did, you really connected to her.

So to me, she was this mentor in my head and this person that I was getting advice from. And to have manifested meeting her and being on her show was such an amazing experience, and it put me in the position where I remember waking up the day after I did the show and my clothes were still hanging outside my closet door, and I looked at my outfit and I said, "Yeah, it happened because I was wearing that, and I was in Chicago yesterday. It's really real." And then I thought, "Well, what am I going to dream now, because that dream came true." It actually came true. And it was an amazing experience, and that was the biggest gift I got from being on that show, was it forced me to dream bigger.
Jodi KatzI love that story for so many reasons. One is because just the simple notion that someone you meet today could impact your life a year from now, five years from now, you just don't know. All of these connections are so valuable. I think that's a very important lesson, to really enjoy the moments, not knowing where they're going to go.
Lisa PriceAbsolutely.
Jodi KatzThis other idea of dreaming big is so meaningful to me. There's a scene in Tangled, did you even see the movie Tangled?
Lisa PriceYes.
Jodi KatzWhen Flynn Rider and Rapunzel are sitting in the boat, and she's about to see the lanterns go off, which was her dream for so many years, and she gets nervous. And he says, "What's wrong?" And she says, "Well, if this dream comes true, what do I do next?" And he says, "You think of a bigger dream." And I get goosebumps from this because this is what we get to do in our lives. We have the opportunity to keep dreaming big, and I love the story for so many reasons, and that's one of them. Thank you for sharing that.
Lisa PriceThank you.
Jodi KatzSo let's turn the tables a little bit more and talk about this idea of faith. You're very reassuring to me as I go through my own entrepreneurial angst, right, that if I just have faith, I'll be fine, and I don't have to use my will against the universe's, but you've told me that there were times that were bad in the business. How did you deal with faith when these moments were really tough and what were those toughest moments?
Lisa PriceTough to ... the more tough things for me was dealing with the different personalities, and people, and the growing pains of the business, and trying to maintain my voice, and what is the vision for the brand, and is this person, or this person, or that person correct because they know more than I do? Because you have something that grew from a kitchen and being basically just me, my cousin, my husband, my brother to this large company with investors, and all these people, and these executives that had come from beauty backgrounds. So that wasn't a struggle for the business per se, business was good, but it was a struggle of feeling competent and feeling like I know what I'm doing, and it was hard. It took having people that I could talk to on the outside who would remind me who I was.

My brother and I had a very intense conversation one evening where he was explaining a story to me about my mom, I don't want to go into it because I know it would be too long, but it was something physically that my mother had to do which was difficult, because at the end of her life, she was using a walker and different things, and it involved her going up several flights of stairs on her hands and knees. So he's sharing this story with me, and I didn't know this story, I didn't know that this had happened, and he told me, he said, "I don't care how difficult it is. You're strong because that's who you come from."

So during different processes, I would rely on remembering that. There was a period of negotiation that was going on within the brand that was stressful and difficult, and I had certain songs that were very affirmational on my iPod. I played them all the time. It was a constant meditation, to the point where if I got stressed and I didn't have it with me, my brain would turn on and would start playing it in my head, and it really got me through. Those kinds of things are important.

Today, when I have to deal with different stresses, I can process things easier, things don't get me as hard as they used to, but I know that if I keep myself creative that it helps. I know how to slow down my breath because you notice, when you're anxious, you start, going, like, this, and, you're, not, really, breathing. And when you just stop and breathe, you don't necessarily solve it, everything doesn't go away, but you can think. If you can just take 60 seconds and slow down your breathing, you can begin to think. And I've learned how to accept that I can't solve it right now, but it'll work itself out. But the most important thing is I don't need my blood pressure raised, I don't need to be stressed out because all those things lead to bad things, they don't lead to anything good. So stop and breathe, do something to stay creative. Before we started talking, I was in the other room crocheting. I crochet, I knit, I cook, and it just doesn't get ahold of me like it used to.
Jodi KatzThank you for sharing that story. I will not forget that one. Well, my last question for you is, maybe it's a doozy, is there another career for you outside of beauty? Do you ever have daydreams of doing something completely different from this?
Lisa PriceIt's interesting you say that. I don't know that I have dreams outside of beauty, but I do have a dream of being able to work with women business owners and to help them because I feel like I was that person who didn't have the education, who didn't have the connections, who didn't have the money, I wasn't born with it, and I figured out a way. So that means that other people can, too, but they don't know that, and I want to be able to be that person or have a place where they can come and learn that and know that about themselves, but I love making products, so maybe somehow I'll always do beauty, but in my way, in my kitchen-like way, but yeah.

I was at a friend's birthday party this weekend, and it was in the backyard of a knitting place in Park Slope called String Things Studio, and I just want to own something again like that, I want to have a place. I don't have time. I don't know what I'm selling to pay the rent. These things are not figured out, but I feel this pull that I want to have a place and I want people to gather, but I don't know what we're doing yet. And it does have to pay for itself, so I need to figure that out.
Jodi KatzWell I look forward to hearing more about that. Thank you so much for your wisdom today-
Lisa PriceThank you.
Jodi KatzOur listeners are so grateful, as am I. And for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Lisa. 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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