The Story Exchange spoke to Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter, a skin care business that grew from Price’s love of fragrance. Cheered on by her mother, Price founded her company in 1993 first by sellling at flea markets. Eighteen years later, her products are carried by Macy’s, Sephora, Dillards and on The Home Shopping Network. She has 77 employees and revenues this year are expected to reach $40 million.
TSE: How did you come up with the idea for your company?
Lisa Price (LP): I started my business as a hobby. I have always loved fragrance and I am also a huge Prince fan. I read an article about him and it said that he kept a fragrance bar – a dresser with lots of different scents and he would mix them on his body. I thought this was cool and would be a good way for me to have a unique fragrance. This experimentation gave way to me finding and blending my own fragrance and essential oils and then creating ancillary products to go with them.
TSE: How did you go about developing your product?
LP: In the beginning, I addied my oils to unscented things I would buy at the drugstore and then I began to mix up butters in my kitchen. I did it as a hobby for a few years and in 1993 my mother encouraged me to sell at a flea market. I did and the rest, as they say, is history.
LP: When I first blended fragrances I did it on the streets of New York’s West Village. Back in the late 80’s, when my friends and I would go out to the Village on a Saturday. On the street, vendors would sell oils and I would custom blend a scent on the spot but it was impossible to recreate it, if I couldn’t find that same vendor again. Then, a friend told me about a place where I could buy them wholesale and I was like a kid in a candy store. It was so much fun to bring those oils back home and create exotic scents.
TSE: Who has been your greatest role model?
LP: My greatest role model is my Mom. My mom was diagnosed with poly-miocitis at age 22. It is a collagen-vascular illness, for which there was and still is no cure. My mother’s symptoms meant she didn’t have strong muscles. She actually couldn’t workout. The only exercise she could do, when she was in her 20’s and 30’s, was dance. The medications used to mange her illness had horrific side effects. Through it all my mom did not complain and when I reflect on my childhood I have no memories of her not doing everything my brother and I needed.
My mom taught me that the glass is always half full. She taught me that no matter what adversity you face you are blessed because God only gives you what you can handle. I had to learn these things for myself when she passed because she was no longer with me to remind me in a physical way, but the lesson has been learned.
TSE: What has been your greatest obstacle?
LP: Often in interviews I am asked what obstacles I have overcome and honestly, obstacles in business are always there. The bills, the lack of cash, the employee issues, how to get your product to market, etc.
What I have learned in my 18 plus years of being in business is that the only constant over which I have total control is me. How I react or “proact,” to make up a verb, is up to me. The obstacles will come and go and I need to flow around them and not let them take me to and fro.
That being said, it is a work in progress. There are days when I am able to hold that critical mirror up to myself and respond appropriately and days when I can’t always face it. But, eventually, I know that the only way to success is busting through my fears and insecurities.