The path to entrepreneurship is not easy. We’re taught early on in our childhood that dreams can come true. If we work hard, we will succeed. Sometimes the odds can be stacked against us without understanding the risks in starting a business from the bottom up. If we’re lucky or blessed, we can survive without our credit not being shot to acquire a small business loan or the helping hand of relatives who believe in our talents.
Lisa Price was a production coordinator in the television industry living in New York. What started out as a unique hobby creating homemade facial and body products in her kitchen soon became a side hustle, growing in demand out of her home in Bedford Stuyvesant. Carol’s Daughter, gradually became the unique ‘go to’ beauty brand, bringing an organic and natural brand of products whose initial target started with an African American base growing beyond its core group.
“I started blending fragrances and making lotions and creams on my stove as a hobby for years in the 1980’s. I would just make things and give them to friends and family as gifts. In 1993, my mom said, ‘Why don’t you sell this at the church flea market?’. That was the beginning of me making things and selling it,” Price said.
She continued to maintain her job in television production and credits it for her discipline and hard work in transitioning full time for her own company. “When you work in TV production, you have to have a very autonomous work ethic because you usually aren’t micromanaged. Many times, your staff isn’t large enough for you to have a supervisor. You don’t get hired again unless you work really well which includes working long hours, weekends as well as holidays. So it was a good training ground when I became an entrepreneur,” Price explains.
“For a number of years I worked out of my kitchen. At first, I worked by myself and later I had employees that worked with me. Soon, we moved from my kitchen at home to a warehouse in Brooklyn and then on to outsource to manufacturers,” Price said. “We were operating two shifts in order to keep up with the demand we had back in 2005.”
She set up shop through a network of churches, flea markets and beauty industry expos creating a grassroots buzz. The mom of three didn’t realize her brand of products had this kind of impact until she was contacted by a loyal customer overseas. “I mostly communicated with this customer via email and she was stationed in Africa with the Peace Corps. She wrote me that her father was coming to visit her and she wanted to send him to pick up her order to bring back with him, instead of shipping it,” she said. “Bed Sty was not the gentrified place that it is today and her dad was white. He rode the train from Manhattan to Brooklyn, walked 17 blocks to my house to pick up the order for his daughter. At the time, white people did not walk around Bedford Stuyvesant back then.”
Following in the tradition of African American entrepreneurs who have built empires in the hair and beauty product industry, Price has acquired a celebrity fan base including Mary J. Blige. Noted investors have also included Will and Jada Smith and Jay Z with the branding direction of music executive Steve Stoute.
Carol’s Daughter was the leading Black-owned company taking over key real estate inside of the Macy’s retail department stores, having premiere shelf space at specialty stores, HSN and accumulating a large online customer base. With aggressive growth in a competitive market, also comes ‘growing pains’ and the company filed for bankruptcy in early 2014. To financially re-structure the business Carol’s Daughter Stores L.L.C. filed for Chapter 11, closing five retail stores. Since last September, the company’s net sales generated a reported $27 million.
In a move that was necessary and strategic to continue the brand that Price built and nurtured for the last two decades, she struck a deal with L’Oreal USA to acquire Carol’s Daughter in October 2014. This is part of the business process that companies must face when dealing with the change and climate of the economy from Soft Sheen to Johnson products, Pro Line and now Carol’s Daughter.
The change has put Price in a different space but she continues to operate out of her New York headquarters leading the brand and growing L’Oreal’s multi-cultural consumer segment. Her schedule is non-stop and balancing her work life and business career is a ‘work in progress’.
Price reflects, “I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life for the past few months. I lost my dad and my uncle who was very close to me so it’s been challenging.”
Recently, she was honored with a special lifetime achievement award by the creators of Beauty Bash in Chicago along with Sam Fine and Bernard Bronner. The honor meant a great deal because of her connection and working relationship with the producers Fred Miller and make up artist Triphena Johnson.
As the brand continues to grow in its distribution with Walgreens expanding later this year, Carol’s Daughter will be launching a new campaign in August. To Price, it’s been a great learning curve building her company but one that she doesn’t regret, knowing what she knows now.