Video Transcript

00:09 Essie Weingarten: Hi, Mary.

Q: Hi. How are you?

00:11 Weingarten: Great.

You said something so profound. You sold the company. How did that make you feel when it was time to take it to the next level? It was your baby and you sold it.

00:21 Weingarten: It was a bittersweet moment, okay? You don’t want to let go, but it was growing so fast and so crazy. I always say it was the runaway train. We were working three shifts. Was the timing perfect? You never know, but we knew that if we kept on - we were burning our people out. It was really crazy. You have to make a decision in your life when it’s time. And we thought the timing was right. With the help of my husband, because I would have never let go, and he said to me, you’re turning into your mother. Now just a backend story, and this is the truth, my mother is my mentor. My father died the week before my sixteenth birthday. And she had five children and my father had a business. And my father was an entrepreneur. And my mother stepped into the role and she still has the business. She’s eighty-eight years old. She’ll kill me for saying it. She works six days a week.

01:41 Weingarten: And when my husband sitting right there said to me, you’re turning into your mother, because she had the opportunity to sell her business many times and she didn’t, and she gave us all a wonderful living and a wonderful life. And when he said that I stopped. And I said, well maybe the time is right. And here is the biggest decision of my life, right? Letting go of my baby. So we called a person, a broker. And we say to him that we have this customer that wants to buy the business. And we have the business. And he’s like, impossible. Who calls and says I - because the business was not for sale. Most people would have an auction, put the business up for sale, profitable business, anyone will buy it.

02:44 Weingarten: And we had many people calling constantly that wanted to buy it. Investment bankers have a lot of money and all they want to do is invest in businesses. So we called him. And he recommended a lawyer who happened to live in our building. So I look up, because we pulled over to - we were on the highway going out to the Hamptons. And I said, well, then all the stars are aligned, right? And then I said, the following day or when we came back to the city, I have to go the cemetery and ask my father, right? And I pull up to the cemetery and there’s a big sign that says Norwood Park has been taken over by Carmel. I said, oh my God. The cemetery has been bought out. Of course it’s time. So that’s your….

Q: My name’s Shelby. I’m [inaudible].

03:43 Weingarten: Okay [inaudible].

Good name, good name. What is one of the biggest obstacles that you had to overcome, and learn and grow from that you think this audience could benefit from your experience through that?

03:58 Weingarten: The first obstacle was the biggest obstacle. I know you won’t believe it, girls. There wasn’t a bank that would give me money in 1981, not one bank. So the first bank I went to was Citibank. And they went, mm-hm, uh-huh, this is fine, mm-hm, mm-hm, very nice, lots of good luck. And, well, I don’t have to tell you--today, money, money is easy. They want the story. You have a story, you get the money. So that was the biggest obstacle that I had.

04:38 Weingarten: And then number two being a woman. It was like a business, ha, ha, ha. And then when I went to buy glass, the bottles, the guy said to me: you have to give me money up front. And I said, no problem. I saved money. I knew I was going into business. How much am I going to - okay. Here’s your money. So those were two. And then every obstacle just became an opportunity. All you have to do is just figure it out. I always used to say, I’m a bumper car. It hit the wall. You just turn around and take a different road. Never say never. Yes?

Q: Hi. One, I love the names.

05:32 Weingarten: Thank you.

It’s probably the best job in the world to pick the names for your polish. I’ll say that because I always pick my polish based on the name but, two, now that you’ve sold your company are you going to do something else? Or do you think you’re going to do something else? And what would that be?

5:49 Weingarten: Once an entrepreneur always an entrepreneur. And they say lightning doesn’t strike twice. Yeah, we’re going to do it in a different way, but I must tell you we still own the name Essie. And I would like to find one woman that doesn’t say Essie is not her best friend. So she trusts the brand, the color sensibility. We will do something with color. I don’t know what yet, but I promise I’ll let you know. We’re going to do it in a different way though. We probably will not have employees because that was my biggest obstacle because I think everyone wants to work as hard as I work. When I would see someone look like late afternoon look at their watch I would go, get rid of them. And it’s not going to work. It’s not going to work. If they’re looking at their - no way.   So the next time around it will probably be being a license, working with a licensee that does all the backend and we do the creative and the fun part. So that’s fun for us. I think you’re next?

Q: Hi, Essie.

07:11 Weingarten: Hi.

I have a question about ...

07:13 Weingarten: What’s your name?

Hi. I’m Joanna.

07:15 Weingarten: Hi, Joanna.

Hi. I wanted to know about your actual sales strategy when you started, because I’m assuming that once you had that great product it took a lot of selling and sales capability to bring it to market. So when you went to Las Vegas, were you just selling door-to-door to different beauty salons?

07:33 Weingarten: Absolutely. And in 1981 there were, tops, one hundred beauty salons. So first I went to every hotel, beauty salon or spa. And then I took the Yellow Pages and I just drove from the Strip, then all the way to Mohave. Today Mohave is like five minutes from the Strip, but in 1981 Mohave was like an hour from the Strip. So it was door-to-door. And I did door-to-door for the first six years. And my husband joined me and he said to me, number one, how many millions of bottles do you have on the street? Where’s your name? I said, oh, it’s on the bottom label, distributed by Essie Cosmetics. Teeny. He said, what are you, crazy? You have to put the name in the glass and behind their silk screen. I said, everyone is silk screening it. I don’t want to do that. We have to do it differently. So it was in the glass. It was there and yet it wasn’t there, so I let the color speak for itself.

08:37 Weingarten: And he said, you have to get distributors. Distributors? That means that I’m going to have to share some of this money? And he said, yeah, you go deeper. You get distributors. You go deeper. They have sales forces all over the country. And needless to say, he was right. So we made some major changes from going salon direct to distributors. Now, at that point you do lose some control. When the magazines would call and say, Essie, recommend a salon in Kansas City or in Paducah, it wasn’t where I could do that anymore. I would have to call a distributor and say, oh, who do you recommend? But before that I would know all the salons. I’d meet people and they’d say, oh I live in Detroit. And I’d say 48032? And they’d go, oh, how do you know?

09:32 Weingarten: I knew zip codes. I knew salons. I knew nail techs, but things change. And yeah you evolve, and you grow and you have to lose a little control, but it’s a growing thing and it’s a good thing. So yes we totally went from salon direct ourselves to distributors sharing the wealth and growing the brand. I saw another hand, yes.

Q: My name is Megan Russells. I’m from Chicago. Obviously you’re here to share your story and encourage other women entrepreneurs. So my question for you is have you mentored women in the past, and if so what has been your experience?

10:18 Weingarten: Yes. Of course I’ve mentored women. And the experience has been incredible because if a woman comes to me and has an idea, and I then help them to really think it out and move it forward, that to me is a winner. And we’ve seen it on co-branding that we had done. We worked with other women that had their own brand but then wanted to add nail polish, and we did it, private label, and helped them grow it. And then, at one point, they said oh they can do it themselves unless we would lower the price. Now we would never lower the price. And then they did it themselves. And guess what? It went bye-bye. And then you said, well I gave you my best shot and you could do it better yourself. Bye-bye. And sometimes you have to let go. Yes?

Q: Hi, Essie. Tameesha Desangles, You talked a little bit about going from entrepreneur into corporate arena. And there are many paths into entrepreneurship including some of us who are have corporate backgrounds and are now moving into this more hustle kind of fast moving pace of the career. I guess from my perspective I would love to get your opinion on what are some things as a corporate minded or corporately trained woman that you might want to be aware of and how you’re thinking has been shaped in order to make sure that you are moving at the pace or paying attention to the right things now that you’re an entrepreneur?

12:11 Weingarten: I was an entrepreneur first.


12:14 Weingarten: And then corporate.


12:16 Weingarten: Which is completely different. So you have to get out of the mode of meetings for everything. You have to - you notice and you have to stop analyzing unless you’re in a business that’s only finance. You can’t analyze colors because colors that sell today, I’m not going to sell next year. So that’s a lot of waste of energy and time if you’re in the fashion business. So it’s definitely different. You just have to press the gas when you believe in something and go. If you’re going to waste the whole day with meetings you’re never going to shift and move the needle.         

Good. Thank you.

13:05 Weingarten: You’re welcome.