Welcome to Sleek's Meet the Maker Series! Each month, we'll be spotlighting our favorite founders, creators, designers, artists and do-it-yourselfers. They are the movers and shakers of our world. They remind us that there is magic in all of us that's waiting to be unleashed...if we just take the time to activate it. Anything is truly possible if you just go for it. You may or may not know about them, but you'll get to know some of the most intimate details of their work. Get ready to be inspired!
In honor of sweethearts month, we're featuring Maxine, a powerhouse girlboss with one heck of the huge heart. She was the very first to make lighted vanity mirrors available to everyday women in their own homes, revolutionizing our idea of personal "vanity space". Take a moment to hear how she brought a brand spankin' new item to the beauty market at a time when there wasn't even a demand for it.
1. What inspired the creation of Vanity Girl Hollywood?
I’ve always been obsessed with beauty, pampering and all things vanity, even when I was a non-profit fundraiser. Whenever I was sad or angry, I would go do something to pamper myself - kind of like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde when she would get manis and pedis when upset. Anyway, I came up with the idea for Vanity Girl when I got laid off from my Development Director career American Cancer Society (along with 25% of the work force, it was a massive layoff) and I went to a day spa on Sunset Boulevard called Burke Williams. After my massage and facial, I was blow drying my hair in their lighted vanity room. That’s when the idea lightbulb literally went off for me. I wanted to get ready like this, seated at a proper Hollywood style vanity mirror. Nobody was making that in the consumer market yet so I went home and sketched it out on a napkin and took the idea to a Los Angeles manufacturer that I knew and a few months later, I launched Vanity Girl Hollywood on an eBay store and a blog. Two days later a woman named Crystal in Ohio bought my first vanity.
2.) You created a market for vanities at a time when there was none which makes you a true trailblazer. What advice would you give to young innovators looking to bring an ambitious idea to life?
First of all, thank you. It is easy for other people to “wait and see” if an idea has legs and then copy it and throw more money at it. It was really lovely when i was in the vanity market all by myself lol. So the advice I would give aspiring innovators is: 1) Make sure to trademark and/or patent what you can. The USPTO is a great resource to check trademarks, etc or you could always decide to hire an attorney. 2) Put things in writing with partners, manufacturers, distributors, etc. It’s all fun and games until there is real money on the table and all of a sudden greed can really change people. 3) Don’t listen to the naysayers. People thought I was crazy when I wanted to launch something that seemed so “shallow” at the time. I however, really believe in the power of beauty and confidence to change the world because when you feel good - you put your best self out there 4) Keep a journal or Vlog. One day you will want to share the story and it’s nice to have it recorded, especially if you come up with the next multi-million dollar idea. 5) Watch Shark Tank and take notes. It really is a great way to think about your business like an investor.
3.) How did your career in the nonprofit sector shape your brand’s mission and values?
My mission has always been that every woman deserves a “backstage moment” and what I mean by that is that self-care and a place to start your day feeling special and glamorous is not just a luxury, but a necessity. When we carve out this time, we are able to be the best version of ourselves and therefore contribute more fully to our families, dreams, communities and more. As for the values, we strive to embody teamwork, respect, community and giving back. That’s why working with SleekShop has meant so much to me and my team. We really feel that we share similar values and hope that all of our projects together reflect that, like the collaboration we did last year to support the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Orange County. That was really special and speaks to how much relationships mean to us. I still work with ACS because they were such a big part of my early career.
4.) Today, the industry that you started is teeming with similar, if not identical vanity products. How do you maintain your edge in this highly competitive market? What continues to make Vanity Girl Hollywood products unique?
OMG, it is is true. The first time I saw a competitor with very similar products to mine, it hurt on a visceral level. Like a stab in the heart. And oddly enough, now that there are more and more popping up all the time it has forced me to grow a thicker skin. I’ve been told by other female founders that our product has a heart, and I hope that being the original means means something to people. But at the end of the day it’s really important for us to just keep coming up with creative products and collaborations. I heard this podcast by Dan Harris featuring internet guru Gary Vaynerchuk about meditation and potential competition in that arena. He has a really interesting perspective on early adopters and the people that follow. Sometimes it only takes one phrase or sentence to shift your perspective and that did it for me.
5.) As a female founder and well-known girlboss in the beauty industry, you spend a lot of time supporting and empowering other women. What does it mean to be your own boss and what are some of the most valuable lessons you've learned?
Thank you -- empowering and supporting women is one of my personal core values. When I was still thinking about Vanity Girl back in 2008, I joined a women’s business organization called SmartyLA and that was really an important first step in nurturing my idea. Some of the women I met in that group over a decade ago are still part of my life. Being your own boss has its ups and its downs. It’s amazing to have a dream and see it come to life and then take on a life of it’s own. I can’t tell you the thrill I still get when I see someone’s vanity room and the amazing DMs I receive about how it makes them feel. I think the hard part is not having a road map or someone telling you exactly what to do. If you want to be your own boss then you definitely need to learn how to embrace uncertainty and push forward when the road isn’t clear. I think my most valuable lesson has been to stay resilient when things don't go your way and also how to ask for help when you don't know something. The best bosses know how to build a team of talented people who respect each other and hopefully, grow together in the same direction.
6.) You were recently chosen to become a coveted Trend Scout for the world’s leading beauty trade show and distributor, Cosmoprof. Tell us more of what that looked like and how it’s reshaped your role as founder of Vanity Girl Hollywood.
Yes, being a Trend Scout this year was an amazing experience. The sections given to me were emerging beauty and K-beauty which was a lot of fun. I’m wildly curious by nature and always want to try new things. With my friends, I’m the go-to girl for everything from where to get your lashes done before the HBO Emmy Party (Makeup Mandy on Melrose) to who to talk to if you want to do a brand infomercial on the streets of West Hollywood (the City has a film office). I also discovered some amazing #femalefounder brands like Starlet Satin, myo Cosmetics cases, BASECOAT and more. As we discussed earlier, supporting other women is such a big part of who we are as a brand and who I am as a person. I launched my company with a blog, and I’ve always had a presence on social media so I think Cosmoprof just gave me a new platform to do more of what I love which is basically to connect with others through my products and content. I’m so excited to be doing more of that with the SleekShop Family.
A Glamorous Galentine Giveaway for you and your bestie! Vanity Girl Hollywood just launched a few killer items that will kick your vanity game up a notch. Win a set of her new products (Travel Vanity, Vanity Kills Compact Mirror and Selfie Cap) -- $80 value AND a $75 gift card to SleekShop.com for your and your bestie!
To enter, make sure to do the following:
1.) Follow @sleekshopcom and @vanitygirlhollywood on Instagram
2.) Like this post on our Instagram page
3.) Tag your bestie in the comments section of the Instagram post and let the person know what is most beautiful about them.
4.) For a BONUS entry, share your thoughts with us in the comments box of this blog below. Be sure to include your Instagram handle so we know who you are.
Winners will be announced on Saturday, February 17th.
Sending luck and love to you and your bestie...