Twenty-four years ago, Lisa Price noticed there were no really good beauty products for natural hair and skin like hers that needed more TLC (tender loving conditioning). So, she started making her own in her kitchen, selling them at her church’s flea market, and ultimately turning her side hustle into a full-fledged company: Carol's Daughter.
It hit a nerve with women of color—including, ahem, Oprah Winfrey—who the mainstream beauty biz tends to overlook. Her self-care startup turned into a household brand (backed by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, BTW). And in 2014, Price achieved what few entrepreneurs ever do: She sold Carol's Daughter to one of the biggest companies in the world, L'Oreal.
Still, despite all of her success (including being part of an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum for African-American History and Culture), Price admits to still sometimes struggling with imposter syndrome. So how does she deal on days when she's not feeling like the total boss she clearly is?
Here, the Carol's Daughter founder shares how she found the confidence to start her business, deals with setbacks, and finds a work-life balance.
How did you find the confidence to take the plunge and start your own business?
When I made the decision to pursue it full-time [instead of as a side hustle to my office job], that was a little bit scary. But it was also logical. I was about to give birth to my first child, and when I did the math, I realized if I kept trying to work, I’d basically hand my paycheck to the babysitter and I wouldn’t ever see my baby.
What was scary was when we were pregnant with our second child, my husband lost his job suddenly. That was our medical insurance—paying out of pocket was almost as expensive as our mortgage. So [starting the business] wasn’t so much a leap of faith. We got pushed into it, and when we survived that period of time until he got another job, we realized that we were stronger than we thought.
Describe a moment you felt like quitting—and how did you power through?
When I started making products, natural beauty wasn’t the conversation that it is today. So there was a lot of explaining that I always had to do when I was selling things: what shea butter is, what herbal extracts are, what essential oils are, why this is this color. People were very used to lotions and things being a certain color. Shampoo had a certain viscosity. And if something looked different from that, they didn’t want to have anything to do with it. So I would wonder, "Am I working too hard? It should be easier." But I pushed through those moments. The universe blesses you with somebody telling you how amazing you are on a day you feel like crap, and you just keep pushing.
What’s your best tip for tackling email?
I tend to check it often because I don’t like it to get out of hand, but I don’t feel like I’m manic about it. On the weekends, I try to look at it less. If I’m on vacation and I’m supposed to be “unplugging,” then I designate time when I’m going to look at it, because I can’t not look at it.
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
I hate to say it, but it’s reach for the phone. I’m reaching for it because it’s the alarm. I’m trying to remember what I have on deck for today, what time I have to leave the house that morning. But I also try to have a moment of gratefulness. Instead of waking up and saying, “Oh, I feel so tired,” wake up and say, “I’m so happy I’m awake. I’m so happy to see a new day.”
People often ask, “How do you do it all?” But really! How do you make time to both lean into your business and exercise, practice self care, unplug?
We make excuses for why we don’t have time to do [things that are important to us]. We make other things more important than they have to be, and typically, more important than us. So if it’s important to you to exercise because it's going to relieve stress and you’re going to function better, than you have to put that first. But then we also have to be forgiving. We can’t be perfect.
One of the things that made exercise easier for me to do—and believe me, I’m not perfect at it in any way—was, my friend took me to SoulCycle. Walking in there and being able to tune everything else out for 45 minutes was just fantastic for me.
What’s your favorite thing on your desk?
One of my sons was in the office with me many years ago when he was little, and he used the label-maker to write, “My mommy is the boss” [and stuck it on a glass card-holder]. And the day that he did that, I did not feel like the boss at all. It was just one of those days when I felt like an idiot. I didn’t know that he had made this label and then I sat at my desk later, after he left, and it was right in front of my face: “My mommy is the boss.” It made me smile and it made me laugh. Now it’s that reminder of what I felt in that moment. Even when you’re confused, and you don’t know what you’re going, and you feel whatever you feel, if you’re the entrepreneur, you’re the boss.
What do you think makes a good leader?
Being able to find the balance between sitting at the head of the table and leading your team, while making them feel that you’re sitting beside them at the table and you’re all together in it.
Do you have any tips on how to network without it feeling fake?
I am terrible at it, especially in person. I have found that I have become a much better networker because of social media. When I’m in person and I have to introduce myself to people, depending on the room that I’m in and also how I’m feeling, I have to sometimes set goals for myself. Like, “You are not going to go home until you introduce yourself to three people that you don’t know.” But on social media, I’ve found that I’m much better at it, and I’ve become friends with some amazing people through it.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you were 20?
I know now that I can do a whole lot more than I ever thought possible. I always felt like my process of entrepreneurship wasn’t just the business side of things. In building something successful, I built a better Lisa. I built a person who could do more than she thought she could.
For more #bossbabe inspo, here's how 7 wellness pros supercharge their mornings. And here are 5 common thoughts that could be sabotaging your goals.
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