Anastasia Offers Lessons in Business - and Grit
February 1, 2023
Known by many as the Brow Queen, Anastasia Soare is a beauty industry icon and the Founder/CEO of Anastasia Beverly Hills, who’s fierce determination and entrepreneurial spirit, led her to create one of the most highly respected brands in beauty. Born in Romania, Soare immigrated to Los Angeles in 1989 and got a job in a beauty salon. She quickly noticed that women weren’t grooming their eyebrows, a common practice in her home country.

Determined to change the way women cared for their brows, Soare studied Leonardo da Vinci’s work with the golden ratio and developed a specific technique for shaping brows according to bone structure and natural brow shape. Anastasia Beverly Hills has developed a cult following, and Soare maintains a client list of iconic women, including: Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, and Oprah Winfrey.

On the occasion of Anastasia' 25th Anniversary, please find edited selections from our Masterclass Interview with the brow queen. In this article, you'll learn:

Anastasia's Growth Was Chronological.

I want to take like the chronological move. I used to work in a salon for a year and a half as an aesthetician. I saved $5,000. Remember, this was in 1990. $5,000, you could buy many other things than you could buy right now. So I rented this little room and I bought my machine for facials and everything. It cost me $5,000, including the first month rent. Then, from 92, when I rent that room, until 96, I saved every penny that I could. I cooked, I cleaned. I never went out to restaurants. I wanted to save every penny to open the salon in Beverly Hills. And I start doing that. I opened a salon in Beverly Hills with $60,000. There is no way you could open a salon anymore in Beverly Hills. But this is how it happened at that time. Because remember, I was an immigrant. I went to the bank to get even a credit card, and they didn't want to give me a credit card because I didn't have a history here. No credit history, and nobody wanted to give me a credit card, or not even a question to get a loan. So I had to save my own money. I couldn't go to anyone and say hey, do you want to invest in my business salon. At that time, there were not too many and there wasn't a business really. I had to save myself, and I saved $60,000, and I opened the salon in Beverly Hills in 1997.

I did that.

Meanwhile, in 94, I started doing this part time job. I used to buy, I bought my first house on Benedict Canyon, I will never forget. And I remodeled, I decorated, and I sold it, and the money I put in. I wanted to start the product line because I started doing eyebrows and I didn't have products to fill in to create that perfect shape. So of course, I had clients that over tweezed their eyebrows, they never tweezed their eyebrow. So I realized that I need some products. I used to mix some eyeshadow with aloe vera and Vaseline to create this format to fill in. But the client would go home, take a shower, and they didn't have the perfect product.

So I knew that in 97/98, I had to start a product line. So every two years, I will buy a house remodel. And those money, including working seven days a week, 16 hours a day, doing eyebrows and facials and housecalls, I save every penny and I started the makeup line, the product line. And my first 20 stores we launched the product, of course, in the salon in 2000 and in 20 Nordstroms. I realized that I didn't know that when you sell, you have to pay the makeup artist. So I didn't have the money to support that. And luckily we had a brow studios there because what happened in 2000, women didn't really believe that they need to use a powder on their eyebrows to fill them in. The concept wasn't existing. So I had to have the esthetician there, not only to shape their eyebrows, but to teach the clientele how to use the products.

I think education was very important and went hand in hand for our products because people were not familiar with eyebrow products. And I remember that we launched a lot more products for makeup too, and we didn't have the money to pay the makeup artist so we pulled back. Can we sell the makeup only in the salon? So from 90 to 2000, so 10 years of kind of learning my ways, doing mistakes, changing, and being really very resilient and try to find a way to get where I wanted to go. To be honest with you.

How Anastasia Competed With the Big Brands

We didn't have that much money for marketing to compete with the big brands that are the strategic brands. Estee Lauder, L'Oreal, and all the others. And my daughter that I was working with introduced me to Instagram, and we start placing video and doing pictures, just for an educational point of view, because we had amazing products, but not everybody knew about it. I used to travel every weekend around Nordstroms brow studios because we have 80 brow studios around the country. And on the weekends, when the salon was closed, I used to go and shape eyebrows and teach the client how to use the products. So social media, Instagram, was the perfect vehicle for us to use all those tutorials, to educate the customer on how to use our products.

This is how it started. Very organic, but was absolutely incredible because we used to send to some people that were in their closet or in their bedroom after they put their kids to bed, we send them products and we never told them what to do. They will use the products and they will talk about. And I see that every month because they were such a beauty lover, they became such better and better every month.

And I think by 2014, two years later, we created this community of makeup lovers. Everybody loved it. It was such a beautiful way of kind of connecting with the consumer and listening to the consumer. And remember, I used to do eyebrows until 2015 in the salon. And the reason why I was so in touch with the customers, not only shaping the eyebrows, but I use the product. I wanted to understand what the customer wants, what the customer needs, because at the end of the day, you cannot be in an office and create products, because you need to be in touch with your consumer.

In my opinion, and through my career, I work for my customers. She or he, they are my customers, they are the people that I work for. I strive and I try to bring the best products that they will be in love with, and create and innovate, which I think we take a lot of pride in innovation in products that they didn't even know that they needed, but they will fall in love with.

How Anastasia Continued to Grow

I remember when the first time the pandemic started, we started the zoom, thank God for the zoom. We, had probably every day meetings with the executive team because we needed to strategize. Every week, we'll start the strategy and the next week, we needed to change, because if you remember, it started in March 2020, and nobody ever thought that two years later we'll have to deal with this. So we'll create something, we'll make plans. We had a lot of products that we had to launch, and we had to postpone.

I have to say that you had to be resilient, alert, and every week prepared to change 360 or 180 degrees, whatever you did the week before.

I think being an immigrant living in Romania, living in Romania in a communist regime wasn't easy, because you had to fight to find food and electricity and all that. I grew up in an environment where everything is possible. You have to change and don't hang up in the past or I cannot do this. Let me find a way to succeed.

And remember, I came here as an immigrant and I had to find a way to get a credit card even if the bank didn't give me. To go to the manager and have a serious conversation and say, hey, give me at least $500, and I will prove you that I'm a citizen and I'm going to be a customer forever. And I'm still the same customer at Wells Fargo Bank today.

So the point was, during the pandemic, which was very difficult to do the business. You had to be strong. Even so it wasn't that easy. You had to be alert and ready to change your direction. And, of course, that was okay. I always knew that we had to get inventory, because it was very difficult. Remember, we have partners in Sephora, Ulta. We retail our products there. And they were in the same situation like us, they couldn't forecast because everything has to be manufacture a year, maybe more than a year, in advance. So you aren't in a pandemic in 2000, but you need to create products for 2021 or 2022.

So not only what products you are selling in the store in 2020, but what you are creating for a year or two years in advance. So everything was shipped. But I always believed that in my instinct, in my gut instinct, and we really prepared and we took risks. I believe that in this business, and in general, it's about how strong you are to take risks.

And I guess it was a calculated risk, but I took a lot of risks and they paid off. Of course, we are still dealing right now with the pandemic.

How Anastasia Adapted In the Past Few Years

We got a better WMS, a better system to count the inventory. Yes, they are investments that you have to make along the way. Because the bigger your company grows, the bigger problems you have. I remember when I started at the beginning, we used to keep the inventory on a piece of paper. Well, that is long gone, because there are too many products, too many SKUs. So again, the bigger you grow, the more problems you have, you have to scale up. And it's not easy.

The bigger the warehouse is, the bigger problems we have.

And at the end of the day, I think as a leader, and as a CEO or an owner, and doesn't matter how small or how big you are, I think you need to surround yourself with good people that know what they are doing. And because you rely on them, you cannot do everything. And it's not easy to find good people.

That's another story. But I think I've been so lucky to find and to work with people that are amazing. They love the brand. And having a strong team will lead you to success because as a leader, you can't do everything. You need to have people to help you to grow. And there are different levels of expansion, that again, you need a different type of professional to help you to scale from 10 million to 50 million or 100 million or more.

And it's a big problem with having people, like our offices are closed still to this day, we pay the rent. Nobody is there because people work from home during the pandemic, and it's not easy to find people. The labor shortage is terrible, and this pandemic shook all of us. It doesn't matter if you are in beauty or in any other business, I think everybody has the same problem. But I believe people, and especially young people that for now are comfortable working for home, they will change their mind. Because when I started in my business, I used to be around my boss, cleaning their desk and instruments just because I wanted to learn from them. I want to see how they talk with the customer, what they do, how they do it. And if you are home, there is no way you will learn, and you will not be able to grow. Because it's important to have your boss around you, or you should be around your boss and learn from it.

So I believe that people will go back to the office. I miss that energy where everybody's brainstorming, and everybody comes with ideas. I personally like to listen to everyone. I'm not the only one that has an opinion. And I like to listen to everyone, because I believe everyone is a consumer, and I want to hear their opinion. And then together, we'll take the best decision for Anastasia Beverly Hills. But we still have a little bit to deal with. But I think I see greatness and I see the sun is shining pretty soon.



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