Jillian Wright's career may be long and winding, but it has only ever been dedicated to serving the people a unique and special spa experience.
Starting her first spa in 1999, there wasn't much competition by way of luxury spa treatments in midtown New York. She set up shop on 57th and Madison, in the back of a doctor's office.
“They just said here - have our recovery room. We believe in you," Wright recalls, “so I hit the pavement and started promoting myself. Back then, there wasn't a lot of competition - social media wasn't around."
In order to create a cult following and to get people talking, Wright called The Daily Candy in for a facial. Three weeks later and following an article on how wonderful their treatment was, Wright booked 100 facials in 24 hours. She hasn't stopped since.
Off the back of her spa success, 11 years later she decided to expand her entrepreneurial endeavours. And in 2010, there came the time to launch her very own skincare brand.
“I knew what my clients wanted and liked," she thought, and utilized this knowledge in her efforts to create a luxury line tailored to mimic those years of success in the spa.
But the landscape had changed. She admits to having believed people would come because of her name and the brand she had already built. But the competition was vast - the marketing more intricate, and the industry in beauty brand overload. There were so many more players in the skincare game to contend with.
“I was humbled," she laments - “I thought based on my reputation and years in the industry that if I built it they would come." In the new industry she was now trying to navigate, she uncovered the vast expanse of Indie beauty. What was Indie? Where did they fit - and where could Wright showcase the line along with similarly minded, small batch, luxury brands?
Having searched tirelessly, she found nothing suitable. There was no place for 'Jillian Wright Skincare' to call home. She desperately wanted to do a trade show. However, she comments “I didn't find one where I felt I fit in.“
“Why don't we have a platform?" she asked, “why don't we have somewhere to go?" And with that was her next business opportunity. If there was no trade show for her Indie brand to go - she would make a destination.
“Out of frustration," she said, “I'm going to start my own expo."
She had found over 400 brands after only a few days' worth of research and could not explain why there was no trade show in existence for these brands to showcase their full potential to the wider world.
“This is where I belong," she thought. She had found her calling, and it was marrying beauty and business - making a ton of connections along the way.
A client of five years at that stage, Nader Naeymi-Rad was the first person Wright would go to with her idea. This was back at the beginning of 2015, when her idea was a mere fledgling, with no financial backing or plan. He simply said - “why not?" and therein, the Indie Beauty Expo(IBE) was born, with Naeymi-Rad beside her as co-founder. The first show for a curated list of brands chosen by Wright herself, debuted August of 2015.
There's so much to be excited about," she comments as she looks back on what has now been four beauty expos, between Los Angeles and New York, each getting better and broader as they go. The database she compiled that originally contained 400 brands now contains 4000 and will not likely slow down in growth.
The expos aren't simply brand displays, however. Wright wanted to build a show that would teach, sell, network and become profitable for participants. Every brand would be working toward one goal - to sell - but by involving themselves in the show they would also become involved in panels and seminars about the industry and navigating the dense market that accompanies it. Bobbi Brown, having just relinquished ties with her namesake brand, spoke at the last expo alongside a panel of industry vets.
When asked about her favorite brands, there were simply too many to feature. Success stories however are uniquely incredible and Wright brimmed with stories from post-show expansion and brick-and-mortar brand pick-up.
Take Linda Treska for example; Founder & CEO of Pinch of Colour, who arrived at IBELA for the first time with just two products in hand.They were hand-made samples of their first Waterless color cosmetics line. Meeting with vendors, buyers, bloggers and press while there meant they would ultimately be under much pressure to produce more goods, and a sellable product, before the next expo in New York. During the months in between, they worked tirelessly to present a more professional and well-rounded approach to the line, and after IBENY, they are now selling at INUF Skincare in Hong Kong, Francesca's Collection, and Anthropologie.
Of IBE, Treska says, “it's the best show out there." And indeed Wright has become the go-to person for luxury indie brands looking to break into the wider market. Given this, she is currently setting her sites further afield for the next expos, and has people working in Europe to decide on a venue for her debut there. Her first show In Dallas will take place in three weeks also - her latest expansion in the U.S, on May 9-11. As long as there are Indie beauty brands, this lady looks to be the one that will lead the industry. Props to Wright for noticing the gap in the billion dollar market.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.