How Jillian Wright Bridged The Gap In A Billion Dollar Market


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.

Jillian Wright

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.

3 Min Read

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.