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.
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.