Lifestyle 28 May 2017
At the age when children are making lumpy castles in kindergarten sandboxes, perfumer Lisa Hoffman was busy dissecting a bottle of her grandmother’s Chanel No. 5. This was prompted both by her love of the scent, and by a perfume-making kit that her uncle had gifted her at the tender age of six. After being handed the kit, she snuck off to the bathroom to do her best at recreating the classic scent of No. 5.
This memory, she tells SWAAY, has stuck with her throughout the years and into adulthood. But it wasn’t until all six of her children had officially left the nest that she finally set out to pursue that career in perfume-making, which involved obtaining a perfume education in Grasse, France, under the guidance of some of the world’s most venerated perfumers. In 2007, she launched Lisa Hoffman Beauty, where, a decade later, you can still find her exquisite, regionally-inspired perfumes.
Over the next 12 months, the awards started rolling in. Women’s Wear Daily named Hoffman “Newcomer of the Year,” Redbook listed the company as one of “Beauty’s Top 40 of 2008,” and she was the recipient of Allure’s highly-coveted “Best of Beauty” awards in both 2008 and 2009.
The line further catapulted to fame when Hoffman came up with the genius idea to combine her fine perfumes with a line of “fragrance jewelry.”
Hoffman’s Fragrance Jewelry Invention
“It certainly was a ‘light bulb over the head moment,’” she tells us. “When working as a perfumer, I spent a lot of time testing my creations on myself and I usually have to kiss a lot of frogs before I find my prince. After a long day of fragrance testing, I wanted to go to a Pilates class, and was frustrated that I would be walking in covered with perfume. I thought, ‘If only there was a way I could put on and take off my perfume, as I did my jewelry, without letting it wear off or washing it off in between.’”
At the time, she was incidentally wearing a pair of Victorian earrings that her husband had given her. In the Victorian era, it was considered taboo to flash your precious jewels, so they were often hidden in metal, charm-like cages. That was the case with Hoffman’s earrings, and that’s when the lightbulb went off.
“What if the treasure inside the jewelry was a fragrance instead of a gem? That way, I could put on my perfume and take it off as I wanted,” she said. “I worked for close to a year to perfect the eco-friendly wood fragrance beads and filigree fragrance charm designs you see in my collections.”
Today, Lisa Hoffman Beauty carries the award-winning scents in liquid EDP form, as well as the “fragrance bead” form that fit inside her precious metal earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. The scents are noticeable, but mild, and truly do allow you to take your perfume on and off. The perfumed jewelry also hit a chord with women who love fragrances, but have sensitive, reactive skin.
Balancing Work and Life
Like many women, Hoffman is what she refers to as a “professional juggler.” Each day she hits the ground running to maintain business momentum, fit in family and friends, and carve out enough personal time for herself.
“As passion fuels me with the energy it takes to be a business owner, love is what fuels me to nurture my family and relationships,” she says. “When something matters, you find a way to make it work as best as you can. I often wish I could create more hours in a day and more days in the week, but even if I could, there would never be enough moments with my grandchildren or the time to execute every idea.”
She says she has great admiration for female leaders that demonstrate the ability to be groundbreaking while not deviating from their core sense of self, and it’s what she personally strives for every day.
Since Hoffman’s complete collection launched on her website in 2011, distribution has expanded to international territories, and she told SWAAY there are plans to open in at least four additional markets this year.
“Right now, I’m focusing on gaining fresh insights gathered from afar to inspire more innovation, both in my company and in the fragrance industry as a whole,” says Hoffman. “A discovery experienced on the journey often reveals itself as the answer to a challenge, a philosophy I’m keeping as the heart of my leadership and company values.”
Additionally, she says that Lisa Hoffman Beauty has many exciting projects in the pipeline, including moving into new markets, and that the next year will bestow exciting milestones and moments for the brand. We can’t wait to smell what comes next.
3 Min Read
"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.