I am a consumer. I am just like you. I struggled for years with skin issues and after countless visits to dermatologists and tons of money thrown into skincare products, I was left with minimal positive results. I realized I was just like millions of other women who had nowhere to turn. There were a lot of salespeople telling me; "This will REALLY work," and selling me a lot of products that, in the end, did nothing to help my severe acne and eczema.
It was then that I realized my results were in the ingredients of the products I was using vs. what was being marketed to me. While working on commercial and music video sets as a professional makeup artist, as well as for a top luxury brand, I enrolled in a post-graduate program at UCLA & received a certificate in Cosmetic Chemistry. From there, I learned the truth about what is truly best for the skin, and more importantly, what works and stays working. From this knowledge came SkinOwl, a skincare company that allowed women to feel as good as they looked.
It was from following this path I found that when I made the choice to care for myself on a small level, it opened the door to more impactful and authentic transformations.....and sacrifices. While most everyone I knew were in stable occupations and spending their hard earned money on vacations and certain "life upgrades," I was buying amber glass bottles and living the frugal life of the "self employed." I wasn't around for many of the birthday parties and couldn't attend my friend's weddings, due to the amount of work on my plate and money needing to be spent on the business. I quickly had to learn how to manage my money, my company's money and the many people who would eventually come to work with me. It was a different life than most everyone I knew, which at times felt lonely and out of touch with everyone else's reality. It was most certainly the less traveled path, the harder road, but worth it.
After five years of being an entrepreneur, despite the setbacks, the overdrawn accounts, and the countless lessons learned the hard way, I can honestly say I wouldn't have it any other way. Where there have been sacrifices, there have been gains - I've learned more about myself from growing a business than I would have if I had stayed an employee in my last job. I've met some of the most inspiring people, many of whom I never would have met if I wasn't in need of help and guidance along the way. I've learned the importance of saying no, creating boundaries and saving a little room for forgiving myself if I don't run my business "perfectly."
This is the greatest gift, one that has made me a more well rounded person and has given me a true appreciation for taking a risk and leaving a mark on your time on Earth.
From owning a business, I've realized that my personal life can often collide with my professional life. These are my "Top Five Tips" for igniting selfcare in a world that can easily feel chaotic:
1) Wake up the same time everyday - This creates consistency. From consistency, I am able to go to bed at a certain time and ensure that I'm ready to rock once my alarm goes off.
3) Say No - I've always thought NO was me being negative. Or me not being a team player. But that's only when "No" becomes about the people I'm saying no vs. how it effects me. Saying "No" has allowed me to take stock in my schedule and my bandwidth and see what is genuinely leftover for the people I love and want to share my life with. Without the power of "No," my world will be crowded, chaotic and exhausting.
4) Meditate - I used to hear this all of the time. "Meditate, Annie, it will change your life." I never listened until this year. And everyone was right. There is something about giving yourself 10-30 minutes of silence, mostly with how much information we receive daily. My brain shuts down. It's healthy to give my brain a real rest outside of sleep. It has changed my life.
5) Bring snacks everywhere - Gone are the days that I go 5 hours without eating. This made me tired, cranky, and not as sharp. Now I bring a little bag of snacks with me everywhere, i.e. nuts, dried fruit, dried snap peas, granola, etc. And I hard boil eggs, which makes it easy to grab something full of protein whenever I'm on the go.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.