Maria Hatzistefanis, 47
Founder and CEO of Rodial
After facing countless rejections from investors, Maria Hatzistefanis stormed the beauty industry in 1999 with her cosmetics line, Rodial, now worth over $100 millions. Utilizing a radical approach to marketing and cutting-edge ingredients previously unseen (i.e. “dragon’s blood” and snake venom), the Greek-born beauty famously collaborated with Kylie Jenner on one of the first “influencer” campaigns, which put her brand on the map. Since then, she’s launched millennial-focused sister brand Nip+Fab, had two kids and has authored a how-to bestseller. Talk about an underachiever!
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
I decided to start my own business with Rodial as I saw a gap in the beauty market for a seriously active, fast acting and hardworking brand that would provide solutions for specific skincare concerns.
Working in the beauty industry wasn’t always the plan, but I had complete belief in Rodial and I knew that I could make it work. My greatest achievement is really seeing all of my hard work come together and seeing Rodial become one of the biggest brands in the industry. We have now expanded into makeup which is such an achievement as the competition nowadays is fierce, but the range is continuing to grow and sell out all over the world which is amazing to watch.
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
When you start your own brand you will have people slam the door in your face because you are not a corporate machine. People told me that I would never get my products into the biggest department stores, or that sending them to celebrities would result in nothing. I think I can openly say that that kind of negative noise has been proven to be completely wrong! I explore this in my new book, How To Be An Overnight Success, chronicles how I started Rodial and all of the obstacles I encountered along the way, along with valuable advice on how to start your own brand.
"People told me that I would never get my products into the biggest department stores, or that sending them to celebrities would result in nothing."
3. What was the hardest part of overcoming this negativity? Do you have an anecdote you can share?
Being an independent brand not owned by a big beauty conglomerate and not having massive advertising budgets is always a challenge as the big retailers give priority, space and benefits to the corporates more easily than to a smaller brand.
I have to prove that my brands can make it happen and can achieve the sales, innovation and exciting launches. Harvey Nichols in London believed in Rodial and gave us the opportunity to launch a flagship counter. To date, we are consistently on the Top 5 best performing brands ahead of a lot of the well-known beauty brands out there.
4. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
First, I removed the negative energy. You need to surround yourself with people that believe in your quest, that believe in your goals as crazy as they may seem! You need to be around people that motivate you, not people that put you in a box and tell you to stay there. I think that for me, my journey has been all about willpower. When people say no to me I just won’t take it, I will strive to make it work whatever it takes.
"When people say no to me I just won’t take it, I will strive to make it work."
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
Believe in yourself, your ideas, your hopes and your dreams. It’s not meant to be easy; there is going to be something waiting for you at every corner to try and bring you down, along with negative people,and the dreaded ‘no’ that you are going to encounter. You have to persevere, drown out the noise and prove that you cannot be stopped!
Being stared at by strangers is something I have become very accustomed to. Not because I am a beautiful, ethereal being that catches everyone's attention (but I will take it if that's what you're thinking), but in the way that I am a Black woman, a Black person, and people tend to notice my presence. I don't think there is a Black person out there that can deny knowing what it's like to be stared at by a random person.