Sunday, March 30, 2014

Professional Inspiration from Skin Authority CEO Celeste Hilling

Whether by force or by choice, stories of career reinvention intrigue me.  It takes balls moxie for someone to leave a career that is comfortable and stable in pursuit of something unknown yet fulfilling.  To emerge on the other side with a new and successful venture is an accomplishment both inspiring and worthy of sharing. 
Celeste Hilling and her daughter, Kiki
Fifty-five year old Celeste Hilling's career is one such story.  It is a lesson in perseverance, research, diligent work and checking your ego at the door. 

"You get a plan, you get a game plan and you put that plan out there," Celeste told me from her home base in San Diego.  "It's trial and error with a lot of roadblocks along the way."

The Backstory
Celeste made a career change in her 40's.  I joke that while most people are looking for the exit sign, she was starting an entirely new endeavor in a new industry.  She was the President of Compaq's Consumer Software Business Unit and the VP of Compaq's Consumer Division where she managed 42 countries and 14,000 people. Hilling left the high-tech world to work in the luxury spa industry where she was the President and CEO of the Day Spa Group for Steiner Leisure Ltd.  

While working in the spa industry, she saw a need in the market for skincare products rooted in science that offer real health benefits.  Skin Authority was born.  The thing that I like about Skin Authority is that it's not just about products.  The company believes that healthy, beautiful skin isn't solely the result of topical treatments (which certainly help...look what they did for my neck).  Skin Authority embraces a multi-pronged approach to beauty, understanding the importance of a quality diet and an overall healthy lifestyle as it relates to beauty.  That's something I appreciate.
Skin Authority Wrinkle Reversing Serum
Skin Authority Wrinkle Reversing Serum
Doing Homework
"When I resigned from Compaq, I didn't jump right into a business," she said.

"It was really about doing homework, going out and talking to people in the industry, everyone from Dr. Murad to Dr. Perricone, people who ran spas, asking 'If you were starting your business today what would you do differently?"

Her advice to someone who is considering a career change? 

"Really do that homework to educate yourself to determine where the real opportunity is," she suggests.

Check that Ego at the Door
Don't be afraid to learn where that opportunity lies, even if it might lead to awkward moments.

"It was tough because you go from doing something like being one of the first female officers of a high tech company to working the front desk of a 1,900 square foot spa in La Jolla," she admits. 

"I actually had an ex-Compaq employee who came in and looked at me like, 'Oh what a fall from grace!'  I thought 'No, I'm building a multimillion dollar company' but nobody looks at it that way," she notes.  

"At the end of the day, those are things you need to do to be successful.  You have to be willing to take a few steps back to educate yourself so that you can be effective and be a leader that understands where the marketplace is." 

Don't Fear Failure
As with any new venture or experience there will be failure.  I am learning this myself and it was nice to hear Celeste reinforce what I believe: failure is an opportunity but be smart about it. 

"When you're building a new model some things work and some things don't," Celeste says pragmatically. 

"When a part of the plan fails it doesn't mean that the plan isn't worth it.  I think you just have to have that fuel, that passion and that self-belief.  But also, you don't want to be ignorant when you fail.  You want to reevaluate." 

"Yes, I cried with my husband 'What did we do?' because you feel responsible for your money and your family." 

"You have so many dynamics that go into a successful business.  One is your people.  That's always a challenge in that you have amazing people but they rely on you to keep them pumped up and fired up as you're building a business.  That's energy you have to have to not only fuel yourself when you hit those bumps but fuel everyone following."  

And what about when that inevitable self-doubt creeps up? 

"You have to know your own voice," she says.  "If it hadn't been done before people will tell you it can't be done.  You just have to step out and be bold and make it happen."

The Takeaway
In this era of women seemingly hating other women in the workplace (trust me...I can tell you ALL about that), I believe it's important to celebrate success stories.  I hope you can glean some inspiration from her story like I did.

To learn about her beauty secrets, check out

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