Lisa Price's story is well known. The founder of Carol's Daughter beauty products has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Tyra Banks and is a regular presence on HSN. Her business partners include entertainment giants like Jay-Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Last year, Carol's Daughter launched a fragrance, My Life, with R&B singer Mary J.Blige: It sold more than 60,000 bottles in less than six hours on HSN.
Starting with Lisa's original moisturizer, Carol's Daughter has grown into a full beauty line of over 300 products, which are sold in the company's nine retail stores, as well as Dillard's, Macy's and Sephora, among other premium retailers. Price has even written a book about her exploits: Success Never Smelled So Sweet and has been compared with Madam C.J. Walker, the first African-American millionaire entrepreneur.
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Lisa Price's heady accomplishments are a testament to her drive, determination and talent for giving customers what they want. Her incredible success also makes it easy to forget just how far she -- and thecompany -- have come.
Carol's Daughter began with a $100 investment and the humblest of roots. "It was definitely a hobby at first," Lisa recalls. "I was just experimenting in the kitchen like you would with a food recipe. I was really trying to find the ultimate moisturizer." Always fascinated by fragrances, Lisa Price began tinkering in her kitchen. With no formal business training and a few years of college, she relied on her instincts and did her homework. She read the ingredients on skin care products before experimenting with her own concoctions. "I was making things for friends and family," Price recalls. "I would make my own Christmas gift fragrances."
On the recommendation of her mother, Lisa took her lotions to a flea market at a local church. "That was the first time I realized I could actually make money for what I love," she recalls. This was back in 1993 when few beauty products were made with all-natural ingredients andfewer still were made with African-American women in mind. The combination of all-natural ingredients and the targeting of a large, underserved market proved to be a winning combination for Carol's Daughter. From the get-go, Lisa's mother Carol Frances Hutson was a big inspiration and the one person who kept Lisa going during the business's early struggles. "She was my biggest cheerleader," Lisa recalls, "I could talk to her when I felt like I was screwing things up. She was the person I could vent to." Lisa says her mother, who suffered from polymyositis, was her biggest inspiration. Despite being in constant pain, Carol never complained.
Lisa began selling her products by mail-order and online before opening her first store in Brooklyn. She was worried she wouldn't be able to pay the rent…but the first day the store opened there was a line of people out the door waiting to come in and shop. Then the momentevery business dreams of came knocking at Lisa's door. Word spread that Oprah Winfrey was a fan of Carol's Daughter's peppermint foot cream and in the summer of 2002, Lisa Price appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Carol could not have been more proud of her daughter, who was on her way to becoming the successful entrepreneur she always knew she would be. But less than ayear after Lisa's Oprah Show debut, Carol Hutson died from a sudden heart attack, while Lisa was away on vacation with her husband and two small children. "I spent my life knowing my mother had an illness so I always felt prepared that I would be ready. A heart attack never occurred to me," Lisa says." Even more determined to carry the Carol's Daughter name along — Lisa Price poured all her energy into making sure Carol would not be disappointed.
Carol's Daughter was still very much a family-owned business and cash flow was an issue. "We were working and doing the best that we could but we basically made money, spent money on the company. It was that feeling of if something really bad happens can we survive it?" Lisa knew that she had done everything she could with the business and that it was the right time to bring in an investor. She became business partners with record executive Steve Stoute in 2004. Stoute pulled together a celebrity investment team which consisted of Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Jay-Z. DJ Jazzy Jeff, Will Smith's former sidekick and longtime friend, had actually introduced Jada Pinkett Smith to Carol's Daughter products in the late 90's and had been using them ever since.
Having a celebrity investment team then opened the door to conversations with major retailers. 2006 was the brand's introduction to Mary J. Blige who came on board as a spokesbeauty along with Jada Pinkett Smith. In 2008 in a breakthrough moment for Carol's Daughter, Mary J. Blige, Jada Pinkett Smith and Lisa appeared on the "The Tyra Banks Show." Lisa says "it was such an amazing experience and an amazing thing for the brand that just changed the trajectory of it."
Carol's Daughter continued to expand and become more prominent in the media, but Lisa Price would find herself in another difficult position. As the founder of a beauty brand company, Lisa had her own battle with obesity. Media attention exposed the irony of selling beauty products to women so they could feel and look better, while Lisa did not always feel good about herself — especially when standing next to flawless celebrities. As with every other roadblock in her life, Lisa was determined to overcome it by living a healthier life and lost more than 100 pounds.
The future couldn't be brighter. Carol's Daughter has grown from one store in Brooklyn to nine stores across America. In May, Lisa will be traveling to London to launch Carol's Daughter at Harrods. "If I didn't live through it I don't know that I would believe this story," Lisa reflects. "I never got a chance to ask my mother Carol what made her ask me to sell my products at the flea market." Given the success of Carol's Daughter today — it would be safe to say, Mother knows best.
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Video produced by Scott Fraser and Jessica Ashford. Production by Josh Kesner, Charles Debold, Gary Millus and Ramon Carty. Edited by Gabe Tanenhaus. Graphics by Todd Tanner For Yahoo! Studios. Executive Producers: Russ Torres and Peter Gorenstein.