Estèe Lauder founded her company in 1946 with just four products and an unshakeable belief that every woman can be beautiful. The innovation and ambition that Estèe possessed has literally changed the face of the beauty business. With incredible perseverance and hard work she became the wealthiest self-made woman in America and created a family dynasty that continues today.
I didn’t get here by dreaming or thinking about it. I got here by doing it - Estèe Lauder
Born Josephine Esther Mentzer, Estèe Lauder was raised in Corona, Queens, by her immigrant parents. Always interested in beauty, she was mentored by her uncle, chemist John Schotz, and began her business by selling skin care products to beauty salons and hotels. To create a market for her product, she gave free demonstrations and makeovers on the street. She also began visiting the homes of her clients, where she would make up their friends and sell more cream.
Estee decided to sell her products only through upscale department stores. Her first target was Saks Fifth Avenue. She convinced Saks to place a large order for her skin creams which the store promptly sold out of within two days. Her success with Saks convinced Estèe that she could compete with such cosmetic giants as Revlon and Elizabeth Arden. She became a persuasive traveling salesperson dedicated to penetrating every fine department store in the United States.
Estèe’s ambition and dedication began to pay off in the early 1950s, as the Estèe Lauder line became a regular feature at prestigious stores, such as Neiman Marcus. She decided to use all of her advertising budget in making samples of her cream, to give away at charities, through the mail, or as gifts with purchase. The result was thousands of new customers.
The real turning point came in 1953 when Lauder introduced her first fragrance – Youth Dew. Youth Dew was a bath oil that doubled as a perfume and was an affordable luxury for most women. At that time, Youth Dew accounted for 80% of Estèe Lauder’s sales and had transformed the fledgling company into a multimillion-dollar business. The company continued to prosper throughout the 1980s and 90s, becoming the third-largest cosmetics company in America. By 1999, Estèe Lauder products accounted for nearly 50% of all retail beauty aids sold in America.
“How could I get American Women to buy her own perfume? I would not call it perfume. I will call it Youth Dew, a bath oil.” – Estèe Lauder
Lauder had two defining moments that made her stand out as a visionary business woman and a leader. In the early 1950s it was custom for a man to buy perfume for his wife, to wear on special occasions. Perfume was considered a luxury item, and always a gift.
Lauder did not think that women should have to wait until perfume was purchased for them. She created the famous Youth Dew and marketed it as bath oil, that could be doubled as a perfume. When she pitched the idea to the heads of Saks Fifth Avenue, they said they were not interested in selling her product.
Estèe could not take no for an answer and she believed passionately in her perfume. On her way out of the store she “accidentally” dropped the glass bottle on the floor, spilling the contents. Women immediately started coming over and asking what was that scent and if it was available for purchase. The store heads were impressed by all of the attention and immediately agreed to sell Youth Dew at the store.
Another innovative idea by Estèe Lauder was to offer a gift with purchase. As mentioned before, Lauder starting creating samples in order to expose more people to her product. Over the years this eventually developed into a formal event called “Gift With Purchase” held twice a year and has been adopted by almost every department store cosmetic line. A Gift With Purchase event will last about two weeks. A customer who purchases over a set amount at the counter, say $25.00, will receive a free gift. The gifts vary from season to season but will usually feature a bag, mascara, face cream, lipstick, eyeshadows, etc. The idea is to expose existing customers to new products, attain new customers, and ultimately boost sales.
No matter how she aged in years,she was still the youngest thinker in the room.-- Jeanette Wagner
One of the main reasons I chose Estèe Lauder as an effective leader is her personal ambition. She had huge dreams from the very beginning and never let anyone stand in the way of her goals. Even when she was faced with trials, Lauder stayed persistent. This is a great role model for any young business-person just starting out in the workforce.
Another reason Estèe Lauder was an effective leader was her creativity. She was constantly thinking of ways to expand her business. She never followed anyone as she had her own ideas and concepts. I admire that she wasn’t afraid to try out her ideas, even if they had never been done before or seemed impractical.
Estèe’s most contagious quality was probably her passion. She absolutely loved her products and what she did. People could see and feel that passion when they were around her and were drawn to her. She always wanted her employees to feel the same passion that she did about the company. This was most evident in the unique way she held her sales meetings. Instead of just crunching numbers and discussing new product lines, Estèe made her sales meetings an entire experience. She would fully decorate the conference room according to the latest trend or product. Drinks and refreshments were served throughout the meeting. Estèe would always give away tons of free products to her sales associates at these meetings, as she wanted her employees to use and experience the products. She felt this would make it more natural to sell to customers.
Lastly, Estèe Lauder is a leader to all women in the workforce. She was able to balance being a wife, mother of two, and a popular socialite; all while building her very own successful cosmetic empire. She came up with a list of fifteen “Lauderisms” that she learned over the years that helped her on her road to success. A few of my favorites are: When you’re angry never put it in writing, Keep an eye on the competition, Learn to say no, Be tough, Acknowledge your mistakes, Give credit where credit is due, and Hire the best people.
“I want to show as many women as I can reach not only how to be beautiful, but to stay beautiful.” – Estèe Lauder
Mrs. Lauder supported numerous charitable causes, including many civic and cultural programs, such as the restoration of the palace at Versailles. She was also directly involved in many of the projects of the Lauder Foundation, including the building of several playgrounds for children in New York City’s Central Park. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation was established by Evelyn Lauder, daughter-in-law of Estèe, and works very closely with the Lauder counters all over the world raising money for cancer research.
“I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.” – Estèe Lauder
Lauder started out and spent many of her years as a charismatic leader. She was very extroverted and popular and used those qualities to her advantage in order to grow her business. Estèe used her enthusiasm to inspire those in her company, as well as her contagious energy for drive.
As I said before, she passionately believed in herself and in her company. As her company grew and became global, Estèe really transitioned into the transformational leadership style. She went above and beyond to ensure her sales force was as inspired as she.
From the uniforms to the sales meetings, Mrs. Lauder put a lot of
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