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How Women-Led Businesses Forged Global Success

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Fairchild StudioAlibaba Group

For brands and retailers around the world, 2020 was a year marked by disruption. But despite the global pandemic, three extraordinary women-led businesses proved that growth was still possible. Throughout the last year, Shelley Callaghan and Susanne Pruitt of Antica Farmacista, Coral Chung of SENREVE and Amanda Baldwin of Supergoop! partnered with Alibaba to keep pushing their companies forward, successfully launching in China and connecting with new global consumers.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we speak with these inspiring leaders to understand how they were able to navigate through last year’s challenges and are leading their companies not only to survive but thrive.

Shelley Callaghan and Susanne Pruitt
Cofounders of Antica Farmacista

Fairchild Studio: Antica Farmacista was born out of a shared vision by two best friends. What inspired you to start Antica Farmacista? 

Shelley Callaghan: We have a mantra with our business, which is “with every obstacle comes a new opportunity.” That’s truly where our partnership began. After Susanne’s breast cancer diagnosis, we had an awakening for what’s essential in life: family, friendship and the celebration of simple but heightened moments. We happened to both be at a crossroads with our careers when we were introduced to the concept of the reed diffuser and it changed our lives. At the time, environmental scent was a stale market with a limited focus mainly on candles. Ultimately, we found the reed diffuser to be so innovative as to redefine the experience. It was beautiful and effective. We knew that we had something special and tangible to offer to enhance all the ordinary moments. Then we wanted to take it a step further and create new products that could elevate the senses.

I had always nurtured an obsession with scent and felt that environmental fragrance is such a vital component of creating an atmosphere. Home scents are incredibly transportive and can inspire newfound delight in familiar spaces.  We see fragrance as an extension of our personal style and environment.  We both loved fostering this connection with Antica Farmacista.

“We have a mantra with our business, which is ‘with every obstacle comes a new opportunity.’” — Shelley Callaghan, cofounder, Antica Farmacista

Antica Farmacista

Antica Farmacista

Looking back, I think we jumped into the business, taking it one day at a time and being incredibly scrappy.  Neither of us imagined we would expand into the categories we have. Our original mantra is still our north star, which certainly helped us get through 2020.

Fairchild Studio: 2020 was a difficult year for business owners around the world, how did you make the decision to keep pushing ahead and finding new global markets to grow in?

Susanne Pruitt: When the pandemic first hit, we were not exactly sure how it would impact us or for how long. Like many businesses, we decided to become careful and conservative and scaled back on production and expenses. During the pandemic, however, we began to realize that we had an opportunity to significantly grow our global footprint by offering products that enhance people’s lives at home. We also were able to pivot quickly into the hand sanitizer market with a quality, fragrant sanitizer that was not available in the market.

Our shift to the global market was swift and effective. Our U.S. business had been strong and steady since inception and our global reach had grown substantially over the past eight years. Our exposure in Asia with Lane Crawford had been significant from 2008-2015, so our brand was established in China, but we were searching for a partner to help us continue to promote our brand to Chinese consumers. Fortunately, in 2019 we connected with Alibaba and Tmall Global and established a partnership that allowed Antica Farmacista to “reconnect” with our Chinese customers. Our business in China has really taken off during 2020 and we are excited about our future as both prior and new customers have discovered our brand again in the Chinese market

Fairchild Studio: What words of advice do you have to other female entrepreneurs growing their companies?

S.C. & S.P.: Over the past 18 years, we’ve had countless friends and acquaintances ask us for business advice or mentorship. The first thing we always say is, “make sure you have a partner who has an area of expertise that doesn’t mimic your own but truly complements it.” It’s easy to get excited about starting a business with a person who thinks like you do or is creative the way you are. But two creatives or two strictly business-minded leaders make it hard to recognize blind spots or grow in new and innovative ways. It’s incredibly important to have another perspective at the table.

And for supremely practical advice: “be scrappy and check again.” We use this motto frequently because we’ve learned that it is easy to close a door when you feel like you’ve done everything you can. But ask yourself, have you? Has every stone been turned? We think some of our greatest achievements have occurred when we have been on the brink of giving up. Just get gritty and check again.

Coral Chung
Founder and CEO of SENREVE

Coral Chung, Founder and CEO of SENREVE

Coral Chung, Founder and CEO of SENREVE

Fairchild Studio: The meaning behind SENREVE is “sense” and “dream.” Has it always been a dream of yours to launch your own business?  

Coral Chung: Yes, I’ve always imagined that I would start a consumer brand someday. I grew up in a very entrepreneurial household and watched my parents go from being academics to building their various businesses. I also come from an entrepreneurial and artistic extended family—many of my aunts and uncles started successful businesses as well. SENREVE is all about dichotomies coexisting, and for me, it’s important to combine the “fantasy” of having big ambitious dreams with the “reality” of hard work, perseverance, and problem-solving in order to get a business off the ground and reach success.

Fairchild Studio: You’ve propelled the company to find new growth in the middle of a pandemic and today, nearly half of SENREVE’s business is from global markets. How were you able to accomplish this?

C.C.: I’ve always had a global mindset and a global vision for SENREVE because of my own cultural heritage and upbringing. It’s an authentic and core part of the brand versus something we did in reaction to the pandemic or other external factors. Navigating 2020 and the various macroeconomic challenges due to the pandemic was very difficult because one had to quickly realize that things were constantly shifting and many factors were outside of the company’s control. I think the main things we did well was really sticking to our core cultural values and remaining flexible, focused on innovation and creativity, and constantly pushed ourselves to test and iterate.

Senreve

SENREVE

Going global at an early stage of a company’s life is no small feat because it increases operational complexity, creates culture and team-building challenges, and requires localization and in some cases reinvention. You can’t just take a general “formula” and have a cookie-cutter strategy for every region.

Fairchild Studio: What words of advice do you have to other female entrepreneurs growing their companies?

C.C.: The entrepreneurial journey is the most exciting, fulfilling experience one can go through. But it’s also the hardest and most gut-wrenching at times. It’s really important to be open-minded about seeking various perspectives, but not take the advice of “experts” literally. It’s critical to follow your instincts, but also combine that with data and analytical rigor. Don’t ever give up in the face of rejection, especially when it comes to societal barriers like sexism, ageism, heightism—it’s a thing, most CEOs are over 6 feet tall—racism or any other structure that tries to predetermine female BIPOC founders and CEOs to fail or not start at all.

Amanda Baldwin
CEO of Supergoop!

Amanda Baldwin, CEO of Supergoop

Amanda Baldwin, CEO of Supergoop!

Fairchild Studio: Supergoop! is on a mission to change the way the world thinks about sunscreen. What drew you to join the company and how are you leading the company in this mission?

Amanda Baldwin: I’ve always believed in doing well by doing good. I set a goal for myself very early on in my career to use my business skills to make the world a better place. I had an incredible first boss at Goldman (Sachs) who did just that and I’ve been inspired by him ever since.

When I met Holly, the founder of Supergoop! and learned about her mission to eradicate the skin cancer epidemic by changing the way the world thinks about sunscreen, it just made sense. I have always been a big believer in the importance of SPF and knew my experience in marketing and brand building within the beauty industry could help scale the business and accomplish its mission.

“When it came to launching in China, something which was three years in the making, we knew we had to just keep pushing and we are so glad we did.”  — Amanda Baldwin, CEO, Supergoop!

Fairchild Studio: In the midst of a pandemic, you made the bold decision to go global and launch Supergoop! in China. How did you come to that decision?

Supergoop

Supergoop!

A.B.: A clear mission is the greatest gift one can be given as a leader. It makes every decision much more clear. Our mission is to change the way the world thinks about sunscreen, make it easier for everyone to wear SPF every single day, and end the epidemic of skin cancer. Our every day might look a bit different now, but the sun is still out and we all still need SPF — even in winter! So when it came to launching in China, something which was three years in the making, we knew we had to just keep pushing and we are so glad we did!

Fairchild Studio: What words of advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs growing their companies?

A.B.: Be patient and persistent at the same time. Nothing worth doing is ever easy, and nothing great is ever built overnight. I take every day and every challenge one step at a time, and that makes climbing the big hills much less intimidating. And most importantly, surround yourself with an incredible team. You absolutely cannot do it alone. It’s all about the unique voices and diverse expertise around the table- or these days the Zoom screen- and the chemistry among all of you. That’s the most important thing I think about every day.

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