Category Archives: The Life of a Maker

wizard-of-oz

Never Meet Your Gurus

I think we can all relate to that that iconic scene in The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy pulls back the curtain to reveal the All Mighty, All Powerful Oz is simply a flawed man, with his share of shortcomings, not the guru everyone thought he was. I think that’s a powerful lesson everyone can learn from.

If you’ve read my blog post about my humble beginnings in high school as an Estee Lauder Beauty Advisor, you know how I came up the ranks of the cosmetic department. At 17, I was too young and naïve to question anything, I just enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have to work in the food court like my friends and that I got free products! Rule #1: never bite the hand that feeds you.

In the ten years that followed, I guess you could say I was mesmerized by the industry, heavily influenced by celebrities and models (a world that I would never be a part of, but happy to live vicariously through). I remember having serious conversations to my colleagues about Sharon Stone’s makeup in Casino and waiting patiently to devour InStyle magazine from cover to cover each month.

I think I have scars somewhere on my body from the Spanx and stilettos I wore to work each day, and I’m definitely a few hundred eye lashes short, thanks to the daily faux lashes I wore.

Looking back, it all seemed so Stepford-esque, but what do you expect from your twenties?

As much fun as I thought I had, there was a sadness in me, one that could not be filled up with enough lipstick, happy hour margaritas or relationships, although I had no idea about this sort of thing back then.  I believed things happened to me, not seeing the big picture that I was attracting every situation in my life because of how I felt inside. It’s called patterns people, and we all have them, even if we can’t see them.

The underlying message of my industry is “you aren’t good enough by yourself, buy this and you will be enough”. There was a reason I was in debt to Nordstrom and had a mini Sephora in my bathroom. Rule #2: Don’t drink the Kool-Aid

The first time I met one of my gurus was shortly after I had been crowned a Nordstrom Beauty Director. The pay was dismal, but the opportunity to meet my makeup idols was priceless. I felt like a tweener meeting the Beibs.

This celebrity makeup artist had created an empire, and she was certainly considered Box Office Gold in the eyes of Nordstrom. She sold out events in every store when she did personal appearances. Women lined up to get a personal makeup evaluation (and then her team of makeup artists would execute the look she recommended).

I felt giddy to be in her presence, little ole’ me, but here I was in a room with my colleagues, standing ten feet from her! PERSONAL INTERACTION!

I had butterflies in my stomach for a week prior to meeting her, writing down exactly what I wanted to know, which mainly had to do with how she started, what were her early influences, how did she set trends, etc. I was approaching this training like a Sixty Minutes reporter preparing for a Castro interview.

She blew in the room and smelled like gardenias.  She was a no nonsense kind of woman, and got to work right away. I imagined her critiquing my artistry, giving me an insider tip or two…but she got right to work with her agenda, and that agenda was sales. Period.

She told us how many brushes were expected to be used in each makeover and how to sell at least three. “I built my business on brushes”.  For the next four hours, I learned how to use and sell 27 brushes.

Now in her defense, she was running a business and making money is akin to business. She did nothing wrong, it was my own expectations that weren’t met which caused me such disenchantment that day. There was just such a disconnect between the public persona and the business mogul that I felt a little mislead.

The second, third and fourth time I met (different) gurus (all in my own industry), I was also sadly disappointed because the person didn’t live up to their well written bio. Rule #3: Never underestimate good PR.

By the time I reached my forties, I personally started to shift. Actually, that’s an understatement. I started shifting like the Earth’s tectonic plates, and I yearned for truth and authenticity. I was discovering things that seemed unimaginable to me just ten years prior that set me off to an entirely new trajectory.  I became more interested in health, wellness,  mind/body/soul connection than with makeup trends.

I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland peeking down the rabbit hole.  That can be both exciting and scary. I’ve always craved truth, but it wasn’t until my forties until I knew how to seek it.

Which brings me to my next encounter with a guru.

I am an avid reader and I love to research, so when I learn about something new, and it resonates with me, I get massive butterflies in my stomach. That’s a sign from my intuition that I’m on the right path, pushing me to explore further.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”

There is so much information out there to follow. Just look in the aisle on any book store in the diet section and there will be hundreds of books describing the end-all be-all way of eating. Same thing goes for an internet web search, but the results can be millions of pages of info, and most of that info is completely contradictory!

I felt completely overwhelmed when I started my own health journey, and that’s why I felt nothing worked and why I ended up returning to the eating habits of my youth. “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know”.

Eventually though, my quest for knowledge led me to finding someone who I felt spoke the truth. I read a book of his, and was inspired to watch every single YouTube video he ever made. The videos were very DIY and the quality was not great but the message was very clear, and you could tell he followed his own advice. I had never heard of him before so for the next year or so I researched the things he recommended, adopted some of them and experienced great results. Over the next five years, his popularity increased and he began making appearances in mainstream media shows and commercials (with a much more refined look – Made for TV).

My everyday not-so-glam look

Then one day I was talking to a friend who knew of him and she said he started to live up to his rock star status (of the health world) and was quite the ladies’ man on his book tours. She didn’t imply anything inappropriate; he is after all single, but suddenly I felt different about him. I think in my mind, he spent his nights meditating on a mountain and maybe that’s due to his Instagram account. Rule #4: All photographs are accurate; none of them is the truth.

When I started Celtic Complexion, I thought the success of my business would solely be about the products.  However in order to be competitive, to stay in the public eye, to climb the ladder of indie success is to engage with the public via social media.

It’s not enough to make a great product, you have to be accessible and on fleek (I actually had to look that phrase up after my step son used it in a sentence) after all, Indies are the face of their brand. From a marketing perspective I get that, but from a personal standpoint it can feel like a lot of pressure.  It can also feel a bit inauthentic.

If you are part of my health coaching program, you know I preach to stay off social media as much as possible, to covet your privacy and to get outdoors.

I actually practice what I preach. That’s why you won’t see me replying to a Tweet instantly, or answering messages from our Facebook account 24/7. And don’t get me started about Instagram. I resisted it for years.

Let’s get this out there once and for all: 99% of the time I wear black yoga pants, a fitted t-shirt, Sketchers, no makeup and a ponytail.  It’s my uniform. It transitions effortlessly from packing and shipping to the grocery store to after school pick up. Instagram is pure fantasy and reminds me of the days I would be at my grandma’s house and get to play dress up in her shoes and jewelry.

I only share this with you, lest you bump into me at the grocery store one day and be disappointed. Heck, who am I kidding, you probably wouldn’t even recognize me!

Despite that fact, you will always get a product from me that will exceed your expectations, and I will personally reply to all of your correspondence.  I stand behind my products, and go out of my way to make you feel welcomed into the Celtic Complexion family.  Rule #5: Point your compass north and be your own guru.

Steve and Jennifer Waller

How to Rekindle the Romance with Your Spouse

Rekindling Romance with a Couples Photo Session

Rekindling Romance with a Couples Photo Session

Being an entrepreneur is stressful enough, but when both spouses are entrepreneurs, it can really be stressful!

Mr. Celtic Complexion and I work together, live together and play together. That’s a LOT of together.

Thankfully, we get along swell 95% of the time, but that 5% is very passionate “persuasion” time. When it comes to the marriage partnership, it’s pretty smooth sailing, but when I have my CEO hat on, and he has his COO hat on, lets just say, sparks can fly.

When this happens, the last thing we want to do is look soulfully into each other’s eyes and dance around the kitchen making dinner together. Entrepreneurs rarely turn off. There is always a “great idea” to discuss, and you must be an inherent “creative financier”.

To balance the time we spend working, we have a standing weekly date night, where we dress up and romance each other. No shop talk allowed.

Jennifer Waller Celtic Complexion CEO

After the initial awkwardness wore off, we had fun with it!

The past two weeks we’ve had to postpone date night for very valid reasons, namely I am launching another complimentary business to Celtic Complexion, and it’s taking up a lot of time. I noticed when we don’t have that designated time, we both become cranky and we feel disconnected, so last week I decided to plan something out of the ordinary for date night (and hoped he would be up for it).

I found a very creative local photographer whose style I greatly admired, and booked her “romance special”; meet in a gorgeous local park at sunset for a half hour of canoodling, and she would document the special moments. Her images are dreamy confections of love and romance – so I signed up right away.

Most couples only have portraits done for their engagement and/or wedding, and that time can be very stressful for couples, so the images may not capture the true essence of the couple. Contrast that with a lovely stroll through the park, holding hands with not a care in the world.

Harlequin Romance novel

Is this too much to ask?

I’d like to tell you that my surprise was met with welcome enthusiasm. I mean, what man wouldn’t want to get dressed up and play Rhett Butler to my Scarlett O’Hara? Mr. Celtic Complexion is probably like most men, not really comfortable in front of the camera and would rather be anywhere than trying to channel his inner Harlequin romance novel cover.

In fact, earlier that day, we were having one of those “passionate discussions”, and the last thing we wanted to do is get dressed up and be lovey-dovey with each other, but after the initial ten minutes of awkwardness, we really got into it. We were laughing about private jokes, and soon forgot that Andrea was even following us.

The time went by quickly, and when the sun melted over the horizon, our session was over. The flirting and laughing continued the rest of the night through dinner.

Receiving the actual pictures was almost a bonus. They arrived a few short days later, and we sat on the couch looking through them like giddy teenagers flipping through a yearbook.  I see in these pictures two best friends who have weathered a lot of storms, who are still madly in love with each other. I see a comfort level that wasn’t there when we got married, that can only come from the passage of time.

Steve&JenniferFEB2017-6

Our version of the Harlequin Romance novel cover

Steve and Jennifer Waller

Best friends

Unlike the distraction of a movie, this date rekindled our romance, and affirmed why we got married in the first place. It’s so important to rekindle that fire regularly, in some small way because at the end of the day, LOVE is what’s most important, everything else is just background noise.

Photography by: Andrea Dawn

 

 

 

Operation Love Bomb

operation lovebomb

It always amuses me when the desires in my life change…that something that had burned with such desire could simply vanish, cease to be, only a few years later.

These days, my main desire is to make a difference in people’s lives, whether that be with a bespoke skincare product, or a kind word.

I think a lot of that has to do with growing up, maturing and realizing what is truly important in life; the things that can’t be bought. Health, love, friendship.

As I get older, I see my friends and family deal with inevitable life changes; death of a loved one, divorce, business failures, heath challenges, financial strains, etc. and I can’t help to wonder, “How I can help?”

A jar of cream or a tube of lipstick can only go so far…and I don’t posses carpentry skills. My skill set lies in creating beauty and ambiance, not exactly the number one thing on anyone’s list when asking for help with a major life crises. Or maybe it is, and they just don’t know it.

Beauty takes many forms; in art, in the written word, in unconditional love from a stranger.

I remember once watching an Oprah show episode, where she said the one thing humans crave is to be acknowledged, to be seen. To know that they are not alone in their struggles.

When you stop and look around at your circle of friends, family, co-workers, and customers, you will see (and feel) their struggles, it will be etched on their faces and heard in their voices.

I want to be a light to these people and let them know they have been seen. I decided to create Operation Love Bomb, where I would ask the help of my friends to shower a person in need with postcards and letters of inspiration. Sometimes, all we need is a little love in our mailbox.

I imagined these letters being infused with love and intention – and them arriving in the mailbox of the recipient, where they would uplift the person and help them shift into a higher vibration.   The person could carry them around (unlike email) and re-read them whenever they needed a boost.

The best part about this, is that it costs only a couple of dollars and a little time.

There is so much power in words. Your ability to positively impact someone’s life with your words would delight you, and the ability to shift someone’s perspective by having a few dozen hand written letters show up unexpectedly would amaze you.

If you see someone in need of uplifting, simply put the call out to friends and family to write a note of encouragement to the person, and share their address (but not publicly!). You can do this anytime you see someone in need with any kind of life challenge.

As they say, “it takes a village!”. I for one, take pride in being a villager :)

 

Warmly,

Jennifer

 

 

Holiday Gift Guide

Celtic Complexion Christmas Tree

Celtic Complexion Christmas Tree

The holidays are the perfect time of year to show gratitude to those you love with small tokens of appreciation. I don’t know about you, but as I get older, my desire for material things is replaced with a desire for moments…laughter…health…friendships and family.

While I was getting my home in holiday mode, pulling out decorations,  I came across a few dusty boxes in my garage. Those boxes contained the most precious gifts I have ever received.

They were letters that I have kept since childhood, from grandparents, parents and long-lost friends. Rich letters that seemed to take on a life of their own, with the ability to transport me back to an earlier time.

I could faintly still smell my grandmother’s perfume on the letters she had sent to me since I was a child. Others were sent to me by my dad, after my parents divorce, when he moved to California, which to a child seemed like a world apart from my hometown of Miami. There were yellowed cards marking every occasion, and notes from high school friends.

My grandmother is long gone, as is my father, but with a real letter in my hands, I can, for a brief moment, touch their handwriting and feel their presence, and it brings such great comfort.

The art of letter writing is fading, which is why it’s so important (even if just once a year) to put pen to paper and write a good old-fashioned love letter to your kids, your parents, your friends, anyone who has touched your life, because your words will live on long after a material gift has found it’s way into a landfill. Never under estimate the power of your words, and the positive influence they can have on someone you love.

I wanted to share with you some of my favorite ways to express gratitude this holiday season, and I hope it inspires you to give in a unique way.

  • Mini Paper Sculptures – I love these beautiful hand made colorful cards, and receiving one in the mail would make anyone on your list smile. It’s a perfect vessel for your love letters. $10
  • Operation Gratitude – This program delivers letters and care packages to veterans. When filling out your cards to family and friends, why not send one (or several) to show your appreciation for their service, it will surely make their day. FREE (Cost of a stamp)
  • Make an In-Kind Donation to a Homeless Shelter Most of us have an abundance of excess clothing and household items. Why not donate your excess to people in need. Just Google a homeless shelter in your area, most of them have a page for “how to donate”, with a list of the most requested items. FREE
  • Help a Dog in Need Our friends at The Blissful Dog  will donate a .15 oz tube of NOSE BUTTER, PAW BUTTER, ELBOW BUTTER or BOO BOO BUTTER to a dog rescue group or shelter (in your name) for every sale made until December 20th. From $5
  • Enjoy the Journey Coloring Book – Mike Dooley is one of my favorite authors. I have seen him in person and own all of his books. Coloring books act as a form of meditation, and the messages in the book are so inspirational and uplifting. $10
  • One Line a Day 5 Year Gratitude Journal – I love to write, and I understand the concept of how important journaling is, but sometimes all those blank pages intimidate me. I came across this journal on a weekend getaway with Mr. Celtic Complexion. It gives you a few lines to jot down what you are grateful for each day. It sits on my desk, and has now become a nightly ritual for me. $10
  • Turn Your Child’s Art Into a Toy – Bring your children’s imagination to life. This is truly a one-of-a-kind gift that will be cherished for years to come. Budsies (featured on Shark Tank) can turn any drawing or picture into a plush toy. $89
  • Create a Family Cookbook – Making my dad’s signature dish of stuffed shells, or my mom’s famous orange cake really connects me to them. Food is one of the best ways to bond with your family and friends. Why not create a cookbook, complete with your own recipes, with pictures and stories about the dishes? It will become a family heirloom someday.  $30
  • Make a Joy Jar – This is one of my favorite things to give, and it teaches us to be grateful for the little things, and over the course of a year, this can add up. It also has the potential to shift your attitude into a more positive way of being. I came across this wonderful blog post explaining how it works. FREE
  • A Little Luxury – I am amazed at how a  fifteen minute hot shower can bring me so much joy. It seems to wash all of my stress away, especially when I use a bar of hand-crafted soap. This year,  I discovered an artisan soap maker on Etsy and her soaps have become my favorite! I buy them by the loaf and give them as gifts too. They are beautiful all-natural golden yellow luxury bath & shower bars formulated using high quality oils and mango butter. It is scented with lemongrass and orange valencia and just a touch of patchouli essential oils. Use the coupon code “celtic” at checkout for a 20% discount. $5
  • Chemical Free Cleaning – A clean house is something you give to yourself and family. I have never been excited about cleaning my home (but I love a clean house!), so when a friend introduced me to a way I could clean my house without chemicals, I jumped at it. The idea seemed to defy logic, but these microfibers are now a staple in my home. I also keep them in my car, and I travel with them. They turned me into a neat freak (and I’m not complaining!). From $17

There you have it, my 11 favorite ways to gift! I’ll be sharing the Celtic Complexion gift in the December newsletter, so be sure to sign up for it to get details.

If you have unique ways to gift, I would love to hear them :)

In gratitude,

Jennifer

The Birth of a New Product; My Process

Eye Elixir

Eye Elixir

Every time I create a new product (which isn’t often), I wonder if I will fall in love with it as much as my existing products. Is it possible to love some products more than others, or are they loved equally?

Well, the short answer is, I love my products equally, but all for different reasons.  I love some products for the results they bring my customers. It’s a humbling experience to have helped a stranger, sometimes a world away, with a skin problem they have suffered with for a lifetime (Calming Serum). I love some products for the media attention they bring (Youth Infusion High Potency Serum), and some products I love because they are a top seller (Coconut Creme Cleanser).

I am a ferocious reader, and one of my favorite things to read about are ingredients. I relish learning about the vast history of a particular ingredient and the results they deliver. I have a notebook that I jot down notes in to do further research when something really grabs my intention.

I love rich, luxurious textures. Maybe it’s my age (47), or maybe because I love the way my skin looks without makeup when it seems to be glowing from within.  Whatever the reason, I seek out these “miracles of nature” and then begin the process of creating a recipe to best highlight their strengths.

New products and formulas usually come to me when I am meditating. The “idea” will stay in my mind and if I can’t stop thinking about it…that’s when I know I have to create it, even if it’s just something that stays in my private collection.

However, a lot of my products start off as requests from friends, “Please help me with ________________!” If I get repeated requests, or hear similar complaints, I tuck the requests away in my mind, and when I discover specific ingredients that will help those conditions, I proceed with a prototype of a product.

Once I am happy with a prototype, I give out samples and I sit back and wait. If a product is ok (meaning: good, but nothing to get excited about), it doesn’t make the cut. “Good enough” or “nice” products never make it to the Celtic Complexion line.

However, if I get a phone call within one or two days asking “What is in this?!” or “Is this available now?”, I know I have a hit on my hands and it goes into production.

Eye Elixir 2.0 is one such product.

As I mentioned in my newsletter last summer, I wanted to revise Eye Elixir. As much as I have used and loved that product for the last three years, I knew I could improve the formula, but rather than change the original formula, I decided to start from scratch.

The delicate skin around the eye area is one of the fastest areas to show age, so I wanted to combine very regenerative oils to address that area. Oils that are rich in vitamins, anti-oxidants and essential fatty acids. I chose argan oil, squalene oil, avocado oil, rosehip seed oil, sea buckthorn berry oil just to name a few. Some of the world’s most expensive beauty oils contain a few of these oils, but this product contains them all.

Because of the richness of this product, all you need is one drop (two at most). This oil will stay on the skin, and you will feel it even hours after application.

It is available now, and I hope you’ll love my new “child” as much as I do! To read more about Eye Elixir, visit our visit our website

Secrets of a Beauty Entrepreneur; 5 Lessons Learned from an Indie Beauty Journey

CelticComplexion FounderJenniferWaller

I’m a happy entrepreneur!

It’s a few weeks before Thanksgiving Day and we are busy preparing for our BOGO sale, November 24th. It takes us about six full weeks to prepare the packaging, marketing materials, social media posts, blogger outreach programs, and of course making the actual products…but this post isn’t about products, or ingredients or methods. It’s about the actual journey of becoming an entrepreneur.

Today, as I write this, we just mailed out our new color catalogs. It took five years before we could actually produce them the way I wanted them. Five Years. Most new businesses don’t survive three years in business, so this was a huge milestone for me.

I experienced a lot of emotions when I was looking at them sitting there in the bins…I thought of all the moments of struggle and strife, of the times this dream of mine seemed so far away, of all the jobs I had working for other cosmetic companies, of all my friends and family that supported me (and those that didn’t)….it was a sublime moment and one that I will definitely cherish. Often the greatest victories for an entrepreneur are simple moments in time.

Looking back, I can clearly see how all of my so-called failures (both personally and professionally) allowed me to become stronger and appreciate success when it arrived. But when I was going through it, I would cry myself to sleep many nights, just shaking my head wondering if I had what it took to really create my dream.

For an entrepreneur, there are no rule books. Sure, you can get an education on business specifics, but each entrepreneur has their own imprint to make on the world, so it’s virtually impossible to learn how to become one by simply following another.

Take the word entrepreneur. It can be so intimidating. When I see that word, I think of Richard Branson. Steve Jobs. Julia Child. C.J. Walker. But Jennifer Waller? Um, not so much. But when you break down the essence of what an entrepreneur is – a visionary, then I kind of perk up.

My seventeen year old self had big dreams. She was idealistic, enthusiastic and would try anything once. She had a strong work ethic, and wanted to see the world. Her definition of success was defined by materialistic acquisitions (remember, this was in the 80’s “Greed is Good” heyday).

For a very long time, those goals were what motivated me. Being submerged in the high-end retail environment, I was subjected to daily doses of Madison Avenue marketing; If only I had the perfect shade of lipstick, the perfect bag or the perfect pair of shoes, I too would be perfect. To an extent, I was also peddling that dream on behalf of the companies I worked for.

From 1985 to 2004, I worked for more than a dozen cosmetic and skincare companies. I worked for big cosmetic conglomerates, and independent start ups. I logged thousands of airline miles, crossed the coast, and met thousands of women who shared with me their secrets, insecurities and high expectations of whatever miracle creme or lipstick I was selling at the time.  More often than not, they just wanted to be heard, if only for the brief minutes we were together.

From the start of my career, I felt the best when I was “connecting” with other women. I saw them as real people, not an “average unit sale”. My reward was their happiness, not the size of their purchase. I really felt humbled by their trust in me, and I worked hard not to ever take it for granted. Compassion was the first core value I was able to identify with.

Lesson #1: Determine from the start what your core personal values are, and use them as a blueprint to build your own company. Never waiver. They will become what you are known for, and will speak louder than any advertisement ever will.

When you are surrounded by like-minded people, it’s easy to work. You love your job, you love your co workers and everything comes up roses. I would say that for the first part of my career, it was exactly like a sorority. Beauty advisors working behind the counter, wearing the same uniform, working for one cause, and enjoying the perks and comradery.

Life was simple then.

As soon as I determined I was ready to break out of the pack, and move up the corporate ladder is when things changed. That’s when my true education began.

When you leave the familiarity of an insular work space (in my case, a beauty counter) and spread your wings, you are met with a lot of different personalities and agendas. It’s not for the faint-of-heart.

As a “road warrior” (a regional makeup artist that travels for events), part of my job was dealing with many, many people. The Account Executive in a given territory, the other road warriors, the cosmetic department manager, the beauty advisors and of course, the customers. In some cases, the owner of the cosmetic company. Each of these people had a different agenda, and it was my job to meet all those needs, and do it in heels, faux lashes and spanx.

Over the course of a decade of being a road warrior, I learned how to be a diplomat. I learned how to be on time (actually 15 minutes early for everything). I learned how to be a therapist. I learned how to be a visual display manager. And I learned how to take care of my feet (the stilettos came out of rotation in year three after another (older) road warrior showed me her bunions from wearing them for almost twenty years on the road).

Lesson #2: Become a sponge – to the good, the bad and the ugly. Every single thing you observe will serve you once you become your own boss.

I never took a job just for the sake of working. Even when I was young, I wanted to be happy working, so before I signed on the dotted line to rep for a company, I always did a little due diligence to try and determine if I shared the same values.

All I have to say about this is: you never truly know someone until you live with them or travel with them. Long before social media, and before transparency became the norm, the only thing you could find out about a company or owner of a company was the PR spin they provided for public consumption.

Lets just say, all that glitters is not gold.

What looks good on paper (or glossy company brochure) doesn’t always translate to the personality of the actual person you are working for. This can catch you off guard sometimes.

On more than one occasion, I have been singled out for my idealistic views of how things “should” run, or how people “should” be treated. After all, my personal motto is to treat others the way you want to be treated.

“Jen, you don’t really make a good employee. Quit questioning everything.”

“Jen, you aren’t the Norma Rae for the company, just do your job.”

“Are you an only child?”

Ouch.

At the time, those comments really, really hurt. Why couldn’t they see I only wanted to make things better? In fact, they more than hurt, if I was being 100% honest. I felt very unappreciated for my hard work.

However, if you put those comments together now, it all adds up to this: if I wanted to make things better, I had to create my own company and have it embody all the principals I value so dearly.

And I did.

If I was a “perfect” employee, Celtic Complexion might have never been created.

Lesson #3: The way others view you is their business. Don’t let it shape the way you view yourself or take it personally. Ever. Be your truly amazing authentic self. One day, you will be rewarded for it, but probably not in the way you envision.

When I was a little girl, my paternal grandmother advised me to “be free, see the world and live your life.” As a young girl, I didn’t understand her advice at all, in fact, I didn’t fully understand her words until I was well into my forties. She was a strong woman who lived her life with the expectations of her generation. She did her duty by marrying (although she was 32 when she did so, which was practically spinster territory at the time) and having three kids.

I think she yearned to live free and independently, and as her granddaughter, she wanted me to get that message loud and clear. As a result, that message was embedded into me, and has served my wanderlust desires since childhood. After all, what is it to be an entrepreneur than to hitch a wagon to your dreams and follow them to the end?

That advice has made me try things – everything in fact. The very nature of an entrepreneur is to try a lot of things, determine what works, tweak it, make it your own and then share it with the world.

It also made me courageous. To leave jobs, relationships, places and situations that no longer served my best interest. I’ve never regretted anything I’ve done, nor have I ever regretted letting it go. To me, it’s all experience, and it has all gave me perspective to grow. I don’t cry over spilled milk. Ever.

Lesson #4: Be unapologetically selfish in your quest for happiness. Your resulting happiness will be able to help more people in the long run. The vibration of happiness will touch everything you create.

I recently opened boxes in my garage from my last move to North Carolina (two years ago). I discovered journals I had been keeping for years, some even decades old. They were filled with pictures, affirmations, and personal mementos from my travels. I was amazed at how much of what I wrote had come true. I had forgotten some of the things I put to paper.

During my road warrior days, I would write in my journals when I was flying, or in a hotel room at night. I would sketch out what would become the Celtic Complexion logo. I would write product descriptions and website layouts.

I remember thinking “How the heck am I ever going to get from point A to point B?!” When you are struggling financially, or emotionally, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But that’s when you need to do this exercise more!

I also kept every single thank you letter I ever received from a customer. I was also lucky enough to have some incredible mentors that saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. At times, those letters were the only dimly lit light to guide me to where I am now.

Those journals actually have versions of the recipes I use today.

Even with just a dream, I always did something every day to inch towards that dream. Whether it be creating file folders of pretty images, studying fonts, honing my writing, or reading about ingredients. It would all some day serve me.

Once I learned the art of manifesting (getting out of my own way, eliminating baggage, truly believing I was worthy of achieving my dreams, persisting when no evidence of success was visible) everything came very easy.

Here is an affirmation from my journal (authored by Mike Dooley)

  So what if it takes a long time, Jennifer? So what if it’s already taken longer than you thought? So what if it will still take longer? The day will nevertheless arrive, as it always does, when all your prior efforts, determination, and persistence will seem a paltry price indeed as you are lifted irrevocably higher, as if by chariots of fire, into realms previously un-imagined, and then you’ll think to yourself, “Wow, that was fast!”

Lesson #5: Never be concerned about How you will become successful. Place 100% of your attention on the end result. Put your blinders on and have faith. Everything else is just noise. With belief, everything else falls into place. I promise. 

My journey has taken many twists and turns, but it has also had a lot of laughter. The goals of my seventeen year old self have, for the most part, been accomplished. However, they didn’t feel like I thought they would. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember wondering why the things I had coveted for most of my life didn’t bring me the happiness I thought they would. Damn you Madison Avenue for making me think they would!

My definition of success has changed as I age. To me, it’s being content, doing what I love, being healthy, being surrounded by love. By the way, I think those are also the same things that make you look vibrant and youthful :)

Here’s looking at you kid!

Jennifer

Jen&AletaAug2015

When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears

In 1995, I was working as a Counter Manager for Makeup Forever at Nordstrom. I was 26 years old, and I thought I knew it all (Isn’t that what the 20’s are for?). I was living out my dream and I was very happy.

One day, a woman walked up to the counter and my life would change forever.

Her name was Aleta, and she was unlike any person I had met up until that point in my life. She came in for a new lipstick color, and we chatted for almost forty five minutes. I was trying my best to show her the new colors that had arrived the week prior, but she was mesmerizing me with her philosophical ideas about vibration, energy, life and death (all while using the back of her hand to swatch pink lipsticks). Nobody I ever knew talked so nonchalantly about such serious subjects.

When she left my counter, I was confused. I wasn’t sure if she was crazy or the smartest person I had ever met. One thing I know for sure, I was magnetically attracted to her.

Over the next few months, she would visit me often and we developed a friendship. We shared coffee and Nordy bars in the Cafe, and I learned she was about the same age as my own mom (which would explain why I felt a maternal energy from her). She herself did not have any children, which probably made her all the more happy to share her wisdom.

Aleta had this calm, inner peace about her, and looked far younger than her years. The first time I visited her in her home, I felt something was different, but couldn’t put my finger on it. It smelled different and felt different, almost like a sanctuary.  She explained to me about about aromatherapy, electromagnetic pollution, organic food, the importance of plants in your home, Himalayan salt lamps and about a dozen other “alternative therapies”.

Each time we met, she explained a little more. I honestly had NO idea what she was talking about, since I certainly was never brought up learning anything remotely like what she was describing to me.

Honestly, a lot of what she was doing I wasn’t sure I believed in, but I did see it was obviously working for her.

She never preached or said “you should do this”, she only led by example.

In 2001, I moved away from California, back to my hometown of Miami, and our relationship changed, simply because of time, distance, circumstances and the fact that she didn’t have an email address (she only got one earlier this year).

We kept in touch sporadically, but I always kept her close to my heart.

As I got older, I began to make major changes in my life, and started my own journey of self exploration. Over the course of a decade, through love and loss, mistakes and lessons, the seeds Aleta planted in my twenties, began to bear fruit in my forties.

I would catch myself smiling when I would “discover” a profound nugget of wisdom, remembering back to my old friend who had introduced me to the very same concepts decades earlier. I would always say a little prayer of gratitude that she was put on my path.

Last week, Aleta paid me a week long visit. She looked like the same happy, loving woman I remembered.

We spent the time walking, and talking and laughing. We prepared healthy meals and lingered over tea. At night, we watched back to back episodes of the  PBS series Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries.

There were no selfies (except for the one you see above), Facebook status updates, reality tv or presidential debates.

I have never felt better, more alive, less stressed or more loved (by a friend). We were purely in the moment, enjoying life as it unfolded.

As our week came to an end today, I watched her disappear into the security line at the airport, blissfully walking to the beat of her own drum. She has been one of my greatest teachers, and I’m thankful I welcomed her with an open mind and allowed those seeds to grow. She is a living, breathing example of living an authentic life.

At some point in your life, you will ask the tough questions, and if you are open to receiving, you might just be given an Aleta to guide you. She may be unconventional, and will most definitely challenge your status-quo, but she will enlighten you with her wisdom and will help you along your own journey. At times, you may find yourself scratching your head, but it’s definitely worth the lessons you will learn.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

IMG_20150722_003839

The Five Thousand Other Decisions

Ok, well maybe not five thousand, but it sure feels that way when you are creating a new product from scratch. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post (My Top Secret Project), I am creating a new creme, my masterpiece. It’s so coveted that my beta testers threatened to come to my house and take my personal jar off my bathroom vanity and keep it for themselves!

As an artisan skincare maker, it’s nice to know that your work is appreciated and will be well received, BUT there are so many other decisions that go into the creation to make it a success.

For example, the jar we are using for our new creme was like finding a needle in a haystack. I searched packaging websites for over a year to get just the right one, because I want you to love the packaging and presentation as much as the actual creme itself. I want it to be a jewel on your vanity. It felt like picking out a wedding dress, you just “knew” when it was the right one.

Next came naming the product. Sounds simple, right? NOT!! I had a short list of names that I really liked, but after some internet searching, I found they were already in use, so back to the drawing board. The name we did end up with (which I will announce in the next newsletter) was created by Mr. Celtic Complexion and is perfect in it’s simplicity and grandeur.

Once the name is selected, the font and box design was designed. I got inspiration from everywhere and looked at dozens of font designs but even when you like a design, it may not work with the jar, or in print, so several were tested and then we selected the one that most fit the feel of the product.

I had an artist create original artwork for the box and after many back and forth edits, she is perfect. Regal and voluptuous.

The elegant jeweled metal spoons (for application of the creme) were sourced and we found a mining company in Australia to send us the mookaite jasper (The fountain-of-youth crystal).

My fingerprint is all over this project – from the ingredients to the packaging and everything in between, so that’s why it takes such a long time to create it – because it’s not just my name on the label, it’s my reputation in the jar!

 

 

Me behind the beauty counter!

Confessions of a Retail Beauty Advisor

“In the factory, we make lipstick. In the store, we sell hope” – Charles Revson, Founder of Revlon Cosmetics

1983 was a very big year for me. It’s the year I entered high school (9th grade) and I wanted something monumental to mark the occasion. My mother took me to the local department store, Burdines, and together we shopped for the trendiest clothes I had the budget to afford. After several hours, we left, our arms filled with bags of goodies. We left the store via the cosmetic department.
Maybe it was the heady combination of the makeup lights, the shiny travertine tile, or perhaps it was the beautiful painted ladies behind the counter that seemed to ooze a kind of glamour that I never knew.
After circling the various counters for what seemed like an eternity, I got up the nerve to approach the Estee Lauder counter, and meekly asked the Beauty Advisor to show me a lipstick. After an endless display of colors on the back of her hand, I settled on All Day Cinema Pink.
“That will be $9.01 please”. My mind went numb. “NINE DOLLARS FOR A LIPSTICK?!” I thought to myself. I handed over the ten dollars, a whole weeks’ allowance, and she wrapped the beautiful gold box in tissue paper and placed it in a thick embossed bag with the Estee Lauder logo clearly emblazoned across it.
I took the bag home. The weight of the metal tube in my hand, the distinct scent of the wax, and the way it made me feel, so… well…accepted! I fully expected my life would change for the absolute better, and coveted that lipstick for almost an entire year, only wearing it for special occasions.
In that moment, my life changed forever.
You never know why something will make an indelible impression on you, but that trip to the Estee Lauder counter gave me a purpose, a vision, a goal. At fourteen, I wanted to be an Estee Lauder girl! For three years, I practiced makeup on anyone who would be willing to have a makeover. While I was supposed to be practicing my saxophone, I was practicing applying eyeliner, and while I never won any awards for music, I did master the art of applying the Aziza blue eye color trio to just about every girl in the 10th grade.
In 1985, will all my courage, hopes and dreams on the line, I applied for a part time position for Estee Lauder at the very same Burdines where I purchased my first “prestige-brand” lipstick. At seventeen years old, I became the youngest Beauty Advisor ever hired on the floor.
After my required week long training from Estee Lauder, I was given the uniform; a long teal lab coat and a copy of the Estee Lauder autobiography to read. I reported for duty on the first day of a gift-with-purchase promotion. At that time, a gift-with-purchase meant huge crowds and huge sales. Many of the cosmetic lines earn the majority of their profits during this time.
I was terrified! Would I remember each script for each product? Would I remember how to up-sell and cross-sell? I must have looked like a deer in the headlights, because the counter manager said “Don’t worry honey, they will believe anything you say in that lab coat!”
And she was right! With youth on my side, I was able to effortlessly sell dozens of bottles of Night Repair and Skin Perfecting Cream. In the beginning, I was amazed that women would pay $40 for a night cream, but I soon became numb to prices. The underlying sentiment was “If you want to look young, you will pay the price”.
The first ten years of my career, I was what you would call “a believer”. I truly believed in every single product, every single claim. I also believed that I was helping people. Not in a Mother Theresa kind of way, but in a self-esteem boosting kind of way. In other words, I was drinking the Kool-Aid. I made great friends, and amassed an arsenal of prestige beauty products that would make Sephora jealous! I also learned makeup artistry tricks that helped my rosacea condition, something that I was very self conscious about.
In exchange for my loyalty, and commitment to sell, ahem, I mean serve, I was gifted thousands of dollars of gratis (FREE PRODUCTS), and attended the best parties. I managed to win every spiff contest that I entered. A “spiff” is when the company introduces a new product and they run a contest to see which Beauty Advisor sells the most. Life was good.
In ten years, I had worked for Estee Lauder, Lancome, Trish McEvoy, Makeup Forever and a handful of indy brands as a resident makeup artist. In 1997, I got my “big break”. I was invited to throw my hat in the ring for a new position that Nordstrom was testing; Beauty Director. The Beauty Director included training by every single cosmetic line at Nordstrom, and it was considered the most glamorous position in the department. More fancy parties, more exposure, more gratis.
Up until that point in my career, I believed everything I was told. Perhaps it was because I was indoctrinated by powerful marketing messages at such a young age that I didn’t have experience on my side to be discernable. Training as a Beauty Director however, began to open my eyes a bit. When you work for one company, say Lauder, you are all about Lauder, nothing else can compare, and you have nothing to compare it to. It becomes like a sorority of sorts.
As a Beauty Director, within a week, I was trained by forty different lines, all of whom are owned by about three conglomerates; Estee Lauder Corp, LVMH, and L’Oreal. Each training provided basic knowledge of the most impressive ingredients, and we were taught to repeat everything, usually by a very beautiful woman dressed in a chic suit.
Looking back, it was all very “Stepford wives-esque”. The most powerful training came from Clinique. Each sentence had to begin with “Our dermatologists recommend”, probably to reinforce their marketing message. The white lab coats are a subliminal marketing message that says “we are the experts”. What the consumer doesn’t know, is that very beautiful woman in the white lab coat worked in the junior department last week!
When you are exposed to everything in the cosmetic department, it all starts to look, smell and feel the same. The best advice I got during that time came from a seasoned Account Executive from Estee Lauder. She said “make sure to buy plenty of stock , because it’s their goal to own a lot of cosmetic real estate!” I should have listened because to date, the Estee Lauder portfolio consists of Clinique, Origins, MAC, Bobbi Brown, STILA, Aveda, La Mer, Bumble and Bumble, Darphin and Smashbox just to name a few.
Following the Beauty Director position, I took positions in the education departments of several well known brands, and even did a stint as an online beauty advisor for the very first online beauty website back in the dot com heyday called eve.com.
I witnessed first-hand a nationally hired Beauty Expert for eve.com go on The Today Show and talk up her “must-haves” for the season. The only problem was, the products she was recommending were some of the worse performing products we sold. On that day, we sold hundreds of units – but just as I predicted, a few weeks later, we also had tons of returns.
Call me idealistic, but at that time, I still believed that only the BEST products were featured on TV, in celebrity swag bags, and mentioned in Allure magazine. I hadn’t yet connected the dots that companies PAY for that exposure.
About that time, I met a holistic esthetician and again, my life completely changed. Despite using the most expensive products on my skin for over ten years, my rosacea condition just worsened as I got older. She invited me in for an organic facial and told me to bring in all the products I was using on my skin.
I thought she would be impressed with my expensive arsenal of products, but instead, she just turned them around and read the ingredients like a chef who reads a recipe. She shook her head back and forth, and then gave me her conclusions. “These ingredients are toxic, and are not only contributing to your condition, but making you age faster” she said. “WHAT? How could that be? Some of these creams and serums COST OVER $150!” I replied.
She isolated the most toxic offenders and then told me what they actually were. Take the word “methyl-paraben” for example. It means nothing to somebody who doesn’t know. In other words, like the saying goes “you don’t know what you don’t know”. And if you don’t know, how can you know what questions to ask?
At first, my loyalty instinct kicked in, and I began reciting all the scripts from each product like a good little robot. Her replies to my objections were not “scripted” – she knew from experience why these ingredients were toxic. I took a deep breath and then looked at her, really LOOKED at her. She was a woman who was in her early 50’s, who clearly had the skin of someone in their late 30’s . Her skin was vibrant, healthy – GLOWING! Maybe she DID know a thing or two about what she was talking about after all.
I took her advice and went on a cosmetic and skin care “diet” and only used the plant-based organic products she recommended. Within two months, my skin looked better than it had my entire life! No more MAC Studio Fix for me!
In ten years, I never felt beautiful without my makeup, and now I wanted to show off my skin to the world! I decided to retire from my career and returned to school to become an esthetician and teach others the way I had been taught.
Today,  I am still an educator, but this time around I am teaching women how to truly care for their skin, rather than repeating a marketing mantra.

 

Celtic Complexion Collection Spring 2015

The Passion Behind the Potions

Today I want to peel back the curtain and share with you a little about how my product is created, and how it’s different than other products out there.

A quick glance at an ingredient list only tells you part of the story. You may see similar ingredients between two products, but they could be miles apart in terms of performance. For example, you may rave about a Celtic Complexion product to your friend who decides to purchase some raw ingredients and go the DIY route, but end up with a completely different product.

Here’s why:

1. Source of Ingredients – An artisan’s source of ingredients is held in as much regard and secrecy as the actual formula. Not all ingredients are the same. I’ve spent many months, sometimes years researching raw ingredients. The health of the soil, the care in which they are harvested and how they are stored or preserved is of the utmost important to me.

I can relate this to wine to make it easily understandable. You can take a wine type, say Pinot Noir, and it can taste very differently from each wine maker. The best wines (in my opinion) are the ones from boutique wineries with very limited runs.

I remember as a child, my mom had this very special stuffed shell recipe. Rather than get all her ingredients from the grocery store, she purchased the meat from a butcher in a neighboring town, the tomatoes from the local farmers market, and the pasta from a specialty Italian market that hand made their own pasta. The result was sublime, and no matter how hard I tried, I could never replicate her recipe because my ingredients were purchased from a big box grocer.

I purchase the majority of my raw ingredients for Celtic Complexion products from small businesses who manufacture in micro batches, ensuring the freshest ingredients.

2. Attention to Detail – When you get a Celtic Complexion product, it’s my hands that lovingly create it. I believe strongly that is what you are paying for, the “artists’ hands”.

Details such as how the product is poured, how it sets up, and how it’s packaged and shipped. I want every stage of the product to inspire and delight you, from the time you open the package, to when you place it on your vanity, to when you first place the luxurious creme between your fingers.. it has to be “an experience” that you won’t forget.

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details.

3.Time – It takes a full six months for a Rolls Royce to be made. It takes 14 hours to assemble a Ford Edge.

A mass marketed creme is made in minutes, in large vats, with the push of a button. The production time of a Celtic Complexion product can take from three hours to three days.

4. Formula – An ingredient list on the back of a bottle does not reveal the actual recipe or formula.  It does not reveal actual percentages of ingredients either. Greenwashing is a common practice in our industry. It means when a company puts a wonderful ingredient in a product, but in miniscule amounts so they can then advertise it on the bottle, but there isn’t enough of the ingredient to actually be effective.

I liken a cosmetic formula to a secret family recipe that has been passed down for generations. As in the example above, when cooking, you can have the same two people make a recipe but it can taste very different. The experience, expertise and intuition of the chef can turn a simple egg into a masterpiece.

As an artisan, part of my process is to honor my intuition when working with raw ingredients, and know when to accelerate a formula, and when to call it done.

An artisan’s formula and process is their fingerprint, and theirs alone.

5.Intention- I call it the “x” factor. The emotions, feelings and settings for which a product is created has a lot of influence on how the product will perform. In other words, I have to be in a specific mindset to “create” because it effects the end result. In addition to the actual product creation, there are many rituals which we follow before, during and after which charge and imprint each product.

I believe this is why our products have such a profound effect.

I feel it’s so important to educate you about my process, so you can make an educated decision when comparing products. I’ll leave you with this little story about Pablo Picasso.

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.

“It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.”

So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.

“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”

“Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.

“B-b-but, what?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!”

To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.”

 

Warmly,

Jennifer