Cosmetics queen and beauty boss Maria Hatzistefanis is the Greek entrepreneur behind Rodial, the London-based brand that she started in 1999 with her own savings, a fact that is revealed in the early pages of her tongue-in-cheek titled new book: How To Be An Overnight Success. Maria started her career as a beauty writer before moving to New York where she received an MBA from Columbia Business School. She now runs Rodial and Nip+Fab, selling through 20,000 doors across 35 countries worldwide. Her cult products are known for their evocative names such as Snake Serum and Dragon’s Blood and are a favourite with high-profile models and media personalities including Poppy Delevingne, Ellie Goulding and Kylie Jenner.
Current Job Founder & CEO of the Rodial Group
First Job Beauty writer for Seventeen Magazine
Education Columbia University
Go to meeting spot Little House in Mayfair
Necessary extravagance An at home massage
Favourite book / blog / podcast The How I Built This podcast
Recent inspiration Travelling to NY is always inspiring
What do you believe that most around you disbelieve Meditation
What do you wish you could change in the world of beauty I wouldn’t change anything
Favourite skincare and beauty product Rodial Rose Gold Moisturiser
You started your career as a beauty writer prior to receiving an MBA and subsequently working in corporate finance. What lessons did you learn from these professions and did you always have an entrepreneurial itch?
I never thought I would be an entrepreneur but working in different industries made me adaptable and able to cope with change.
For those who don’t know, can you tell us what Rodial is and what was the motivation behind launching the company?
I saw a gap in the market for high-tech, fast acting skincare range which offered more than simple cleansing and moisturizing. Back then the skincare on the market was very simple and wasn’t driven by ingredients. I wanted to create a range which offered the consumer solutions to specific skin problems such as wrinkles and pigmentation. Rodial is an active, fast acting range of skincare and makeup which offers instant results.
What influenced your decision to launch a separate sister brand Nip + Fab?
I have always been inspired by fashion, and I was seeing so many designer/high street collabs such as Stella McCartney for Gap, and Lanvin for H&M. I thought that this was such an aspirational concept and I wanted to re-create it in the beauty world, which was why I launched Nip+Fab. At the beginning Nip+Fab was a hybrid of Rodial at a lower price point, taking some of the most successful Rodial ingredient stories and bringing them to the mass market. As time moved on Nip+Fab actually became its own entity and became the go-to brand for millennials and beauty junkies globally which was really exciting to watch. For Nip+Fab we work with young, influential talent such as Kylie Jenner and most recently Sofia Richie, and the brand couldn’t be more different to Rodial today.
How has your role changed as CEO as you have scaled the company to over 150 people?
In many ways it is exactly the same, I am in the office every day, all day, motivating my team and taking care of all of the business needs. I like to be in the action, I can’t work from afar, I need to be in the everyday detail of the business. If I had to pick out a way that my role has changed as my business has grown it will probably be dealing with issues more than anything else! As your team grows, so does your need to firefight all sorts of internal issues. I think that nowadays I have to always be looking at the bigger picture for the business and to guide my team in the right direction.
What work do you get involved with as patron of the British Fashion Council and are you involved with any other organisations outside of Rodial?
I work on a mentoring program for up and coming fashion designers helping them establish their brand and grow their business.
What capital did you use to get the business started initially? Have you taken any investment since launching the business or has it all been organic growth and what influenced that decision?
My business is 100% privately owned to this day. In the beginning my husband & I invested £20k to get the business started.
What has been the evolution and milestones you are proudest of to date and what are some of the KPIs that you measure success by for both the business and your team?
The launch of Snake Serum brought a lot of buzz to the brand. Launching our flagship Rodial counter in Harvey Nichols was a huge milestone taking the business to the next level.
You have scaled the company to 35 countries and added makeup to the line, how do you think about sustainable growth?
Sometimes we grow too quickly, other times we had to slow down to build what we had, it’s always a balancing game.
Rodial was a pioneering brand in terms of using social media and communicating with consumers. You also decided to work with Kyle Jenner and Millie Mackintosh as brand ambassadors. How did these relationships come about and talk us through the strategy behind these marketing initiatives.
Most of the time working with celebrities and influencers starts from a very organic place. With Kylie Jenner she was using our Nip+Fab products at a shoot and instagrammed them and her fans went crazy! The relationship grew from there and Kylie was the face of Nip+Fab for two years which was really amazing. Elle Goulding is a massive Rodial fan and often instragrams our Dragons Blood Eye Masks and talks to the press about how much she loves the brand, and not a penny has been exchanged for this. The organic and real relationships are always the strongest.
What is your long term vision for Rodial?
I want to expand the Rodial makeup range and launch more counters internationally. I would like to see big counter space for Rodial in the USA and Asia.
Women in Business
What advice would you share with women in the early stages or thinking about launching their own venture?
Make sure that you 100% believe in your vision because there will be people along the way that will tell you that you can’t do it. You need to have a thick skin and be ready to be told no. Starting your own business is not an easy ride, you will be challenged every step of the way and if you listen to the negativity you won’t succeed.
Who has been your mentor in business and how did that relationship come about? Do you now mentor other entrepreneurs?
I didn’t have a mentor and I do not think it is necessary. In this day and age there is a lot of available info out there on successful women that we can read and get inspiration from. I give a lot of talks and connect with young entrepreneurs when I am there.
Do you consciously think about building a diverse team and how can we do better to attract and retain more women?
In our industry we are 95% women so we are doing well on that front!
What personal qualities to you attribute most to your success?
I think that I am very motivated and passionate about what I do, I don’t take no for an answer. I give 100% at all times. I don’t go on holidays much but when I do I am always thinking about the next new product or campaign. I am prepared to sacrifice which I think is key to being successful, its hard at the time but you get the results you are looking for at the end.