Name: Indie Lee
Job Title and Description: CEO Indie Lee & Co.
College/Major: Accounting SUNY Oswego
What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
Indie Lee: I don’t think I’ve ever had the same schedule. When you are running a small business, you do it all: working on a new article, speaking at an event, working on our website, or formulating new recipes in my lab. No two days have ever been the same -- it’s one of the best perks of my job.
What is the best part of your job?
IL: This is a tough one as I really love what I do…EVERY aspect of it. If I had to choose, it would be talking to customers and potential customers. I love interacting with them, hearing so many success stories – this continues to inspire me. Hearing that someone who had terrible skin switched to my products and now loves their complexion and doesn’t wear foundation anymore to hide behind. Hearing that someone used my products on a child who is severely autistic and the body oil soothed this child – where as in the past they never let anyone touch them. Knowing that I touched someone’s life like that is just incredible.
You recently made the switch from accounting to organic beauty. What were some challenges you faced while changing career paths?
IL: You know it’s funny. I don’t really look at life or the business that way. I mean yes, of course there are days that are frustrating – but you use it to push your forward. Challenges are made to stretch you to the next challenge, push you to learn, and think creatively, so I never really considered my journey a challenge. I think it was some friends and family that said – you are doing what? I am a strong believer in realizing what you know and what you don’t know. I surround myself with people who are the best at what I don’t know. I am blessed to have an amazing team and inner circle.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
IL: One thing? OY – I wish I knew how important packaging would be. If they don’t know your brand, it’s the shelf appeal that is going to inspire them to pick up your product. I also didn’t realize that what speaks to consumer’s changes regularly. This is an expensive lesson.
Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
IL: I’m laughing at this question because it’s not really a person. I was diagnosed with brain tumor that I decided to name it Herman. For whatever reason, it helped me deal with it. Herman kind of took on a life of his own. If it were not for Herman, I would have never woken up to my real purpose: to take risks and to live life fully. Without Herman, I might not have ever realized what was going on in the beauty industry…it’s mind-boggling to me (pardon the brain pun). Herman changed my life personally and professionally more then anyone could ever have.
Ironically, now it’s Hermione that is changing my life. Although not really public, until now, I have a second brain tumor. I named her Hermione – yes, after one of my favorite Harry Potter characters. This one I plan to live with indefinitely. Hermione appeared to keep me on this journey that I started. She reminds me to continue to take risks and have fun everyday. If I have a bad day- and yes I do- I just think about how lucky I am to be alive and have it. Hermione reminds me that everything and anything is possible (I mean seriously – I recover from brain surgery to find out another one grew in its place). Originally I didn’t want people to know about it. But I’m not a doom and gloom person. I’m grateful for Hermione -- she keeps me from becoming complacent.
What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
IL: “Don’t sweat the small stuff …and it’s all small stuff” and “Carpe Diem!”
What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
IL: Not trusting my gut. I’ve done this a few times – I guess I’m a slow learner in this area. I knew in my gut that going in one direction was not the right thing and I didn’t trust it. Each and every time it resulted in a mistake. I’ve learned to trust my gut now.
Starting a business is never easy. What motivates you during the good times and the bad?
IL: My children and my team. I am blessed to have two incredible children and I can’t imagine a day without them in my life. They are my proudest accomplishments.
Additionally, I have the best team of professionals that I work with on a regular basis. I’m one of those people who live for Mondays. I miss my team over the weekend. I miss the girls who I work with over the summers when they go back to school. I don’t think I have one person on my team that doesn’t motivate me. Bad days aren’t so bad when such incredible colleagues surround you.
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
IL: Go for it. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Seek out those in the industry who you admire and want to work with. I found that my colleagues in this industry are so helpful. I’ve never had anyone refuse to offer advice or share contacts – it’s incredible support!