01 Sep Anne Mandler Interviews Anna Wu – In Life and Beauty, Some Things Change and Some Stay the Same
Anna Wu shared in life and beauty, some things change and some stay the same in the Premiere Fall 2015 No. 1 of ANNE
ANNE: You took over a business in your early 20s. What is the number one piece of advice you want to give others beginning businesses for the first time at any age?
ANNA: I feel extremely lucky to have had the chance to “play house” with someone else’s business. I started as a receptionist at the first Faust Salon in the Capitola mall when I was a junior in college. I was stuck with the closing shift, which gave me a lot of free time on my hands, I decided to implement a working inventory system and started making little useful changes here and there. When there was an opportunity for the business to grow, my managers approached me and asked me to write out a proposal for a business plan if I were to take over the new location as manager. They allowed me to have a hand in hiring, setting up protocol, as well as coming up with incentive plans for both the staff and guests. After the second location took off in Santa Cruz, we set our sights on opening a third location in Scotts Valley. After managing the location for a bit over a year, I purchased the third location from them. The biggest lesson I have learned in my adventures of being a (young) boss lady is to truly treat others as I’d like to be treated. Consistency is key when it comes to customer service and maintaining successful relationships. As the business grows, I find myself with less time to do the day to day check ins with my team, or to run out of the salon to grab a meaningful conversation and a cup of coffee with an old client. Carving out the time for myself, my team, and most importantly the community that has welcomed me with open arms is something that I still do daily. It keeps me grounded and reminds me that no matter how much we can all grow, as long as we make an effort, we can grow as a community and build off each other’s successes.
ANNE: You have a staff that you rely on to make your business run. What do you to motivate them and ensure that your team works well together?
ANNA: I have an incredible staff of ten amazing humans who have all been brought together by their love of other humans, beauty products, and their passion for beauty (in all realms) of the human spirit. I have been in the business now for almost ten years, so it’s definitely taken a bit of time to find that amazing super group, a clan of artists who have mutual respect for themselves as well as the environment they’re in. Having shared goals is huge in creating a harmonious and successful business. Open communication to learn about my staff’s ever-evolving interests in the hair and beauty world, scheduling educational classes and meetings with the reps of the lines we offer, as well as regularly setting up retail incentive contests to add a bit of healthy competition. The key factor that ties us all together so harmoniously is trust. I trust in my team, and they trust in me that I will always make big decisions with their best interest at heart. I recently also set up life insurance plans, as well as vision and dental because I truly believe if you invest in your team long term, they will reinvest their time and craft back into the business.
ANNE: What did it take to get the team that you have now?
ANNA: It took a lot of trying on different types of people to find the team that I have now. I have learned to toughen up a bit over the years. When I first started in the industry, I really wanted to give everyone a chance because I felt so lucky that I had been given the chance of a lifetime at such a young age. It took me a few years to realize that no matter how much I wanted success for a person, it didn’t mean anything unless they truly wanted it for themselves and were willing to work for it. I really hate giving up on people, and always want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. While I still find myself to be a positive person, I’ve learned that it’s not my job to take on every new stylist fresh out of beauty school, and just to hone in on my gut feeling. We try to have regular meetings and one-on-one check ins on a weekly basis to make sure we’re on the same page, and at times, if we’re not, we figure out how to get there in the most productive and proactive way possible.
ANNE: The beauty industry in constantly evolving. What is your vision for the way the industry will evolve in the next 15 years?
ANNA: I recently returned from Dermalogica’s Congress 2015 event in Las Vegas, which included a forum bringing together 2,300 skincare professionals, business owners, and leaders in the industry alike to discuss the future of beauty and skincare (from 13 different countries!). What really spoke to me about the event wasn’t the new encapsulated retinol formula they had just launched, or charcoal being a “hot ingredient” for the next season but the conversation of bettering the environment as a whole through our craft. We spent the majority of our days discussing how we can use our platforms to raise awareness to larger issues at hand, and still correlate to beauty and the industry we are so immersed in. Wellness is going to be a huge proponent in beauty, as we can see this trend already taking place. Aveda incorporates Arurveda-the ancient healing art from India-in their Invati haircare line, which uses turmeric to help guests achieve thicker, healthier, fuller-looking hair. Beauty labs are looking at how much sleep average humans are receiving on a day-to-day basis and how that may correlate with health and beauty. While I will always be a “product junkie” at heart, I love that the beauty world is looking beyond harvesting key ingredients to keep us young, but educating us on practices that keep our entire being functioning to the best of its ability.
ANNE: What is the number one item that clients come to you for? How do you make sure that they have the best customer experience possible?
ANNA: The number one thing that clients come in for is an honest opinion. It is never my goal to upsell anyone on any service or product in our space. Education is everything. I love spending a few extra minutes with new clients, educating them on the different lines we have in our salon (Aveda, Bumble and Bumble, Dermalogica, Jan Marini, Jane Iredale, Kerastase and Oribe), learning what their daily routines are, what time permits them to get away with, and most importantly, the budget we are honoring. I truly love and believe in the products we carry so I love to sample things out prior to suggesting a guest purchase anything. I love receiving client feedback on products, as no two individuals are ever the same, and learning from my guests. I consider every new client a new friend, and I think they can really sense that I’m not looking for anything more from them than to just pop in and say hi (and to maybe show me their new shoes) on their way to Starbucks next door. If it’s meant to be the business relationship will come next.
ANNE: If you could revolutionize one area of the self-care marketplace, what would it be?
ANNA: I would suggest adding group talks, or scheduled pow-wows for people in the beauty community to get together to have real conversations with our guests and their daughters. Empowering women is so important to me. I was raised by strong women, so I think it’s extremely important to pay it forward in our community. I want to hold individuals more accountable for their thoughts and actions. The power of connection through touch and talk is also important. I would love to have more hours in my day to set up weekly after hours events with my team members and select guests – to create a safe and inspiring environment for us to learn from one another, share happy and sad stories alike, and to learn to grow and move on from our mistakes (whether it be too much under eye liner, or picking at our blemishes), and how to prevent them in the future. Beauty shouldn’t feel like a competitive sport, I feel like women should share tips or experiences that make them feel beautiful, inspiring women of the future generation versus hoarding all of their beauty secrets to themselves.
ANNE: What are your favorite ‘of the moment’ products and why?
ANNA: My favorites are those that are beneficial for multipurpose use. I am obsessed with Jane Iredale’s makeup because it’s a cosmosudical. By very definition a cosmosudical is combination of a cosmetic and a pharma or benefit related combination of ingredients. This line offers amazing coverage as well as working as a treatment product to better your skin and to reverse signs of aging after long-term use. We just took a class with them where we learned that most lip products (not theirs of course) contain petroleum jelly, which causes IBS! I have crazy potty humor so after learning that fun factoid I couldn’t help but post it on Instagram. I had a few clients actually pop into the salon to talk about the correlation of their lipstick use to other not so pleasant events in their lives. Another product that I cannot get enough of is Dermalogica’s SkinPerfect Primer. It’s supposed to go on underneath your makeup to prolong the stay of your foundation as well as giving a nice seamless finish, but I like to use it as my stand alone product in the mornings on days I don’t have to be crazy dressed up. It acts as my moisturizer, sunscreen, has a bit of a tint, and gives a mini facelift! As much as I love researching and sampling products, when it comes to adding something to my personal arsenal of beauty products, it needs to be easy to apply and use.
ANNE: You and I have worked together for a number of years. How do you see beauty themes meshing with taking care of yourself? What self-care tips do you think women can be using right now that they may not be making time for?
ANNA: I think beauty and self care go hand in hand. You can’t feel beautiful unless you take care of yourself (even Giselle Bundchen talks about eating clean and working out on a regular basis.) One thing I notice for myself as well as my peers is that we always seem to feel more beautiful when everything else in life is working synergistically with what are doing. It’s so important to surround yourself with good people. People who will always tell it to you like it is, but will be there to binge eat ice cream with you on the days you just need a little love. While time is something that seems to be escaping all of us, a great tip that I instill in my beauty habits is to get the ones I love involved – whether it be doing matching face masks for me and my boyfriend, or testing new lip glosses with my girlfriends. It gives me a second to connect on a deeper level, while still scratching my itch for beauty!
Anna Wu was born in Shanghai, China in the late 80’s and moved to the United States at the age of 6 in hopes of a brighter future. She was brought up in diverse community, in her first few years being raised and cared for by her Jewish Aunt and Uncle in San Diego. Shortly after, Anna made the decision to move to the East Bay, in California with her mother to navigate the next leg of her life.
Anna met a salon owner in Berkeley, California, adopted her as her mentor, and from there, felt that she was truly began emerging as her own person. She started her first job at the age of 11, caring for a young infant, and stayed working with the family until moving to attend college in Santa Cruz. The mentor/mentee relationship she had with her first employer helped shape Anna into the businesswoman she is today. It was through her mentor, that she learned that regardless of age, race, or sex, all people have a story to tell and deserve to be heard.
Anna attended The University of California, Santa Cruz, and received her BA in Psychology. Throughout her time in California, she became heavily involved in the fashion and beauty industry, and has recognized the field as being her first passion in life. She worked from the ground up at FAUST Salon, now as the owner. Anna has also aided in the opening of 3 more salon locations.