Interview Series: Meet Jessica

Jessica Mills

I love working on a category that is more emotional and directly impacts the way women look and feel everyday, with instant gratification.


I remember when I first started looking for internships while still in business school back in 2009. Compared to my classmates, I had relatively fewer years of experience under my belt. I was competing with people who had already worked for 4-5 years, and the only thing I knew was that I wanted to work in consumer product goods, preferably in beauty. I ended up landing an internship with Burt’s Bees in Taipei, and I was overjoyed. The experience was very start-up like, because it was just me and the General Manager of the region working together in a small office. We had to be scrappy, putting together focus groups on the fly and working with a non-existent marketing budget. We did store checks and I learned so much in one summer. Working for big, established companies comes with its perks and benefits. Working for smaller, start-up like companies that are just beginning to scratch the surface of a brand new market can also be exhilarating and exciting. I wanted to introduce you today to Jessica, one of my very good friends from my days working in New York. Jess has worked for L’Oreal on major hair care brands as well as Avon in Global Skincare, where she and I became close. She has a very interesting perspective, having worked for companies of different scale and sizes. Let’s see what she has to say in her interview 🙂 Be sure to follow her brand Catrice on Instagram (@catriceus) and Facebook!

Hi Jess, can you give us a little background on your role – what you do?

Jessica: Sure thing, Pegs! I am the Brand Manager for the makeup brand CATRICE Cosmetics. CATRICE is a well-established global brand (parent company is called cosnova GmbH and the headquarters is located in Germany) and I have been working in the NYC offices. I am currently working on launching the brand in the US and Canada. We’re a small office (the NYC office has 13 employees) so it has a very start-up feel. Like other start-up’s of similar size, we’re in hyper growth mode right now.

You’ve worked for large beauty companies such as L’Oreal and Avon, how does it feel now to be more in a start-up beauty company?

Jessica: To provide a bit of background, I started my career at L’Oreal in 2009, where I worked on the professional haircare and hair color brand Redken for about 3 years. I then obtained my MBA from Fordham University (full time) and returned to the workforce as the Associate Brand Manager of ANEW anti-aging skincare at Avon.

I feel very blessed to have stared my career in the beauty industry at large, established companies such as L’Oreal and Avon. My years at these companies enabled me to build a strong marketing foundation, learn the in’s and out’s of the beauty industry and obtain valuable project management and cross-functional team management skills.

It was a big change for me jumping from Fortune 500 companies to a small start-up company – and I must say, I absolutely love it! The small company/start-up vibe is not for everyone, but I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences thus far. At cosnova, I have been given the opportunity to collaborate in a “test and learn” environment. We are small, but we are agile, and in order to break into the saturated US cosmetics market, we need to push the boundaries in order to see what works and what will set us apart. Most importantly, this means constantly staying abreast of digital technologies and social media trends to see how we can reach our consumer in the most effective way.

I am working on promotional plans, building the brand story and determining the most effective go to market strategy for the brand. It is different, it is challenging, but it is FUN.

Can you give us a few specific examples of differences you have noticed?

Sure, I’ll break them down into a list –

1. Budgets: This one is pretty obvious. Our budgets are much smaller at a small company, which means you really need to use funds wisely and in the most impactful way possible. When I was at Avon, there was an enormous emphasis on testing and waiting for market research to back-up every decision that was made. We tested everything from product ideas, formulas, packaging, white card concepts, branded concepts and product lines both qualitatively and quantitatively. It was nice to validate every step of our journey with consumers, however we spent a lot of time and resources! Needless to say, at smaller companies, where resources are sparse, you need to make some gut decisions and move forward with projects in the most efficient way possible.

2. Size of team/roles: At the larger companies when there are clear cut roles and fully staffed teams in every department, you perform your job function and only your job function- taking special precautions not to step on other departments toes! At a small company, you are a jack-of-all-trades and do whatever is needed to move your project forward! Some days you wear a finance hat, other days a copywriting hat, other days trade marketing, project management, sales, etc. It’s a great way to learn different functions and expand your breadth of skills.

3. Organizational layers: At a smaller company there is a relatively flat structure (depending on the company). I attend meetings on a weekly basis with our US CEO, which obviously did not happen at the larger corporations. It’s great exposure, and also great to experience directly senior management’s thought process and strategizing, versus at a larger company where senior management’s directives are passed on by your boss’s boss and you don’t have the opportunity to hear things first hand.

Sounds like a lot of differences, indeed. What about differences working in a global role (strategic marketing) vs. a country-specific (operational marketing) role?

Jessica: When I first started working, I applied for a Global Marketing role at L’Oreal, and yet at the end of the day, had no idea what the difference was between “Global Marketing” and “US (or operational) Marketing.” At every company Global Marketing means something slightly different. However in general, it means Product Development: Working directly with all cross-functional teams to bring a product to life (think: product name, packaging, launch strategy and consumer communication including marketing materials and collateral) and then working closely with the country marketing manager to share the launch materials and ensure they are fully equipped to launch the product at a local level.

US Marketing, or Operational Marketing, means you are the “country manager” as I mentioned above, and you own a market (ie. US) and it is your responsibility to market the brand there (think: promotional activities, retailer relationships, manage the P&L, etc.)

I thoroughly enjoyed working in Global Marketing and was a bit nervous to enter the world of US Marketing. However, I am lucky to have been given the opportunity to round out my skill set, and have been enjoying the role. I am currently working on finding a digital agency for CATRICE to partner with (4 agencies we selected are currently pitching for the business –think Mad Men) and have launched the brand’s US Instagram and Facebook accounts. I am working on retailer promotional plans, building the brand story and determining the most effective go to market strategy for the brand. It is different, it is challenging, but it is FUN. Launching a brand in the US is hard, but it is a rare opportunity and I am excited by the challenge.

Now that you’ve switched from Skincare to Color, I’m sure you are noticing a lot more color trends! What trends do you see coming in the color category that you think will be big in 2016/2017?

Jessica: The trends that are out right now seem to be here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future in 2016) – highlighting, contouring, matte finishes, color correcting, rich berry shades for Fall, the no makeup makeup look, metallics and bold, bright colored lipsticks, to name a few 🙂

You’ve worked for haircare, skincare and color now – which do you prefer and why?

Jessica: I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to work in 3 VERY different categories within the beauty industry. I have to say my favorite is color cosmetics. I love working on a category that is more emotional and directly impacts the way women look and feel everyday, with instant gratification. It is a trend driven and rapidly evolving category and there is always something new to learn.

For me personally, both hair color and skin care were very technical and claims driven categories (i.e. 95% of women saw less wrinkles in two weeks) and makeup is a more liberating category focused on color payoff and the emotional connection one forms with their favorite product. Needless to say, I love working on a color cosmetics brand 🙂

We are small, but we are agile, and in order to break into the saturated US cosmetics market, we need to push the boundaries in order to see what works and what will set us apart.

Well, share with us a few of your favorite beauty products you are using now that you love?

Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle – Works wonders on my long (usually knotty) hair, and has an AMAZING fragrance.

Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Primer – I have recently learned the importance of primers! Priming is a must for even foundation application, and I am currently obsessed with this Too Faced one. It has a light coconut scent and is super hydrating for my dry skin.

Fresh Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask. I use this mask once a week and love it. It has a slight cooling sensation and my skin feels fresh, firm, and toned after application.

Guerlain Lingerie De Peau Liquid Foundation SPF 20. Peggy recommended this foundation to me a few months ago and it is my new favorite! It has a bit of a higher price point, but worth every penny.

CATRICE Beautifying Lip Smoother – Yes, this is my brand! I am obsessed with this lip smoother. It is a hybrid balm/gloss (not sticky at all) that replenishes my lips while leaving a high- shine finish with a hint of pink.

Beauty Lately focuses on Skincare so we can’t let you go without giving us some skincare advice for our readers! Especially since you worked on an amazing brand like Anew.

Jessica: My first piece of skincare advice is to cleanse your face every night before going to bed! Don’t sleep in your makeup! It will clog your pores and directly impact the clarity of your skin.

My second piece of skincare advice is to wear SPF, every single day. The sun is the #1 cause of aging, on top of the fact that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer (scary, right?). Take care of your skin now, and you will have beautiful skin when you are older!

Shop Jessica’s beauty favorites below!

Last, but not least, I’ve been asking my New York friends to recommend some of their favorite spots in the city to try. What are your’s?

Here are a couple of my favorite spots for food –

Elio’s (low key neighborhood spot, located in UES, Tom Selleck and Jerry Seinfeld can often be spotted eating here). Also love Frankie’s in Brooklyn (best homemade pasta!)

Sushi of Gari and Nobu (both have various locations throughout city)

Cafe Frida (best authentic Mexican, located on Upper West Side), also I love Dos Caminos (various locations throughout city)

Strip House by Union Square

Fred’s (located on Upper West Side, I am obsessed with their meatloaf)

For drinks, I recommend Palma in the West Village, they make the best drinks (try the Rose Martini!)

For beauty, I like to go to the European Wax Center (I used to get my eyebrows waxed at various nail salons across the city. Then I realized I would leave the salon with a different eyebrow shape every time! So now I go to EWC and see the same girl every time. So much better!)

I get my highlights done at Pierre Michel Salon (on E 57 Street, near Bloomingdales) and my haircuts at Butterfly Studio (by Flatiron)

I also love getting massages at Exhale Spa. I get my workouts in at spin class and am obsessed with Flywheel Sports.

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