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How She Got There: Sonia Kashuk, Founder & President of Sonia Kashuk

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Name: Sonia Kashuk
Job Title and Description: Founder and President of Sonia Kashuk, Inc.
Website: www.soniakashuk.com
Twitter Handle: @soniakashuk

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Sonia Kashuk: My days are so varied, and the thing that I love about my job is that it’s so varied! I work on everything from the creative process of product innovation to PR for the brand to the overall creative aspect of the branding, like advertising and digital marketing.

My day can include anything, like a business meeting on new concepts or opportunities to deliver new things to the brand. We work about a little over a year in advance with our products (right now we’re working on Fall 2015), so you have to do a deep dive into trending and forecasting to ensure you’re relevant and new for each season. But because we’re working so far in advance, you have to go off of your instinct as well. I have to work off of trends and reports but also my gut.

This job requires me to analyze women’s needs and create products that are easy to use. Being that we’re sold at Target, we’ve got to create products that are easy to understand. I look at it, when I’m developing products, from the perspective of real women as well as makeup artists.

So there’s a lot that goes into every product, and as founder of the brand, I also have to do a lot of publicity for the brand and also philanthropic causes and industry events. I need to make sure that a huge part of my day is giving back. It’s not about working for hire but also what I can do for somebody else.

What is the best part of your job?

SK: I love being able to help real women. People ask me all the time what it’s like to work on this celebrity or that celebrity, and my response is that it’s so much more inspiring and stimulating to be able to work with a woman or a young girl in college who’s trying to find ways to make herself look better and feel better. Those are the individuals who don’t have access to makeup artists and stylists like celebrities do.

Touching the lives of people who aren’t in that world of celebrity, and who maybe don’t know how something as small as makeup can make a huge change, is the best part of what I do.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

SK: I actually entered the beauty industry by working my way in through the art side, and then I later added the commerce side. I think coming in through the art world also makes it a little more interesting and keeps me on the creative side, so there’s not necessarily something I wish I’d known back then since I was coming from somewhere so different.

I think you always want to make your mark creatively in this industry, but realistically, all industries are competitive. I think one thing I’ve learned is that, because of all the competition, you just have to put yourself in a bubble and go after your passion and whatever it is you really want to stay focused on. With so much of a competitive edge, you can get lost.

I think for me it’s been important to stay focused and true to the beginning of this brand I started over 15 years ago and to our mission. So there isn’t one thing that surprised me [at first], but rather I learned you need to keep your focus as you go on.

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

SK: I think there’s quite a few, because more often than not, something surreal happens. For me, it’s even still hard to believe that I even have name recognition on my brand. It always takes me by complete surprise, because there are so many big brands out there.

For example, one time I was boarding an airplane and I heard two of the stewardesses talking about how, “Oh, Sonia Kashuk is going to be on the flight!” and they were discussing using the makeup and how much they liked it. I of course went up and introduced myself and thanked them! It put a smile on my face.

But also, through the years, I’ve had incredible support from the beauty industry itself and women that I so respect and from presidents of brands who were honoring me. I think that every day is a day to be grateful for surviving in this competitive world and being a recognized brand amongst international brands.

Overall, I’m just so grateful to have the support of the industry and the consumer as well. To me, that’s surreal.

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

SK: It’s changed a lot now! For me, it’s first and foremost someone who has a passion for beauty, because that’s what we do all day long. I think a person has to be relevant and knowledgeable on digital, because digital is such a huge aspect of our brand now. It’s not just beauty brands but the world in general, so to be aware and knowledgeable is crucial.

Mastering the ability to understand marketing and creation of a product but also how it can be transferred and played out digital is someone we’re really looking for. I’m also looking for interest and passion. Even if somebody hasn’t had a lot of opportunity for experience but has a passion for this industry, that’s so helpful.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

SK: Figure out what it is you want to do and go after it. If there’s a brand you want to work for, identify that brand and go there. Do your homework and surround yourself with extracurriculars and experience.

For example, are you talking to people in the beauty world? Are you reading Women’s Wear Daily? Are you involved with professional beauty industry circles? Be aware of every beauty blog out there and think about where you can innovate and differentiate.

It’s about just paying attention and figuring out where you can have impact.

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