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Empowerment, Mentorship and Taking Risks — Through the Eyes of 6 Female Founders


For an organization that’s all about uplifting women in business, it’s not surprising that female empowerment was the theme of Cosmetic Executive Women’s first Female Founder Awards. Held this past Tuesday at the Harmonie Club in Manhattan, the event honored six women who are helping to shape the future of the beauty industry with their passion, leadership and innovation.

“We have been recognizing and empowering women for 65 years; the organization — not me,” said CEW President, Carlotta Jacobson, setting the tone for an evening filled with humor, honesty and, of course, powerful stories from women in the beauty industry. After accepting their awards, the honorees spoke about their journeys with Jill Scalamandre, who is Chairwoman of CEW and President of bareMinerals — which proudly sponsored the event. These are the words that inspired us most.

On Being a Woman in Business

“As much as sometimes women feel that it’s challenging to be a woman in a business that’s dominated by men, I also think it’s an opportunity. As a woman, if you own what it is that makes you unique and special and powerful and you go into things with confidence, you’ve got it.”

– Gregg Renfew, Founder & CEO, Beautycounter

“As women, we live these super busy lives, as I’m sure you can all relate to. We all wear many hats and we wanted to give women permission to take a little time off, and to also give back to themselves.”

– Lauren Ireland, Co-Founder, Summer Fridays

“My daughter’s 9. And I joined something called YPO recently, which is a support group for CEOs. And she heard about the seven men in my group. She was so confused because she’d never heard of a male CEO before. She made me explain to her three times, why they were men. And finally she said, ‘Their mothers must be very proud of them.’”

– Vicky Tsai, Founder, Tatcha Inc.

On Leading by Empowering

“A founder doesn’t build a business. A founder builds the people, and the people build the business.”

– Amy Errett, CEO & Founder, Madison Reed

“What we stand for at Beautycounter is what you all stand for at CEW: the opportunity to empower, to build confidence, to allow people to find financial independence.”

– Gregg Renfrew

On Following Your Instincts

“When I started Madison Reed I knew NOTHING about hair color. I’d never been in the beauty industry. But what I did know is that women deserve something better. And women deserve to be confident.”

– Amy Errett

“It’s OK to dream about face masks and makeup because we are dreamers, and look where it brought us.”

– Mariana Hewitt, Co-Founder, Summer Fridays

“After losing my mother, I did a lot of soul searching to figure out how it was going to maximize my life and actually pursue my dreams … in 2014, I took a risk and quit my job to pursue my dream full time. And in 2019, Briogio is now one of the fastest growing haircare brands at Sephora.”

– Nancy Twine, Founder & CEO, Briogeo Hair Care

On the Power of Mentorship

“About 9 years ago, I sold my engagement ring, and I had a baby and launched a company on the same day, and I thought ‘Oh no, what did I do?’ … I remember sitting at my dining room table, and looking at 10,000 blotting papers, and thinking, ‘I really liked that engagement ring.’ And then I heard about CEW, and I signed up, and I got Jill Scalamandre as a mentor. Since then, every single person who has changed the trajectory of my life and Tatcha has been from CEW.”

– Vicky Tsai