FRISCO, Texas — Leading with heart and empathy was the overarching theme of the Second Annual Business Partner Awards hosted by Urban Hydration last month.
“The most important part of any great leader is leading with your heart. If you start there, with having empathy, care, compassion and inclusivity in your thinking, the rest will follow,” said Dave Kimbell, chief executive officer of Ulta Beauty. That’s the key to being able to collaborate, be bold, innovative and disrupt, he said. Kimbell accepted this year’s honors for Ulta Beauty as Industry Ambassador of the Year.
Since stepping into the CEO role last June, Kimbell has been able to achieve all those attributes. He’s carved out a reputation as an affable, caring leader known to pop into stores to lend support — especially in the current environment.
He is also blazing a trail for Ulta Beauty to maintain relevancy in today’s changing market, which can involve risks. “Leadership is about taking risks. You have to put yourself out to make change and drive the business forward. We’ve been working hard to evolve our business,” he said. One example is Ulta Beauty’s pivot from entering into Canada to fostering a partnership with Target.
Kimbell fielded questions during the virtual event from Urban Hydration founder Psyche Terry, or “our Oprah,” as her husband and business partner Vontoba Terry called her.
Her questions ranged from who he takes inspiration from to the choice of hot dogs versus hamburger and clouds or sunshine.
Mary Dillon, Ulta Beauty’s former CEO, who handpicked Kimbell as her successor, is one of the people he admires, as well as all the team members and brands he has worked with. “But if there is one person I get inspiration from continued to this day, it is my dad, who just celebrated his 90th birthday. The biggest thing I learned from him is having care and compassion and deep interest in the world around you and others.”
As far as hot dogs versus hamburgers and clouds versus sunshine? Hamburgers was his quick answer, along with sunshine, not surprisingly, trumping clouds.
Kimbell imparted words of advice for entrepreneurs. “The brand founders I see thrive are the ones who stay true to their mission, vision and what they stand for,” he said, noting that Urban Hydration is a perfect example.
The lively chat with Kimbell was just one of the elements of the event hosted by MLB legend Torri Hunter, an investor in Urban Hydration along with the Terrys. “I love everything these guys are doing,” said Hunter. “My wife, Katrina, and I always promised ourselves we would invest back into our communities and invest in people. The product is awesome, and Urban Hydration has some great operators with Vontoba and Psyche. They believe in it and helped me believe in it.”
Several industry leaders and retailers received honors announced by the founders.
Jonathan Mayes, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Albertsons Cos., was named the brand’s 2021 Diversity Advocate. “Talk about leading with your heart, here is a man who leads with his heart,” said the Terrys.
The Trailblazer of the Year was Krista Pascanik, a sales professional from the Emerson Group who Psyche Terry said has been instrumental in the brand’s growth and transition into more retail doors.
Honoring influencers who have helped spread the word on Urban Hydration, the brand founders singled out Aryssa Joel of America’s Most Beautiful Pageants (@aryssajoel, @txambpageants) and Alexa Rambarran (@alexarambarran) as Beauty Influencers of the Year.
Walgreens copped honors as the 2021 Retailer of the Year. Both the Walgreens skin care and Walgreens Emerson Team were singled out for efforts to build out a large skin care assortment throughout the chain, which is now one of the largest mass market purveyors of the line. “They mean it when they say they believe in small business,” the founders said.
The CVS hair team was named as the 2021 Innovators of the Year for work in a new project with Urban Hydration. Hot off the press, Vontoba announced Breath of Fresh Hair, a new line slated for selected CVS doors. “CVS wanted to work with a Black-owned, woman business that could really pivot the industry. We have worked diligently to ensure we are offering a beautiful hair care selection,” Psyche Terry said.
Family Dollar was selected as the Purpose Driven Partner in conjunction with a hair care collection partnership that helped support the building of a drinking well in Kenya. “Our heart and our purpose is not just to hydrate dry skin and hair, but to hydrate communities in need of clean drinking water. Our purpose-driven partner of the year is Family Dollar, who partnered with us on hair care brand that has done great in their stores and helped us build a new well in Kenya,” said Vontoba Terry.
The Partner of the Year is Beauty Enterprises, led by Rocky Piccirillo and Larry Sussman. While accepting the award, Piccirillo and Sussman donated $10,000 to the Terrys’ Water is Life organization to support more wells for people in need.
Going forward, the Terrys announced plans to build at least two more clean drinking wells and 10 hand pumps not only in Kenya but also expanding into Ghana.
The session was also packed with industry trends presented by Natalie Ryan, insights lead for the Emerson Group. She parsed out consumer insights that will propel sales in the years to come.
With access to information at their fingertips, consumers are more educated than ever. “These beauty shoppers are using this information to uncover and discover different new ingredients for their specific skin tones, skin type or hair type. They are also leveraging this to understand from brands what is in products and where products are sourced,” she said.
Diversity and inclusion will continue to resonate with consumers who are looking for products for their specific needs that are assessable where they shop, not just at specialty doors. “They are looking for brands that speak to them in an authentic way,” she said, adding that many are selecting purpose-driven choices.
Beauty has been a top landfill offender, Ryan said. Consumers will expect brands and retailers to step it up through more sustainable packaging, ethical sourcing, recycling and refilling. “Seventy-seven percent of adults are prepared to boycott companies that behave unethically.”
Digital transformation, she concluded, is not just a shift to beauty sales online. The industry is uniquely positioned, she suggested, to leverage things like virtual tools and content to provide a fun and exciting experience.
Her vision for what will drive sales dovetails with Urban Hydration’s ethos, including always putting better ingredients first and leading with purpose.
“We’re incredibly proud to say that we hosted a global beauty conversation featuring several industry innovators while also attracting viewers from as far away as Nairobi, Kenya — and, even more importantly, producing major donations to several charities doing vital work to help improve the lives of others,” concluded Psyche Terry.