Kelila Venson on the Digital Side of Beauty: E-commerce, Customer Acquisition and Growth Strategies
Updated: Nov 20, 2020
On this episode, guest Kelila Venson talks about her journey on the digital side of beauty. She always wanted to work in the industry but her original plan was to become a cosmetic chemist (she was attending Society of Cosmetic Chemist meetings as a teen). But while studying at Northwestern she found little joy in pursuing that major and more in studying Spanish and marketing.
And then I got to college and started majoring in chemistry at Northwestern. And it was really difficult. And I did have a social life and I was failing. My chemistry professor said to me, you know what, if you were meant to do this because you don't seem to be enjoying this. But what if you weren't meant to major in chemistry or what? Chemistry is not for you. And I don't think he said it to push me out of that subject or like deter me from my dreams.
I thought about it and I was like, no, I don't think I have to take this, you know, super quantitative method to enter the industry. What if I focused on marketing? And so taking Spanish courses at Northwestern, I was getting straight A's. It was like the easiest thing ever. I came into university actually speaking a lot of Spanish. I'm bilingual. And so I was taking, you know, second third-year courses as a freshman because I was already speaking it.
Kelila explains how an internship after graduation at the legendary brand Erno Laszlo, set her on her current path. She grew from an intern to a role that married marketing and operations in part because of her willingness to get her hands dirty. After staying late one night and reorganizing the product closet, she got a new opportunity.
And I think after just seeing me, you know, stand up to the occasion or rise to the occasion, no matter the task was she had a respect for that. And so instead of like starting, you know, a traditional search for someone with some type of e-commerce experience, she asked me, are you interested in this area or what do you what do you think about it? Would you like to learn about it? And I said, sure, it sounds interesting. It sounds cool. Why not? And so I kind of got into e-commerce and digital just by mistake or because someone gave me the chance, you know?
And another opportunity, that honed her operational skills came up out of the blue. The CFO had enough trust in her to offer her the position.
I was not comfortable at all. I felt like I did not know what I was doing. I didn't know anything. What do I know about sales contracts and account management? I knew nothing about that. You know, a lot of the conversations were on pricing, how much these retailers could sell the product, you know, how much they could buy the product for. So this was territory that I never I did not have experience. But one thing I did know was that I was a people person. I knew a lot about this brand. I knew a lot about the products to make it speak. I could sell I could sell these products because I knew about them. I could I could speak with excitement. And I found that these teams that these Web sites are really excited about that. And you can get them excited about the product and get their teams excited about about the product.
[Since then she has worked in every vertical of beauty as well as on the agency side evolving in her roles in digital marketing, direct-to-consumer sales become increasingly important.
I'm a consumer of beauty. But I've worked in beauty. And so sometimes as a consumer, you get caught in this dream world where you have this idea of like what it might be like to work someplace, you know, clear your head is in the clouds and some of these places are magical.I'm not saying they're not because there are very talented individuals just doing really cool, interesting.
On the flip side. The industry has changed or is modeling go to market strategies from Asia. So now before you could come out with a few products a year, now you have to come out with a new product every six months to be your every three to six months to be relevant. So that timetable essentially cuts the amount of time you normally have to work on strategy. And if you're not accustomed to working on tight deadlines, sometimes with limited resources, especially when you work in digital, it can be it can be frustrating at times.
But what's really great is some of the really beautiful work or campaigns that come out like, say, you win an award a Webby or it's a Glossy from your digital campaign or say, consumers react positively and well to the campaign and they love it, or some of the comments on how beautiful something was shot. You know, it makes your heart swell because you were a part of that.
Hear all of this and more on the full episode!