In Bustle’s Quick Question, we ask women leaders all about advice — from the best guidance they’ve ever gotten to what they’re still figuring out. Here, Claudia Soare, president of Anastasia Beverly Hills, tells Bustle what it was like to work her way up in her mother’s namesake company, why resilience is everything, and how she stays inspired in spite of her busy schedule.
Claudia Soare, who’s also known by her Instagram handle Norvina, didn’t start out at the top. As president of Anastasia Beverly Hills and the daughter of its founder and CEO, the inimitable Anastasia Soare, she started her career with humble beginnings: as the company’s front desk assistant. “The thing was, we didn’t tell people I was Anastasia’s daughter, so I wouldn’t get special treatment,” she says.
Over the years, she slowly worked her way up, eventually earning the role of president. It’s safe to say that she learned a few things along the way — namely, how to conduct herself among industry veterans at a young age and how to distinguish herself, and the brand, in an ever-crowded marketplace. “I don’t think a big responsibility should ever be handed to you because of legacy or whatever; I think it’s a really dangerous thing,” she says. “If you don’t struggle, you don’t appreciate the final outcome. Coming in from the ground up allows you to enter a room and be like, ‘I know what you’re going through in that position, and I’m going to be able to help you.’”
Here, Soare opens up about the best lessons she’s learned from her mother (in both business and beauty), why it’s so important to “keep pushing,” and how she stays on-task despite her busy schedule.
What was it like growing up and watching your mom build her business? How has that influenced you as a businesswoman?
I am the child of an immigrant, so that dynamic adds an extra layer of pressure. I was definitely brought up by a self-starting workaholic. My mother worked more than anyone I’ve ever met. I recall her leaving at 7 AM, working until 7 PM at her salon, then coming back to network at night and on the weekends, flying all over the United States to do her Nordstrom events. My mom hustled.
It instilled in me that you get up and you get going. There is no option of not getting things done — that’s not how my mom operates. She taught me about work ethic, being pragmatic, being really resilient, and also being really insistent. I’ve seen my mom push her way in. I used to be so embarrassed about how pushy my mom would be. If somebody told me ‘no,’ I would just cower and walk away, but my mom does not take no for an answer. She’ll come in through the window if you push her out the door.
It's really hard to be a salon owner with a line that starts in your salon and to make it a global brand. That rarely happens, because everybody doesn’t see the vision or they’re like, “You’re not a brand, you’re a brow lady.” You just have to keep pushing hard and not be discouraged by “no.”
You grew up among so many amazing experts, influencers, and entrepreneurs. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve learned from that network?
My mom was always surrounded by super cool people. When I was a kid, all of her friends were photographers, makeup artists, and models. My mom never really treated me like a kid, either. If there was a Hollywood party, she’d be like, let’s go. I was able to observe all of these adults — all of these industry people — and take it all in.
You learn a lot by observing people. One of the things I learned from observing the most successful people — whether it was models, makeup artists, photographers, agents, or publicists — is that they have the ability to say something that’s personal and automatically disarms everyone. It’s no longer like, you’re a client and you’re on that side of the counter, and I’m a person selling you things and I’m on this side. People get tight in that situation. They’re like, “Okay, what’s this person going to bullshit me about.” If you reveal something about yourself and establish a personal connection, people always remember you, and they will certainly buy products from you.
You’ve worn so many hats at ABH, from front desk assistant to the president and everything in between. What was it like to move up in the business like that and how does it influence you in your role today?
I think it was the best thing that ever happened to me. At some point, you start to notice, “Wow, three years ago, I can see now how immature I was in my decisions and business, and I’m so happy and so proud of myself for how much I grew.”
Another thing is that in the normal corporate hierarchy, people in the top positions don’t deal with everyone all the way down. But, for me, I’ve worked every job. I was at the front desk. I was every assistant. So, I like to connect with everyone. I won’t go to the VP to get everything done; I’ll go to everybody in every position. Internally, I think it helps make people feel more connected to the brand. A lot of people think they can’t talk to me, and I’m like, oh you absolutely can.
How do you stay organized and on-task? Do you have any productivity tips or tricks?
I’m up at six AM. The first thing I do is answer all emails that relate to Asia or Europe because those come in overnight. My goal is to get those out of the way by 7:30, go spend an hour at the gym, come back, then start dealing with U.S. matters.
Between six and noon, it’s really just the ramp-up of the day — the emails, meetings back-to-back, etc. From there, I follow people’s natural breaks. Let’s say some people have a natural break from noon to one. That’s when I pivot. I immediately shift my brain. I’ll go into product mode and start testing. Then, I might have another meeting and jump back. It’s a discipline I formed over the years; I don’t allow myself to get stuck on one thing.
I don’t have a system or a planner. I just check myself throughout the day. I have a massive clock in my office, and I just check it from time to time. I just know that if I haven’t touched any product or done anything for social media by two, let’s say, I really need to, or else the whole day will slip away.
At night, I spend time looking at social media, getting ideas, and putting things together for the social media team. I create mood boards for our next shoots. On the weekends, it’s a lot of creative time for me. That’s when I ideate on marketing concepts and things of that nature. It’s 24/7.
What is the hardest part about your role as president of ABH?
This is something you only learn as a company gets bigger, but you start to realize the value of the time you have to ideate — to come up with new innovations, and to build connections on social media. When you get bigger, you get into so many meetings. There are so many corporate reports and things that have to be reviewed. They’re not necessarily difficult, but they take my time away from the jewel of ABH, so I make sure that I spend extra time on the weekdays or on the weekends to do that because I can’t ever lose that.
What do you love most about your role as president of ABH?
I would say it’s making a product. It’s such a long process, but it’s rewarding. We have our own in-house studio and we create all our own content, so I’m not only able to create a palette, let’s say, but I can create the marketing concept and I can work with the creative team to develop the story behind it. It’s kind of like making a movie with a product. You’re able to take it all the way.
Speaking of product development, you spent six years developing the new ABH lip liner. Can you speak to your approach to product development?
My mom was a technical designer first before she ever did facials and waxing. She has a background in architecture and technical design. She's also an incredible artist. So, my mom always explained things to me and showed me things from beginning to end. She taught me to think about things and deconstruct them from an engineering perspective — to ask, “You have a pencil, but what does it take to make this pencil? Explain it to me from the colors to the lacquer to the barrel.” I’m able to visualize something, see it in little parts, and put it together. The next thing that comes into mind is, what goes with it? Is it just the pencil? Does it go with lipstick? The next thing is, what color story are we telling? Who is this for? I spend a lot of time visualizing things.
I do not take stock formulas. I never have. I'm totally against it, and I think it's almost lazy to do that. Why would a consumer spend money on my product if I just took somebody’s stock?
What do you do to get out of a creativity slump?
I'm a very visual person. I'm constantly bombarding my system with visual stimulation, and I get visual burnout, which lends itself to creative block. I found a long time ago that I need to go somewhere that has a lot of tranquility but also repetitive visual stimuli. There are a lot of things in nature that are very tranquil and very hypnotic: shapes, colors, leaves, trees. It helps my brain do a reset. It’s kind of like how you restart your computer.
So, for instance, I’ll go to Costa Rica once a year. What’s there? Rainforest, a whole lot of green, and animals, but not much else. You go somewhere where the internet sucks, so you have no choice. You have to be off everything and allow your brain to deplete all the noise and go back.
Learn, study, and know what you’re getting into, so you can keep up with anyone.
Finally, what’s your best piece of business advice, specifically for people who want to make a name for themselves in the beauty industry?
If there’s one thing I would advise people to do, it would be to study. Social media has created a lot of pockets of interest; there are genres and sub-genres. I think a really successful person in this business is someone that understands the history of it.
You want to be able to walk up to the table with someone that's been in the industry for 45 years and you want to keep up with the conversation. In the beauty industry, people will reference things that you won’t know if you’re just focused on what's going on on Instagram right now. Learn, study, and know what you’re getting into, so you can keep up with anyone. I had to overcompensate, because being younger than everybody when I started, nobody wanted to take me seriously. I had to become smarter and more informed, so nobody left me out.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.