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Nicole Skibola

Nicole Skibola

Posted: March 14, 2011 03:36 PM

Financial Independence for the World's Women: Jane Wurwand Pays it Forward


Jane Wurwand is passionate about beauty salons.

As the founder of the global skincare company, Dermalogica, she has made beauty her business and is passionate about the relationships that make the beauty industry so unique.

On her whirlwind tour publicizing the new joint Dermalogica and Kiva.org initiative, FITE (Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship) Wurwand describes what salons have meant for so many women around the world. "It is no coincidence that many of the first businesses that opened in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban were beauty salons," she explains. "Women need connection and intimacy. We process by sharing. Salons have been a place where women can come together and share their stories and their ideas."

An entrepreneur herself, Wurwand came to the United States with a small amount of money and a dream of independence, and hustled to make it big. She and her husband pioneered a direct-to-spa and salon business model that took on the distributorship status quo in the United States. Wurwand generously attributes much of her success to fellow women entrepreneurs who scraped together what little they had to open their own salons selling her products, often to make better lives for their children. She emotionally recalls her first product order with a former spa student, now owner of Pizzazz Salon & Spa in Bakersfield, who told Jane at Dermalogica's first trade show, "Jane, if you are in this, then so am I."

Forty advanced training schools around the world and $200 million in annual revenue later, Wurwand knew that she was in a position to leverage the relationships and networks she had built with Dermalogica to reach women entrepreneurs around the world. Recalling the leap of faith that so many of her students and friends took to support her along the way, she knew that it was her turn to give back to the nearly three billion women who lack access to basic financial services. Wurwand calls on the similarities between entrepreneurial women in the beauty industry and entrepreneurial women in emerging markets: "Every [spa and salon owner] has said it feels like their story. Each of them started with a small amount of money and built their success through that. They know as a woman what it means to be financially independent."

True to her beauty industry roots, the FITE strategy will engage Dermalogica's network of distributors, thousands of spa and salon owners, and consumers to join the campaign, with the goal of funding 25,000 women-owned businesses in the first two years alone. To support the FITE Initiative, supporters can take advantage of the Dermalogica-sponsored $1 donations triggered by codes on its five most popular products, or lend as little as $25 to female entrepreneurs from all over the world in virtually every possible industry.

When I asked her which of the FITE entrepreneurs she was excited about meeting, she recalled a conversation from the day before that very poignantly captured her passion about empowering women. Speaking to a group of media folks at the swanky Stephen Weiss studio in Greenwich Village, Wurwand noticed a member of the cleaning crew standing in the doorway listening intently to her speech. "My, you were listening intently," Wurwand said to her later in the evening. "That was my story," began Eunice, who then told Jane about how she had created a very successful cleaning business from nothing helping people create fresh beginnings in their lives by offering unique, intense floor to ceiling cleaning services that give people who have experienced a life-altering event such as a divorce a sense of starting afresh.

It is the idea of the nurturing touch, whether that of a esthetician's hand, or the assistance of a personalized cleaner like Eunice who bring the social mission of compassion and connection into their work appears to be a pervasive theme for Wurwand. Reflecting on her goal with FITE, she explained, "I want to empower women like Eunice; I want to give them the final push to reach financial independence."

It's a daunting endeavor, but after an hour of speaking with her, it was evident that the massive success of Dermalogica hadn't faded her scrappy, entrepreneurial drive. And she isn't shy to embrace her background in the beauty industry that so many are quick to jeer at. "Women need a beehive. Salons aren't just about 'girl talk,' they are deeply tied to how women, especially poor women, are able to connect and help one another." With dreams of broadening the scope of FITE's activities to include a digital and personal network of women mentors and fledgling entrepreneurs, FITE is positioned to make a world of difference to many women.


 

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