- The founder of It’s a 10 Haircare explains her rise from salon stylist to brand owner
- How she bought out her business partner to realize her vision
- How she juggled work with her 5 children during the pandemic
- Why Carolyn’s beauty regime has a tremendous impact on her psyche
Carolyn Aronson is the founder, CEO and sole owner of It’s a 10 Haircare, one of the only female-owned professional haircare brands in the world, and Be a 10 Cosmetics, a multi-functional easy to use makeup line. She talks to 35 Thousand about building her brand, how a Super Bowl commercial played a major role and balancing work and family life.
Describe yourself in 3 words…
Passionate, vibrant and unstoppable.
Tell us about your work
I’m an entrepreneur, philanthropist and the founder and CEO of It’s A 10 Haircare, one of the only female-owned professional hair care brands in the world. At the end of last year, I launched Be A 10 Cosmetics, where I’m also the Founder, CEO and owner of the brand. I started out as a hair stylist and salon owner and was frustrated that every hair product I tried over promised and under delivered, so I set out to create a multi-faceted, powerful product that yielded high-quality results instantly. That’s how It’s A 10 was born. We started out with one product – the Miracle Leave-In Conditioning Spray – and built the brand slowly and consistently to what it is today. I’m so driven and passionate about what I do, so I’m involved in every aspect. I’ve done everything from the accounting to bottling product and everything in between so that I know my businesses inside and out – and I’m better for it.
Do you work in a spare room, skyscraper, or other?
What parts of your work give you energy?
I love what I do, but creating brings me the most joy. There’s something about figuring out how to bring an idea to life and sharing it with the world that’s just so fulfilling.
What parts of your work drain you?
When business cuts into family time and pulls me away from my baby.
Most pivotal point of your career so far?
About 10 years into being a 50-50 partner at It’s A 10, it eventually got to the point where it was time for my partner and I to separate. We had considered putting the company on the market, but when that didn’t work out, I took a huge gamble in 2017 and bought my partner out. I knew it was a big undertaking to put a ton of debt onto an otherwise debt-free company to make this move, but I’ve spent a lot of years working very, very hard to build the brand and just didn’t want to see anything bad happen to it. I had a lot of vision, and I thought that if I can pull it together to buy my partner out, then that’s what I’m going to do. Fast forward to three years later, and it’s worked out really well for us. We’ve achieved a lot, we’re more diversified, we’ve expanded distribution, we’re growing worldwide, and we’ve overhauled our ecommerce presence. To make a splash and put It’s A 10 on the map, we created and aired Super Bowl commercial that year and became one of the first independently owned beauty brands to ever do so – and we even won awards for it! The commercial was shot in black and white and beautifully showed the diversity of people’s hair. The whole moment was unforgettable and was the best way I could have introduced It’s A 10 to the world.
Best piece of advice you received that you now pass on to others?
I’m a strong believer in learning how to crawl, then walk, then run. It’s A 10 is a self-funded company, so as I expand, I need to be very focused and understand that nothing happens overnight. It’s a 10 was started with one product and we now have about 100 skus, but it’s 18 years later. From the beginning, people really need to know how to balance their books, manage their money, not overextend, plan for the ups and downs, and things along those lines. Businesses are volatile, even big brands like mine, so it’s key to have the basic foundation of financial knowledge. Start small, concentrate on it, make sure it’s legally buttoned-up, and don’t expect it to happen overnight. Also, every single business needs an ecommerce platform in today’s world. I don’t care if you’re making donuts or cogs for a machine – you absolutely need to have a shoppable ecommerce platform.
Pets, hobbies, external commitments?
Yes! Aside from my work family, I have a beautiful family at home: my husband Jeff Aronson and five amazing children. I just had a baby in February, and we’re still over the moon with excitement about her. I also have two dogs, Martini and Bentley, that are just the best and make my days so much fun.
Describe your pre-pandemic day-to-day:
It was nonstop! I always had a “go, go, go” mentality and always filled up my calendar no matter what.
How has your daily life changed, what’s your new normal?
The pandemic really made me realize the importance of putting on the parking breaks and slowing down every now and then. I have an amazing group of family, friends and loved ones around me that I get to enjoy spending time with more often, and I don’t take that for granted. My new normal has a much more balanced schedule time-wise, and I’ve also learned to accept more help, which has made motherhood in my fifties during the pandemic go much smoother!
Has the Corona crisis impacted you personally and professionally? How?
The pandemic changed a lot of things in my personal and professional life, but as a mom of five, the most important thing has been keeping my family healthy and safe. My kids are a little older, so our top priority was making sure they were fully equipped for a remote learning situation. Since my husband and I needed to work from home at the same time as the kids were doing Zoom classes, we beefed up the Wi-Fi to make sure everything worked properly. I also needed to learn how to balance my work with helping the kids stay focused and on track with their classes, keeping my family’s positive energy up, and staying connected to the outside world – whether that was going on bike rides or just running errands. From a business perspective, the pandemic threw us a bunch of curveballs. From disruptions in manufacturing, stay at home orders, new health protocols and more – we’ve seen it all. One unexpected challenge we faced was actually when we had a steep increase in demand for our products! Luckily, I have an incredibly dedicated and experienced team who all collaborated so that we could best navigate this time and continue to deliver the highest quality products to our customers.
What, if anything, keeps you up at night?
Nothing! I live a peaceful life and hit the pillow hard 🙂
What have been your best coping strategies over the past year? Do you have any objects, routines or tools that you found particularly uplifting? Gin or Gym?
One thing that’s kept me incredibly focused and on track this year is sticking with my daily self-care and beauty ritual because I feel really good when I put myself together. It has a tremendous impact on my psyche. When I do my skincare routine, style my hair, apply my makeup, and paint my nails, I feel like I can conquer the day – and that’s extremely soothing and empowering to me.
What has kept you sane? And kept your family sane?
In order to stay sane right now, you need to know what makes you relax and be able tap into that every time you need a little break. For me, I love floating and being near the water. Living in Miami, going to the beach or getting on a boat is a safe, outdoor activity that takes my stresses away.
Did 2020 change your outlook on life in any way?
Of course! The uncertainty of it all made me realize how much my children need me and that I need to take good care of myself to make sure I’m around a very long time for them.
Are you travel ready? Where do you want to go, with who or would you rather stay home?
I absolutely love to travel, so I’ve taken a few trips recently. I’ll always do my due diligence to make sure it’s a safe decision, but I love to explore and expand my horizons by visiting new places.
What event or situation is funny now but wasn’t at the time. Please expand!
One time, I was trying to do a demonstration of the Miracle Leave-In Conditioner, but it had gotten too hot in the car on the way there so it poured out all runny when it was supposed to stay in the bottle!
Finish this sentence “If you look in my handbag at any time you will ALWAYS find….”
What are your work from home saviours?
All I need to have a great work from home day are good lighting for Zooms and Be A 10 make up.
Describe your style?
I’m a Latina, so I love to be bold! I’m definitely not afraid of color, and I like to have fun getting dressed up – otherwise, what’s the point? My favorite things have a little bling and a lot of personality!
Name your 5 essential items of clothing?
Comfortable bra, lululemon pants, fitted top, great purse, and a pair of comfortable stylish shoes.
How do you see your business or career in two years from now?
I see us being a successful worldwide brand!
What’s something you haven’t conquered yet but really want to?
My goal has always been to give people simple, easy-to-use tools that deliver salon-quality results to make them look and feel their best, so I’d love to expand the It’s A 10 brands to include head-to-toe products that deliver professional-looking results without the fuss or price tags.
What could you say to your 20-year-old self that would help her the most?
This too shall pass.
Do you have a life motto or mantra that really resonates with you?
My favorite phrase is “some of the best deals you make are the ones you don’t” because hindsight is 20/20. In the moment, you may feel discouraged or defeated when a business deal doesn’t go through, but it’s in those times where you get creative and search for other avenues for success, which oftentimes lead you to even better deals.
If you loved reading this then you will love peeking into the life of Phenology GM Jess Graham.