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20 to Know

By: Brian Budzynski and Jeff Falk
Posted: January 5, 2010, from the January 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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In addition to growing the brand designed to be at the “intersection of science and nature”—dermatologist-formulated products with active ingredients derived from vegetation—Polla strives to remain the lynchpin between the brand and its customers, filtering and answering, for example, all consumer generated e-mail. “I feel so strongly in being involved with our clients and consumers,” the Harvard and Georgetown grad told GCI magazine. “I think in today’s impersonal world, consumers are looking for that personal connection. In particular, as we are a family business, this personal connection is at the core of our values and brand personality.”

The “family” in family business has been critical in both the development of the business and in how it approaches consumer needs. Polla told GCI magazine that one of the milestones she was most proud of achieving was building a team, and cites her parents’ influence for her personal business acumen.

“My father really instilled a sense of hard work and passion in me. He loves to help others feel good, and I think that is one of the rewards for our business. He has also taught me about vision and creative force—thinking outside the box, not doing things the way everyone has always done them. My mother has taught me that in reality there is no such thing as work-life balance; work is life and life is work when you own your business.”

Featured on the cover of Business Week Small Biz and recently named one of five finalists for the Entrepreneur of 2009 contest presented by The UPS Store, Polla is also the founder of the Network of Entrepreneurial Women, an association for women entrepreneurs in the Mid-Atlantic region; is on the boards of the Washington D.C. Chapter of the Fashion Group International and of the Washington D.C. Coalition for Capital; and is a committee member of the International Spa Association.

Karen Young, CEO, The Young Group

Experience, a deep knowledge of trends and an interesting, complementary and on-target combination of interests is the recipe for a true asset to an industry. Karen Young is that combination, and—like icing on the cake—she is an insightful, engaging and timely speaker.

Before opening The Young Group in 1999, Young was vice president of marketing, advertising, product development and sales promotion for Lancôme. Before that, she spent 17 years at Estée Lauder, where she held a variety of executive positions, including executive director of color cosmetics. Since opening The Young Group, Karen has worked extensively in all categories of the beauty industry. She has developed concepts and products for RoC, Bath & Body Works, Neutrogena, Crabtree & Evelyn, Vichy, 3M Products and Canyon Ranch. Young has also worked with numerous established brands—including Christian Dior Beauté, Shiseido, Parfums Givenchy, Coppertone and Avon.

As a certified personal trainer and nutritionist, Young has noted that she is drawn to projects that combine beauty, health and wellness—and projects such as these are right in step with where, it is clear, much of the beauty industry is going.

Young is also an adjunct professor at The Fashion Institute of Technology, teaching product development in the master’s degree program in cosmetic and fragrance marketing and management, and partnered to form Leading Edge Innovations LLC—a strategic alliance with several technology centers to bring a think-tank approach to personal care formula and delivery system innovation toward the goal of creating truly differentiated products.

Kim Bleimann, Chairman and CEO, Berjé Inc.

Kim Bleimann embarked on his career in the flavor and fragrance industry and Berjé, Inc. in 1973. The fragrance compounder assumed the presidency of the company in 1981, and under his guidance, Berjé has grown from a company of nine employees to a firm with offices in Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Plovdiv, Bulgaria—where Berjé became the first American company to produce rose and lavender in Bulgaria. Berjé has been an active global supplier of essential oils and aromatic chemicals, and recently made acquisitions to grow in additional markets.

To anyone who has heard or read his presentations at Women in Flavor & Fragrance Commerce events, it is also clear that Bleimann is a thinker beyond dollars, cents and essential oils—instead considering the industry in terms of global influence and pondering the impact on the richness of human experience.