Linda Gillette Parodi first created her eponymous bodycare line to rejuvenate and soothe the industry’s caretakers. Now, it’s for consumers, too!
Though Linda Gillette Parodi, CEO and founder of Geneva-based Parodi Professional Care, already loved the hair industry as a preteen in North Dakota, she didn’t expect to find herself ensconced in beauty as a career. To help pay her way through college (majoring in architecture and later art), she pursued a hairdresser’s license, ultimately dropping her college education after a two-year degree and instead following her new beauty-pro path.
After spending decades in the industry, she discovered a new calling–to care for beauty’s caretakers, such as stylists, who often focus on others so intensely that their own health suffers. Parodi went to work creating a product line to heal the hands and feet of industry workers. She now finds herself at the helm of a growing brand that has generated grassroots buzz among beauty pros–as well as their clients. Beauty Store Business recently talked with Parodi to learn more about her impressive industry background, burgeoning product assortment and unexpected role as a successful entrepreneur.
A Lifetime of Learning
After becoming a stylist in her college years, Parodi was whisked into the world of mega manufacturers, working with big names such as Aveda, where she handled both sales and education for 12 years. Later, she joined Wella, working for five years as vice president of salon services in Woodland Hills, California, until the company was purchased by Proctor & Gamble (P&G). The acquisition sent her across the pond to Geneva, where over eight years she collaborated with marketing staff to create worldwide education curricula for brands such as Sebastian and Nioxin. “That’s when the idea of Parodi was born,” she recalls. “With 30-plus years in the beauty industry, one late afternoon I was reminiscing about the industry and how I’d always worked with manufacturers to make great products that allowed salon professionals to be more successful. But [then I wondered] what happens when these professionals have worked for 10 years and have to quit because their hands and feet are wrecked?”
The problem was glaring when Parodi, fre- quently visiting up to 10 salons daily, stepped into a salon where three stylists were missing in action due to surgeries stemming from carpal tunnel and shoulder injuries. Meanwhile, her formidable experience working with several of the world’s most successful manufacturers gave her insight into everything from thinking outside the box to ramping up productivity and sharing stories of product benefits. “My inspiration was the salon industry and its professionals,” she reveals. “They spend their careers making others feel better–but no one was looking after them.”
Though Parodi never envisioned herself as a beauty entrepreneur, she does admit that she’d always harbored a hunger for knowledge and an openness to learning new things. Her work at P&G provided an opportunity to learn about product supply and how to bring new formulas to market. When contemplating her own line, she first connected with a chemist in Paris to design a hand cream, which led her to various French labs to learn about the latest and greatest raw materials. “We started building the first hand cream and tested with a group of hairdressers in Paris and Chicago–30 in each city–and didn’t approve anything until every- one agreed it was effective,” Parodi explains. Then she worked on details such as packaging design, registrations and distribution. The process entailed more than two years of rigorous fine- tuning before her two initial products hit the market in May 2016: Moisturizing Hand Cream in Daily and Intensive formulas.
Later, the product line grew to include two footcare products, Smoothing Exfoliant for Feet and Nourishing Foot Cream, followed by Comforting Muscle Lotion to tackle sore, over- worked muscles. Recently, Parodi introduced two more bodycare SKUs, Hydrating Body Moisturizer and Illuminating Body Polish. The superconcentrated formulas feature a pleasing cherry-vanilla scent, sans silicones, parabens or synthetic fragrance–and, Parodi notes, the entire line will always be made with the beauty professional in mind. “Stylists loved the products,” she says. “The Comforting Muscle Lotion, with arnica and magnesium oils, plus cooling agents like menthol and camphor, helps relax the neck, shoulders and back from all the leaning over stylists do. Our Body Polish uses really fine micro- dermabrasion to help when hair gets embedded into the skin from giving haircuts in the salon.”
Industry workers immediately appreciated Parodi’s stylist-inspired products, and it wasn’t long before clients got wind of the line–often through stylists enthusiastically sharing their personal supply. Within a year and a half of Parodi’s first line hitting the market, salons started inquiring about stocking the product in their retail areas. Soon, consumers began contacting the company directly to ask about where they could purchase products. It was an “aha” moment for Parodi; she realized she had to bring the products to not only stylists but also consumers.
Behind the Brand
The secret behind all Parodi products is a carefully developed proprietary blend called HypeauPro, which combines three skincare superstars. Parodi explains that hypericum, or St. John’s wort, packs a powerful punch of antioxidants for antiaging powers; spilanthes is an under-the-radar herbal oil that boasts calming and smoothing effects; and mother-of-pearl powder remineralizes the skin to help the stratum corneum–the skin’s outermost layer–heal itself. “The testimonials we’ve gotten have been great,” Parodi enthuses. “Nine out of 10 hairdressers have had problems with their hands at one point. With chemicals, gloves and blowdryers, this is a tough industry for hands. We hear a lot of stories [from beauty professionals] that our products have helped their hands heal. This has been the most amazing industry for me, and to give back has been so rewarding.”
Of course, working for a manufacturer and heading up your own product line are different beasts–and Parodi admits she’s constantly multitasking, tackling unforeseen issues, learning the entrepreneurial ropes and putting out fires. “I’ve lived very well from pursuing this passion and from my love of the beauty industry. It’s a phenomenal career, but you have to be willing to work your butt off!” Parodi says, laughing. “In a small business, nothing goes smoothly and every day something pops up that you didn’t see coming. You have to be flexible and humble; you have to find the motivation in your soul. And, of course, you need patience, patience, patience.”
Indeed, Parodi notes that while mega manufacturing offers established systems to handle issues and the star power to introduce a product to $50 million in sales overnight, a budding business like hers takes time to grow–and the most important aspect of that is exposure, landing product in the hands of beauty pros and consumers alike. Luckily, she has launched amid sweeping changes in beauty buying, when indie brands can leap from relative unknowns to social media sensations in the blink of an eye. “So many entrepreneurs are starting out and making great stuff, and people are taking a chance on trying my products,” Parodi says. “Big companies are still super important to the industry–they offer advanced education to help grow salons and spas, for example–but I see more salons pulling in those indie brands.”
Today, despite being based in Switzerland and with some manufacturing in France, Parodi’s largest market is the United States, though it’s also sold in the U.K. and Canada. Next, Parodi wants to extend her reach in the European Union (E.U.), preparing for a big push in countries such as Italy, Spain, France and Germany. But she also knows that slow, steady and careful growth is the way to win over the long haul. “We’re now sold in specialty retailers, salons and spas, and in New York City’s C.O. Bigelow, but the retail environment is very competitive,” Parodi explains. “If you’re not ready for those big retailer contracts, it could be great or detrimental–even killing your brand. It’s exciting when someone wants to bring your brand into hundreds of stores, but for a small entrepreneur, it costs money to do business with the big guys. It’s not as easy as it appears!”
To help spread the word, Parodi relies on media mentions in both trade and consumer publications; for example, after a spot in Marie Claire in late 2018, social media likes, website visits and online purchases enjoyed a healthy boost. The company has also worked with influencers in both the United States and Europe, which, she says, helped a lot–but she’s not willing to sponsor her shout-outs, knowing that modern consumers are skeptical of influencers being paid for brand exposure. In fact, Parodi wonders if influencers will enjoy comparable clout in coming years. “With social media, etc., consumers are oversaturated–and a lot of likes on social media doesn’t necessarily mean more sales,” she says. “Now, with so many influencers, I don’t think they have the same cache as they used to. I think, within the next three years, things will get a lot more simplified, with less noise. I see a dramatic shift happening in the consumer mindset, with people looking more for who’s authentic.”
As the company looks ahead to the five-year mark, Parodi notes she’s proud of the product selection offered; now, it’s time to focus on driving E.U. expansion. That said, she’s also sitting on additional formulas to expand the line further in future years. “I have a ton of ideas waiting in the wings, because I like development,” Parodi hints. “We’re looking at additional products– maybe four more formulas next!”
Ultimately, in a time when everyone is looking to boost personal wellness and self-care, Parodi’s products are hitting the mark even among a population that’s notorious for neglecting their own well-being. “Salon pros aren’t the best at self-care, because they’re caregivers,” Parodi says. “We’re inspired by them. We hope salon professionals take care of themselves like they take care of others, and Parodi products are the tools they can use to help make that happen.”
Linda Gillette Parodi shares her top tips for business owners:
1. Practice patience and communicate. When it comes to retailing, don’t be afraid someone will say no. If they do, it’s okay–you’re offering something that can benefit them.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
3. Be nice to yourself. In a small business, it’s easy to beat yourself up.
4. You’ve got to hustle. Nothing in life is free, so be ready to work!
5. Be consistent.
[Images: Courtesy of Armando Sanchez; Parodi]