By Golie Alemi
Jane Wurwand’s history begins with a modest upbringing. After her father passed away when she was just two, her mother, a trained nurse, returned to work to support Wurwand and her three sisters. “It was my mother who taught me work ethic, independence and resilience,” Wurwand says.
A simple message of five words shared by her mother would ultimately define Wurwand’s life: “Learn how to do something.” She echoed these same words during her keynote address delivered to a full house at UCLA Anderson’s Women’s Leadership Summit, Velocity.
For Wurwand, it all began when the fiercely independent entrepreneur, with her then boyfriend Raymond (now husband), saw an opportunity in what the U.S. skin care education industry lacked. The pair founded the International Dermal Institute in a small classroom in Marina Del Rey, Calif., in 1983. Not long afterward, Wurwand realized no other product line embraced her approach to skin health, so in 1986 she developed her own.
Fast forward more than 20 years later: The IDI is considered the gold standard for post-graduate skin and body therapy training, with 37 locations worldwide. Dermalogica is used in over 80 countries by more than 100,000 skin therapists.
After achieving such success, Wurwand was seeking additional ways to make an impact. Her goal became giving a hand up to aspiring women entrepreneurs. So, in January 2011, Wurwand launched Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship as part of the Dermalogica Foundation. FITE is a global initiative that works to create pathways to entrepreneurship by providing women with access to small loans and business resources and supporting education and leadership training.
Industry statistics were showing that for every 100 people who get their skin care licenses, 96 drop out. Wurwand attributes this to the fact that they didn’t have the additional skill set to be financially independent. Wurwand’s model teaches skin care licensees how to be successful in bridging the knowledge gap by teaching techniques like how to draft press releases, create menu designs and put together a business plan.
The FITE program has empowered more than 63,000 women to start or grow a business, on top of providing educational scholarships to girls around the globe. “Their journey is my journey. There is laundry to do, and I’ve done it,” she says, referring to her first job at a salon at age 13, literally doing laundry, folding towels and sweeping up hair clippings.
Wurwand, who put off motherhood until 36 (she was just 25 when the company was founded) hopes to continue to motivate entrepreneurs to their highest capacity of success and provide opportunities to women whose careers otherwise might be stifled by caregiving.
Now on the brink of its 30-year anniversary milestone, Dermalogica recently announced that Unilever would acquire the company. Jane and Raymond Wurwand and the Dermalogica tribe will continue to work with Unilever.
In closing, Wurwand shared three takeaways of encouragement that she hopes will resonate like her mother’s empowering mantra did with her:
- If you have a great idea don’t let someone dissuade you: The reason no one else has done it is simply that no one else has done it.
- Don’t worry that your idea is messy. Clean it up and look at what you’ve got underneath. Edit and wrap it up nicely.
- Don’t get discouraged. Instead, get inspired by self-repeated enthusiasm — it’s going to be okay.