Cosmetics queen and beauty boss Maria Hatzistefanis is the Greek entrepreneur behind Rodial, the London-based ground-breaking skincare group which she started in 1999 with her own savings, after identifying a niche for results-driven treatments targeted to specific skin concerns.
Maria started her career as a beauty writer before moving to New York where she received an MBA from Columbia Business School. After a stint in corporate finance at Salomon Brothers, first in New York and then London, she followed her passion and instinct for beauty by launching Rodial. Founding her growing global beauty empire from home, she innovatively created a cult range of results-oriented products with evocative tongue-in-cheek names such as Dragon’s Blood, Snake, and Bee Venom, which have given the brand an extensive celebrity following and global reach with presence in 35 countries worldwide. Pairing world-class anti-ageing ingredients, such as bee venom and dragon’s blood, with revolutionary innovation, her cult ‘snake’ serum went viral together with her business and people were quick to call Rodial an overnight success. However, she’s here to say otherwise, as it was actually 19 long years in the making.
‘I am very proud to have revolutionised the skincare market since 1999 with high tech skincare and innovative make up collections’
Tell us about Rodial and what the motivation was behind launching the company?
I saw a gap in the market for a skincare range that would offer targeted, fast acting treatments for specific skin concerns. Rodial products consist of the latest cutting-edge ingredients to really help transform skin concerns.
What prompted you to decide to create your own brand?
I’ve always been passionate about beauty and fashion. I started as a beauty writer, and after I got fired from my job in banking I decided to do something that I was passionate about. I wanted to bring personality and excitement into skincare.
How did you go about creating Rodial?
Banking and business taught me a lot about how to get a business started. I started Rodial in a tiny office in my house. At the beginning I did everything myself, I created the products, worked with the manufacturers, pitched the stores, physically went to the stores, and called journalists.
What influenced your decision to launch a separate sister brand Nip+Fab?
I was inspired by some of the designer to high street collaborations and I wanted to create a brand for the mass market with the same DNA as Rodial. Nip+Fab offers some of our likeminded products at a lower price point.
Tell us about why you decided to expand your skincare brand to include make-up too?
It felt like a natural move for us to expand from skincare into make-up, the two go hand in hand in the beauty industry. It was a really exciting but challenging move as make-up was a completely new area for me.
Can you share with us the secret to starting your own business?
There is no secret formula to success, but you have to believe in yourself, your ideas, hopes, and dreams. When you start a business a lot of people will question you. You need to surround yourself with positive people who encourage you and want you to succeed.
What has been key to the development and growth of your brand?
There have been so may key milestones for Rodial over the years, I have a really strong team around me who are passionate about the business and this keeps us moving forward.
Tell us about the importance behind celebrity endorsements, and how these relationships come about?
Kylie Jenner’s make-up artist used the Nip+Fab Glycolic pads and Kylie shared an image of them on her Instagram. This led on to Kylie becoming a brand ambassador for Nip+Fab which really helped the brand grow. Each of our celebrity endorsements has a different story, they have all been key to our brands’ development.
How has your role changed as CEO as you have scaled the company up?
I am very involved and make time to catch up with my team every day as this is really important to me. As the business has grown we have been able to expand our employees which enables me to focus on the big decisions and trust my team to handle the daily running of the business.
What challenges did you face launching a small independent beauty company?
When I was starting out there were people in my life who didn’t believe in me, so I had to cut that negativity out of my life. I reached out to people who were in similar positions and would arrange for us to meet up to share ideas and fuel our creativity. This helped to keep me focused and motivated.
What sets you apart from the bigger beauty companies?
We are nimbler and work on shorter deadlines, so we can keep up with trends and be more reactive to what is happening in the here and now. We are able to take feedback from our customers and introduce changes more quickly than more corporate skincare companies.
How do you create a unique product?
It all starts with an idea, such as I want to create a product which will offer a natural alternative to injectables. Then you need to work with labs and find new and innovative ingredients that will work to offer this solution. I am always on the lookout for new and ground-breaking ingredients that are not available in existing skincare lines.
What was the first product you launched?
The Snake range was the first launch, and Snake Serum was the product that put Rodial on the map.
Can you share with us how you came up with the range, which now has cult status?
I thought it was boring to name a product anti-aging serum. One of the ingredients in the Snake range is a peptide that relates to viper venom, so we decided to get really creative and capitalise on this. It is an amazing product and marketing is very important.
What other products do you feel are the ultimate must haves?
As our ranges are targeted to specific concerns each person will have a particular range that works best for them. The Dragons Blood eye masks are great for reducing dark circles and I always use them when I’m travelling.
What are the most potent ingredients to combat signs of ageing?
Vitamin C, Bee venom, and peptides which are all included in our Rodial skincare collections.
What is your favourite Rodial product?
My go-to range at the moment is the Bee Venom range, the formulas work really well with my skin and are full of the latest anti-ageing ingredients.
Which product can you not live without?
I think a great cleanser is really important and lots of people don’t focus enough time on cleansing their skin. We have just launched our new Vit C range which includes a great daily cleanser.
What five essentials should every woman have in her beauty bag?
My top five essentials would be a cleanser, eye cream, serum, SPF moisturiser for the day, and deep nourishing moisturiser for the night.
Can you describe your morning and evening beauty regimes?
I have such a busy schedule during the week with appearances and events that require a lot of makeup. I apply lots of Dragon’s Blood SPF 15 during the day and use Pink Diamond bio-cellulose masks in the evening.
How do you feel the Middle Eastern woman’s beauty needs differ from other regions?
Middle Eastern women need products that will survive humidity and not melt in the heat. I would suggest using products which do not contain oil as they will not last in hot weather
You recently wrote a book, ‘How to be an Overnight Success’, how did that come about?
Over the last few years I have been speaking at conferences about being an entrepreneur and got to meet some amazing people who would always ask me if I would write a book. At work, we had some insane and unbelievable moments over the years and my team would always say, ‘this should go in a book,’ so at the end I just had to go for it!
With hindsight, what advice would you give yourself?
I think that you learn from every experience both good and bad, it helps you to grow and develop a thick skin, something you need to make it in business!
What advice would you share with women in the early stages or thinking about launching their own venture?
Make sure you do your research and that your business idea is different to everything else that is out there in the market. You need to be different and have a point of view that no-one else has.
What personal qualities to you attribute most to your success?
For me it’s really important to stay excited about the brands and keep a positive attitude, dealing with the problems as they come. I exercise every morning to focus my mind and meditate in the evening to unwind.
Tell us which milestones you are proudest of to date?
My biggest milestones include the launch of Snake serum, creating Nip + Fab, and launching my book. I also hit 1 million followers on Instagram for my @mrsrodial account last year, this was a great achievement for me and I love sharing what goes on behind the scenes with my followers.
You have grown a huge amount since your launch, what is key to keeping this growth sustainable?
Stay focused on your goals but always have a plan B on how to get there, that’s my motto.
What is your long-term vision for the future of Rodial?
My vision is to continue to expand the ranges and grow counters in luxury department stores. There will be new product launches, new faces and lots of innovation.