Jul 302014
 

This week’s interview is with Patti Pao – founder and CEO of Restorsea, and superwoman extraordinaire. I felt honored to have the opportunity to interview Patti, who is a fountain of knowledge on not just skincare, but also starting your own business, and finding happiness in one’s career. I truly enjoyed learning about Patti’s journey and learnings along the way, and I hope you do as well. Enjoy meeting Patti!

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Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

My name is Patti Pao.  I am the founder and CEO of Restorsea, a prestige skincare brand, and I live in New York City.

Can you share a bit about how your career evolved to where it is today? How did you decide to take the leap from working at a large company to founder and CEO? 

When I graduated from Harvard Business School all I wanted to do is work in the beauty business.  My poor dad asked me, “Why can’t you be an investment banker or consultant like everyone else?”.  My first job in the beauty business was with Avon Products. It was there that I learned that I was really good at finding new technologies/ingredients and turning them into blockbuster brands.  I discovered the potential of glycolic acid as an anti-aging active ingredient and helped to create the billion dollar Avon ANEW franchise.

In August 2010, I was touring a salmon hatchery and saw that the workers’ hands, which were constantly submerged in the baby salmon post-hatching fluid, looked like they were twenty years old while their faces looked much older than their actual ages.  The reason why is because of an enzyme that baby salmon release at birth. Unlike a chicken who can physically peck its way out of its eggshell, a baby salmon can’t get out of its eggshell unassisted.  Therefore, when it is ready to be born, it releases an enzyme.  This enzyme is designed to only dissolve the eggshell so that the baby salmon can swim safely out of the opening carved by the enzyme.  When this enzyme is applied to human skin, it only dissolves the dead skin cells leaving the living skin cells untouched and able to thrive.  Plus, we believe that the amniotic fluid from the eggshell has anti-aging properties and the eggshell fragments have skin strengthening properties.  The workers’ hands, submerged in the post-hatching waters, were constantly exposed to this enzyme.  This is why their hands looked so much younger than their actual ages.

I spent a year formulating a day cream and an eye cream and in August 2011, I sent lab samples to Pat Saxby, VP and Divisional Merchandising Manager of Beauty at Bergdorf Goodman.  A month later she called and said that she would take the brand.  And that was the beginning of Restorsea.

Restorsea treatments

What were some of the proudest moments with Restorsea? 

1.  Finding Aquabeautine XL® which is the greatest ingredient I have seen in the 25 years I have been in the beauty business
2.  Securing distribution at Bergdorf Goodman based on lab samples of the Day Cream and Eye Cream which I carried around in a Ziploc® bag
3.  Raising my first round of financing in six weeks (I never thought I would raise a dime)
4.  Securing the 20 year global rights to Aquabeautine XL®
5. Raising over $55 million dollars; it’s very expensive to build awareness and trial. Things never turn out the way you think they will (both good and bad) and they take much longer than you think they will. This is why it is important to have a long runway.

There are so many skincare brands out there, which each seem to tout something special. How do you distinguish between the “good” ones, and the ones that are just hype? What should we look for?

You need to look for:

1. Transparent, easily understandable technology
2. Unique and differentiated technology
3. Strong clinical results
4. Ingredient composition.  Are the formulas natural and free of toxic/harmful ingredients?

That being said, there are a lot of products out there that smell good and feel great and they are making lots of money.  And that’s cool too…If the user loves them, that is what is the most important.

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Gwyneth Paltrow for Restorsea

What are the most important factors to consider for having great skin? 

The six parameters  to having great skin are as follows:

1. Low amount of fine lines and wrinkles
2. Low level of hyperpigmentation
3. High evenness of skin tone
4. Lots of skin clarity
5. High level of skin firmness.  You should be able to pinch your skin and have it spring back immediately.
6. High level of skin smoothness.

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Patti deciding on packaging

What are the most important factors for taking care of your skin? 

Tips and tricks for keeping up with your skincare regimen

1. When traveling, purchase travel sizes of your regular skincare products.  It’s never a good idea to switch products because it confuses your skin.  Believe it or not, skin has a memory.  And the hotel amenity products are generally a lesser quality product because the amenity manufacturers need to sell to the hotels at a fixed price.
2. When crunched for time stick to a no-frills routine which consists of Cleanser, Day Cream, SPF 30 and Eye Cream.
3. Never go to bed without removing your makeup.
4. Never go outside bare faced.
5. And, you are never too young to start using an eye cream.  This is the most delicate area of the body and first to show signs of wear and tear.
6. Don’t forget to meditate even if it for ten minutes a day.  What’s your red-eye routine?
7. Don’t forget to take care of your neck.  The biggest myth is that products for your face work on your neck. They don’t. The neck has a totally different physiology than the face. The face a) is full of sebaceous glands which promote healing, b) has a lot of skin and muscle tone. The neck area is a big expanse of skin with virtually no sebaceous glands and no muscle tone.  As a result without a good foundation, as we age, the skin on the neck and décolletage area has nothing to prop it up and therefore starts to fold inwards causing the folds in the neck and crepe-like texture in the décolletage area.

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When you’re just starting out in your career, sometimes it can feel frustrating that you’re just “climbing the rungs”. What are your thoughts on this? Any career advice that you can share? 

Every woman under 30 is drop dead gorgeous.  Unfortunately, in our 20’s we all are insecure and unformed that all we can look at are our flaws.  I spent my entire 20’s (and 30’s) extremely self conscious about my body weight.  I was looking at photos of myself in my 20’s and I am a toothpick.

Achievement is not success.  I spent my 20’s obsessed with trying to get promoted to the next rung on the career ladder.  When I finally got the big job running the sales and marketing team for a major cosmetics company, I spent every day for the three years that I was in this job telling myself, “Today will be better (which it wasn’t).”

You can’t run away from yourself.   I tell everyone that they need to face their issues preferably sooner versus later.  I avoided having the trials and tribulations most of us experience in our 20’s.  That being said, they finally caught up with me in my mid-thirties and were much harder to go through because I was doing it alone; everyone else had their “moment” in their 20’s.

It just gets better.  We are taught from birth to be afraid of aging.  When I turned 40, I said to my best friend, “I wish I was 22 but know what I know now.” She matter of factly told me “Well then, you wouldn’t be 22!”  At that moment, I was really glad to be 40.

Can you share a little bit about your style and closet? What are some of your daily wears? And what are some of your favorite items in your closet?

Maria Cornejo and her line Zero+Maria Cornejo are my go-to wardrobe staples.  Maria makes the most flattering clothes and I always feel perfectly, comfortably and appropriately dressed whenever I wear her pieces.

In the winter, my go to pant are her Leather Curve Knee Leggings.  They are expensive but I wear them literally almost every day so they are well worth it.

In the summer, my go to is her SIM cropped knee pants.  I have them in black, green, and blue which are basically all of the colors she makes them in.

And my all time favorite is my Chanel Graffiti jacket.

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Restorsea Creams

What is some life advice that you can share?

1. When someone gives you your shot, you run as fast and as hard as possible.  One of my original angel investors told me that if I obtained the exclusive rights to Aquabeautine XL®, he would back me.  While it seemed to be impossible, I obtained the rights.  He backed me, is my co-founder and more importantly, because the universe gave him the gift of making money, has been a huge guiding force in the success of Restorsea.

2. You need to help people and not expect anything in return.  I found my co-founder as a result of this philosophy.  One of my interns was looking to secure an interview for a summer job with a major consulting firm.  I asked one of our investors to introduce her to a friend who was the head of a firm in Chicago.  As an aside to her email, she mentioned her investment in my company.  Her friend immediately wrote back and said he would help secure an interview for my intern, expressed interest in finding out more about my company and referred us to a fellow Harvard Business School classmate.
The email exchange was fast and furious and I met him for lunch that next day.  During a two hour lunch, he asked me to fly to Chicago with him to meet his wife and daughters.  I flew with him to Chicago, that same afternoon, met his daughters and had dinner with him and his wife.  During dessert, they committed to funding the entire company.

Finally, please share something surprising about yourself!

I have two cats and a bird.  The bird is in charge and bosses and chases the cats around the apartment.

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  19 Responses to “Interview with Patricia Pao”

  1. What an inspiring interview! I really enjoyed it. Which Restorsea products do you recommend as a starting point?

  2. Great interview. What an inspiring and enterprising woman. I also like her sticking to one brand that works wonderfully for her. Much kudos!

  3. YAY, new interview posts. I thought that you discontinued it permanently!

  4. ohhhhh I was waiting for new interview post as I love them a lot! they are true inspiration to us all! Thank you Katherine! You always find very interesting people!

  5. Honestly now.

    “Don’t let people bring you down” isn’t compatible with “don’t leave the house bare faced.” So what if your skin isn’t as good as Patti says it should be. We’ve got enough to worry about – your OMGFACE isn’t too high on that list.

  6. Good Life Advice. I loved this interview and the first thing I noticed was how flawless her face looks. I took the bare faced comment to mean sunscreen, as the sun tends to wreak havoc on the face and neck.

  7. Great interview – lots of good advice. I also assumed she meant “wear sunscreen” when she made the bare-faced comment.

  8. I stopped reading at the “younger looking hands being submerged in some kind of liquid thing” and just started laughing out loud. COME ON. It’s such a beauty platitude now. SKII – “Workers submerged in Sake had younger looking hands” La Mer – “Dr. Huber noticed fisherman who handled the sea kelp to have soft younger looking hands” Chilean Snail farmers noticed their visibly smoother skin after handling snails they were breeding for the French food market. AND NOW SALMON handlers and the EGGS.

    Rolling my eyes. I hope someone intelligent comes up with a better set of lies for me to blindly believe like dogma. Preferably involving space material. haha

    • Agreed! I think the best take on this is actually from a children’s entertainer: http://birthdaypartyprincess.tumblr.com/post/84391222950/the-final-skincare-mega-post

      “I am especially leery of all the fad products that come out, purporting to have been “accidentally” discovered. When snail filtrate hit the american market from Korea, some bogus story was circulated that farmers handling snails out in the boondocks noticed their hands were softer and younger, and voila! We discovered this miracle product! The truth is that snail filtrate benefits have been studied since the 1960’s, by scientists, off and on in different research projects. The world loves to imagine that some wonder-cure exists, magically, somewhere in the rain forest, or the back farms of Korea, or the bottom of the ocean, and we will stumble upon it by chance or fate, like in a fairy tale. The truth is much more prosaic, I’m afraid.

      Every fad product and ingredient, like pomegranate juice or acai berry or argan oil or whatever new big thing comes up, comes with some cute fairy tale about foreign locals using it for years or discovering it in the forests, etc. They hype it up like crazy, attaching all sorts of outrageous health and beauty claims to it that have no backing, everyone goes nuts for it, then everyone forgets about it when the next big thing comes along. These things can have good benefits, but they’re mild, small benefits, not the miracle cure we all want, so we forget about them. We’re always looking for that one ingredient or product that will fix everything all at once, that we slosh on or drink down to cure us of our beauty and health problems.

      But the fact is that if you want to look your best, feel your best and be your best, it will be because you practiced a lot of little things, all at once. Lots of little things and little routines and little products, safely and moderately used, will help you stay looking and feeling young. Shelling out a hundred bucks for a pretty-smelling conditioner that contains the same stuff that the product on your grocer’s shelves has is not going to save you. And though we’d all dearly love to be given one magic product that we can use to fix everything, rather than remembering every day to do these little things that work slowly and over time…changing the bedding, moisturizing, putting on sunscreen every single day, washing our hands a lot, staying out of the sun…even though we’d like to just have one easy and miraculous thing that will quickly fix us overnight, it’s only all these little things at once, over a long time, that will really do the trick. Humans are impatient, but patience is the only thing that will really pay off.”

      • Thank you for the link D – it was well written and thoughtful. I agree that patience is the number one key – something that I am often lacking!

  9. Love your interview series! Patti is a beautiful, inspirational business woman and I hope you continue to showcase these ladies. I am not sure if SKII and La Mer are a fountain of youth or that Restorsea will work either, but at the end of the day, these creams make you feel great and I agree with Pattie that this feeling builds confidence and helps your natural beauty shine through.

  10. Thank you both to Katherine for taking the time to put together these interviews, and the interviewees who take time to give a glimpse into their profession/enterprise! I enjoy this blog and have been reading for sometime now. After reading many of these interviews I’m left with a lot of curiosity about the steps or how entrepreneurs go about translating a product concept into contact with an engineer or chemist/lab, etc who helps create the actual demo product (eg beauty product, medical product, etc.). For example, in this post Patti mentions that she spent time “formulating a day cream and an eye cream and in August 2011, I sent lab samples to…” a contact person who was a merchandising manager at a well-known name store. Questions that come to mind are: where did she go to formulate those creams? Is she in the lab actually mixing the compounds, does she list out the different main ingredients she’d like in the product, or what results/scent/consistency/texture she’d like to see in the final product, etc? What are the costs involved with such uses of the lab and their employees? I understand the pains of clinical trials, FDA approval, etc for medical products, but how do they go about getting an idea out of their heads and into hands which can produce a tangible demo cream or product to bring to a store’s buying agent? I admire these interviewees leap of faith and creativity! Katherine – would you be able to put together a post on such a topic?

    • Hi Sunny, your question is fascinating and I would like to learn that as well. I will definitely keep that in mind with future interviews, thank you for the suggestion!

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