Jane Wurwand on leading with a ‘why’ and getting through COVID-19

Jane Wurwand on leading with a ‘why’ and getting through COVID-19

We’re bringing you the highlights from our All Stars session with the Dermalogica Founder.

BY Business Chicks, 8 min READ

Thanks to our friends at Dermalogica

When it comes to incredible leaders, Jane Wurwand sits high atop our list. Together with her husband Ray, she founded Dermalogica in 1986 (with no external funding or investors!), and has now grown it to become an internationally-recognised brand available in 42,000 salons in 106 countries around the world. Jane shared her advice on growing a business, maintaining true to self and showing up as a leader wth Business Chicks Founder Emma Isaacs at our recent All Stars event. Thanks to our friends at Dermalogica (who are celebrating their 25th year in Australia!) we’re bringing you some of Jane’s pearls of wisdoms.

On launching Dermalogica

In the early 1980s Jane Wurwand emigrated to the US with one suitcase, her boyfriend (now husband) Ray and several years of training as a skin therapist in the United Kingdom. When applying for jobs, Jane observed that American skin salons were not hiring American therapists – the training was just not at the level of Europe. Ray had taken a commission-only sales role selling sophisticated skincare equipment but was having no luck in a market that did not appreciate the advanced technology.  They quickly put two and two together – thorough education and training for skin therapists did not exist  in the US – and founded The International Dermal Institute (IDI) in a small classroom in Marina del Rey, California. The goal was not to just train classes, but support the skin therapists to be more successful in their own businesses. “It’s important to feel that you’re working for a cause bigger than yourself. For us it was about ensuring our skin therapists were successful.”

While teaching at IDI, Jane and Ray had their lightbulb moment when they were having to import all of their quality products from the US. No one was selling the treatment-room product to clients of American salons. Dermalogica was born in 1986 out of a need to bridge pharmaceutical and skincare products. “You have to be quite naive as an entrepreneur, you have to not know that you can’t do it,” Jane said of launching the business. “I’ve always been the number one target market – as I aged I wanted to develop the products I needed. Everything comes from a place of true intention, not focus groups or what the competition are doing.”

On the importance of human connection

The most important lesson of Jane’s career came from a regular customer in her 80s. Jane would treat her fortnightly as an apprentice, and was moved by the customer’s motivations for the regular appointments that would have stretched her budget. It wasn’t about pampering, luxury or indulgence. She came to Jane for touch and human connection. “When you’re a skin therapist, you give treatments. You don’t do them, you give them with your hands. I know that the global Dermalogica tribe lead with the intention to give treatments, to care, educate and provide a human connection. We are the cavalry that will be called in when someone needs human touch.”

On businesses having a “why”

Jane agreed that it’s never been more important for a company to be clear on their why, their reason for being. “This is a time about returning to who you are. Authenticity resonates. You can spot a fake in 30 seconds. It’s not about product. The purchase of the product is the end result for something that happens before that. We have led with education through professional skin therapists. That is the core of who we are.”

On supporting small and medium-sized businesses

Females make up 90% of the skincare industry and 64% of salons are operated by women. “We have a juggernaut for the socioeconomic empowerment of women,” Jane said. “We are teaching them how to do their own PR, to ensure that the salons were earning 50% revenue from services, and 50% from products.”

Dermalogica are looking after their people and stockists globally to support them during COVID-19. Measures include assisting with commission and product sales to ensure the small businesses stay afloat, drafting letters to landlords, and putting pressure on governments in all markets. “We want every one of our accounts to make it through this to the new next.”

On Dermalogica’s culture

“It’s important to feel that you’re working for a cause bigger than yourself. For us it was about ensuring our skin therapists were successful. The minute you develop arrogance that you are bigger and better than anyone in your team – that is the kiss of death. We’re all on the same team. You’re expected to have an opinion and voice it at Dermalogica. Bring your full, authentic messy self. If you’re not on the stage with the team, you are a bystander in the audience.”

On dealing with COVID-19

It all comes back to having a core “why” for your company. In difficult times, everyone understands what to rally around. For Dermalogica, that is kindness, empathy and human connection.”It’s not about managing a team, but leading it. Whatever you can manage, just do it. Everything will sort itself out. Companies that operate this way will come out of this.”

Equally important for businesses is remaining connected to clients and your team. “Spend eight hours a day thinking about how you can connect. And pay it forward. If you’ve got the funds, pay for vouchers at your favourite restaurants now, pre-pay your upcoming hair or beauty appointment. They’ll get through this with your support.”


Support a small business! Receive 15% off at dermalogica.com.au using the code BUSINESSCHICKS. Proceeds from the sale will be given to your local Dermalogica stockist affected by the recent government closures – offer valid until June 30th 2020.

If you missed this interview with Jane during our first All Stars event you can now get access to the entire event on playback

Our next All Stars event will be held on 30 April and features an impressive line-up of some of Australia’s brightest minds including Lorna Jane Clarkson, Kemi Nekvapil, Layne Beachley AO, Dr Libby Weaver and Ronni Kahn AO. You can watch stream live or watch the event later – tickets are available now.


©2020 Business Chicks

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