While some bottom-to-the-top success stories start in the mailroom, Lisa Price's journey begins in her kitchen. It was there in the early '90s that she began mixing fragrances and selling them out of her home. What started out as a rewarding hobby has blossomed into Carol's Daughter, a beauty-products business that counts some of the biggest names in entertainment -- Halle Berry, Jay -Z, Mary J. Blige, Jada Pinkett-Smith -- as loyal customers.
Named after Ms. Price's mother (who encouraged the former TV writing assistant to take the entrepreneurial leap), the company has expanded from small boutiques to plum placements in Macy's and Sephora, and it's also gained an impressive following on HSN, all feats that Ms. Price, 49, doesn't take lightly.
"For years, products that have been labeled as 'ethnic' were not available in a prestigious environment. You'd have to find them on a hidden shelf in an isolated area of a store," said the Brooklyn, N.Y., native. "I'm honored to be one of the early brands that is working to blur the lines of ethnic beauty so that we are all speaking one universal language."
But with success comes scrutiny. The current promo campaign for Carol's Daughter, which features singers Solange Knowles, Cassie and model Selita Ebanks -- fair-skinned beauties, some might say -- drew fire from some African-American bloggers for its perceived lack of darker-skinned representation. Ms. Price's response to her critics? "I chose 'Beauty by Nature' as the company's mantra, meaning that women must find the beauty within themselves and operate from a place of acceptance, confidence, strength and love of themselves."
It's true you can't please everyone, so Ms. Price intends to keep the focus on giving her consumers more of what they love—affordable products that speak specifically to them (the company projects $50 million in sales for 2011). On deck this year is a second fragrance from Ms. Blige, My Life Blossom, and innovations in hair care -- an area where Ms. Price says too many women are still frustrated.
Her advice for those interested in becoming their own boss? "Find your passion and develop your vision around that . Stick to it and make every decision to help you see your vision come true. Often times, we allow outside noise to change our vision -- the more you change your goals, the more time it takes you to achieve them."