Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter, learned a lot about money via scrappy beginnings. Presented in partnership with Mint.
Last month, Girlboss partnered with Mint for “An Impolite Conversation” in New York City—a panel discussion hosted by Sophia Amoruso, moderated by journalist and finance expert Farnoosh Torabi.
Since the advent of “polite society,” discussions of money have been considered anything but—especially when it comes to women. But as we’ve seen with the pay gap, investing gap, and just about every other financial gap you can think of, this lack of candid and practical conversation has taken a serious toll on financial equality.
And so in an effort to promote some real talk when it comes to money, the panel event brought together four remarkable entrepreneurs with different backgrounds and skillsets—Mackenzie Barth, CEO and co-founder of Spoon University; Nina Faulhaber, co-founder of sustainable clothing company ADAY; Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter; and Wing Yau, founder of jewelry company WWAKE—in a frank conversation about their finances.
We’ve shared financial wisdom from nearly all our panelists, and to round out the series we’re speaking to Lisa Price, the founder of cult-favorite haircare and beauty brand Carol’s Daughter.
Founding her company more than two decades ago in a kitchen in Brooklyn, Price set out to find a solution for her dry skin, and in doing so, created a body butter unlike anything else on the market at the time.
Starting with $100 and plenty of trial and error, she sold product out of her apartment and at flea markets. Her clientele grew steadily and with much fervor over the years that followed. Over time, it grew into a multi-million dollar business that landed investment from Jay-Z, Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith.
In 2014, Carol’s Daughter was acquired by L’Oreal and is considered one of the pioneers of the natural hair care movement.
During the panel, Lisa shared her remarkable journey on how she went from having virtually no money, to learning how to run her books, to being acquired by one of the biggest beauty brands in the world. The following has been edited from the panel discussion for length and clarity.
You started your business with $100. How did you do it?
Well, I didn’t think that I was starting a business. I think when you talk to a lot of entrepreneurs, you’ll find that a lot of us just sort of stumble into it. We just jump, and we figure out how we’re going to land later.
So for me, I did a flea market, which led to a craft fair, and then an expo, and then another craft fair, and then selling at my friend’s apartment, and then selling out of my apartment. I just kept following it and going with it.
How would you describe how your relationship with money has changed in going from that point to where you are now?
Being in business as long as I’ve been in business means that I have access to cash, which is a very different energy from everything being electronic. For those of you who are old enough to remember, we didn’t use to have debit cards. And credit cards weren’t things that we used to buy juice.
A credit card was something that you pulled out when you were making a big purchase, not if you were just going to the store to get a cup of coffee or getting socks. And now, none of us carry cash because our cards and telephones do everything for us. So when people came to shop with me, they came with cash.
Learning how to take that and understand that it had to go to the bank was a really good thing for me; it was very good training on being responsible with money.
The other way that I like to look at money is that it’s an energy, so it needs to flow. I’m not supposed to hoard it, but I’m also not supposed to just let it fly out the door. I put it out. I bring it back. I put it out. I bring it back.
And giving is important. I gave when I had very little. I still give now that I have more. And I let my spirit guide me on how I give. I still do not loan money out unless I can afford to give it away. I’ll say that again: I do not loan unless I can afford to give it away.
And everyone should remember that and live by it. If someone asks you to borrow money, no matter how close they are to you, no matter how important they are to you, if you can’t afford to give them that money, do not loan it to them. I still have that same philosophy today even though I have more.
How did your spending habits change, if at all, once your company was acquired?
I had that moment of that wire transfer. It’s a good thing—I’m not going to lie! It’s a very good thing, and everyone should have one at some point. But that happened, and I didn’t go out a buy a new house.
My husband and I took a great honeymoon, because we never had one. We went to the car dealership and we purchased a car for the first time in our lives without five years’ worth of debt behind it. And we paid off our mortgage. We made these responsible decisions, but they felt really good. There’s something empowering that, again, comes from letting the energy go out but still keeping some of it for security.
How did you cope with the pressure of leaving your full-time job to pursue your passion?
When I made the decision to stop working, I was pregnant with my first child. And it was a very logical decision because I was already at a point where I would come home from my day job and work on Carol’s Daughter, and then I’d work on it on the weekends, too. So in order for me to continue working so I could work my day job—and by extension, continue working on my business—I would have to have someone to take care of an infant.
And then I’d potentially have to have someone stay after work and on the weekends while I worked on my business. So by the time I added up how much I had to pay the nanny, babysitter, caregiver, whoever it is, I was just giving them my check.
So then it was like, OK, maybe I can make enough money to contribute to the house and then juggle being a mommy and being a business owner, versus trying to be a mommy, business owner, and employee. So that’s how I arrived at my decision.
It just made sense financially. So, I think listing what you can and can’t live without, and what you absolutely have to have, will help you make the choice. If you need medical insurance from your job, then figure out how to make it work so you can keep the medical insurance, because that’s really expensive!
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