In 1999, recently fired from her finance job, Greek-born, Maria Hatzistefanis launched luxury skincare group Rodial, despite having failed to secure any funding. She found the brand’s niche by targeting specific skin concerns and with tongue-in-cheek product names such as Dragon’s Blood and Snake Serum. She has authored two books about navigating entrepreneurship, and hosts the podcast, Overnight Success, where she discusses how to hustle to get what you want and thrive in challenging times.
What are you looking at right now?
My AirMac. I have been working from home, in London Notting Hill, for the last 12 weeks – since the beginning of lockdown. I have set up office in my living room where I spend my day. I’m currently sitting on my dining table answering emails and will soon be getting on a series of Zoom calls with my team. We have all been working from home but we have found our flow to connect and be productive.
Based on what you actually do, honestly, what should your job title be?
Therapist! A lot of what I like to do is being creative and coming up with new products, ideas and campaigns for Rodial. At the same time, my team is the most important thing that got me where I am today and I spend time listening to them and making sure they are happy in their jobs. I am there for them when they need me. I didn’t realise this was going to be a big part of my job when I started the business!
What’s your superpower: the one skill that makes you so successful at your job?
I like numbers and also love being creative and in my industry you need to have both. To be successful in a creative industry such as beauty, coming up with products and ideas is a small part of it. To run a successful business you need to understand the figures, be able to analyse results and quantify the success and profitability of everything we do. A lot of people who connect with me on @mrsrodial Instagram account think that running a beauty business is a glamorous job 24/7. It’s a lot more than people see on Instagram, there are numbers that need to be analysed, sales goals to be met and a lot more that is just not that glamorous!
What’s your Achilles heel?
I am still trying to figure out when to leave my team to their own devices to achieve the vision and when to step in and give direction. After I have worked with someone for a while, I get to know what style to follow. With new hires, I spend as much time as possible until they show me they are ready to take the lead.
What’s on your to-do list right now that you’re putting off?
I’m putting off the thought of how we will be getting back to the office after the lockdown. There is no switch that we can flick on and everything goes back to normal. Regardless of the fact that things are working well right now with everyone working from home, there are people in the team who miss the community element of working at the office. We are looking into a gradual return to the office three days a week for the first month. We will assess how this works out and then take it from there.
Introvert or extravert?
Both depending on the occasion. I have no problem giving a speech in front of 100 people but lately I almost froze when I was about to do my first Instagram live! During the lockdown, I spent a lot of time communicating with our audience and decided to do a series of lives bringing in guests to talk about motivation, self-care, beauty and wellness. I got really worried about doing my first live. It was hard but once I started getting some comments from people I knew, things warmed up and I found my flow!
Which one person has had the most profound impact on your career?
My team has and still influences me a lot and I always learn from them. I like to hire people that I can learn from, it helps me evolve as a business person and see things from a new perspective. We recently started talking about new product ideas for Rodial and for the first time we included the Customer Services team in the meeting. They came up with some great ideas based on the feedback that we got from our customers, and made me think in a new way of how we can come up with products to fulfil the needs of our customer.
What book, film or piece of music sums up your outlook on life?
My second book, Make It Happen. I almost went bankrupt two years ago (all in the intro of the book!) and as always, I said to myself ‘make it happen’ and I got out of a very challenging situation. The key is not to take rejection or disappointment personally, put it to one side and keep focused. Also, when Plan A doesn’t work, very quickly move to a Plan B. It’s all about keep going without getting distracted or let emotions run your day.
Who would be at your fantasy dinner party?
Mostly fashion people, like Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford. Fashion is my escape.
Early bird or night owl?
I wake up at 6am. I actually have a chapter in my book called ‘Your 6am wakeup call to success’. Mornings are my golden hour. I like to check any updates on social media, meditate, exercise or read the industry news. I like to get myself inspired first thing so I can then have the energy to inspire my team.
What has been your best ever day at work?
The day I moved from a back room at home to a proper office, it made my business feel real.
When have you been at your least confident?
When I started the business and didn’t manage to get investment, I doubted myself and whether setting up was the right thing to do. I decided to give it a go and start from a back room at home with my savings and being a one-woman-show and never looked back.
What was your ‘Plan B’ career?
When I was young, I dreamed of being a magazine editor. Vogue was my bible. My first job was beauty writer for Seventeen Magazine back in Greece where I am from, but very quickly I realised that I was very interested in the business side of things. I love the glamour of it all and experienced it to some degree, but I realised I am much more commercially driven. What is interesting now is that I use my own Instagram platform and curate it very much like a magazine and not just beauty [content], but fashion too, inspirational quotes and sharing interesting articles and images that appeal to my audience.