Beauty, Fashion & Tech Interviews: A Peak Into the Brand Side


Hey, gals! Ryan Burch is back and this month, she's bringing you some insight on the brand-side of the beauty, fashion and tech industries. Check out her interviews with some of the movers and shakers taking the work force by storm! Read on for some practical advice on building your career!

These days, technology has made it possible to pursue a career in fashion, beauty and tech from the comfort of our own homes. We’ve seen bloggers, makeup artists and stylists explode upon the scene—creating new trends and becoming influencers of our generation!

Although the expanding entrepreneurial landscape is exciting—it isn’t always easy to work for yourself or forge out on your own without prior work experience. Therefore, it’s a good idea to be aware of the kinds of opportunities that exist on the brand—or corporate side of your desired industry. After all, working for a well-established brand is a great way to find mentors, develop your skills, strengthen your voice and gain the experience needed to branch out on your own (if that’s your goal!).

This month, I chatted with three women who’ve found their calling working for well-renowned brands in fashion, cosmetics and ad technology. Not only do these ladies get to work in a field that they’re passionate about, but they’ve developed strong business, sales and marketing abilities that will surely benefit them in any future career setting or entrepreneurial venture.

Read on as they share wisdom + advice to help you break into the industry of your dreams!


Brianne Baker: Beauty Brand Manager for HCT Group


Brianne handles biz development, brand strategy, marketing, events and PR for HCT Group, a London-based cosmetic design and manufacturing company with eight offices around the globe.

Tell us about someone you’ve interviewed for a position at HCT, and what they did to impress you.

I’m in the process of interviewing potential brand ambassadors for a new cosmetics line that is in development and I have been meeting with different makeup artists. For this one makeup artist, I knew ahead of time that she had a great portfolio with high profile clients, her makeup was beautiful, and she connected on camera. I shared the brand concept with her, and then she actually ended up pitching and an idea to me—which I loved. She was proactive and she wanted to know what she could do for us (not something I am used to hearing in an interview!).

What's the most creative thing you've done to create a new opportunity for yourself and get ahead in your career?

Last year I was working with a cosmetics brand that was trying to expand distribution. The brand was very new to the market and had little to no visibility. So I took on the task of finding potential retailers—which was quite a challenge for an unknown brand within the crowded cosmetics market.

Through many emails, phone calls, meetings, some stalking and plain luck, I got the job done. I tracked down buyers and distributors; I cold called and went to events and talked to anyone and everyone. Sometimes I felt like I was on a wild goose chase. Long story short—I was pretty relentless following every lead that I could, and each opportunity led me to the next stage.

For those who are inexperienced, but want to break into the beauty industry, what might they do to get ahead?

There are a lot of different aspects of the industry: brand strategy, product development and manufacturing, retail and ecommerce, as well as makeup artistry. I would recommend familiarizing yourself with as much as possible to see what you like best.

A great place to start is online. You can visit makeup blogs and You Tube channels, and check out online stores like Sephora, read product reviews, learn about brands and retailers. Once you get an idea of the overall landscape, you can see what type of career you would like for yourself and reach out to professionals who have had a similar career path.

What resources would you suggest they explore?

I would recommend Beauty Industry West and Cosmetics Executive Women. If you are in the Los Angeles area (CEW has events in NYC as well) these groups host events throughout the year featuring high level executives, entrepreneurs, and influencers. The events are attended by beauty industry professionals so it’s a great place to meet people and learn.

There are also educational opportunities that can give you an edge in the industry. There is a Cosmetics Chemistry program here in Los Angeles at UCLA, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising has a program for the business side of the beauty industry, and FIT in New York has a similar program. Formal education is not necessary for entry, but it’s one way to gain a strong base of industry knowledge.


Kara LaForgia: Director of Sales for Donni Charm


Kara is the Director of Sales for Donni Charm: a NYC-based company that produces luxurious scarves (pictured above) found in department and specialty stores around the world.

How did you first get your "foot in the door" in the fashion industry?

I knew that I wanted to work for a small/boutique company (where you can see your hard work directly make a difference towards the company's growth), and always had a passion for fashion. After I graduated college with a degree in Finance, I went straight into to law school. I worked tons of different internships in law school in the sports, music and entertainment industries. I was able to grow a really strong network through my experiences, and always had a knack for maintaining those relationships.

I was able to meet Alyssa (founder of Donni Charm) through my network, and once I found out about the company— I knew it was home.

What's the most creative thing you've done to create a new opportunity for yourself and get yourself ahead in your career?

When I started at Donni Charm, I had no experience in fashion, and absolutely no industry contacts. I challenged myself, and worked like a dog everyday to reach the place I’m at now.

I’ve relied on my passion, drive and persistence to make up for my lack of experience and was able to get major accounts and grow the business tremendously.

When you see up and coming youngsters entering the fashion industry, what personality type (or characteristics) do you think are critical to ensure long-term success?

Being passionate is one of one of the most crucial characteristics for aspiring up-and-comers. Your passion won’t go unnoticed and it will be your steering wheel to success. Along the same lines, persistence is a huge factor for making it in this biz. It’s vital that people never give up, and don’t take no for an answer (no matter how many times you hear it). Always keep an open mind and be a sponge!

For those who are inexperienced, but want to break into this industry-- what might they do to get ahead?

Always go the extra mile to set yourself apart from competition. Be in the know- Read WWD every day, learn every facet of the industry and fully submerse yourself. Knowledge is power - the more seasoned you are, the more likely you’ll break into the industry. Be a rockstar!!


Sarah Oak: Director of Mobile Partnership at Neustar


Sarah Oak currently works in Mobile Partnership business development at Neustar, an information services and analytics company that provides data and technology solutions for the marketing and security services industries.

Are you able to tell me about how you found your way into tech? Any early jobs or experiences that led you down that path?

Initially I started my sales career out of college in print and digital ad sales for newspaper publications.  Later, a friend encouraged me to move into the ad tech space since it was an extension of what I was already doing, but more exciting, innovative, and growing quickly.  From there I researched and interviewed with several companies and landed at an ad tech firm that helps publishers monetize their digital ad inventory.  I was able to apply my publisher side knowledge and incorporate it when explaining how technology and algorithms can bring more efficiency to the digital ad selling space.

For women interested in working in tech, are there any resources that can help them improve or develop their skills?

My best advice for women who are new in the tech space and feel overwhelmed is to find a mentor (or mentor-like peer) in your company or industry that can be supportive and share best practices.  Also, networking with other women who have success in tech-related jobs is a great way to build your personal brand and contact list that can open up new opportunities down the road.

When you see up and coming youngsters entering the tech industry, what personality type (or characteristics) do you think are critical to ensure long-term success?

It's important to be resilient and learn to pick up and keep going, even when you are struggling.  You shouldn't let older, more experienced people in the industry also put doubt or fear in you when they judge based on your age or lack of "experience."

Is there anyone who has served as an "inspiration" (or mentor) for you throughout your career? Who is it and what have you learned from them?

In college, when I worked for in the Advertising department for the on campus newspaper, our former Advisor was instrumental when I decided to accept a job in New York. It wasn't an opportunity that excited me, but he reminded me that it would be a great stepping stone to get to NYC and then figure out my career purpose. If I never listened to him I'm not sure I would have left California or taken the risk to get out of my comfort zone!


Are you considering a career in beauty, fashion or tech? Email me your questions or concerns and I’ll ask our next set of insiders to weigh in for you!


Ryan is a freelance writer & brand strategist based in Santa Monica, CA. She is the cofounder of SOLO, a website dedicated to helping women discover their strongest, most authentic selves. She is a regular contributor to Career Contessa, The Western Wild, Elana Lyn and Simply Stylist. Her writing has also been featured on Refinery29, Levo League and WeWork.