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Career Lessons: Cocoa Brown’s Marissa Carter

Marissa Carter Career Lessons

Marissa Carter is one of modern Ireland’s most successful businesswomen. In the past three years this former salon owner has gone from a woman with an idea to one of the beauty world’s most admired self-made women. In 2013, Carter won Start-up of the Year at the IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year ceremony – the nomination form for this year’s awards is here – and in the past two years she’s not only conquered the UK, she’s made a splash stateside, with her products getting the Kylie Jenner seal of approval. And she’s now planning more products launches in the coming weeks. Speculation welcome on the latter point, but in the meantime we catch up with this truly inspirational entrepreneur to talk about the moments that have made her into the woman she is today.

Other entries in our Career Lessons series include chef Domini Kemp and Senator Averil Power.

My first job…

Was actually quite embarrassing. It was doing a television advert for VHI promoting their new website back in 2000, and it was incredibly cringeworthy. My line was “Guys, wanna know why we’re so moody?” The job came about from two week’s work experience I did with Alex Fraser in the commercial section of Assets Model Agency. After that, I worked in a Shell garage pumping petrol.

I worked in a Shell garage pumping petrol.

The moment I grew up…

Was when I failed my end of year exams for the Management and Marketing with French Degree I was studying in DIT Aungier Street. I had always done very well in school exams, so this was a big shock to me. I decided to take a year out so I could re-assess what I wanted to do. I got a job working in the office of The Galligan Beauty College on Grafton St where the Principals Lorraine and Careena Galligan kindly allowed me to study Beauty Therapy part-time. I owe my beauty career to the generosity of those two amazing women.

Everything changed when…

My first child, Charlie was born. Becoming a mother tilted my perspective on the world and on the future I wanted for my little family. My mindset shifted away from caring about silly things to knowing that really all that matters in life is that your family are happy and healthy. Ironically, it was this change in thinking that inspired me to take more risks in business. After all, if it failed, what’s the worst that would happen? I had been happy for eight years running my own beauty salon but all of a sudden, I felt I could do more. I began working on the concept for bringing a new tanning and skincare brand to life and less than a year later, Cocoa Brown was born.

Becoming a mother tilted my perspective on the world and on the future I wanted for my little family.

The scariest moment…

For me, this was also one of my most triumphant. I recently went to New York to nail down distribution arrangements for the brand and visited my products on US shelves for the first time in Ricky’s NYC. I wasn’t expecting to feel so overwhelmed when I saw the block of pink bottles, but my mind was flooded with a mixture of fear, what if they don’t sell, and accomplishment that my dreams of taking my brand to America had come true. I felt a similar fear when I visited 1 HOUR TAN in Penneys Dundrum for the first time. There were twelve bottles on the shelf, and I made my husband buy ten, I still have the receipt!

The most influential person in my life and career…

My husband. I firmly believe that the strongest factor for success is self-belief, but a close second is having someone who can sell you back to yourself when you start to doubt your abilities. Ten years ago, before opening my beauty salon, I took a part-time start-your-own-business course and the lecturer told me that when you have an idea, be careful who you share it with because ideas, until actioned, are like seeds that can be easily blown away. I totally agree with him. I never tell anyone what I’m planning to do until the wheels are set in motion and there’s no going back because I’m a creative person and criticism of ‘first drafts’ can knock my confidence. My husband is probably the only person I know will believe in my idea even if the first draft is rubbish.

I firmly believe that the strongest factor for success is self-belief, but a close second is having someone who can sell you back to yourself when you start to doubt your abilities.

My favourite part of the day…

Is about 6pm when I am usually totally unplugged and my husband Ro, our two children Charlie and Belle and not forgetting our Bichon, Cherry, go for a short walk before dinner. It might only be for fifteen minutes, but we get fresh air and catch up on each others’ day.

I love my job when…

Customers send me snapchat snaps of themselves wearing my tan or photos of my pink packaging on their dressing tables. Recently, fellow women in business have been contacting me on snapchat telling me about their own ideas and goals and this inspires me to keep working hard on my own dreams.

Recently, fellow women in business have been contacting me on snapchat telling me about their own ideas

What makes me excited…

Is creating new beauty products that my customers get excited by too. I wrote a piece for Image.ie a short while ago about using self-tan to contour and define your face which grew legs after I did a short snapchat tutorial. The ‘Tontouring’ technique has now been written about all over the world including Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Instyle. The response has been phenomenally exciting. Mark Cuban famously said that to stay ahead in business you must constantly ask yourself ‘What’s new? What’s next? How do I get there first?’ Being excited about the possibilities in business is what keeps me motivated to work my heels off.

Image: Fiachra McCarthy

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