Our botanical skincare in the USA.
In 1999 we had two interesting events.
We met an American lady who was working in Los Angeles in the cosmetic business and while she was here, she advised us regarding the main issues and that person who was bottling for Oréal and developing skincare.
I have always been fascinated by the possibility of learning new things and getting into new businesses.
I studied with this people in a nearby town, took skincare classes, learned about botanically based skincare. I loved the concept that you can treat skincare using herbs and essential oils.
In one year, I developed a full skincare and baby care line with these experts who supported my ideas and preferences.
I don’t have the knowledge of developing a product so I tested, studied, researched on each item they submitted to me an finally, I created a line divided into three lines: one for dry skin, one for oily skin and one for sensitive skin
I personally took care of the design of the boxes, I chose the bottles and caps and protection seals with Jacques.
Everything was carefully chosen and thought of.
That first year was so challenging, we were adventuring into a crazy market , which evolves continuously and mostly is run by two major HUGE companies: Estée Lauder in the USA and Oréal in Europe.
AT the end of the 90s, this was the scenario.
As I have always done in my life, I was not interested in working in Italy.
Nor in Europe.
I was obsessed with the USA and I really thought, from my little experience a few years before in Arizona, that if you are a hard worker, if you have brilliant ideas and a good product, that’s the place where you can succeed.
It took me another year to start getting good connection and develop some nets in the USA.
During the day I was working in my translation business and later in the evening – because of the difference in time – I was working with the USA.
My whole idea was to contact the beauty editors, get some exposure, then get the names of the purchase managers in the big specialty stores or high end department stores and then send free samples.
It was a crazy idea because it means that for months you only spend money investing in setting a net of people who start learning about you.
I was lucky enough to start with the baby care first that I really designed according to the needs of areal child, and our Alex tried each one of the products I selected for the baby care.
I can say that in the year 2000 we were the first company to sell non - alcohol fragrances for babies.
Nobody had this eau de toilette without alcohol, once sold it became a big success.
The choice of the name was highly difficult because I did not want to sound arrogant in choosing my own name, but I was sure it would have been perfect.
I ended up listening to Jacques suggestion to use my own name.
Anna Carera/ Italy with a simple, elegant look was excellent.
The way the Americans pronounce it sounds so good!
Years later, they asked me whether it was a fake name, used just for the business. Of course not, it was my own name!
We started with an agent in New Jersey who would have approached New York and another one in Los Angeles.
Soon I had a wonderful PR lady, Lori, who was so good in introducing me and our line in a few great places.
I quickly changed the rep in New Jersey and started with a good one in New York.
This rep got my first event in Long Island in May 2000.
It was amazing.
I could not believe that in only two years we developed a real good baby care line and skincare line.
I hired a skincare specialist from Alabama who would come to New York and I those years until 2004 I used to go to New York, meet the press and sell my skincare.
At the beginning it was almost impossible because it was a vicious circle. They would ask “where are you sold?”.
The hardest part was to find the first person who would listen and believe in an unknown Italian lady when I would approach them on the phone directly.
My scheme was simple: I would call on the phone – and for that reason I had a special rate to call the USA, explain how we worked and what we were selling, showing how our lines were unique, being manufacturers, really small ones, who did not belong to any big multinationals.
The same scheme of our B&B. We have always worked independently and differently.
Then, the next step, was to send by UPS with delivery the next day, our samples and press kit.
Most of the time, they were so impressed they would do a trial order.
We managed to sell in 41 different stores all over the USA.
Our first sale was Louis of Boston, very high end boutique. They bought our products and after that, it became much easier.
I had someone to mention.
I could say we were indeed sold somewhere.
The event in Long Island was very effective.
We managed to be sold at Zitomer at that time and in most botanical pharmacies.
Later on, we had a huge event in New York with the facials experts at Takashimaya, the Japanese department store where Oprah Winfrey loved to shop.
That was our winning factor.
I introduced myself saying we had our lines sold at Takashymaya,.
That usually impressed anyone very much!
Lori came to New York once and introduced me to Stephanie, a very smart and brilliant journalist, who also worked for the New York Times.
We had a fabulous night at the Four Season Hotel, the three of us.
It was the first time I had sushi, I don’t know if they still remember this, we are still friends so, one of these days, I must ask them.
I managed to have my lines in 14 press placements in the major USA magazines, such as VOGUE, MARIE CLAIRE, ELLE, TOWN AND COUNTRY, MADEMOISELLE, AMERICAN SPA.
Thanks to Lori and Stephanie, I had beauty editors from the most important magazines attend my events at Takashimaya.
During those days, I could show them how our skincare worked and would offer them some free samples.
That’s how it worked and how we run our company in America.
I can promise you it could never happen in my own Country, but the United States of America is the place where everything can happen.
I personally did a hand treatment to Oprah Winfrey beauty editor and it was really something very special for me.
How on Earth could I have had such an opportunity? Only in New York City!
These years were full of very hard work and satisfaction.
Jacques and I felt we achieved something which was totally out of this world, but we did not make enough money to be able to continue, unfortunately.
We got to the point where we had to choose: either we would continue with little investments but after a few years, after visits in New York City, several times a year, it was clear we had to invest a huge amount of money in advertisement to do the BIG transformation from a small company into something different.
To be honest, I can say I did not feel I was ready to give up my safe world here – my home, my family, my simple life style – and invest in a different world which, having Alessandro growing up, was becoming not that brilliant and bright for me anymore.
The last time I was in New York City, in 2004 – I used to call Alex and Jacques every morning for me which was early afternoon for them - Alex said “ mom, when are you coming home? I miss you”.
This sentence and the fact I did not feel it was safe and right to invest too much money in that venture made me think we were not willing to continue.
I think for us the fact we tried and we did it was far more important than becoming a successful company.
I had my line next to Jo Malone and in front of Crème de la mer, I went to London and had a meeting at Harrods because they found my baby care line online and loved it – we had a beautiful site at the time with gorgeous photos.
I had a meeting in the offices at Harrod’s and we were very close to conclude an agreement with them but my father was becoming more ill and together with the above reasons, Jacques and I thought we would continue but not invest more money.
Jacques and I have good qualities, I think , but we don’t take any risk.
In the business world, I suppose it is a limit, this can’t make you do major things and prevent you from reaching a real financial success.
But, at the age of 57, I am absolutely positive that, when we closed the company in 2005 after my Dad passed away in 2004, we did the right thing.
We are, or at least I am, more interested in challenges, in creating new adventures and express my creativity rather than jeopardizing my family.
I have never regretted that decision.
I still have some press kits, my press placements and a copy each magazine and kept a few products to remind me of a very exciting period of my life.
Life is amazing and exciting to me when it gives lots of opportunities and I can honestly to say I have never missed an opportunity.
Anna Carera /Italy was one of our adventures and I am very proud of it, because Jacques and I worked very hard, spent many night packing orders supposed to be shipped the following day.
As a matter of fact, everyone was really impressed by our work ethics and the way we processed orders.
Customer service and quick shipments made us incredibly reliable.
It was a great satisfaction for us.
But it was time to move forward to another adventure,
The last adventure in our life: working full time in our B&B and creating a professional business of “home hospitality”.