Alina believes that every woman is a power woman, whose best exterior self should reflect her inner beauty. Originally from the Ukraine, Alina turned her passion into purpose when she co-founded Fresh with her husband in the late 1990’s, which grew from a $10,000 start-up to the international cosmetics and fragrance company it is today. Drawing on her aesthetic expertise from her previous work in the fashion industry, Alina is the creative visionary behind the company and believes that makeup should reveal, not conceal, natural beauty. Every product has a story—an emotional connection to its roots, and Alina loves to hear how her customers’ experiences have added to that story.
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: Growing up in Ukraine, I dreamed about being a fashion designer. When my family immigrated to the US, I was able to make that dream come true, went to Parsons School of Design and subsequently worked in the fashion industry. In 1990 a design job moved me to Boston where I met Lev Glazman, who shared his dream with me of opening a beauty store. I embraced that dream, and that led to us opening the first Fresh store in 1991.
Now, 20 years later that business is reaching globally and we are joined by many enthusiastic team members in continuing to build Fresh well into the 21st century.
Q: Innovation requires creative thinking. How do you tap into the creative thinking resources within your business?
A: I think inspiration for creativity comes from many different sources that are not just segregated into the industry we work in. Beauty is such a huge part of our popular culture, we are the citizens of the world, and become influenced by all that our generation gets influenced by. I look at fashion, film, art, music to become a “sponge” of what is going on in the world. Our clients are another source: meeting people all the time at our stores and events, talking to them about their lives, brings on a lot of ideas as well.
Q: What’s your best advice for an entrepreneur in an early/bootstrapping phase? Or in a growth/need to ‘now scale’ phase?
A: Starting a business is a scary thing; my best advice is to really believe that what you have is unique and be really passionate about it. It cannot be someone else’s idea, it has to be yours in order to put every possible ounce of energy into it. It is also great to have a business partner not only to share that dream with, but to share the tough moments, of which there are many…
Q: It’s hard to focus on the “big picture” sometimes because we can get caught in the weeds of work and life. When does visioning come clearest or easiest for you? Or what inspires your vision?
A: Creative meetings with the executive team when you go away to a different location, where you are free to dream. I find that a different locale from your usual conducting of business is extremely effective in removing yourself from the daily grind, the phone, the emails, etc. However, you never know when ideas may come: while listening to a great concert, seeing an inspiring movie, traveling to a new destination.
Q: What do you feel separates your brand from your competitors?
A: Fresh has integrity. The one thing that never changed or changes is the quality approach we have to each and every product, to creating the environment of our stores, to training our associates to be most educated and evolved as far as customer service is concerned.
Each product in Fresh is created because we come from a place of personal need, not a focus group, or marketing research. That personal passion is living through our products, and we are lucky to have people in our company that are as passionate about it as we, the founders, are.
ON Starting Out
Q: If you had a young sister or a daughter who was a senior in college, anxious about landing her first job or unsure of what she wanted to do, what would your advice be to her?
A: I actually do have a daughter who is a senior in high school, so we are going through the challenging process of college applications, and major decisions of where she will be going next year. As she is not sure what she wants to do in the future, my advice is to find the place/school where there are many opportunities to learn and become engaged in many different fields in order to find where her passions would lie rather than settling on only the practical points. Be free to experiment, not be afraid!
Q: Is there an example in your life of a time when others were against you or your dream, yet you persevered?
A: In the first 6 years of our business, we had a really difficult time surviving. Finances were really tight and everything went into the business; there were no banks that were interested in supporting our concept, so we had to do it on our own. But the dream was bigger than that. We found solutions and juggled many things in order to make the big step forward. Starting to sell our products to other stores three years after opening our first store in Boston gave us the opportunity to explore our business dreams.
Q: What simple things in life today bring you joy?
A: Two of my daughters: 17 and 13 are my biggest inspirations. Working hard and being able to see them grow in a very different environment that I grew up, to see them grow up in this country with all the limitless possibilities, really, the sky is the limit for women in our times!
I love simple Sundays, with a morning walk to get great coffee, to take some time to read a book instead of magazines, while listening to music, buying flowers, and simple dinners with friends, and late night heart-to-heart chats with my friend in California…
ON Time Management
Q: Online calendars, emailing ourselves, post-it notes… I’m still struggling to find the best way to manage my time and to do list? What’s your method?
A: Blackberry calendars with many reminders! I have two phones, and try to duplicate it on both. But for to-do lists, I love to write my notes: my favorite being a simple grid pad with the refillable fountain pen!
Q: In the world, what are your three favorite destinations?
A: London, Rome and Big Sur in California
Q: In the world, what are your three favorite places to shop?
A: Selfridges and TopShop on Oxford Street in London, Barneys & Uniqlo in New York, Gilt Groupe online
Q: What do you believe is the secret to finding the right person and maintaining a long term, good relationship?
A: I can’t even start pretending that I know the secret. However, I believe not taking the other person for granted – EVER, and trying to appreciate and encourage the things you like about them, rather than the things you don’t, helps the personal growth of the relationship.
Finding the right place and time to have the right discussion and communicating are the essentials of any relationship.
Q: What are the beauty items you could not live without?
A: Fresh Soy Face Cleanser – one product that does all you need and always feels amazing: cleanses, removes makeup, tones
Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment – because you need to treat your lips the same way you treat your eyes
Fresh High Noon Freshface glow – because you don’t wake up every morning with a perfect radiant sun-kissed complexion