Three CEOs who will motivate you on International Women’s Day

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Adeleye. Aronson. Iredale. They’re powerful. They’re stunning. They’re changing everything.

For International Women’s Day, three beauty industry leaders are opening up to HER Magazine to share their hard-earned wisdom, inspire change, and pay tribute to the women who paved the way before them. With the help of Courtney Adeleye, Carolyn Aronson and Jane Iredale, we are celebrating the true beauty of womanhood.

What it looks like. What it feels like. What it does for the world.

Even in their industry, men make up the majority of executive positions. That’s a tradition that just wouldn’t sit right with any of these brilliant women. They are each sole owners of their multi-million dollar companies, which they built from the ground up.

Let’s get to know them.

Courtney Adeleye, a former Registered Nurse, is now the founder of health-based, natural hair care company, The Mane Choice. She used her medical background to create a line of products that works for any hair type or ethnicity, made from ingredients the health-conscious consumer can agree with. “When both needs are met, genuine self-confidence exudes and one understands beauty for what it means to the individual.” The Mane Choice earned a spot on shelves in Walmart, Sally Beauty Supply, Rite Aid, CVS, Target and Walgreens.

What makes her a total boss? Adeleye started with YouTube videos testing her homemade concoctions on her own hair.

Carolyn Aronson, CEO of It’s a 10 Haircare, fulfilled her childhood dreams of becoming of a hair stylist only to find out she couldn’t stop dreaming of ways to “help people feel more beautiful every day.” She likes to say she traded in her scissors for a bottle of product. Of course, that’s a product sold in 25,000 salons nationwide and carried in more than 10,000 chain retailers. Most notably, you’ve seen her product featured as the first-ever indie hair care brand on a 2017 national Super Bowl ad, which by the way, was a perfect 10.

What makes her a total boss? She bought out her male partner to take full ownership of the brand.

Jane Iredale is a name many cosmetic aficionados already know and love for her namesake and company Iredale Mineral Cosmetics. Iredale left a successful career in theater as a Tony-nominated writer and producer where she’d “spent so many years working with women whose careers depended on having a flawless complexion, and the heavy makeup they were using to cover up skin problems was actually aggravating their skin concerns, instead of improving them.” Cue: Iredale here to save the day with a natural cosmetics line now sold in more than 50 countries.

What makes her a total boss? Her product pitches were met with skepticism by male chemists, who “didn’t think it could be done.” Unwavering in her commitment and confidence, Iredale won over plastic surgeons and dermatologists.

What makes all three of these women truly beautiful is their dedication to fostering more opportunity for women in business. Although they each found their own path to success, their stories have remarkable similarities that could help those dreams of yours become attainable.

They aim high.

Glass ceiling. Those two words get thrown around a lot these days. Not to deny the reality that they exist because, yeah, unfortunately they do. But, if you’re like Iredale, they’re no excuse.

“Honestly, it never occurred to me that we wouldn’t make it,” the natural cosmetics guru says.

Our panel of business savvy experts agree, setting lofty goals is necessary if you hope to break that glass ceiling.

“Limit? What’s that?” Aronson jokes. “As a young girl, I knew what I wanted to do in life and by my teen years, I was planning how big and far I wanted to bring it. Dream big, then work backwards from there. That’s my mantra.”

So, dream, ladies. Plan, sketch and hope with abandon. But don’t skimp out on the work that will ultimately bring it all to fruition. Believing you can do it is vital. Having the skills to perform it is imperative.

“Always strive to be the best, the hardest working, and the most knowledgeable. It’s hard to ignore value. I would also remind him or her that in times where there isn’t a way, there is always the option to make one,” Adeleye says.

They lift other women up.

Frustrated by gender inequality in business, Courtney Adeleye aims to be a “transformational leader,” setting the example and “doing my part to break the cycle.”

Adeleye, indeed, is making an impact. “The majority of my employees are women, the top leadership positions are held by women, and I am the sole owner of the company — an African American, female.”

Also making a measurable impact, Iredale Natural Cosmetics, with 180 employees, is the largest employer in her town of Great Barrington, Mass.

They embrace their individuality.

This one goes out to all of you scrolling through social media feeds comparing yourself to your friends or celebs. That’s not reality, and it’s not the reality these women aim to create.

“I’ve been around plenty of stars in person, and it’s a rarity that they actually look like a magazine ad or an Instagram picture,” Aronson says.

(Oh, thank God.)

Of course, this is what we want to hear. But Aronson’s point is that, while no one is born with a glam squad and lighting crew to follow you around all day, we are each born with unique beauty.

In all the power and influence they have to make women beautiful, they care solely about helping women feel beautiful. That’s why they’ve each created products that enhance what your mama gave you and celebrate how much more-than-enough that is.

“I know that a friendly smile and firm handshake means more than a perfectly arched brow or the latest handbag,” Iredale says. “Confidence comes from feeling good about who you are.”

They (really) love their moms.

Speaking of what your mama gave you, each of these entrepreneurs inherited a work ethic from and hold an admiration for their mothers that turned out to shape their careers.

Adeleye learned invaluable lessons of leadership and relationship building from her mother, whom she calls “the epitome of a support system.” “I am constantly using her style of support, insight and sacrifice when interacting with my employees,” she says.

Aronson says her adoptive mother, a Columbia University graduate, couldn’t have been more different from her, but encouraged her to be self-sufficient.

She recalls her mom’s words, “I don’t care what you do in life, but find it, be the best at it, and don’t let anyone ever take it away from you.”

Iredale says she gets tired just thinking about her mom’s work ethic, whom she remembers juggling a full-time job with home improvement projects and still whipping up well-balanced meals.

Then, Iredale adds: “Outside of that, I suppose I would say that all women are my inspiration.  I see them balancing families and careers, tragedies and challenges, and sometimes I wonder how they can continue to be so strong.”

And you know what? We couldn’t agree more.

Like what you’re reading? Access HER magazine’s monthly publication in iTunes or Google Play – it’s where we feature powerhouse women you can learn from and share exclusive content you won’t find here.

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