Alisia Ford knows firsthand how quickly a business can take off. "Well, when Beyoncé features you, overnight you’re like, ‘Oh!’" Ford tells me during a recent Zoom. She’s referring to the day in 2020 when Beyoncé dropped Black Parade Route, a directory of Black-owned businesses across the lifestyle and service industries. Ford’s Glory Skincare, a brand featuring curated skin care boxes and products from a variety of brands all designed with melanin-rich skin in mind, had just launched and was among the brands initially featured — a major signal boost she’d never expected.
"When it first happened, I was in disbelief that it was actually happening to us at such an early stage of the game," she says. "The feature definitely helped with sales overall, but I think, more importantly, it gave our company the name recognition we were looking for. People began to pay attention to Glory, and the company took off from there."
An attorney with several years of experience working with big-box brands, like Nike and Apple, Ford’s career path sounds like the stuff of daydreams, the one where you ditch your draining corporate desk job to start your own successful business. It’s also filled with the less dreamy stuff: long hours, back-to-back meetings, a blurred line between work life and personal life, and, sometimes, working as a team of one. To Ford, though, hearing a consumer say your idea has helped solve their pressing need, the not-so-glamorous days are worth it. "For me, those are the days where I’m like, ‘OK, I’m actually doing what I set out to do, which is make an impact, make people feel empowered, make people feel seen and heard,’" she says.
In her own words, Ford offers Elite Daily an inside look at the memorable, rocky, and teachable moments of her journey to founding Glory Skincare.
Elite Daily: Give me a snapshot of your average day as a founder.
Alisia Ford: I really try to spend a little time setting my intentions for the day because if I don’t, I just lose the day, hands down. So I set [aside] some time in the morning before I shower to ask myself "What do I want to accomplish?" And then, I’ll shower. To be honest, I’m usually grabbing a smoothie on the go because either I’ve taken Austin, our COVID puppy, for a walk or he’s just taking up way too much of my time. I grab something on the go, then get into the office.
Typically, I have several meetings. Now, with the pandemic — I don’t know why I do this to myself — but I schedule meetings back-to-back-to-back all day, ranging from meetings with potential partners … [to] investor calls. I’m also in the Sephora Accelerate program with meetings twice a week. And then it’s like, "Wait, I need to also check in with my team." It just keeps going.
Around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. is when I have time for myself again, and I think, "OK, what transpired today? What sort of notes do I need to look over? Did I ever get off-track? What do I have tomorrow?" We’re such a lean team. There are times that I’m even looking through our email system to see who’s signing up. I look at our quizzes to see what the responses are. I really want to always have a pulse check on our community, so I’m doing that in the evenings. … That’s kind of my day in a nutshell. It does vary by day.
ED: What’s been your most memorable day on the job?
AF: For me, [the most memorable days] are the days in which I go through and I read our [email protected] emails and read the feedback from our customers. For instance, most recently, a woman had bought several boxes for her bridesmaids. She wrote back talking about how not only her different friends said yes but how they were just so ecstatic about the gift they received and how it was so thoughtful and curated so well and beautiful — all those things that make you feel all warm and fuzzy. She was like, "Wow, it’s like you just get us." … Those are the days I love, and I hope for more of those days where we get more and more responses from people.
ED: Tell me about a time you screwed up so badly you weren’t sure how you were going to come back from it.
AF: I think it was a longer slow burn. I was actually working at my previous employer, in a corporate setting and in a legal department, and I was looking around and thinking, "Uh oh. What am I doing? This is not aligned with my personality or who I am. How did I get here?" I started listening to a bunch of How I Built This podcast [episodes]. I was so inspired by listening to other entrepreneurs that when the vision for Glory came about, between that and reaching out to mentors, it just really helped with taking that leap.
ED: I feel like so many people have that moment where you’ve convinced yourself that something is a great opportunity because of X, Y, Z arbitrary reasons. And then you look around, and you’re like, "Wait a minute. None of these people are my friends."
AF: And also, just not feeling like it added up. A lot of like my friends, were like, "You’re crazy. You work for this huge brand, your pay is great, you get to travel and go on vacations and all these things." And it was like, I wasn’t feeling fulfilled, you know?
ED: Of course. And you went from being an attorney and working in corporate to the beauty industry, which, on the surface, couldn’t look more different. What inspired that jump into an industry that can sometimes feel a bit oversaturated?
AF: What inspired me has always been representation. I grew up in Newport Beach, California, and there were very few times I saw people [who] looked like myself, whether in my school or just out and about with friends and what have you. And so representation, I think, is truly something that has just been so important to me since I was little because I didn’t see myself. … And then, working for several different brands helped me to sort of see the lens of how brands are [speaking] to people and what have you.
Once I moved to Portland — where, again, there’s this lack of representation — it was so apparent to me, when I was looking for like my own clean skin care, that outside of L.A. and New York, there really aren’t many resources [for people of color]. That’s really what catapulted the vision for Glory. I didn’t even think about "Oh, it’s going to be in the beauty space" or "Oh, the beauty market’s oversaturated." I saw a need because I am that customer. Then, once I reached out to friends and family and did polls and surveys, I found that I wasn’t alone.
ED: That’s so important to remember because a lot of people feel like they have to reinvent the wheel if they want to start something.
AF: Totally. And it wasn’t like I sat around and was like, "Oh, what business venture can I come up with?" That was not it at all. It was like, "Oh my gosh, I have a pain point personally. I can’t find a skin expert. I can’t find products that work for me." And when you’re dealing with your face, it’s kind of risky. You don’t want to try just anything, right? So it was like, here’s this pain point. "Wow, it doesn’t exist? OK, well then I guess I’ll be the one to change it."
ED: Do you remember where you were and what was going on when the first idea for Glory popped into your head?
AF: I was sitting in my living room, and I just so happened to have a stack of Post-it notes — they were the small Post-it notes. And I was like, "Oh, I want to find an esthetician to help with my skin." So I’m on Yelp and I’m on Google, and I have my laptop on my lap, and I’m doing all this searching. And I’m like, "Wow, why is this so hard?" I’m putting in terms like "African American," "Middle Eastern," and "Asian American," and I’m like, "Why is this so difficult?" Then, I was like, "Ah!" I took the Post-it notes — I still have it — and I literally ended up filling the entire stack of Post-it notes, just with thoughts of design aesthetic, the name of the business, and all that stuff. It was just all of these ideas flooding my brain, and I wrote it all down.
ED: I feel like so many young people come up with this great idea, and they’re like, "OK, I have my stack of Post-it notes… what do I do with it?" How did you get your idea into motion after you thought of it?
AF: Early, early on, I remember saying, "OK, this is the idea." Then, I was like, "How do I know that this isn’t just me?" I needed to validate it, so I went on SurveyMonkey, created a survey, and sent it to 50 of my closest friends and family. That turned into 300. So I had these responses, and [people] told me about how much they’d spend, did they have a skin expert that they went to — all these things. And then I knew I was onto something.
The next step after that was telling a few people in my network, not so much all of the idea, but I needed people to hold me accountable. That’s that kind of tricky spot where you’re like, "I have this idea, but I’m kind of nervous about doing it." I did that, because that was going to keep me accountable for making more progress. With my legal background, I sort of knew how to form a business. … I did everything on my own. The first six months, it was certainly just me.
ED: Did you have a mentor or someone who helped guide you as you started Glory?
AF: I was awarded six free coaching sessions through an organization called Ureeka. I matched with Natalie Cooper-Berthe, and I am forever grateful. I was so discouraged about the pandemic and uncertain about our current business model. I knew we needed to make a pivot and just needed a little support. In a way, Natalie kicked me into gear, and after our first meeting, I was invigorated. We set out a plan. In subsequent meetings, we had this “aha” moment, and the Glory Skincare Box idea came about. She helped with thinking through all of the logistics of this MVP. From there, it just took off.
ED: What are some misconceptions people have about starting your own beauty business?
AF: It’s not glamorous. I think we do a disservice to other future generations about entrepreneurship. It’s very hard. We see Forbes and we see all of these features of entrepreneurs, and we only talk about the highlights. No one’s ever really sharing the difficulties. For me, I’m a solo founder. It’s very hard to manage personal life and work life and finances. There are so many things that I’m learning that I didn’t have experience with, so I’m learning on the job, so to speak. I make fumbles; I make errors.
ED: What advice do you have for a young person looking to break into the beauty industry?
AF: Whether it’s through LinkedIn or other social channels, try to find and connect with potential mentors who are already in this space. I find that indie founders are so accessible and so willing to have a call, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. [The beauty community is] such a small community, you’re bound to work with a brand founder in the future, so try to build those relationships now. Relationships are so important.
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