Expert's Opinion

Lessons from a 98-year-old Female Entrepreneur

Elizabeth Grant, founder and CEO of her eponymous skin care brand, shares a few of the valuable lessons she's learned over the years.

By: Elizabeth Grant

Lessons from a 98-year-old Female Entrepreneur

I started Elizabeth Grant Skin Care in 1948 at the age of 25. My skin had been damaged during World War II and in my mission to repair my skin I discovered our proprietary ingredient—a blend of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and amino acids mixed with a specially harvested sea kelp—known as Torricelumn. It repaired the visual signs of the scar damage on my skin in about 8-10 months, and when I began sharing it with others and they also had transformative experiences, that was the beginning of my journey. I started the company not once but twice and learned so much along the way. As I celebrate my 98th birthday, I sat down to reflect and share some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur. 

Never Take No for an Answer 
When you start a business, any business, you are going to receive a lot more no’s than yes’s. But it only takes one yes to make a difference, to open a door. When I first began trying to sell my skin care, no one would carry it in their stores. But I didn’t take no for an answer. I had my family and friends call the stores and say they wouldn’t shop there anymore until they began carrying Elizabeth Grant’s skin care. I walked into Selfridges Department Store in London without an appointment, I didn’t even have a business card. When I couldn’t get to the buyer, I gave my skin care to the secretary and wrote my name and number on a piece of paper. I said I’d just run out of business cards and to call me when they fell in love with the product. And that’s how I got to the buyers. 

Over time I was able to get my product in stores across England, Scotland, France, Italy, South Africa. When I wanted to get into Israel, I went through the Prime Minister’s wife! Whatever it takes. 

It’s Not What’s Between Your Legs, But What’s Between Your Ears 
I was often made to feel inadequate because I was a woman or a new entrepreneur. But don’t let anyone plant those seeds of doubt, because they will manifest into despair. So you must believe in yourself. I knew this from the time I was just a girl. But I had to learn it over and over. When I was just 13 years old I applied for my first job at an ice cream parlor. The shop owner was looking for a “tall, blonde, blue eyed girl to sell ice cream.” Which I was not. When the shop owner asked,”Why are you here, you don’t meet the requirements?” I said, “Exactly. Every ice cream shop will have a tall, blonde, blue eyed girl selling ice cream. But I’m funny and personable and I can connect with anyone.” I got that job. Time and time again I was pushed to second guess myself, even though I knew what I was doing. I had to have my husband and other men help run my business to get ahead. And I didn’t always trust my voice, especially early on when it was still very much a man’s world. If I had, we could have avoided many financial mistakes.
Over the years, I made sure I learned every aspect of business, not just my business or the skin care industry, so that no man or person could treat me inadequately. Seventy-two years after starting the business, I am proud to be leading a company where we build each other up and help each other grow.

It’s Never Too Late to Start Something New
In the 1990s I moved to Canada. Leaving everything I had built behind. But I was still so passionate about our skin care and our proprietary ingredient Torricelumn and formulations. When my grandson started using Torricelumn to repair a rare skin condition, I was reminded of the transformative power of our products. So in 1999 at the age of 75, my daughter in law and I decided to reintroduce the world to Elizabeth Grant Skin Care. This time I leveraged the power of home shopping channels to rebuild the brand. I’ll never forget, on my first show my first words were, “You don’t know me from a bar of soap, but I want you to trust me, I want you to believe in me, because I’m going to change your life.” The skin care quickly took off in Canada, then Germany and on to 7 other countries from there. At 75 years old I became an entrepreneur all over again. Nothing is stopping you but yourself. Do not let fear or age or anything keep you from starting something new.

You can learn more about Elizabeth Grant's business, and her family that runs it, in this Indie Inc feature from Happi's November 2020 issue.

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