Photo | L to R: Robyn Turner, Elyse Piwonka, Caitlin Woo, Kia Ragland
Students in the Beauty Industry Merchandising & Marketing program were recently treated to a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear it straight from the mouths of experts in beauty product development, what it's actually like to be a product developer for beauty giants including Orly, Stila, Smashbox, and Arbonne—all companies headquartered in Southern California.
It was an all-star cast serving on the beauty panel. All FIDM Grads and all experts in beauty product development. First there was Stila Director of Product Development Caitlin Woo. Next up was Orly & Spa Ritual Sr. Product Development Manager Elyse Piwonka. Third was Smashbox Global Product Development Assistant Manager Kia Ragland. And rounding out this impressive lineup was Arbonne Sr. Product Development Manager Robyn Turner.
When asked if product development is part of marketing or research and development, the panel answered, "Both." They said that product developing is usually an arm of marketing.
"You need to know your consumer. You need to know your brand," said Caitlin Woo who originally came to FIDM to study fashion. After she started at FIDM she realized that fashion didn't peek her interest as much as the beauty industry, so she interned at Stila and never looked back. She advised the students to take their internships seriously.
Elyse Piwonka added that product development is still part of sales, really. "You have to be able to sell to marketing, the sales teams, and the customer," she said. She told the students that she recently gave a presentation to Target about polymer nail polish. She works directly with the chemists at ORLY, and she knows the product well.
Always having been passionate about beauty, Elyse Piwonka said she fell in love with product development during her time at LORAC Cosmetics. "The idea of creating something is such a beautiful thing." After five years at LORAC, Elyse went to ORLY where she is now the Sr. Product Development Manager. "It's a small industry and it's a beautiful thing to be part of."
Kia Ragland interned at Smashbox when she first started at FIDM. Then she interned at Stila, and once she graduated she was hired. Two years later, she moved over to Jouer Cosmetics doing product and package development, and it wasn't long before she landed back at Smashbox. She's now the Assistant Manager of Global Product Development.
Robyn-Melissa Turner started off saying that the one thing everyone on the panel has in common is "the passion and the ability to network." Robyn knew at a young age that she wanted to work behind the scenes in the beauty industry. She remembers her mother working for Avon, and Robyn used to help her send out orders. She could tell when a formula had changed or the packaging had been redesigned. But, it wasn't until she participated in the NY Study Tour at FIDM that she learned about product development, and she fell in love with the fragrance process.
Turner wanted to do luxury fragrances, and she went to work at DayNa Decker. She went on to work for ORLY, Markwins International (Wet n Wild), and now Arbonne where she has been for almost three years as a Senior Product Development Manager of color cosmetics at their Irvine headquarters. She is what in known in the industry as a cross category developer.
"You have fabulous instructors at FIDM," Turner said as she looked directly in to the audience of students. "You have an amazing opportunity at this college. It's about showing up and being professional." She also added that it's helpful to find yourself a mentor as you grow in your career. "Surround yourself with people who are experts."
Business cards were exchanged as well as information about upcoming internship opportunities.