Beauty Boss: How Rodial's Maria Hatzistefanis Built an Empire From Her Spare Room
In our Beauty Boss series, we’re highlighting individuals who are owning the beauty space and turning it upside down in innovative ways. You’ll be able to get an exclusive look at their very personal journeys to success as well as hear their advice for anyone wanting to follow in their footsteps. Today, we’re chatting with Rodial and Nip + Fab founder and social media guru Maria Hatzistefanis.
Maria Hatzistefanis is not your average beauty brand founder. Where many are content to hide in the shadows behind their products, Hatzistefanis (or Mrs Rodial as she's known on the Interwebs), is just as beloved as her celebrity-approved brands. It's not hard to see why, a quick scroll through her Instagram feed reveals a woman who is finding new—and stylish—ways to engage with her customer. A force on social media (peep her excellent YouTube channel), this Girl Boss knows beauty and fashion, and business. (She's also passionate about inspiring budding entrepreneurs—her motivational Insta-quotes are proof.)
We caught up with the beauty guru and quizzed her on everything from how she began her business (from a spare room with her own savings), to the importance of social media: “It’s not a job for an intern if you want to do it right.”
Keep scrolling to learn Maria Hatzistefanis’s secrets to success!
Byrdie: You started your career as a beauty writer at Seventeen magazine in Greece—was beauty always a love of yours?
Maria Hatzistefanis: Yes! I spent a brief period working in finance after my time as a beauty writer, but beauty was always my real passion.
B: Was starting a beauty company something you had always thought about?
MH: While I was a beauty writer I realised there was a gap in the market for a targeted skin care range, so I started researching and it grew from there. I loved the idea of finding a gap in the market and creating a line of products which I knew consumers would love.
B: What was the marketplace like at the time? What did you want to add that didn’t already exist?
MH: All the products were very general and didn’t offer solutions to specific skin concerns. I looked at what I was missing as a consumer and wanted to add something more specific; I knew if I was looking for this other women would be also. There seemed to be a division between products that offered short- and long-term solutions, and I wanted something which offered both.
B: What was the process from idea conception to your first product?
MH: I started Rodial from the spare room of my home with £20,000 of my savings. In the first year I did everything myself, from the packaging to distribution. The key thing for me was to find a lab that I could work with. I also started looking at international expansion early on as I believe a business becomes more stable if you have clients across the world.
Everything really began with the Glamoxy Snake Serum ($80). We brought snakes into a studio and filmed them for the promotion—we really went big with it. When you take that kind of risk the buzz can be both positive and negative, but it was exactly what we needed. We were a small company and didn’t have the kind of advertising budget to compete with other brands.
B: What was the first celebrity endorsement you received for a Rodial product?
MH: Over the years we’ve had a lot of celebrities using our products including Jenifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie and Victoria Beckham. [Ed's Note: Kylie Jenner is also a vocal fan of Nip + Fab.]
B: How did Nip + Fab come about?
MH: Nip + Fab is aimed at a different market and after I launched Rodial I was always waiting for someone to create a similar line but which was aimed at this market. In 2010 I realised this still didn’t exist and so decided to create it myself and it grew very quickly. In 2011 we launched Frown Fix and it sold out within 24 hours of launching in the UK, eight thousand people signed up to a waiting list at one of our retailers.
B: How did starting another brand affect your day-to-day?
MH: It was obviously a lot of hard work but I am always up for a challenge.
B: How did you find the process of launching Nip + Fab as compared to launching Rodial?
MH: It was a lot more straight forward as I already knew the lab I wanted to use, however Nip + Fab is for a different customer which meant finding new retailers and having to establish ourselves all over again.
B: What's the toughest part about running your own business? And what’s the easiest?
MH: The toughest thing is that you can never switch off and you are always in work mode. The easiest is that I am so passionate about what I do, it doesn’t seem like work.
B: Were there any major challenges you faced while creating your businesses that you overcame?
MH: Getting my team right has always been my biggest priority, as I need a support system to help me realise my vision.
B: Would you say social media has played a part in growing your businesses?
MH: Without a doubt, social media is a great way to be able to connect with the customer and spread the word of your brand. It’s a rule for all brands, not just beauty, that the founder or a very senior person in the business needs to be on top of social media. If you want to do this right, you need to learn the rules. It’s not a job for an intern if you want to do it right.
B: What's the best career advice you've ever received?
MH: Don’t think outside the box, think like there is no box.
B: You’re also a mother of two children, how do you balance your time between work and family?
MH: I try to manage my time. The boys are 10 and 12, which makes it easier as they’re at school all day. I try to see them for half an hour in the morning, and then half an hour in the evening, and we spend all of the weekends and holidays together.
B: You have an interest in yoga, meditation and nutrition—how do you incorporate wellness into your everyday?
MH: I work out three times a week with my trainer and mix up my routine to keep it interesting. I also like to run in Holland Park which is near my home. At the weekend I go to the country with my family; we go for walks and in the summer we play tennis.
B: How do you fit in exercise when you are so busy?
MH: I am up at six a.m. every morning and I exercise at seven. Unless I do it at this time I don’t do it all. One of my favourite times is when I am awake in the house before everyone else. I also find things like Jivamukti yoga to be really relaxing, especially after a long day in the office or when I am travelling.
B: Any tips for eating healthy when you are short on time?
MH: I always have a box of cashew nuts with me and add coconut oil to everything—that helps me avoid snacking in between meals.
B: What’s the most important thing you have learned along the way?
MH: I think sometimes people think businesses are an overnight success, but there are a lot of problems and challenges along the way. It takes many years of hard work to become an overnight success!
B: Do you have any advice for any budding beauty entrepreneurs?
MH: I believe something that has been key to my success is that I always think like a consumer. I think about what I am missing and then create that.
B: Going back to the brands—what are your top three all-time beauty products and why do you love each?
MH: I love the Snake Serum, it is one of the original products that got us noticed. The Bee Venom Moisturiser ($190) is a personal favourite and something I use religiously. The Rodial Compact is also something I am very proud of, the packaging is so beautiful. It has become a real object of desire!
B: What’s next for you?
MH: I am always looking for new and exciting ways to connect with our customers in the digital age, and I plan to grow my business with this in mind. I am enjoying working on my YouTube channel and have an exciting new series coming soon!
Tell us—were you inspired by Maria's career path? Who should we feature next? Sound off below!