Annie Young-Scrivner describes herself as a ‘strangely strange child’. “At ten, I knew I was going to run a business,” she says. She decided to sell her own perfume of red candy in the cul-de-sac where she lived in Seattle. “We did not get any traffic, we did not sell anything. But, you know, it was just delicious. ”
Young-Scrivner has since improved her experience through PepsiCo, the food and beverage group, Starbucks, the coffee company and Godiva, the chocolatier.
In December, she becomes CEO of Wella Company, a beauty company that includes its own professional hair color brand, as well as OPI, the nail polish manufacturer, and ghd, which is known for its hair straighteners.
Wella Company was founded in December 2020 after the American beauty company Coty sold a majority stake in its hair and nail care industry. KKR, the US private equity group, for $ 3 billion, well below $ 7 billion before the pandemic. Coty, where the majority shareholder is the investment vehicle JAB, sold the business to pay off its debt. Coty retains a 40 percent stake in the new company.
Young-Scrivner, 52, is accused of accelerating innovation and sending the newly formed business out of the pandemic. Lockdowns has closed salons worldwide and reached the market for Wella’s professional hair care products.
During a personal interview at Wella’s London office, Young-Scrivner says that once she got the job, she had to think about how she could help 500,000 customer salons and the millions of hairdressers who support them.
As sales staff could not call during the pandemic, salons were able to manage their inventory through Wella’s online store and sell products to customers. Many hairdressers have done virtual consultations to maintain relationships with clients and help them manage their ‘lockdown’ hair.
Wella also offers room for payment terms and a program for virtual skills-based opportunities for stylists, which is watched live 25,000 people.
She has just come to the end of ” a global listening tour ” with Wella’s commercial clients and members of the public, which makes her think further about ‘faster pace, meaningful innovation’.
Wella has already begun to reduce the timeline for bringing innovative products to market, says Young-Scrivner. Ghd Unplugged, a wireless styler launched this year. OPI nail care has Nature Strong, an ethical vegan line.
New products offer the opportunity to bring about wider change. WeDo, for example, is an ethical care line. ‘Although it’s one brand,’ says Young-Scrivner, ‘we can not regard it as a small brand. . . we must learn from it: how do we become greener? How do we look at wording differently? ”
Wella was founded by Franz Ströher in Germany in 1880. The Ströher family sold its 80 percent stake in Procter & Gamble in 2003, which Wella then sold to Coty in 2016. Young-Scrivner emphasizes that “in any organization that has been sold, resold, resold, what is the culture? And how do you create the culture that can engulf everyone? That is what we focus on, the culture, the brand and the innovation.”
There are different rates of economic recovery for salons: in the US and Latin America, they are thriving, she says, while Australia has closed again. At some salons, the number of clients is declining, but those who do book get more treatments by appointment, “so total spending is higher,” she says.
Cultivating innovation, or at least reviving it, is a theme in Young-Scrivner’s career, though she emphasizes that it does not depend on her. “It’s already there. It is about putting everything together and seeing and unlocking the talent to be their best, ”she says.
Her parents, who fled China’s cultural revolution and moved to Taiwan before arriving in the United States when Annie was seven, ran several businesses – from video galleries to a skateboard shop. They also have a Mongolian grill restaurant with a jade shop up front. “After I went to business school, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is like the worst you could have had,'” she says, laughing.
She completed an executive MBA at the Carlson School of Management in Minnesota while working at PepsiCo. In 2009, Young-Scrivner joined Starbucks as a global chief marketing officer. It was a new role, she says. ‘I remember having the conversation with Howard Schultz [then CEO] about ‘let’s refresh the brand’. Let’s just say the first conversation didn’t go very well. She was of the opinion that the modernization of the logo was the right move, and went back to Schultz and won him over.
She has since served in other roles, including president of Starbucks Canada and Teavana, a tea company that Starbucks acquired in 2012. In 2017, she becomes Godiva’s CEO. “It was about rediscovering the brand,” she says of her priorities for chocolate, addressing the innovation pipeline again “and building a world-class team”.
Young-Scrivner began her career at PepsiCo, where her first job after graduating from the University of Washington was part of his management training program. She drove a truck, loaded and delivered the product. ‘I’m not a very big person, but I lift the boxes; the only way you can get your route is to lift six to ten boxes at a time, ‘she says. She was also the only woman. “It was a Teamsters environment.”
At the beginning of her career, Young-Scrivner was possibly the only woman in the workplace. But when she arrived at Wella, she found that in an industry that primarily serves women, “if you look at the senior leaders, I was actually surprised that it was mostly men”.
She strives to promote the best female talent at Wella. “While building a new business, you are adding new features and resources, and since December, 70 percent of our employees have been women. . . It was not [a case of] ‘let’s go hire women’. What I said is [that] I want all candidates to be diverse, and then we have to appoint the best. ”
The “best” includes Virginie Costa, Wella’s chief financial officer. She followed Young-Scrivner from Godiva and previously worked at the luxury brands Hermes and Burberry.
What does the new KKR ownership look like? Young-Scrivner says KKR encourages Wella to look at where the business has been successful and to take it further. The online store for salons, for example, uses data analytics to increase sales.
She says there is also room for significant growth. ‘China, Asia, there’s a great opportunity. And the Americas. “A significant portion of OPI’s business, 50 percent of its revenue, is in the US,” so for OPI it is [about] open up the rest of the world ”.
Wella’s focus is now on developing products for the professional beauty industry: ‘It requires innovation. . . And because hair care is the next skin care, we are going to grow that way, ”she adds. The skin care market has grown over the past few years, helped by social media and skilled younger consumers. “If we do well, the industry is doing well. So let’s make sure the industry is doing well. ”
Three questions for Annie Young-Scrivner
Who is your leader hero?
I was very fortunate to have many great leaders in my life who inspired me. Indra Nooyi, former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, was one of the most influential. I had the privilege of having a seat in the front row to see her through the years in action.
Closer to home I would say my mother remains my greatest hero. She was learning English in her thirties when we moved to the US. She continued her career while always generously taking the time for all of us. Even after two strokes that left her partially paralyzed, she rides with one arm and still lives every day to the fullest.
What would you have done if you were not the CEO of Wella?
I would be a fashion designer or a brain surgeon. Yes, they are so different! But if I retire, I will not follow this path. I want to teach at a university, give back and support young people. My professors have positively influenced me in so many ways. I hope I can do the same for others.
What is the first leadership lesson you learned?
In my first leadership role when I was just 21, my team were experienced professionals in their forties. They taught me lifelong lessons. One, respect is earned: a title does not guarantee respect. Two, the importance of winning hearts and minds, if your employees are the why and how it can have a positive effect on the outcome, to the benefit of them as well as society;