Christy Prunier, Willa Skin Care, Woman Entrepreneur
Christy was introduced to me from an old business friend that I have known for years. I wasn't so sure this was a business that I should be involved with but there was something about the email that Christy wrote me and her information dump that I found intriguing. I have probably had my fingers in every business under the sun at one point and my first job out of college was running the cosmetics department in Kings Plaza for Macys so Willa Skin Care interested me and I actually know a few things about the industry.
I met with Christy and loved her story, her force of nature, her commitment to growing Willa Skin Care into something really big and her desire to bring on anyone into her company that knows more than she does. Lets start at the beginning. Christy grew up in Riverside and went to Greenwich High School moving to DC to attend Georgetown University where she majored in English literature and government. In 1990, Vaclav Havel came to speak at Georgetown and she was captivated by his passion for democracy. Post graduation, Christy went to Czechoslovakia to teach english to medical students. It was hard work as most of her students had a crash course of English and had really no conversational skills as of yet. She would create a lesson plan which would last for about ten minutes and the rest of the class was just talking. Havel would speak about changing the world. It was a different place back then where there were community showers and pubs would fill up around noon. After a year, it was time to move on.
Christy moved to France hoping to get a job there through a friend but to no avail. At this point she thought she was going to be a journalist. She returned to the US and got a job at HBO working on documentaries. She spent a year working on a documentary about the forensic doctor Michael Baden who was involved with the OJ case. She would go to autopsies and film but after about year she decided the pace was too slow her and shifted gears into the film industry.
Christy packed her bags and moved out to LA where her sister was living in Westwood. She was hired to read scripts and through that met Mike Medavoy who was starting a new company called Phoenix Pictures. Christy was his first hire. She did everything there from development to production learning every piece of the business. She was involved with films such as The People vs Larry Flynt, The Thin Red Line and her last was Black Swan. She stayed for nine years. During that time she got married and while her husband was in NYC, they did the bi-coastal marriage for 3 years. It was when they began to have children that she realized that being in one city made the most sense. She also realized that the industry she was in, which is truly a 24/7 town meaning the days roll into the night was just not something she could do with children. She packed her bags with a kid in tow and moved back to NYC.
When Christy returned to NYC she worked with the MOMA curating film collaborations as well as a series of speakers such as Adam Gopnik to speak to museum goers about their craft. Eventually the MOMA brought in someone permanently to run this area. Christy thought to herself, I have three kids now and as much as she loved the world of film and art it made no sense for her to consume herself in this world, she would step back for awhile and be a Mom.
Four years ago she had a moment, it was 2008, and she was giving her daughters a bath. I remember those days when you would literally line up the kids and bath them. Her older daughter Willa said she did not want to use the baby products her sister was using but wanted her own products. Christy figured if Willa could get ownership of her own bath products, why not. She scoured the market and came up dry except for Bubble Gum smelling chemical Miley Cyprus crap.
At 29 years old, Christy found out she skin cancer on her face. It was a tiny pimple that kept bleeding. When she went to the doctor she found out that she had a basal cell cancer that was down four layers and had to be removed. She ended up with 2 others. Her doctor told her it was the years of damage she had done to her face during her youth tanning with reflectors and all the other goodies we used to use. Sun affects everything and she knew she would spend her adulthood trying to undo the damage she had done to her face. As a kid she had terrible acne too. It was then that she had her "aha" moment about skin rituals. We grow up being taught to brush out teeth everyday and take care of our teeth but we are not taught to take care of our largest organ which is our skin.
Christy decided to create a skincare line for girls 7-16 called Willa Skin Care where there is truly a void in the marketplace. BTW, I am using the products right now and they are fantastic. Through a variety of serendipitous meetings she was pointed in the direction of a skin care lab in NJ to work with on her product. Ended up the person who owned the company was someone she was an investor with a Phoenix Pictures that she had worked with. He loved the idea and gave her access to a top chemist.
The next two years were spent doing some serious market research. The bench mark was the products had to be natural but the girls had to enjoy the product. Many questions were asked such as why girls don't like washing their face, what do they want the product to smell like, how do they want the product to come packaged, etc. She took all the information and poured it into the product. She hired her babysitter, who went to Parsons and was also working for Michael Kors to create the packaging.
From her kitchen table the product was finally ready. Perhaps all those years of production was the key to making this work as Christy landed one of her first orders with Target putting the product in 300 stores and they recently placed a huge reorder. At the end of the day, it is all about the execution.
I am a huge fan of what Christy has created and as I said I love the products. She has listened to her market and created products that work for it. This past week Willa (her daughter) and Christy were on the Today show. Worth watching the clip. I am sold on what Christy has created and am jumping into the game. Don't be surprised to see Willa Skin Care line rotating on my blog soon as one of the companies that I have invested in.
This is such a charming story! And I heard that same Vaclav Havel speech at Georgetown in 1990.
Great story! I’d love to take a look at Willa Skin Care line and see what it has to offer me.
A skincare line for girls 7-16? Such a great way of thinking. Targeting untapped niche is the way to go. Great post.