Anisa Telwar Kaicker of Anisa International: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO
To trust my intuition: My gut is almost always spot on when it comes to assessing professional relationships and business decisions. The times I’ve found myself in difficult situations, whether mentally or professionally, is when I’ve discounted what I felt to be true about a situation, a person or an action step needed for my business. Over the years, I’ve learned to always trust my gut and never doubt myself.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anisa Telwar Kaicker.
Anisa Telwar Kaicker is the Founder and CEO of her namesake business, Anisa International. She started her business in 1992 and for almost 3 decades has pioneered the leadership, product development and culture of this globally branded business through the design and manufacturing of cosmetic brushes for makeup and skincare. She partners with the most esteemed brands in the beauty industry.
In 2003 Anisa International vertically integrated their operations by opening their own manufacturing facility, Anisa China, in Tianjin. Fast-forward to 2020 and through substantial investment in social and environmental sustainability, Anisa has expanded her operations by opening two new state-of-the-art facilities: Anisa Tianjin and Anisa Jinghai. Committed to cleaner, safer and responsible manufacturing, these facilities employ over 500 individuals dedicated to the practice of cruelty-free and ethically made products.
Now, after almost 3 decades of providing superior products to the best brands in the business, Anisa has chosen to further expand her innovation with a specialized category of cosmetic brushes focused on skincare application through ANISA Beauty.
Anisa’s personal reputation is equally notable and includes long-standing philanthropic contributions that span causes for homeless families, animals and the conservation of our environment.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It was mainly luck and chance that brought me to this career path — by meeting my mentor, who understood a niche element of the beauty industry and taught me everything he knew.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When I first started this business journey, it was mostly made up of hard times — it is tough in the beginning when you’re starting out. My biggest challenge was to convince my new customers to trust me. After all, they didn’t know me or anything about me. I was the ‘new kid on the block’ so to speak, and a complete outsider to the cosmetic tool manufacturing industry. My first customer gave me momentum; I not only earned their trust, but their confidence to believe in me and my promise on what I could deliver. From there, my momentum was born — I learned to leverage that trust over and over again, never taking advantage of my customers by putting their needs and expectations first.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
In my eyes, I had to succeed — I truly felt like there was no other option. I was on my own and it was a make-it-or-break-it situation. I had no safety net or plan B to fall back on. That tension was my driving motivator to continue pushing forward every single day and to never give up.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are definitely going! Considering we’re in a pandemic, something to keep in mind is the effects this pandemic has had not only on our health, but also the global economic crisis it has caused and the most extreme societal polarization of our nation. It is stressful to say the least, yet throughout all of this, I find the strength to get up and show up every day for my people, my business and for the hope that we will still create a positive impact. Throughout my 20+ years of experience in this business, I feel confident and well-prepared both emotionally and mentally to weather this storm. I often remind myself, we will turn the corner and this too shall pass!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made was when a customer called me and asked if a cosmetic brush sample he had was one made by Anisa International. This was in 2001, when FaceTime and Zoom didn’t exist, so I mistakenly answered yes, based on how he described the brush without physically seeing the brush. I later found out it was not our brush he had. He got into trouble for mis-crediting the brush but ironically, it was a mistake that worked out — I got my first $1M order from it.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
A big signifier in why we stand out is being a woman-owned business in a traditionally and dominantly male-owned industry. Even though we are in the beauty business, a lot of the supply chain and customer base is traditionally run by men. We are female founded, led and represented throughout my company and as a woman who uses cosmetic brushes myself, I offer first-hand insight to my customers that my male counterparts cannot. I understand my female consumers and what they need, which sometimes can differ from what they think they want. I am proud to help my customers project their businesses forward in a sustainable, long-term way.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
It’s okay to feel stressed or overwhelmed at times, we are only human! Take a break and walk away, look inward to reapproach with a clearer mind. For me personally, I find peace of mind and comfort in my meditation practice; I started meditation 4 years ago and have not looked back. I encourage those close to me, whether my employees or customers, to seek this out and give it a shot. Each person’s meditation practices or mantras to re-align can differ in unique ways. The most important thing is to find what’s meaningful to you, to bring you balance when feeling overwhelmed.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
One of my first business partners was Norman Brodsky. He is a true entrepreneur, who understood me and my goals from the start of my business. He once told me, “you are not crazy, most people will not understand how you are built” — this resonated deeply with me; it gave me the confidence and feeling of freedom to build my company the way I saw fit. I will always be grateful for his belief in me.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Bringing good to world is about being better and bringing better! We give back in many different ways, both philanthropically and through our new direct-to-consumer brand, ANISA Beauty. In light of the pandemic and social injustice, we have launched ANISA Advocacy, a philanthropic venture that gives a voice to those who are unjustly repressed. We promise never to compromise our values for greed — humanity matters more!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. To trust my intuition: My gut is almost always spot on when it comes to assessing professional relationships and business decisions. The times I’ve found myself in difficult situations, whether mentally or professionally, is when I’ve discounted what I felt to be true about a situation, a person or an action step needed for my business. Over the years, I’ve learned to always trust my gut and never doubt myself.
2. It’s crucial to delegate responsibility: As much as I wish I could, the truth is, I can’t take on everything by myself. It is ok to delegate responsibilities to my employees, and to trust them to get the job done. No matter what level we hire someone to work for the company, it’s important that their roles and accompanying responsibilities are clearly defined, with the ability to measure success quickly; without this, there could be gray areas where miscommunication happens, or important tasks are not completed.
3. Always have empathy and give customers what they want and need, NOT what we think they want: It’s vital to understand the needs of my customers and clients, knowing their goals for success allows us to make sure we accurately execute the necessary actions to attain their ‘end-game,’ so to speak.
4. It’s okay to take time off and not feel bad about it: Burn-out from overworking and stress is real, and I have made many mistakes in the past in my business because I was exhausted and did not take the time I needed for myself. Yes, running a company is an immense responsibility, but I am also human. Taking time to pull back for self-care helps to avert creating further challenges and frustrations that could have been avoided. Giving yourself that mental break brings you new perspective and clarity that you may not have while you’re in the depths of your daily work.
5. Have a network of support, especially mentors and mentees: It’s important to have the guidance of a mentor and to have a mentee to give those lessons back to. We all have something to offer the next generation of entrepreneurs and having the ability to giveback is truly just as educational as learning from someone else’s experience. As a CEO, I believe I have a responsibility to lead the next generation, as my mentors led me.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Eradicating oppression against all people and living with equality and equanimity.
How can our readers follow you on social media? @TheRealATK on Instagram.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!