A hair-raising tale
Sue Ismiel is Chief Executive Officer of Sue Ismiel & Daughters Enterprises, a family-owned company run by Sue and her three daughters, Nadine, Natalie and Naomi. Specialising in natural hair-removal products, its brands include Nad’s Hair Removal, Nad’s Laser Clinics, NitWits and PuraSkin.
Sue Ismiel is the founder and Global Brand Ambassador for the Nad’s brand, which is part of Sue Ismiel & Daughters Enterprises, a family-owned company run by Sue, her three daughters, Nadine, Natalie and Naomi and CEO Paul Paterson. Specialising in natural hair-removal products, its brands include Nad’s Hair Removal, NitWits and PuraSkin. Nad’s generated more than $40 million through retail partners globally last year.
Formerly the CEO, Sue took on her new role in September last year. In her new role she remains the face of the brand, but has stepped away from the day-to-day running of the company.
When did you first realise you had the makings of a successful business? The very first time I tried to sell my product, my sister and I stood for about three hours at Sydney’s Flemington Market without selling a thing. We were about to pack up and go when it occurred to me that people would go on walking past without noticing us unless I made the effort to communicate. I stepped out from behind the demonstration table, and as soon as I conquered my fear of talking to people, there was a complete shift. I sold everything I had in less than an hour, which gave me the confidence to continue. But the real turning point came in 1993 when I took a huge leap of faith and invested in TV advertising. We used a fulfilment company with an 1800 number and the first segment that went to air was so successful all the phones lines were jammed. People even started calling the TV station and jammed its phone lines too. The producer said she’d never experienced anything like it. That was when I knew for sure we had a product that people wanted to buy.
Is there anything you would do differently?
I’ve had setbacks and struggles that were devastating at the time but I wouldn’t change them because each one brought the gift of an important lesson. The one thing I would do differently is to be kinder to myself. When you start a business you assume you’re going to experience a lot of stress but I’ve learned that stress is nothing but wasted energy. The only way to tap into the infinite intelligence of your subconscious mind is by being centred, calm and grateful for your life. That’s where creativity lies.
How do you drive innovation?
For us, innovation is about identifying problems and coming up with solutions. We started the business by solving the problem of unwanted hair for my daughter Natalie and then realised we had a solution for millions of other people too. My eldest daughter Nadine, who is a biomedical scientist and a graduate in herbal medicine, then created PuraSkin to treat her own persistent acne. We saw that head lice were such a serious problem that many people were repeatedly treating them with harsh chemicals, so we developed NitWits, which is a gentle, one-step formula. And we came up with our world-first nose wax because we thought men would prefer not to have hair poking out of their nostrils.
Were the values and standards you started out with affected by the growth of your business?
I would never let any circumstance, situation or person get in the way of the integrity of our business or my personal integrity as a business owner. You can’t change yourself as a person and nothing is more important than staying true to yourself. When a business starts to grow you have to let go of certain responsibilities and at first it can be difficult. But I’ve learnt that a great business is made up of really great people, so those I employ are not only skilled, talented and experienced, they’re a cultural fit.
What are your plans for the future?
At the moment we’re consolidating our markets in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The US is by far the biggest, so we’re focusing on that. We’re also planning to list the company on the Australian Stock Exchange at some stage, which is very exciting. Since we arrived from Syria in 1974 this country has given us so many opportunities. If I can offer Australians a share of my business I’ve achieved my goal.
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This article was first published in Business View magazine (Winter 2015). For more articles and interactivity, download the iPad edition of Business View for free via our app, NAB Think.