Making Something From Nothing: Anisa Telwar Kaicker Of Anisa International & ANISA Beauty On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

To trust my intuition: My gut is 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, are 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 a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anisa Telwar Kaicker, Founder & CEO of Anisa International and ANISA Beauty.

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 makeup and 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 doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

My name is Anisa Telwar Kaicker, and I was born in New York City. My dad was from Afghanistan and my mother was of Russian descent. When my dad got a job in Tennessee as a professor, my parents and my four siblings moved to Nashville. We were diverse and different, yet we somehow managed to make it work in our predominately white, rural community. While I consider Nashville where I was raised, I have always felt connected to New York City — with my fondest and earliest of memories developing there, since I was born is Queens.

Even as a child I was always a leader, and regardless of age I always had a feminist point of view, standing up for myself when boys in school would question my abilities. I was competitive in my achievements, valuing hard work and education. Because my parents were immigrants, I always saw their desire for us to have a better life than they had.

Individually, my parents both had a lot of energy and strength. They got married when my mom was very young, and my dad was older. They divorced when I was 15 and though devastating for me at the time, I now understand their separation was necessary.

As I entered my teenage years, I was rebellious, reflecting on the feeling as a woman of color held down in a small town. When I left, I felt like I could finally breathe and spread my wings. My parents constantly encouraged me to create my own destiny.

When I was in my late teens, forgoing completion of a formal education, I started working with the family business, my mother’s import/export company. In that time, I’d met a gentleman whose family was focused on cosmetic brushes. I thought to myself — cosmetic brushes link to fashion, so this was very interesting to me. I was going to take a trip to New York, as he was having a little bit of trouble selling his brushes. I was 21 at the time and he was 25. I agreed to help him out, and so I called on Revlon. I literally looked in the Yellow Pages, called the number listed and asked if I could speak to their brush buyer. From there, I just showed up. This is how I started working in the beauty industry and focused on the design and manufacturing of cosmetic brushes. I learned the art, craft and attention to detail from concept to completion. I had no idea what a gift this would be become.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

In my 50’s the mantra type quote I have resounding in my head is “We are what we think”. I am highly aware after these last few years, everything seems to stem from the thoughts we allow in our mind. Good and bad.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I reread this recently with my husband. I had read this when I was in my 20’s, and I loved this parable. The story to me shares how we learn in our life, and in a life well lived, we become wiser, we learn from our lessons, we pay attention to the signs that life can give us, and we trust the process.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

Now more than ever we have many, many people taking initiative, building new businesses, big and small, following their desire to create something in the world that is theirs. I love is brave and bold and gives all of us more wonderful access to passion driven products and services. The only thing I would say is it is OK to take your time with this journey. Plot milestones, create small wins. Be in the business and not above the business. Use the business to get better at what you do so it is clear that you are in for the long haul.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

We have so much access to information that it can be overwhelming. We can feel like we are behind already before we even start, yet my approach has always been to research of course, see what is out there, so that you can differentiate. After this initial review, keep your head down and focus on your own business. Don’t get distracted by others!

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

This is a very detailed question, pretty tough to answer succinctly.

Product design is a science of intuition, market understanding, product historical knowledge, customer demand and need, and having the right team members and supply chain to execute.

This has come from 30 years of experience in how we design.

There are many nuances to good successful design. Make sure you have someone who is first highly passionate about design, yet also knows that it does not matter if you love it — you must be able to sell it to a market that wants and needs it.

There are exceptionally good patent lawyers that can help list this question. I use partners to file and support our process. I highly suggest a good partner to research first (within your budget) to get the proper education when it comes to patenting and beyond.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?

1. To trust my intuition: My gut is 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, are 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: 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 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: 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. 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. Having the ability to giveback is 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.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Research the current market and determine if the item can be patentable!

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

This truly depends on the field and an individual’s expertise. The more experience an individual has, (most likely) will determine the less need for a development consultant.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

Everything has to do with one’s end game goals and capabilities. One size does not fit all, and these days there are hybrid and varying approaches. Business is just like an individual — complex, and layered. This truly depends on so many factors and the founder must assess what is right for them always.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I knew early on I wanted Anisa International and ANISA Beauty to achieve a more meaningful mission. The brushes are a hero to us because they help us do more than just create beauty tools. We ideate, design, and make well-loved tools in a sustainable fashion that benefits our employees, our consumers, and the business overall. My team and I pour years of experience into Anisa International and ANISA Beauty and we’re the best at what we do.

When I first started Anisa International, I took the reins on making the cosmetic brush industry more cruelty-free by developing cutting edge (animal-free) fibers for our clients. Now, with even greater control over our supply chain, development, and production processes, we can ensure each brush meets our stringent quality control measures. We can pay our artisan brush makers a fair wage, while significantly reducing our carbon footprint. Every brush we produce is PETA-Certified, cruelty-free, and sustainably made. While our team is a small sector of the beauty industry, I’m proud to say we’ve pushed to make our industry safer, fairer, and more sustainable than ever.

I am proud that there are people who want to participate in this business. It is so rewarding to see the ripple effect of the people who have been involved in Anisa International & Anisa Beauty and how it has positively impacted their lives. I want the business to be self-sustaining, and for the philanthropic impact of the business to live on long after I am gone.

Under the Anisa International mission, a percentage of our annual revenue is committed to giving back to our community in Atlanta. We are partners with Fernbank in support of lifelong learning of natural history, as well as charities with an emphasis on helping those in need including Families First, Georgia’s most prominent family and children’s services organization, and Atlanta Mission, the longest-running provider of service to homeless men, women, and children. We have a lot of love for our four-legged friends, too, and have had immense success in bringing awareness to and saving many lives through our partnership with Lifeline Animal Project.

Like Anisa International, ANISA Beauty is committed to being a strong ally in the fight for social justice. Since our launch, we annually pledge $50,000 to support organizations aligned with our fight against discrimination based on race, gender, age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. It is an honor to partner with such influential organizations as Marsha P. Johnson Institute, Lost n’ Found, International Refugee Assistance Project, AAPI, Black Mommas Matter, and many more.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire 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.

What I hope for is people to give back. The world in which we live needs all of us to care. If we each chose a cause in our life, something we care about and gave that cause 5–10 hours a month our world would transform. We also would be happier, less anxious, kinder and more content as individuals. Giving back to be is the best and most healing medicine we have as a society.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I have been very impressed with the CEO from Dick’s Sporting, Lauren Hobart; she has blown me away with her support of women’s rights and people of color. She took a stand in a male dominated, conservative business. She gives me hope as she strives to create safe spaces for all with the company’s view of “everyone’s an athlete.”

I also read recently that she was part of the executive team of Ed Stack. The former CEO, who in the wake of the Parkland Shooting in 2018 decided to pull large-capacity magazines and assault rifles from their shelves. It is those tough (but right) decisions that truly make a good leader and company.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Thank you for having me!

Making Something From Nothing: Anisa Telwar Kaicker Of Anisa International & ANISA Beauty On How To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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