Why This Beauty Mogul Is Over The "Overnight Success" Label

I think that I am a risk-taker, and I tend to make quick decisions based on instinct. Sometimes that doesn’t pay off, but ultimately, I think that you need to be brave in order to create a business in a fiercely competitive industry. I am also very driven, and it can be hard for me to switch off from work.

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Success stories can seem just as fantastical as the fairy tales you (may have) loved growing up: Bold career woman finds herself in the right place at the right time, and poof, her fairy godmother mentor snaps her fingers, transforming our hero into an overnight success who brings home a 7-figure salary, jet-sets the world spreading her you-can-have-it-all gospel, all while looking awesome and Instagramming the whole thing. Umm...really? Why do we so rarely hear the other side of the story — the false starts, the waves of doubt, the failures, and the fuck-ups? Those late-night worries and, occasionally, breakthroughs that are so relatable to the rest of us?
Introducing Self-Made, Refinery29's newest column spotlighting the real stories that fuelled success — the wins, the fails, and the curveballs —proving there's no one path to getting what you want.
Maria Hatzistefanis is the founder and CEO of the skincare and beauty brand Rodial, as well as the author of How To Be An Overnight Success, an advice book for aspiring entrepreneurs. The book's tongue-in-cheek title aims to take down the age-old myth that success is something that just happens spontaneously. Maria, herself, has certainly had a circuitous career path, from beauty writer to MBA grad to working in corporate finance before she finally launched Rodial in 1999. In the nearly 20 years since, the brand has grown to a world-wide operation sold in 20,000 stores in 35 countries.
Refinery29 talked with Maria about taking risks, getting fired, and how weekends are for binge-watching Netflix.
Photographed by Rosaline Shahnavaz, designed by Abbie Winters.
Photographed by Rosaline Shahnavaz, designed by Abbie Winters.
What do you think the definition of self-made is, as it pertains to you?
To me self-made is having ambition, passion, and drive to achieve your goals. You need to push yourself to get where you want to be. No one is going to give you anything unless you excel yourself to make it happen.
What quality do you think you possess that’s made you a good candidate for self-making your destiny?
I think that I am a risk-taker, and I tend to make quick decisions based on instinct. Sometimes that doesn’t pay off, but ultimately, I think that you need to be brave in order to create a business in a fiercely competitive industry. I am also very driven, and it can be hard for me to switch off from work. I am in the office with my team every day, if I take a holiday I continue to work remotely having calls and responding to all emails. If you have your own business, you really need to give it all that you have, and it is worth it in the end.
You started your career as a beauty writer for Seventeen, then got your MBA and moved to London to work in finance. What motivated you to finally decide to launch Rodial and marry your love of beauty and business?
I was at a point in my life that I knew I wanted to start my own business; I was working in finance and I knew it wasn’t the right path for me. I had identified a gap in the market to create a really innovative, results-driven brand using new high-tech ingredients not available in the market. I really believed in Rodial, and I had the motivation and passion to really dedicate my time to starting the business.
Tell us a lesson you keep trying to learn, that you hope to master at some point.
Patience. Being the founder of my business I want amazing things to happen immediately, so when I have to wait to get my products into certain retailers it can be really frustrating. I encourage myself to always try to stop and look at what’s been achieved, rather than focusing on the challenging aspects.
You’ve talked before about being fired from your job in finance. How did you overcome that failure and find the confidence to start your own business?
I found being fired quite a liberating experience as it was the turning point of making the scary decision of doing what I always wanted to do, starting my own brand. Working in finance was not what motivated me, it was the wrong career for me, so getting fired wasn’t really a surprise as I wasn’t working to my full potential. I think that getting fired gives you the opportunity to self-reflect, and ensure the next move is the right fit for you.
Photographed by Rosaline Shahnavaz, designed by Abbie Winters.
What aspect of your path do you think has been the most motivational to other young women coming up through the ranks? How do you share that part of your experience with people?
I started the business from a back room at home, literally from nothing. I didn’t have an investment to allow me to have an office or a team at the beginning, I worked from a laptop in Starbucks pretty much on my own. To this day Rodial is one of the only privately owned brands in the industry, which I am so proud of. I think it is motivational to young women that you can build something from nothing; it just takes time.
You released a book last year, How To Be An Overnight Success, which is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek title. Do you think it’s harmful when the press labels businesses as overnight successes?
For sure, I think that it diminishes all of the hard work people put into their careers to get to the point they are today. The title of my book is really challenging this label, as there really is no such thing as an overnight success. I was working night and day on Rodial for 10 years before the launch of the Snake Serum completely revolutionised the beauty industry. People were quick to label me as an overnight success when the truth of the fact is that it takes a long time to breakthrough and to be acknowledged in a mainstream way. My book goes through all of the challenges I have faced to get Rodial to where it is today, along with offering advice to all budding entrepreneurs.
Being self-made means committing to self-care, too. How do you fuel and refresh yourself when shit really starts to get hard?
Meditation and Netflix! I like to meditate as it really helps me to balance my mind and encourages me to have patience when dealing with difficult business situations when all you really want to do is scream! Netflix is my weekend comfort, the best way to refresh is to detach yourself, so I like to binge-watch shows — it's escapism.
Where do you see Rodial going next? How do you want to continue to grow the business?
I really want to continue the growth of Rodial on a global scale. We are currently available in over 20,000 doors in over 35 countries, but there is always more places to go. Rodial Makeup is still really young, being only 4-years-old, and the expansion opportunities are endless. It's really my focus to continue to grow the makeup.
What’s your Self-Made Mantra for other women, no matter where they are in the process?
Don’t give up. People around you will doubt you, they will tell you that you shouldn’t take risks. You have to ignore that. It’s going to get hard, and at times it’s going to feel impossible, but those are the times you need to drive yourself the most.
What are some unexpected challenges of running your own business?
I think that people always focus on the big moments, such as opening a big store or getting a big counter, but for me the biggest challenge has been dealing with the everyday team issues. I spend a lot of my time fire-fighting problems, which can be incredibly challenging!
What are you generally doing at midnight?