Annie Young-Scrivner describes herself as a “weird, weird kid.” “When I was 10, I knew I was going to run a business,” she says. She decided to sell her own perfume made from red candy in the dead end where she lived in Seattle. “We didn’t have any traffic, we didn’t sell anything. But, you know, it was just fun.
Young-Scrivner has since honed its experience through PepsiCo, the food and beverage group, Starbucks, the coffee company, and Godiva, the chocolate maker.
In December, she became Managing Director of Wella Company, a beauty company that includes its own brand of hair dye as well as OPI, the nail polish maker, and ghd, famous for its hair straighteners.
Wella Company was formed in December 2020 after US beauty company Coty sold a controlling stake in its hair and nail care business to KKR, the US private equity group, for $ 3 billion, well in below its $ 7 billion pre-pandemic value. Coty, whose majority shareholder is the JAB investment vehicle, sold the company to repay its debts. Coty retains a 40 percent stake in the new company.
Young-Scrivner, 52, is tasked with accelerating innovation and pulling the new company out of the pandemic. The lockdowns have closed salons around the world, hitting the market for Wella’s professional hair care products.
In a face-to-face interview at Wella’s London office, Young-Scrivner says that as soon as she took the job, she had to think about how to help her 500,000 salon clients and the millions of hairdressers they argue.
As sales representatives were unable to call during the pandemic, salons were able to manage their supplies through Wella’s online store and continue to sell products to customers. Many hairstylists have done virtual consultations to nurture relationships with clients and help them manage their “lock-in hair.”
Wella also offered leeway on payment terms and a program of virtual skills-based events for stylists, watched live by 25,000 people.
She has just completed “a world listening tour” with Wella’s professional clients and audience members, further prompting her to think about “a faster pace, meaningful innovation”.
Wella has already started to reduce the time to market for innovative products, says Young-Scrivner. Ghd Unplugged, a wireless styler launched this year. OPI nail care has Nature Strong, an ethical vegan line.
New products offer the possibility of bringing about a broader change. WeDo, for example, is an ethical hair care line. “Even though it’s a single brand,” says Young-Scrivner, “we can’t treat it like a small brand. . . we must learn from this: how to become greener? How do we see the wording differently.
Wella was founded by Franz Ströher in Germany in 1880. The Ströher family sold its 80 percent stake in 2003 to Procter & Gamble, which then sold Wella to Coty in 2016. Young-Scrivner points out that “in any organization that has been sold, resold, resold, what is culture? And how do you create this culture that could galvanize everyone? That’s what we focus on, culture, brand and innovation.
Rates of economic recovery vary by trade show: in the United States and Latin America, they are “thriving,” she said, while Australia has once again closed its doors. Once open, some salons see a decrease in the number of clients, but those who book have more care per appointment, “so the overall spend is higher,” she says.
Cultivating innovation, or at least re-energizing it, is a recurring theme throughout Young-Scrivner’s career, although she emphasizes that it’s not all about her. “It’s already there. It’s putting it all together and seeing the talent and unleashing it to be at their best, ”she said.
Her parents, who had fled the Chinese Cultural Revolution and moved to Taiwan before arriving in the United States when Annie was seven, ran several businesses, from video arcades to a skateboard store. They also had a Mongolian steakhouse with a jade shop up front. “After going to business school, I was like ‘Oh my God, this is like the worst thing you could have had’,” she laughs.
She obtained an Executive MBA from the Carlson School of Management in Minnesota while working at PepsiCo. In 2009, Young-Scrivner joined Starbucks as Global Marketing Director. It was a new role, she said. “I remember having the conversation with Howard Schultz [then CEO] on “refresh the brand”. Let’s just say the first conversation didn’t go very well. She felt that modernizing the logo was the right move, so she went back to Schultz and won him over.
She then held other positions, including President of Starbucks Canada and Teavana, a tea company acquired by Starbucks in 2012. In 2017, she became CEO of Godiva. “It was about reinventing the brand,” she says of her priorities for the chocolate maker, tackling the innovation pipeline again “and building a world-class team”.
Young-Scrivner began his career at PepsiCo, where his first job after graduating from the University of Washington was on his management training program. She would drive a truck, load it with product and deliver it. “I’m not a very big person, but in lifting these boxes the only way to make your route is to lift six to ten boxes at a time,” she says. She was also the only woman. “It was a Teamsters Union environment.
Early in her career, Young-Scrivner was perhaps the only woman in the workplace. But when she came to Wella, she found that in an industry that primarily serves women, “when you look at the top executives, I was actually surprised that they were mostly men.”
It aims to promote the best female talents at Wella. “As you start a new business, you add new functions and resources. Thus, since December, 70% of our hires are women. . . It was not [a case of] ‘Let’s go hire women’. What i said is [that] I want every candidate list to be diverse and then we need to hire the best. “
The “best” includes Virginie Costa, financial director of Wella. She followed Godiva’s Young-Scrivner and previously worked for luxury brands Hermes and Burberry.
How does KKR’s new property look? Young-Scrivner says KKR encourages Wella to look at the company’s digital successes and go further. For example, the salon online store uses data analytics to increase sales.
There is also, she says, significant room for growth. “China, Asia, there are huge opportunities. And the Americas. A significant proportion of OPI’s activity, 50% of its turnover, is located in the United States. [about] open up the rest of the world ”.
Wella is now focusing on product development for the professional beauty industry: “This is going to require innovation. . . And because hair care is the next skin care, we’re going to grow up that way, ”she adds. The skin care market has exploded in recent years, aided by social media and savvy young consumers. “When we are doing well, the industry is doing well. So let’s make sure we’re doing well for the industry.
Three questions for Annie Young-Scrivner
Who is your leadership hero?
I have been very fortunate to have had so many great leaders in my life who inspire me. Indra Nooyi, former President and CEO of PepsiCo, has been one of the most influential. I have had the privilege of having had a front row seat to see her in action over the years.
Closer to home, I would say that my mother remains my greatest heroine. She learned English in her 30s when we moved to the United States. She continued her career while always taking generous time for all of us. Even after two strokes that left her partially paralyzed, she drives with one arm and continues to live fully on a daily basis.
If you weren’t CEO of Wella, what would you do?
I would be a fashion designer or a brain surgeon. Yes, they are so different! When I retire, however, I will not be going down that road. I want to lecture at a university, give back and support young people. My teachers have had a positive impact on me in many ways. Hope I can do it for others too.
What is the first leadership lesson you learned?
In my first leadership role when I was only 21, my team consisted of seasoned professionals in their 40s. They taught me lessons for life. First, respect is earned: a title does not guarantee respect. Second, the importance of winning hearts and minds, when your employees understand the Why and how they can positively impact the bottom line for the benefit of themselves and society is a home run.