5 Questions With... Lisa Crary

Sanítas Skincare's CEO shares her secrets to success

Crary, with a guest, at a Princess Party benefiting Teen with a Dream.

Lisa Crary, the owner and CEO of Sanítas Skincare, Cowgirl Skincare and Rocky Mountain Natural Labs, never intended to be a beauty industry powerhouse. Nearly 10 years ago, the accounting and finance whiz ran a business management practice that specialized in helping small companies get back on track. That's when skincare manufacturer Sanítas came knocking. "The products were wonderful but the leadership structure was weak," Crary recalls. Less than two years later, she assumed ownership of the company. "I just fell in love with the products and the concept," she says. "So I sold my practice and I've never looked back." Since the, Crary has led Sanítas on an upward trajectory, with a complete rebranding, new marketing strategies and a string of product launches that have quadrupled company sales. "I think it's really important to understand numbers and how business works. I had that advantage," Crary says, adding that she couldn't have done it without her team. "I always make it a point to hire people smarter than me. They allow me to shine." —Lisa Sweetingham

Related: Business Education
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Do you think women make better leaders?
I guess I’m a little bit female biased. I love hiring and empowering women and I’m on the board of The Cinderella Foundation, mentoring young, at-risk women. I think we can strike a balance of being nurturing and strong at the same time. But it’s sometimes harder for women in business because we’re not always perceived as strong or assertive.
Any advice for a spa owner who’s hot to expand?
Take it slow and understand your target market: What does that demographic look like? It’s also important for small businesses to utilize social media, like Groupon; make sure you’re getting good reviews on Yelp; and have a Facebook page. Controlling cash flow is important, too—a little bit of debt is ok, but manage it. And train staff on consultative selling, so that they really understand the products and can help clients make the right choices in a consultative—not pushy—way.
Whom do you admire?
People who make positive changes in the world, like Kerry Kennedy, who runs the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights. She’s a huge supporter of Sanítas and we sponsor a lot of their events. I’ve also made it a policy not to give freebies to celebrities anymore; instead I gift women who are disadvantaged or in need. If stars ask, we’ll gift the product if they make a donation to a women’s cause. I’ve caught some flak for it, but I really don’t care!
Is it true that you’ve won a Supreme Court Award for your work with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)?
Yes, that is one of the things in my whole life I’m most proud of. CASA volunteers are sworn officers of the court who advocate for children who are placed in the court system. We meet with them every week and report to the judge on the child’s behalf. I was appointed a family that had 10 children, being raised by a diabetic grandmother. I would clean their house, do laundry, cook food. Unfortunately I don’t have time to volunteer with CASA anymore but I’m on the board of Teen with a Dream, for children with cancer.
What do you do in your free time?
I have no free time! I always work and my boards are important to me. I don’t have children, but my family lives in Georgia, so oftentimes I travel to see my nieces and nephews and I love to cook them Southern dishes. I’m a Tennessee girl by background.