I want to inspire women to advocate for themselves and for each other. The idea of asking for what you need, let alone what you want, is still so difficult to swallow for women — including myself. We have power, and this entire industry is proof, so we need to claim our seats at the table, get what we want, and pass it along to the next woman in line. I want the next generation of women to not only feel worthy, but to fully and wholeheartedly know that they are entitled to those seats, because they are.

For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlene Valledor.

Charlene Valledor is the President of SOS Beauty, a Los Angeles-based brand incubation agency working with some of the newest and most exciting new brands in beauty. As veteran product developer and branding strategist, Charlene specializes in working closely with brand founders to develop innovative and meaningful product experiences that turn customers in to passionate brand ambassadors and die-hard fans. Her background in science and passion for storytelling allows her to partner with the best product chemists in the industry to create true product innovation while weaving authentic and memorable brand messaging throughout every brand touchpoint.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always wanted to work in beauty — ever since I was a child. I loved makeup, skincare, and obsessed over the marketing copy and packaging. I also really love the sciences, and so I got my degree in Biochemistry, and after graduation, while all of my college friends were starting medical or dentistry school, I hit the pavement and hand-delivered my resume to every beauty brand based in LA and Orange County. I was hired that fall at a small brand, in its sales and marketing department. My next job was at a haircare company, doing project management and operations, which taught me how to manage a lot of moving pieces and problem solve. When I went into my next interview for a product development job at a luxury cosmetics company, I basically said, “I can learn how to do anything, and I know how to make stuff happen.” It was there that I finally felt like I was able to use all of my skills to contribute — I was getting to build something of significance. I knew how to manage a project and commercialize, and I knew what the sales and marketing teams needed to make a launch successful at the retail level, but now I finally had an opportunity to be creative — developing product concepts and bringing them to life. I didn’t just see it as making products, I saw it as creating new experiences for people.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

One of our clients was recognized as Brand Launch of the Year at Sephora in 2019. We were extremely proud to be part of that team and it was so gratifying to be recognized in that way. We’ve been involved with that brand since the very beginning, and it’s truly an honor to be recognized by a retailer like Sephora, especially in a room full of the founders and executives of all the biggest brands in the world. My younger self would have died to just be in that room, amongst all these people that I admire and respect so much, so that was very memorable.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh my goodness — mistakes happen all the time! I’ve definitely made my fair share, and I’m sure I have more to come, but the important thing it so learn from them, and to not let them bring you down. We all make mistakes, just don’t dwell. Find a way to work through them and move on as quickly as possible. Early in my career, I was working on a promotion for a new shampoo and conditioner launch, and I worked with the printer on the packaging. I assumed she understood that this panel had to be glued. Well, you know what they say about assuming…. Sure enough, the promotional cartons were delivered, and they were not glued. I was mortified, and I thought it was going to cost me my job, but you know what? It didn’t. We found a solution, and we made it work. More importantly, I learned to never assume anything, and to pay attention to all the details. Turn the mistake into a learning opportunity, and you’ll end up gaining more than you’ve lost.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes SOS Beauty unique is that we’re all generalists. My partner Dustin and I came from small brands that eventually grew to be big brands, and had we both had to wear many hats throughout the years prior to starting SOS. That experience gives us the ability to understand the big picture, the small details, and everything in between. It’s much easier to solve problems and make decisions when you understand the entire food chain. We look for people that have a similar spirit when we add to the team — individuals that have an entrepreneurial spirit, and have the desire to learn and understand the entire process, as opposed to just wanting to do one very specific job. This has created a really unique culture in which everyone on our team is empowered and able to speak to every step of the process.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re really excited about some of the new clients we’ve taken on. I can’t say too much about them, but we’re putting forth a lot of effort to really educate consumers on ingredients and packaging materials. The words “clean” and “sustainable” are losing their meaning, and the ingredient fearmongering is rampant. We are working on a few lines that are not only safe, but are putting forth the effort and spending the time to educate the consumers on the ingredient and packaging choices.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Challenge your team to take ownership of their projects, take initiative, and push themselves to go above and beyond what is expected. It’s the best way to shape them into future leaders: they acquire a new skillset, gain confidence, and become fearless as a result. The worst thing that could happen is that they fail. If and when that happens, be sure to be there to help them get back up and learn from it. Far too often, women are not given the opportunity to rise to the challenge, or we ask for permission. We have to break this mindset. We don’t need permission to excel — we just need the opportunity.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Lead by example. The best way to teach your company culture is to demonstrate it yourself, day in and day out. I learned so much from my bosses that actually exemplified how to deal with vendors, how to present product to retailers, how to conduct meetings with authority — it was invaluable for me to see them in action, and I couldn’t have learned any of it from a book. Now, when I’m with the team, I have to remember that they are watching my interactions, for better or for worse, so I have to be sure that I’m conducting myself in a manner that demonstrates the values and culture that I would want them to exemplify as well.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I learned a lot from Carisa Janes, the founder of Hourglass, who took a chance on me and hired me to work with her on product development. She taught me a lot about entrepreneurship, the importance of understanding quality, and having high expectations for your team and for yourself. She started her career as a product developer, so it was eye opening to see how she built her business right before my eyes, literally building this incredible brand by staying true to her vision and always putting product innovation and performance first. As I mentioned before, she was someone that led by example, and I will never forget that. I eventually became the first ever Director of Product Development there, which meant so much to me because it meant that she trusted me to execute the vision that she had for the brand. My time there was truly special, and I will always be grateful to her.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

You know, to me, beauty has always been about feeling good about yourself, about being able to make yourself feel beautiful and brave and confident. Unfortunately, not all people in our field feel the same. This industry can either be a force of evil or a force for good, and I choose to fight for good. By building brands that are meaningful and that help women and men feel valuable and seen and included, I feel like we’re absolutely bringing goodness to the world. Additionally, we have the ability to educate and guide our brand founders on how to be responsible stewards of the environment. There are so much waste and irresponsible practices in our industry, so we do everything we can to educate and inform our brands on how to make real change and impact. We actually have the ability to affect change, so if we can help to normalize the use of recycled materials and sustainable practices within our $500-billion-dollar industry, we can make a massive impact.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Teach your team values first. You can teach anyone how to create a product or design a package, but what will really set them apart and allow them to excel is if they understand the values that should be driving their decisions, such as quality, luxury, and attention to detail.
  2. Be patient, but understand your limits. You have to give people time to find their groove. Sometimes, it doesn’t happen right away, but if you see that the potential and the right attitude is there, give it a chance. On the flip side, when your gut is telling you that this person does not have it in them, and they’re starting to affect the team morale, do what you have to do.
  3. Honesty builds loyalty. You don’t need to tell your team absolutely everything — you have the right to choose what is appropriate to share, but you cannot take your team’s trust for granted. When your intentions are good, and they know that you are worthy of their trust, they will go the extra mile.
  4. Never judge. I actually first read this in an interview with Thia Breen, so I have to credit her for this one. Not everyone thinks like you, and diversity of perspectives within your organization only makes it stronger.
  5. Be grateful every day. Gratitude is palpable, and it’s contagious.

You are a person of great influence. 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. 🙂

I want to inspire women to advocate for themselves and for each other. The idea of asking for what you need, let alone what you want, is still so difficult to swallow for women — including myself. We have power, and this entire industry is proof, so we need to claim our seats at the table, get what we want, and pass it along to the next woman in line. I want the next generation of women to not only feel worthy, but to fully and wholeheartedly know that they are entitled to those seats, because they are.

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

Decide based on faith, not fear. I have to remind myself of this every day. I am a naturally risk-averse person, but you need to just trust that you will be able to handle anything that comes your way, and not let the possibility of failure cripple you. I was on a holiday with my mother in Boracay in 2015, on the precipice of a big decision pertaining to my career. I went into the ocean, trying my hardest to just listen, hoping for some sort of sign, and this voice in my head literally said these words to me, “faith, not fear”. I will never forget that moment — it’s the reason why I’m here today.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Sarah Blakely, Serena Williams, Carol Hamilton, Leonard Lauder, and Thia Breen!!! That’s my wish list.