Scents of orange blossom, vanilla, bamboo and ginger wafted through the room this morning as our scholars took their seats at NEST Fragrances to hear from CEO Nancy McKay. A talented beauty industry executive, Nancy believes strongly in the development of young talent. Serving on our very own YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund Board of Governors, Nancy is excited to help foster the idea of bringing beauty companies into the YMA FSF mentoring and internship program and share her insights with the organization. Today, in addition to walking away with Nancy’s powerful advice, each of our scholars left with a lovely gift bag of NEST products to add some of the brand’s lovely fragrances to our homes. Read on to learn about Nancy’s career journey and the advice she shared!
About NEST Fragrances
New York City-based NEST Fragrances is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of luxury fragrances for the bath, body and home. Founded in 2005 by fragrance authority Laura Slatkin, today NEST Fragrances produces more than 20 home fragrance collections consisting of luxury scented candles in several sizes, reed diffusers, liquid soap and hand lotion. In 2012, the company launched the NEST Fine Fragrances Collection, which today consists of eight fragrances available in eau de parfum sprays and roller balls and luxury body cream. NEST Fragrances products are sold primarily in North America through a growing wholesale customer network of luxury specialty department stores, beauty product stores, boutique stores and spas, and the company’s online flagship store NESTFragrances.com.
The Boss' Journey: Steps to Success
“Don’t ever say never.” According to Nancy, no words better describe her career journey. Growing up in Washington D.C., studying Government and Organizational Communications at Florida State University and interning for congressmen, Nancy was positive she wanted to be a senator. “I did all those things you do when it’s very clear that you know what you want to be,” she laughed. But as she advanced towards graduation, Nancy realized that her long-lived dreams were no longer suiting her passions. As she explained, “After going through the long, two-year process of working with a majority leader to write an insurance policy bill, I felt that I’d be much more suited for business, where you start out with an idea, execute that idea, and identify clear measures of success.”
There stood Nancy with a degree in government and no clear path ahead of her. She moved to Atlanta, where she was hired by a prestigious telephone company to join their Management Training program and enjoyed working there for six years. However, when it came time to move up to a new position and move to New York, Nancy—who wanted to build a life in Atlanta—decided not to take the position. Having always been interested in cosmetics, even throughout her time preparing to be a senator, Nancy received a job offer as an Account Executive for Estee Lauder in Atlanta. She immediately fell in love with the industry and performed well, which led her to a promotion to join Estee Lauder’s Chicago office, where she met her husband. When she finally decided to pick up and move to New York to become Regional Vice President of Clinique, the mantra “don’t ever say never” rang truer than it ever had before. Early this year, after twenty years holding various executive positions within the Estee Lauder Companies, Nancy learned that NEST Fragrances was looking for a new President and CEO, and the rest was history.
Q: Alicia Underhill (University of Virginia)- “What do you think brought you to where you are today, as CEO of Nest?”
A: “What helped me get here from an experience standpoint is probably the ‘block and tackle’ work I had experience doing. I knew how to run a P&L, had strong experience marketing and selling a brand, and had strong relationships within the trade [from my prior jobs]. They were looking for [someone who had] experience within the field, along with having a great deal of leadership experience. Working at the flagship brand of Estee Lauder, I also gained a lot of experience working with founders—I understood the principles of a founder-based entrepreneurial company and the processes needed to grow it from quite small to large-scale. Essentially, over the years I developed strong knowledge and experience. That, paired with my love [of] fragrance…I was also very inspired by Laura’s philanthropic work with Autism Speaks...Philosophically, having done a lot of work with the Breast Cancer Foundation at Estee Lauder, I was a good fit for our founder, and my knowledge of the industry and broad range of experience would provide the leadership needed to strengthen the company.
Q: Ruby Ghastin (University of California-Berkeley)- “As you moved from job to job, were you always asked to be promoted, or did you have to seek out your promotions?
A: “That’s a great question. I’ve been really fortunate throughout my career [to be asked and recommended by mentors and friends], but that’s not so normal. I worked for the same company for a long time, so many of my jobs were within that company. What I will say is this: YOU are in control of your career. Do not expect someone to ask you if you want [a job]. When I’m interviewing you, I want to know you want the job, and why you want to come here. Ask for it—call back and ask for that job. Show you want it! If you are in a job that isn’t the right fit for you or you aren’t where you want to be, take control of that—figure out your next steps or your exit strategy. If you’re in a job you love but feel it’s time to move to the next level, try to come up with an action plan. Sometimes, I find that people think they should immediately be ready for that next job. To me, it isn’t necessarily about ‘paying your dues’ within your company, but it’s about gaining experience, and that only comes by showing up [each day] and gaining experience in your particular area. Putting in the time and showing your dedication—that will help you reach success.”
Words of Wisdom
“I’d like for you to write down how many jobs you think you will have in your career,” Nancy addressed the scholars. After hearing our answers, which ranged from 5 to 12 jobs, Nancy informed us of a statistic that shocked many of us: “most Millenials are predicted to have between 15 and 20 jobs over the course of their working lives, many of which are not even in existence yet.” In keeping with this idea, Nancy equipped the scholars with her “3 R’s” that will aid them in the workplace as they move from job to job. Additionally, Nancy felt it was important for us to hear from a current employee and former intern at NEST, Hannah Silver, a recent college graduate from F.I.T. who had some very relevant advice. Take a look!
Nancy’s 3 R’s:
“There are many things in your career you will not have control over,” Nancy explained, “but these three things you do.”
- Resume. A word we’ve all heard many times: the basic list of experiences you bring to the table that can add value to a company. As Nancy explained, the resume is about not only the jobs and skills in your job description that you list on paper, but also about the lessons you learn that help you grow along the way.
- Rolodex. Before the age of computers and smartphones, this was the method used to collect contacts and phone numbers (yes, Nancy provided a visual aid). “As you grow in your career, the relationships you build are critical.” Nancy suggests keeping in touch with contacts you meet along the way who will potentially help and guide you along your journey.
- Reputation. “Do what you say you’re going to do.” It may seem obvious, but people don’t always keep the commitments they make. Whether you have one job or twenty, your reputation will follow you. You WILL make mistakes along the way (and lots of them!), but it’s how you handle these mistakes that will determine your reputation and your success.
- Make Mistakes. “Someone once told me this: ‘If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying.’ A work environment expecting perfection is unsustainable and unrealistic. Mistakes happen—as long as you own up to them, everything will be fine.”
- Build a Squad. Having a team of people who help and support each other is key. “It’s very different than school in the fact that you might not know you’re doing something wrong until someone tells you.”
- Positive Attitude and Good Vibes. “You don’t have to be smiling from ear to ear, but coming in each day with a positive attitude really affects the people around you. If you give off good energy, people will want to be around you, train you, teach you, and most of all employ you.”
Many Thanks to Nancy and NEST Fragrances for such a compelling, informative breakfast focusing on a product category that was new and exciting to us.
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