Abby Wallach is an award-winning entrepreneur, executive producer, and digital media expert with over 20 years of experience in the entertainment, media, beauty, and fashion industries.
Her career has come full circle from beauty to television and film and back again. Partnering with beauty industry veteran Caroline Fabrigas, the duo have set out to innovate the fragrance industry with Scentinvent Technologies and the launch of the the category-disrupting first fragrance primer called Linger.
For Abby, being an entrepreneur and visionary is a lifestyle. As someone who lives and breathes new ideas, she’s always thinking about new and inventive ways to disrupt the status quo, but recognizes everything takes time, commitment, money, and perseverance.
Abby is the consummate storyteller—listen to her career narrative for inspiration, insight, and the importance of giving back.
Tell us a little about your career and how you found your way back to the beauty industry.
My love of beauty and fashion started at a very early age! I had always dreamed that one day I would make lotions, potions or some other kind of creamy substance. After college where I studied communications, I set out to find my first job in NY. With my heart set on special events in beauty, I ultimately landed at a boutique beauty and fashion public relations firm. My clients included: Procter and Gamble’s Beauty Care Council, Oil of Olay and the fragrance, Quelques Fleurs by Houbigant Paris, which I helped launch at Bergdorf Goodman. Next stop was working for a producer in the music industry and the live tour of The Moscow Circus. It was a great opportunity to learn all areas of show business and live event production from rock n’ roll to the flying trapeze. Soon thereafter, a position came up at Showtime Networks Inc., to be head of special events. This was the job that I had dreamed of! For the next six years, I produced events all over the country, from boxing to film festivals, comedy, and original programming. It was the early years of cable and working at a network afforded me the opportunity to learn both the business and the creative side of the industry.
Showtime led me to my next job where I joined Nederlander Television & Film as an Executive Producer. This was my chance to experience Hollywood, and I loved every second of it! While I continued working in entertainment, I still had a burning desire to be in the beauty industry. Real passion never dies! So when I moved back to NY, I started working with Melissa Fedor, who was the beauty editor at large for InStyle Magazine. Our mission was to merge magazine content with television programming to lead consumers to shop. After many renditions, pivots, twists, and turns we finally launched Beautiful Stranger—the first short-form video content where we would stop trendsetters on the street to find out what they were using, loving, and wearing. We then provided a link to every product and service mentioned. It was the true convergence of editorial content, entertainment, and shopping with one quick click to purchase. It was a fascinating time to innovate in media and pioneer the content commerce model which is seen everywhere today.
Having had very long-term business partnerships, what advice can you give on finding the right partner and making it last?
I have been very fortunate to build relationships with incredible people throughout my entrepreneurial and professional journey. With any partnership it is similar to a marriage. You have to have similar goals and expectations as well as skills that complement one another. In truth, strong relationships are everything! It is the foundation for building your network and career. When it comes to having a business partner, at the top of my list is: honesty, loyalty, integrity, and passion. You also have to really understand each other, because when the going gets tough, and it will, you have to be able to work through it!
Beautiful Stranger was the first content commerce play. What was the impetus for connecting them? What do you think is next for the evolution for content and commerce?
Beautiful Stranger was a very simple idea. We just took it one step further to provide the ultimate service for our audience: a link to purchase every product and service that our trendsetters mentioned. This required a lot of research as well as creating a new technology, but it was well worth it. Our audience loved it!
Today every business must have a media strategy to reach the consumer at multiple touch points. I think as time evolves we will continue to see more niche channels focused on specific genres similar to how the cable industry was originally created. It is all about building a strong community around content that is engaging and offers some level of service.
One of the projects that I developed is a scripted television series based on Beautiful Stranger where you can shop the products in the show. It is a story of an entrepreneur building her business and living her dream. The hook is that the story and characters connect to the point of sale. Great storytelling is an art but with technology today it can be a very powerful tool to drive sales when the audience is engaged. It always starts with the story!
You are often referred to as a visionary in digital media, and you are now disrupting the fragrance category. How does one hone their skills for identifying and creating opportunities in the “white space”?
Ahhh … the secret sauce! One must never tell.
Really, being an entrepreneur and visionary is a lifestyle. As someone who lives and breathes new ideas, I am always thinking about what new and inventive ways to disrupt the status quo. It is also an insatiable curiosity to figure things out. Perseverance plays a huge part. And then of course, a belief in your vision no matter what anyone else says. Then you just have to have the guts to do it!
I think people who have true vision just see the world differently. There are a lot of great ideas, but to actually make something happen is an entirely different process. Everything takes time, commitment, money, and perseverance.
Being the first to market can be a competitive advantage, but it’s no walk in the park. What do you think is the biggest challenge being the “first”?
Being the first gives you an opportunity to set the stage for the future. It also gives you an opportunity to educate the consumer with your voice. On the flip side, first to market is challenging as you are breaking down barriers that have been created over decades. Change can be stressful but it also can be very rewarding.
You are the consummate storyteller. What do you think beauty brands are getting right when it comes to storytelling, and what opportunities are being missed?
The beauty brands and industry have really embraced social media as an opportunity to create engagement and conversation with the consumer directly. This is proving to be very successful on many fronts. It is also giving the consumer direct access to the people behind the scenes in the industry, which creates an immediate connection. Time is so limited today and the consumer is very savvy. Everyone wants information at their fingertips and immediate gratification, but they also want authenticity.
I think we will see continued growth with companies using media in a way that speaks to their brand’s core messaging. The story is the heart of any brand and that is what connects us to one another. Whether it is people, places or products, human connection will always win!
Tell us about the Scentinvent business model and the ideation that lead to the creation of the fragrance primer Linger.
We started Scentinvent Technologies as we saw an opportunity to innovate in the fragrance industry. My partner and dear friend, Caroline Fabrigas’ late husband had a scent marketing business that she took over when he passed away. I jumped in to help her bring the idea of scenting spaces to the entertainment industry. One day we said, “What if we could reinvent the way people experience fragrance on the skin?” And so we did!
Caroline is an award-winning beauty executive and has a brilliant skincare background from Clarins, Prada, Lancome, and most recently she co-created Farmacy Beauty, one of the fastest-growing natural skincare brands that is “farmer cultivated, scientist activated.”
As we started to work on rethinking fragrance, one of the things we would hear from consumers all the time was “I love fragrance but I just wish it would last”! So we went about solving this problem and thought …wouldn’t it be amazing if we could create a fragrance primer.
Four years ago we set out to develop the first fragrance primer of its kind with no alcohol and no oil. Linger creates an invisible shield that holds and captures scent to your skin. It is patent-pending, clinically tested, and fragrance fan approved. We launched on HSN and currently we are selling exclusively on Amazon.
Our business model is B2C but we are entertaining the idea of B2B as many companies have reached out to discuss partnerships and licensing deals.
What are the elements of an effective brand story and how are they best translated in the digital realm?
The best way to really explain this is through some of the strategies that we used for the launch of Linger. One of the campaigns that we created was an experience for consumers to take the Linger Challenge. This fun, engaging campaign gave us the opportunity to share our story directly with consumers and then have them experience the product and put it to the test. It has been a great way to create content, start a conversation, and get authentic feedback.
What’s been the biggest surprise in the launch of this business?
The biggest surprise hands down is the consumer reaction to Linger. Over the past two years we have hosted events around the country, attended award shows and celebrity gifting suites, and even hit the streets and stores to get consumers’ authentic feedback about the idea and product. Overall the response has been terrific. There is definitely a need and a want for a product like Linger in the market.
What is your vision for the business and what’s next?
Our vision for the company is to develop an innovative brand that speaks to our mission, which is to create new forms of fragrance, new textures, and new experiences at all touch points. We will excite and delight the consumer with a new, fun, and fresh voice in fragrance. Additionally, we will have a B2B division to license our products to the industry.
You have been speaking on different panels at FIT, Harvard Women In Business, University of Pennsylvania. Tell us about that?
I really enjoy sharing my experiences with the bright young minds of the future. The greatest gift that you can give someone is knowledge. It’s time to share mine.
We hear you have a whole group of kids working for you. Where did you find them?
Actually one of my passions is to run internship programs. I have been doing this since my early days of Beautiful Stranger. One of my passions, and I feel my purpose, is to educate the kids about my journey as an entrepreneur and inspire them to find their own path. My local high school has a program for the seniors at the end of the year, which I have been participating in for the past 8 years. This year, I just happen to have 8 kids. 6 boys and 2 girls. It has been amazing to see their excitement and reaction to Linger and watch them create events and promote the product around our neighborhood. It’s all about empowerment and how to get others excited about what you do!
What excites you about the current state of the beauty industry and what are you looking forward to changing or improving?
There are so many things that excite me about the beauty industry. First there are so many people experimenting and inventing new products with their own point of view. Specifically filling a need in many ways that solve problems where consumers are seeking answers. I also love that there is a whole new level of conversation happening in our universe. This leads to stories that create conversation, ultimately leading to solutions.
I have been co-hosting the Beauty Is Your Business podcast and have recently met some amazing entrepreneurs developing products based on their personal needs. I live that life so I know what it takes to bring an idea or product to market. It is great to see so many people taking risks and starting new ventures.
I also hope we can infuse the fragrance category with excitement for the consumer as well as the retailer and distributor. As a diehard fragrance fan, I can’t wait to help create the future of what fragrance looks, feels, and smells like!
2 Article(s) Remaining