Female Disruptors: Maria Karr of Rumore Beauty On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry
Nothing is impossible. My example for this comes from my recently discovered passion for running. While I’ve never been a runner, a bit more than four years ago I decided to give a treadmill at my local gym a shot.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Karr.
Maria Karr is the founder of Rumore Beauty — the first Russian beauty store in the US. A former beauty industry executive, Maria spearheaded PR, communications and influencer marketing efforts for leading global beauty brands for the past 10 years. Born and raised in Russia, she’s been living in the US since 2007. In addition to her career in beauty, Maria has been teaching her signature course on PR and Communications at Baruch College, mentoring students, and running marathons in the US and abroad.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I was born and raised in Russia and have been living in the US for the past 14 years, 10 of which I spent working in the beauty industry in New York City, leading PR and communications efforts for world-renowned and up-and-coming brands. Throughout my career, I’ve been fascinated with newness from around the world — products from Australia, Asia, Europe and other parts of the globe were easily accessible in the US. Although I loved seeing and trying all of those products, it made me wonder about beauty offerings from my home country. I felt that I’ve known so much about global beauty trends and innovation, but there hasn’t been anything said about Russian beauty.
When I left Russia back in 2007, the beauty scene there wasn’t something that could’ve interested a sophisticated beauty lover from abroad. Very few Russian-made products were available, and they didn’t have an appeal of beauty products we know and love today — think creams in plain aluminum tubes and harsh soaps. So, it made me curious — was the lack of information about Russian beauty the sign of lack of actual products available or was it something else? I couldn’t stop wondering what the beauty scene in Russia was like these days.
I decided to investigate during my then-upcoming trip to Moscow and stop by a few local beauty stores. To my surprise, I discovered many Russia born and made products that I haven’t heard of before. Driven by my curiosity, I couldn’t resist squeezing all of the tubes and twisting jars open to try the formulas. I was fascinated with everything that I was seeing and what I’ve found absolutely exceeded my expectations. I discovered a broad variety of natural beauty products that looked amazing, smelled great and felt wonderful on the skin. While I was excited about this eye-opening discovery, that left me puzzled even more as to why no one in the US talked about Russian beauty.
When I got back to New York, I started paying closer attention to the global beauty conversation thinking that I might have missed something. After a few months of research, leaving no stones unturned, I came to the conclusion that there hasn’t been much said or written about Russian beauty and modern brands that were popular in my home country.
That’s when I got a thought — if no one was talking about Russian beauty, I should start this conversation and introduce these and other beauty gems from my home country to the US consumers. And that’s how the idea of launching the first Russian beauty store in the US — Rumore Beauty — was born. My husband Max loved the opportunity to reconnect with our Russian heritage and bring Russian skincare stateside, so he joined me on this international beauty journey.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
We’re the first and only Russian beauty store in the US. Up until now, people in the US and other countries have been associating Russia with politics, cold weather and, occasionally, ballet or other forms of fine art. However, the modern culture of my home country hasn’t been accessible or widely known to many. While Russia sparks curiosity and visiting the country is a bullet point on the bucket list, it hasn’t been as explored as other European countries and there’s still so much to unveil.
At Rumore Beauty, we’re shifting the narrative and offering US consumers an opportunity to discover Russia from a different side, through the world of beauty.
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?
We’re just starting out, so I anticipate many more mistakes, funny and not so much, in the near future. One of the most important things that I’ve learned along the way was the cultural differences of doing business in the US and in Russia — that includes email etiquette, communication channels and pace. Since I’ve been living in the US for the past 14 years and established my professional career here, I got used to the New York way of doing business, where things are moving fast, and decisions are made quickly. I’m sure I came across as a very intense businessperson, expecting answers and decisions from our brand partners in a day or two. Turned out, things are usually taking longer there.
Although we may be familiar with a certain culture one way or another, or even be a part of that culture, it’s important to understand the details of doing business internationally and be respectful to the processes of you counterparts.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I’ve been very inspired by other female founders in the beauty space who built their presence, introduced newness, persevered through the challenges of launching and running a company, and have grown a successful business worthy of the world’s attention. Recently, I had an opportunity to read two books by two incredible women, Jaime Schmidt, the founder of Schmidt’s Naturals and Jamie Kern Lima, the founder of IT Cosmetics. While their stories and their brands are very different, they both started with almost nothing but a passion for their startups and they’ve built them to become so strong and valuable, so they were acquired by leading global beauty giants.
Another remarkable leader who has been a role model for me is Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. While not part of the beauty industry, she’s a great example of defying the odds and making her dream not only a reality but also a global success and a household name.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
When it comes to disrupting, it’s important to understand the nature of that disruption. Does it come from a desire to build, to improve and make the world more diverse and open-minded? Does it come from a place of inclusion, offering an opportunity for underrepresented and does have a positive benefit? If the answer is yes, regardless of the innovation or the industry, we’re introducing a positive change to the society. And it’s necessary to go through a change in order to evolve and to shake up the existing flow of things. If it has been done before in a certain way, it may feel comfortable for some, but it doesn’t mean that this is in everyone’s best interests to move in the same direction moving forward. In the beauty industry, retouching images and distorting faces and bodies has been a common practice for a very long time. Thankfully, many beauty companies these days are stepping away from the status quo and are changing the way they talk about and showcase beauty to their customers.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- Nothing is impossible. My example for this comes from my recently discovered passion for running. While I’ve never been a runner, a bit more than four years ago I decided to give a treadmill at my local gym a shot. And little by little, mile by mile, I started to enjoy it and before I realized it, I finished my first marathon in 2018. If someone told me five years ago that I’ll finish a full marathon, I wouldn’t believe that person. But there I was! Making my impossible possible in running inspired me to accomplish bigger things in my professional career and brought more confidence into my everyday life.
- If the door remains closed after you knocked, turn around and…knock again. This advice comes from my childhood and while I couldn’t fully grasp its meaning as a child, I’ve taken it to heart in my adult life and professional journey. Especially, it came in handy during my career as a publicist as persistence and not giving up no matter what are key qualities that can help you succeed in PR and in business in general.
- Cheap, fast and good quality. You can choose any two. I’ve got this advice from my former boss, and it’s been proven to be true many times! If you’re going for speed and are saving on costs, then most likely it will be lacking quality. If quality is important, then be prepared to either invest more time or invest more financial resources to make it happen.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Rumore Beauty is still very new, and I’d love to focus my time and energy on growing Russian beauty in the US. There are plenty of products that we’d love to make accessible to the US consumers across skincare, haircare, bodycare and makeup categories, so there are many directions that we can take when it comes to growth and exploration. The story of Russian beauty has remained untold for so long and there’s so much to share, from Russian beauty traditions to ingredients to beauty rituals. So, there’s a lot of work for us to do in being the pioneers of telling those stories and introducing the hidden gems of Russian beauty to American consumers.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
While there are many great ideas, sometimes it’s the level of financial support that can take an idea to the next level and grow the business exponentially or drive to the ground. Unfortunately, when it comes to VC investment, there’s a huge gender gap that makes it challenging for female founders develop their businesses and reach their full potential. According to an article on TechCrunch from November 2020, less than 3% of all VC investment went to women-led companies, and only one-fifth of US VC went to startups with at least one woman on the founder team in 2019. In addition, the average deal size for female-founded or female co-founded companies was less than half that of only male-founded startups.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
I’ve been inspired by the “How I Built This” podcast by Guy Raz. His guests are the leading experts in their fields who not only got industry’s recognition but have also built something that’s been resonating with customers, something that in most cases has become a household name. Each journey is special, and each story has a lot of takeaways, and I always find myself learning so much from every episode. Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to attend NPR’s How I Built This Summit (at Home) and it was an incredible experience of meeting other entrepreneurs, learning more about their ventures and lessons they’ve learned along the way. It has been an invaluable opportunity to not only meet other entrepreneurs, but also ask questions, build connections, and even discover potential business opportunities.
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. 🙂
Being open-minded, thinking outside of the box and beyond the status quo. It includes welcoming new ideas, giving people who are just starting out — no matter the industry or area of life — the benefit of the doubt and offering support. Throughout my career, I’ve made it my rule to give people an opportunity as much as I can and to treat everyone with the same level of attention and respect, no matter their title or background. I believe that we cross paths with people for a reason and these connections are an opportunity for us, and for our counterparts, to make a difference in someone’s life or career, or both.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Dream Big, Act Now. Throughout my life, I’ve always had many ideas about new projects and new opportunities. However, very often, I didn’t think those ideas were big enough to become dreams or to be worth pursuing. I would often catch myself looking for answers to the question “what if it doesn’t…” instead of focusing on “what if it does…” and pushing forward to turn those ideas into big dreams and then into reality. With time, I’ve been exposed to other entrepreneurs’ journey and business advice from global leaders, and I started to realize that it’s important to find confidence to dream big, and once the big dream takes shape, it’s vital to act fast on executing and bringing it to life. I’m very lucky to have my husband and co-founder Max working alongside me and helping me act now on some of my most ambitious dreams. Launching Rumore Beauty has been a prime example of Dreaming Big, Acting Now for us.
How can our readers follow you online?
I’ll be happy to connect on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/maria-maddox-karr-05a80a31/) and Instagram @maria_instalife. Also, if you’re interested in Russian beauty, please follow us on @rumorebeauty and stop by to visit our store www.RumoreBeauty.com
Thank you and I look forward to connecting!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Female Disruptors: Maria Karr of Rumore Beauty On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.