CEO, LaDov, Inc.
Who Is She?
Sheree LaDove Kent makes some of the world’s leading cosmetic brands look beautiful – her company, LaDove, Inc., researches, creates, manufactures and packages many hair care, skin care and body care products, such as items from the popular Bed Head and Catwalk lines. Sheree performed nearly every job at LaDove – from filing to factory working, before buying the company from her dad and becoming CEO five years ago.
Since then she has survived a major company crisis, grown LaDove from a couple of accounts to more than 250 clients, increased staff from about 45 to 200 full-time employees, and expanded the organization into new product lines, as well as a new 150,000-square-foot production facility in Miami.
Same Old Summer Job
“I wanted to be a litigator and was on my way to law school after graduating from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, when my dad asked me to spend one more summer working in the business. I had grown up in the business, and I thought, ‘One more summer? Ugh. OK, fine.”
An Unexpected Twist
“For the first time, we were launching a cosmetic product line into the professional salon industry, and I became a liaison between the lab and the hairdressers. Hairdressers and chemists do not speak the same language – there was a tremendous need for someone to get the two on the same page to create amazing products. This really intrigued me… I had a great time, ended up not going to law school and stayed with the company.”
Orchestrating a Takeover
“My dad started the company in 1977 and I came on board in 1988. He was content with the size of the company, but I wasn’t. We made the mutual decision that he would retire and sell out his shares. I didn’t have the money to buy them all, so we brought in outside investors. It took a couple of years to find the right partners who would be financial, but not operational.”
Welcome to the C-Suite – Now Save the Company
“When my dad sold his shares, he held the relationship with our biggest client, but I guess the relationship wasn’t rosy, because we lost the client. Seventy percent of our business was gone. But we had new investors and had to perform from a numbers perspective. I had to go on the road and figure out where our new opportunities were going to be, who we could partner with to create the newest brands in the cosmetic business. It was an extremely challenging time.”
Perseverance Pays Off
“It took a good 12 months to build the business back to where it was. Within 24 months, we were showing significant growth – 30-40 percent. I’m still gone every single week to client sites, but it’s much easier now. We had four accounts when I joined the company, and now we have about 250. We can be more selective now about our clients.”
Success with Expansion
“I don’t think I’ve had my greatest success yet, but I have some success stories. We expanded beyond hair care into skin and body care products and developed a new TV division that makes products for shopping networks and infomercials. That’s been a great success story for me because that’s an area that I didn’t know anything about before.”
Challenges at Home
“It’s tough with my daughters, who are now four and 10 years old. When they were younger, they were used to me traveling – it was normal. But my eldest really needs me now and she’s vocal about it. I think she’s proud of me, not resentful that I work. She loves to come to work with me and go into the lab and mix products. But I’m gone 2-3 nights a week. And this is such a personalized business, I don’t think I’ll be able to disconnect from that aspect of it.”
Working for Something Other Than Money
“Being in South Florida where I live, none of the other women work. They’ll say, ‘I feel so bad for you that you have to work,’ and it makes me chuckle because I don’t have to work. Most people would be thrilled by the success I’ve already had, but I don’t think I’m close to achieving what I need to achieve. It’s not really a monetary goal. It’s an achievement goal.”
Words of Advice
“I didn’t get a lot of inspiring advice – I got more negative comments, like ‘You’re just another manufacturing filler. Why will you be different? There are hundreds of fillers out there.’ I knew what my dreams were, followed them and tried to discount any negativity I heard along the way. I convinced myself that the more negativity I encountered, the more successful I was going to become.”