Tulane University - Business + Marketing
Admit it. You’ve wandered the aisles of Sephora, swiping samples of the newest lipstick on the back of your palm … just wondering what it would be like to work there. Well, meet a girl who gets the opportunity to do just that. Cassie Cowman, an assistant buyer in natural skin care at Sephora gets similar opportunities. Her job is to decide what skin care products end up on the shelf at your favorite beauty store.
Don’t be afraid to start small.
How did you discover your current job?
I was working with Sephora on the brand side for almost four years and just loved the way they did business, as well as all the fantastic people I had encountered in the organization. I decided that it was time to stop admiring from the sidelines and pursue something directly with them, so I just monitored their openings online. I waited until I found a position in which I truly believed I could add value, and then I went for it.
What has been your path so far to get you where you are today?
It has been a short path so far and I hope just the beginning. I worked for a family retail business since I was very young. Through this, I learned to work hard and to sacrifice; but most importantly, I realized how rewarding it is to labor for what you believe in and what you love. When you do this, it doesn’t really feel like work at all. After college, I decided I needed some time to to make my own mistakes. Someone took a chance on me, and suddenly a girl who wore silver eyeliner every day in middle school was now immersed in a world of beauty. I started as an account coordinator and then became an account executive for prestigious European fragrance brands. I absorbed everything I could, and I was in love with the products, brands and people in the industry. I was lucky enough to live in the same city as Sephora’s USA headquarters, so I started to manage the Sephora account for my brands. My supervisor could tell I meshed well with the merchant team at Sephora and let me run with it (quite autonomously) -- the rest is history!
Was there any one situation that helped you along your way?
For my first job in the beauty industry, my boss took a real chance in hiring me. I had no experience in an arena filled with veterans. For him, this was refreshing, and I was so thankful for that opportunity. There were many people that doubted me, but I learned to not doubt myself. If I could prove myself through my hard work and performance, no one should have reason to question me.
I ended up managing a field sales force of more than 20 people, and so many of them said I was one of the best people they had worked for. This meant so much to me, as they were the ones truly teaching me as we worked together for a common goal. Because someone took a chance on me, I was able to grow and learn more than I could have imagined!
What is your typical day like? Does it ever change?
There is no typical day! I asked that of my boss in an interview, and she laughed. Now I know what she meant. Retail is such a reactive industry, and Sephora has the incredible team in place to react quickly in order to give our client what she needs and desires. I help manage more than a dozen natural skin care brands. There are many different aspects to that piece of my role. I help determine the correct assortment of products to carry and how they will be merchandised. I am not just involved in skin care merchandising, but I also work closely with our marketing, education, operations and inventory teams. It’s amazing how many moving parts we have, but it runs quite smoothly considering we have more than 260 stores. Each day is unique and exciting!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part is the amazing people. These include the smart, passionate and creative ones I work with every day at Sephora. Also, our incredible brand partners bringing amazing heart and innovation to our business. However, the clients in our stores who love beauty are truly inspiring to me!
What is the most challenging part?
The most challenging part is creating a balance of what is good for our business, our partners, our future, our brand, and most importantly, our client. My fiance would say it is quite challenging to find storage in the bathroom with all the products I’m testing ...
What is one lesson you’ve learned in your job that sticks with you?
Trust your instincts. Be confident in your role and ability. Specifically in merchandising, a hit product is not necessarily obvious. So, you have to trust yourself — and your team — and go after something that feels right. After all, it might be the next big thing that makes your client feel truly beautiful!
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
I am fortunate to be in the beauty industry -- in which the majority of us are female. I try to never take that for granted as I know that was, and is, not always the case. There is still a glass ceiling as many top industry executives are male. However, they know that women have the true voice when it come to the products. And, they also bring their own unique perspective. Our CEO is a male, and he is absolutely incredible. I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. He is the perfect complement to our passionate, product-loving, brilliant female senior vice president of merchandising and the other females in our senior team. As for any challenges in any industry … I think females are resilient and tough enough to overcome them.
Who are your role models?
My mother and grandmother are both successful entrepreneurs who are never afraid to chase their dreams. They will always be my inspiration. Most importantly, they love what they do, and it shows in their performance. In the beauty industry, visionary CEO of Bare Escentuals, Leslie Blodgett; innovative founder of the sexy and modern Hourglass Cosmetics, Carisa Janes; and supermodel and founder of Josie Maran Cosmetics, Josie Maran. She truly lives and breathes her green beliefs while creating amazing products.
Is there a quote or mantra that you live by?
I think many of our values at Sephora make their way into my everyday life. We all live these values in everything we do, and it makes every day so fulfilling! Respect for all is key. In work and in life, every person I encounter has a unique opinion, and I know they can teach me something about the world and about myself.
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
Don’t be afraid to start small. Work in a store. Face-to-face experience with clients and product truly adds value to any organization. Being in the action brings a unique perspective that will not be ignored. The great thing about beauty is that so many of us are passionate about it on our own time, and we stay on top of trends just for our own personal enjoyment.
Don’t be afraid to break into the industry, no matter what products or retailers you have experience with. Have passion for the client and for the products. Someone surely will welcome you.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Some say the beauty industry is silly. Yes, it’s true, we aren’t curing cancer. However, it’s about more than just looking good on the outside. Beauty is confidence. It’s a love of being in your own skin. And it’s a feeling. Put on some red lipstick. Try a glossy new nail polish. Dab on some sensual perfume … And then tell me you don’t walk a little taller.