GUY RAZ, HOST:
Hey, everyone. You know one of the things that I love about Lisa Price's story? It's that she was almost blindsided by her own idea. I mean, when she first started making skin care products, she was putting them into baby food jars and just selling them to friends at church. She did not think about turning it into a huge business. But the story of how it happened, the story of how she ended up creating one of the biggest skin care products for women of color, is pretty amazing. Oh, and by the way, Lisa is also going to be a speaker at the HOW I BUILT THIS Summit in October in San Francisco, which is being supported by American Express. Anyway, this episode originally aired last June. It's a great one, and I hope you enjoy it.
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LISA PRICE: You know, you're bursting at the seams, and you can't accommodate people, and your neighbors are starting to look at you like, what's going on in there? I mean, we were actually watched at one point for suspicious activity because there...
PRICE: You know, people are just ringing the bell and going inside, and they come out with bags. Like, what's going on in there?
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RAZ: From NPR, it's HOW I BUILT THIS, a show about innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists and the stories behind the movements they built.
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RAZ: I'm Guy Raz, and on the show today, how Lisa Price whipped up some homemade body butter in her apartment, sold it at a flea market and then turned it into one of the biggest beauty brands for women of color. If you log on to carolsdaughter.com, you'll see this beautifully polished website with dozens of hair products, body creams and butters, oils and treatments all for sale. And you'll see this incredibly diverse range of women, as well - all types of skin tones and hues, curly hair and straight hair. And if you scroll all the way down, you'll see in small type, a division of L'Oreal. And L'Oreal, if you don't already know, happens to be the world's largest cosmetics company. L'Oreal bought Carol's Daughter in 2014 for an undisclosed amount of money, but you can safely bet that it was for a lot of money.
Now, that's not so unusual, a big multinational buying another company, right? But what is unusual is that Carol's Daughter literally started in Lisa Price's kitchen, a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. And if you haven't already guessed, it started out as a passion project because Lisa already had a career - in fact, a pretty cool one. In the 1980s, she landed a job as a writer's assistant on "The Cosby Show," which, at the time, of course, wasn't yet tarnished because of Bill Cosby. In fact, it was the hottest TV show in America.
PRICE: I thought that I had found the career that I was going to do for the rest of my life because it was an amazing experience. It was particularly incredible being, you know, an African-American woman and what that show meant to me and my family to see African-Americans depicted in, you know, such a positive light. So it was something that - for me to be standing in the Huxtable kitchen the morning of my first table read as I'm listening to the cast read the script, I could've just floated off (laughter) at that point.
RAZ: I mean, presumably, you know, I guess, looking from the outside, one would think, this is going to be a career. Like, this is what you're going to do with your life. But that is not what happened.
PRICE: No, it's not. I could have gone on to have been a script supervisor, production coordinator, associate producer, perhaps, on the operational side of things. And that is what I thought I was going to do.
RAZ: Because you were presumably happy doing that, right?
PRICE: I was ecstatic. It was wonderful. And I think because I was very happy at what I was doing with work, when I had my downtime and I was not at work, I didn't have that desperate feeling that you feel when you're like, oh, God, I'm finally not at work, and I just want to relax, and I just want to veg out, you know? So I became creative when I was at home.
RAZ: How did the idea to start making beauty products even occur to you?
PRICE: Well, what initially happened was, I'm a huge Prince fan and have been for many years, and I read an article about him. And in that article, they talked about how he always smells very good, and the reason for it was he kept an assortment of fragrances on his bureau. And it was also rumored that he put Chanel No. 5 in his boots so that whenever he took off his boots, he didn't have to worry about his feet not smelling good.
RAZ: Wow. I could see Prince doing that.
PRICE: (Laughter) So I just loved this idea of this blending of fragrances and creating these unique scents.
RAZ: But you weren't thinking about this as a business, initially...
PRICE: No, no, not at all.
RAZ: ...Just to do for you to, like...
PRICE: Just to do for me. And that's what I began to do. I learned that the way that your fragrance lasts on your body is, you layer it. So you wash with it. You moisturize with it. Then you spritz it on. So then I said, well, I don't have moisturizers that smell like this. Where am I going to get that? And at first, I started using lotions that I could get at the drugstore, and I would put fragrances into them and blend it. It didn't work. That wasn't, you know, balanced from a chemistry perspective, so things would just separate and be kind of messy. And that led me into looking into possibly making my own.
And one day, I walked into this, like, New Age kind of bookstore, and there was a book on essential oils and the art of perfumery. And in that book were basic recipes for a massage oil or a cream or a balm. So then I thought, this is great; I can make my own lotions. And, you know, the recipes were very, like, bare-bones, and, you know, they used things like paraffin and lanolin, which I wasn't too crazy about using. I wanted to use beeswax, and I wanted to find cocoa butter. I used the skeleton of the recipe within the book, and then I just started adding my own combinations and tweak it, you know, if something came out runny or too thick or too oily or too stiff.
RAZ: Wow. So you were, like, literally melting down cocoa butter on your stovetop and, like, cooking up other things and mixing oils together and then seeing what came out?
RAZ: Wow. So that's how you (laughter) - I guess that's how you make body butter, right? You start to melt a bunch of stuff and mix it together.
PRICE: Yeah. I mean, today, you could, you know, go on YouTube and look up DIY videos and get a good head start. But back then, you just kind of had to figure it out.
RAZ: And this was, like - what? - the late '80s or the early '90s?
PRICE: That was the late '80s. I began selling because I had actually gotten something that, you know, looked good and worked. And my mother encouraged me to sell at a church flea market in May of '93.
RAZ: Was she - she was saying, hey, Lisa, this stuff is pretty good. Like, you should sell this; people might buy it.
PRICE: That is pretty much verbatim what she said (laughter).
RAZ: And what did you think? Did you think, oh, God, I don't think anyone's going to buy this? This is just...
PRICE: There you go. I did not - I said really, Mommy? Do you think people would pay for this? And she said, yeah. She said, your butters are good. They - you know, my skin looks great. And she was using it on my little brothers and sisters. And, you know, she said, I think you should try. And I remember saying to my mom - I said, Mom, what am I going to put them in? Because I just would give it to friends and family, so I'd put it in Tupperware or Rubbermaid, you know? I didn't think about a jar. And she said, well, we could use recycled baby food jars - because my mom had adopted my baby sister Tora (ph) very recently, so she had lots of baby food jars.
RAZ: Oh, wow.
PRICE: And we, you know, boiled them on the stove like how you used to sanitize bottles back in the day. And I put the cream in the baby food jars and made my labels by hand, and I took them out to that flea market, and I sold out.
RAZ: Oh, wow. What did you call them at that point?
PRICE: I called the company Carol's Daughter. I did have a name, and I called it Carol's Daughter because that's literally who I was. My mom was Carol, and I was her daughter. And the products that I sold, I called them fragrant moisture butter at the time.
RAZ: So you show up at this flea market. By the way, you are still a writer's assistant on "The Cosby Show" at this point. This is, like, your weekend side hustle, right?
PRICE: No. By '93, "Cosby" had ended, and I - so I was a freelance person. But it was summer. Television typically in New York was very slow in the summer months because your seasons would end in May, and your new season wouldn't begin until September, so unless you were working on a pilot, you were probably off during the summer. And that first summer of starting at that flea market at the end of May, I spent most of that summer making money selling at different craft fairs and expos and things like that. And I went back to work that fall.
RAZ: What did you - how much money did you have to put in to, like, launch this thing?
PRICE: That very first flea market, honestly, was an investment of $100 between, you know, whatever the table rental was and the ingredients that I had to purchase to fill the baby food jars that I had and maybe some flowers, you know, to decorate my table. And what I did, I just kept reinvesting because I didn't have money that I could say, oh, well, I'm just going to go pull 10,000 out of my savings to start this business. So it was something that started in a very small way, a very organic way, and I didn't do anything that I couldn't afford to do. So if someone told me about an expo in Georgia that's fantastic and the fee to get in is only $5,000, I wasn't going there. But a table, you know, in Park Slope for 35 bucks, OK (laughter).
RAZ: What - who were your customers in that first summer?
PRICE: They were mostly African-American women that, you know, were in the different neighborhoods that I was in. I did have some customers who weren't African-American. But for the most part, that's who would come to my table. I was not deliberately saying, this is for African-American women. I was deliberately saying, this is for dry skin. And subsequently, when you have more melanin in your skin, that dry skin will show. You look dull. You look a little bit gray. You look, as people say, ashy. And you cannot get away from that. And that's how I probably, at that time, ended up with that audience of people who were more brown because they found something that took away that ash.
RAZ: So if you were an African-American woman in the early 1990s, essentially, there was very few options. There's really few companies that were serving your needs or wants.
PRICE: Yes, very few. There was definitely a community that needed to be served who was not necessarily being served. It was not something that you could walk into a drugstore and say, oh, look at that. This is fantastic, great. It wasn't there. It is now, but it wasn't then.
RAZ: So that summer of '93, when you were, like, selling, you know, body butter in baby jars at church flea markets, did you think of this as, you know, as your future? Or did you just think, oh, this is kind of a fun little side project that I'm doing, and I get to hang out with people I know, and it's just - I'm having fun?
PRICE: At first, I thought about it as fun. And then August of that summer, I was watching an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." And she was talking to people who had started businesses with little or no money. And one person said, well, you have to know that you're passionate about what you do. You can't start a business just because you want to make a bunch of money because it's going to take too long for you to make any money. And if you're not passionate about it, you will quit before you make any money. And I remember thinking, I'm really passionate about this stuff. Like, I like doing this. And then somebody else said she would define passion as if someone woke you up out of your bed in the middle of the night, would you go and do this thing? And I honestly could answer yes to that question. And I'm someone who is very fond of sleeping. And I love a good, you know, late...
RAZ: (Laughter) Yeah.
PRICE: ...Sleep-in kind of thing. And I realized, yeah, I would get up out of bed to do this because I really do enjoy it. And I remember sitting on the edge of my bed and saying, wait a minute; maybe this is - this could be a business. And that day was the day that I realized this just doesn't have to be a hobby. This can be more.
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RAZ: All right. So that first summer ends, and you go back to a job in TV. And what happens to the business, to Carol's Daughter at that point?
PRICE: It continues to grow. People call and say, hey, you know, I bought a jar of cream from you, you know, at such and such street fair, and I'm running out. How can I get some more? And I would look at my schedule, and, you know, if I knew I was going to be home on a Saturday, I'd say, well, if you want to come by my apartment on Saturday, I'll be home. I'm working the rest of the week, but I'll be home on Saturday. What time would you like to come by? And that was the beginning of people coming and shopping in my apartment.
PRICE: And that continued to grow to the point where sometimes I would come home to nasty messages because...
PRICE: ...Someone didn't know that it wasn't an actual...
PRICE: You know, they heard about it from a friend and, you know, it's...
RAZ: They were getting your answering machine at home.
RAZ: So at this point, how did you get the word out about Carol's Daughter? Because initially, you were - you know, you had the flea markets, and then - right? - people were talking. But how did you get more people to know about it?
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PRICE: You know, my husband calls this the sister-girl network. It was literally one woman telling another woman. And somebody always brought a friend with them. And if you brought a friend, you know, get a free gift or, you know, something off. So it was all of that grass-roots type of stuff.
And if I was out selling somewhere and someone asked me about something, if I didn't know how to make it, I figured out how to make it. So I learned how to make bath salts. I learned how to make body scrubs, different types of moisturizers. I figured out how to make shampoo, how to make conditioner. And it was just experimenting the way you would experiment cooking.
RAZ: And when did you decide to leave TV and just do this full time?
PRICE: I left television in 1996 because my son, Forrest, was due to be born April 5 of that year. And I realized that if I continued to work, I would basically just give my paycheck to a babysitter.
PRICE: So it just logically made sense to let the job go and see if, in being at home full time while taking care of a baby, could the business grow enough? We also - at the same time, we were able to change how and where we lived. So my aunt and uncle were selling their home. They were selling it to someone else. And I think there were three tries at the closing, and it just didn't happen. And I finally worked up the nerve to ask, is there any way that we could purchase your home? And we did it.
And so Forrest was born March 18 of '96. And May 22 of '96, we moved into the home that we live in today. And it enabled us to, you know, have the space that we needed with the baby but also have space for the business to grow. And that was a big turning point. You know, it was a huge difference - so many people coming in on Saturdays to shop.
You know, there was a time where you would be like, oh, hi, Diane (ph). Hi, Susie (ph). Hi, Charles (ph). And now it was like, I don't know any of you. I never met you before, (laughter) you know? The voicemail box would fill up every hour and a half. My husband and I would - you know, wait; who - when did you last check the phone? Oh, I checked it at 2:30. Oh, my God, it's 5 o'clock. You know, let me - get me a pen and paper. And it - you just look at it, and you can't believe it.
RAZ: Lisa Price. In just a moment - how a mention from Oprah crashed her company's website. I'm Guy Raz, and you're listening to HOW I BUILT THIS from NPR.
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RAZ: Hey, welcome back to HOW I BUILT THIS from NPR. I'm Guy Raz. So after Lisa started to focus on Carol's Daughter full time, things started to take off pretty fast.
What was a turning point? When did you - when did something happen where you thought, oh, my God, this is, like, big-time?
PRICE: Well, because I've been in business for 24 years and because turning points and success and, you know, those aha moments are very relative and fluid, there's been several of those. So, you know, there was the moment when my second son, Ennis, was born, and I was in the hospital after having given birth. And my husband walks into the hospital with Essence magazine, and I was in the November issue. And I actually had a half-page article with a picture...
PRICE: ...And my name, which was a really big deal.
RAZ: How did they know about it? How did they find out about it?
PRICE: There were beauty editors that lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood where I lived, so they were always in search of something different. And then because I worked in television production for so long and then my husband continued to and still does, I would have access to makeup artists and hair stylists. And if they, you know, went on another production, they could reach out to me, and I - you know, I could send it to them. I remember hearing that Edie Falco loved a moisturizer of mine because a makeup artist that I worked with on a show shared it with her, you know? And I was, like, are you kidding me? Edie Falco, really? I've never met Edie Falco...
RAZ: (Laughter) Yeah.
PRICE: ...To this day, but she loved one of my moisturizers.
RAZ: Wow. So by 1999, you guys were able to open up, like, an actual shop, right?
PRICE: Yes, the first store that was not in my house...
PRICE: ...Like a brick-and-mortar retail...
PRICE: ...Space that had windows and a door. And the landlord wanted the space to be something else. And I sent him a gift basket for his wife and a package with a letter about the brand to convince him that my shop would be great in that location. And because of my letter, he decided that he was going to give me a shot, and he wanted to meet with me to go over the terms.
So I'm sitting in this meeting feeling so victorious that I've convinced this guy that, you know, my business is what he wants to put in here. And he's - so he says, so the terms are pretty basic. I'm going to need four months' deposit on the rent and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And he's, like, talking other things, and I'm quickly adding in my head. And I'm like, that's $14,000. OK, that's 14,000 - that's $14,000.
PRICE: (Laughter) And I had no clue where I was going to get $14,000 from. And it worked out. We had some small accounts set up for our sons for their college, and we took it. You know, my boys were very, very young. You know, we took, you know, between their two accounts - I don't know - something like $3,500 out of the bank. And then one of my aunts loaned me a little bit more, like, another four or $5,000. Yeah, it worked out. It was a little dicey at first, but it worked out.
PRICE: And I paid my aunt back before Christmas of that year.
RAZ: I mean, it's so incredible to hear how $3,500 was just excruciating - an excruciating amount of money when, of course, in - you know, within a decade, you were going to be doing, you know, tens of millions of dollars in sales. But at that time, it was scary. It must have felt really scary.
PRICE: It was. It definitely was. The thing that made it palatable was I knew I couldn't stay in the house.
PRICE: Like, I - you know, you're bursting at the seams, and you can't accommodate people. And your neighbors are starting to look at you like, what's going on in there? There's all these people that come in and out every day. I mean, we were actually watched, at one point, for suspicious activity because they're - you know...
PRICE: People are just ringing the bell and going inside, and they come out with bags. Like, what's going on in there? And we found out later when, you know, the police officer came to shop. And she - you know, she was like, I just want to let you know because you probably didn't know this, you know? Somebody made a phone call, and someone was nervous. And they, you know, realized that everything was OK, and there was nothing untoward going on.
But, yeah, you just get to a point where you have to grow up, and you have to take that leap of faith. And I didn't want to live in, well, what if I had gotten a store?
PRICE: What if I had - what if - you know, I just - you know, I would rather have had the store fail than to have wondered, what if?
RAZ: What did your mom think about that store, that first store? I mean, her name was in the marquee. What did she - how - what did she think when she walked in there?
PRICE: She loved it. But I will tell you the moment that she was, like, really excited about the business being Carol's Daughter. I got to do "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 2002. And so she got to see that - you know, to see her daughter on "Oprah." And all of her friends got to see that. And the place where she went, where she would get her bloodwork done on a regular basis, was this medical center in Brooklyn called the Hip Center.
RAZ: Was she sick?
PRICE: Yes, with an illness called polymyositis. So when she came to get her bloodwork done after that "Oprah Winfrey Show" - oh, Miss Carol, we're so happy to see you. Come right in. Dr. So-And-So is waiting for you, and then I'm going to take you down to the lab as soon as you're done. She said she was in and out of there so fast.
PRICE: So she told me, she said, yeah, girl, keep going on television. I could get used to this (laughter).
RAZ: How did Oprah find out about you, through the magazines and the attention you were getting there?
PRICE: Getting me onto the show came through producers. And the producers of the show heard about me from another producer who was interviewing for a job. She went to Chicago to interview for a position. They talked about what they were working on. And one of the shows was a show about women who had started businesses in their homes. And she said to them, well, have you spoken to Lisa Price? And they reached out. They liked what they heard. They interviewed me, like, six times.
A week later, I was in Chicago taping the show. And I was sitting in the audience. And she looked at the screen, and she sees the name of the store. And she said Carol's Daughter? You're Carol's Daughter? I know Carol's Daughter. You're Carol's Daughter? I know Carol's Daughter. And I'm sitting there like, oh, my god, Oprah Winfrey knows me. I'm going to die (laughter).
RAZ: How did that affect business - when it was on "Oprah"?
PRICE: It affected it in an amazing way. We had our website go from having 37 people in it, and within four minutes of my segment, the audience in the website went from - you know, whatever it was, 30-something people - to 17,000 people.
PRICE: The website actually crashed. I mean, it was remarkable. It was just remarkable - not anything crazy - like, not what people think - that, you know, one day you're on the show, and all of a sudden, you're a millionaire.
RAZ: Yeah. Yeah.
PRICE: And money's just falling out of your hands - not that, but definitely a significant lift and shift in who knew about us. But it was something that was manageable. We didn't implode under the pressure.
RAZ: Wow. So, I mean, basically, from the moment you opened that first store for the next - at least - decade, you guys were just on this massive growth trajectory, right? You were just, like, growing and growing and growing every year and opening more stores, right?
PRICE: Well, we didn't open additional stores for a very long time. I mean, I wouldn't describe it as a massive growth trajectory. There was growth each year, but I wouldn't describe it as massive. I didn't open up another store until 2005. And in 2004, I took on a business partner, and then in 2005, we took on investors.
RAZ: And you guys had some big-deal investors. Like, Jay-Z was an investor, right?
PRICE: Yes, Jay-Z, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith. And the investment helped us to open up the additional store but also helped us to get into places like Sephora at the time and then, subsequently, Macy's. It helped to build a better infrastructure. You know, there's definite excitement and, you know, pride and everything when you're small and you're grass-roots and you're building. But there comes a point, you know, when you start doing a million, a million and a half, 2 million, 2 1/2 million in sales, where you can't wing it, you know?
PRICE: Like, things have to be secure. And that's when investment was definitely needed because there was some winging it that was going on. And you can only do that for but so long.
RAZ: At a certain point, I mean, you guys were - I mean, your revenues were, you know, in the tens of millions of dollars. When you saw those numbers at the end of the year, was that strange? Could you have imagined that happening?
PRICE: I can definitely say for certain that I never imagined that happening. And even to this day, I still am amazed by it. It's still surreal. And that's not something that ever goes away. And I don't mind that I feel that way because I think it keeps me grounded, and it keeps me focused on the work that I do because that never changes. Regardless of, you know, 42,000 in sales in a year or 28 million in sales in a year, I'm still doing the same work.
RAZ: I know that your mom, Carol, passed away, I think, more than a decade ago. But when she was alive, what sort of role did she play in your success? Because, I mean, she did actually get to witness it.
PRICE: She did. She did get to see a lot. What Mommy always did for me was she always focused me on the positive. So if I was calling her and saying to her, you know, Mom, I don't know how I'm going to get these orders filled by Christmas; they all have to ship by this date; there's just so much; I just can't figure out how to get it all done, and she would say, well, actually, that's the easy part. And I said, what do you mean, that's the easy part? Like, I just said, I don't know how to do it. Like, it's really hard.
And she said, but what if you didn't have the orders? That seems to me like it would be the harder part, to kind of make people be interested and make people purchase. She says, you have the orders. You have their credit card numbers. As soon as you get the stuff made, you'll get the money. So the money's just sitting there waiting for you. So that seems like it's easy. She said, I think we just need to clear our heads and figure out how to get it all done.
And then she would say something like, go make yourself a cup of tea. I'm going to make myself a cup of tea. Call me back, and we're going to figure this out. And I would be like, is she crazy? And I would go make my cup of tea and come back to the phone. And we would talk, and I'd sit there with pen and paper, and we would figure out a plan. And I never let that go.
RAZ: I know that in 2014, you sold the company to L'Oreal. Was that difficult for you to sell this thing that you built out of your apartment in Brooklyn, or did it feel like a weight was lifted off your shoulders? I mean, that - you know, that's a huge deal - I mean, one of the biggest cosmetic companies in the world buying your company.
PRICE: It was not a difficult thing for me to do at all, except for the fact that the process to get there is difficult. So it wasn't, oh, my God, I have to sell my baby. I can't. I can't. I can't. That emotion had already happened because in 2007, Carol's Daughter took on equity partners with Pegasus Capital Advisors. So once you take on an equity partner, your goal is to sell to a strategic partner, and everyone exits happy, hopefully.
PRICE: So having someone like L'Oreal acquire the brand was something that I knew would happen, and I always had L'Oreal at the top of my list. And it did work out. And I was thrilled and proud and - because, for me, it was the culmination of all of that work that I had to do to fix the mistakes that I made in my company - not trusting my gut often enough, not valuing what I brought to the table and not valuing myself as a businessperson and as a smart woman. And I had to find my voice again. And so I got it back. I felt strong. I felt empowered. And I stood with everyone else, shoulder to shoulder, and guided Carol's Daughter to that place for us to have that acquisition. So I was very, very happy.
RAZ: When L'Oreal bought the company, some of your customers were disappointed because - you know, right? - I mean, you know they felt that, well, this was a company owned by an African-American woman, and now it's owned by this big multinational. How did you respond to that when you heard that?
PRICE: It didn't take me by surprise that there was some backlash. I think the only thing that took me by surprise was that some of the backlash was very personal and very pointed and very cruel and just speaking about me in ways that I was like, how do you say this...
PRICE: ...About somebody that you've never met before? Wow. That was surprising. But what I realized was, people didn't know my story. I realized that, as a group of people within this world, African-American people, historically, we have less experience with generational wealth.
PRICE: We may be successful in certain areas. We may have become rich recently. But we don't really know what generational wealth is, and we haven't come up in families that have owned and passed down businesses.
PRICE: So there were just things that people didn't know, and they wrote a narrative for me on what they felt was appropriate and what they felt was something to be proud of. And I didn't follow the script. And I apologize for how they felt and that I didn't follow the script that they wrote for me, but I used the opportunity - and still use it - to educate as best as possible because it's going to take us time to build that generational wealth and then perhaps be in a place where we have the luxury of not having to sell...
PRICE: ...Because we were able to build it on our own, or we were able to build it with Mom and Dad's help, and we can stay privately owned. But it's going to take time to get there. But it was difficult. And sometimes it still is difficult because people still will bring it up. And it's almost as if I've been asked to apologize for one of the greatest accomplishments of my life and something that I'm very, very proud of.
RAZ: But for a little girl from Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn, you did pretty well.
PRICE: Yes, yes.
RAZ: Pretty well.
PRICE: I did. I definitely did better than I would have had I continued to have a career in television and film production. And there's a very deep respect that one ends up having for where they are, where they've come from and what they have when you go through something like that. And I just have a very, very profound respect for what I've done. And I won't be that person who runs off and buys planes and cars and things like that because I have too much respect for how hard it was to get there.
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RAZ: Lisa Price, founder of Carol's Daughter. By the way, even though L'Oreal bought the company, Lisa is still the public face of Carol's Daughter. And despite becoming financially secure for life, Lisa still lives in that same house in Brooklyn she and her husband bought from her aunt back in 1996. And please do stick around because in just a moment, we're going to hear from you about the things you're building.
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RAZ: Hey, thanks so much for sticking around because it's time now for How You Built That. And today, we're going to update a story we ran just over a year ago from Aiden Emilo. She lives in Jackson, Wyo., with her husband, Jesse, and their two dogs.
AIDEN EMILO: The husky is Yaz, named after the baseball player, and the German shepherd is Tuckerman.
RAZ: And all four of them spend a lot of time outside. It's Jackson, Wyo. - so skiing, fly fishing, trail running, hiking. The dogs love it. The humans love it, except for a small problem.
EMILO: Well, I noticed it with my dog Tuckerman. I noticed a cloudiness in his eyes when he was pretty young - like, only 2 years old. And then we noticed Yaz was getting pretty visible sunburn after we'd spent long days on the water.
RAZ: In Jackson, Wyo., the sun is really bright. And as it happens, a lot of dogs are sensitive to overexposure. Their eyes swell up or cloud over, and some dogs can even lose their vision. So to find a solution, Aiden's husband, Jesse, started digging through their old ski equipment.
EMILO: So he just started chopping up ski goggles and came up with these retrofitted goggles for the dogs.
RAZ: Which were pretty janky-looking at first - a plastic visor they got from the dollar store taped to the old ski goggles, all put together with a jumble of straps and hair ties.
EMILO: I think I probably laughed out loud when he first put them on. It just seemed like, this is ridiculous. But I guess, you know, I'd - better a silly-looking dog than a blind dog.
RAZ: Aiden and Jesse kept refining the goggles until people started to ask them, hey, where can I get those for my dog? But they weren't sure there was an actual market for dog goggles, so they decided to ask an expert, their vet.
EMILO: So he put the prototype down and looked across the table at us, and he said, well, you're probably going to need some capital. And I looked him and said, yeah, yeah, I think we will. And he was like, well, I think that's our next conversation.
RAZ: So, yeah, their vet actually gave them some money, enough money for Aiden and Jesse to find a manufacturer in China and then launch their very first line.
EMILO: The lenses range from neon pink to neon green. A lot of people love the crazy lenses just because they make your dog look like some sort of superhero robot. They make them look pretty badass.
RAZ: When we talked to Aiden a year ago, they had sold 10,000 goggles. Since then, they've nearly doubled that. They've also released four new models of goggles so they can fit a wider range of dog sizes. And she and her husband have quit their day jobs to work full time on the company. And they love to tell people that.
EMILO: Yeah, it's funny. I was just recently at a college reunion, and, you know, everyone's going around, oh, haven't seen you, great to - what do you do? What do you do? And I say, oh, I make dog goggles. And people say, what? No, really, I make dog goggles.
RAZ: That's Aiden Emilo of Jackson, Wyo. She and Jesse call their company Rex Specs. If you want to find out more about it or hear previous episodes of our show, head to our podcast page, howibuiltthis.npr.org. And, of course, if you want to tell us your story, go to build.npr.org.
And thanks so much for listening to the show this week. You can subscribe at Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. And while you're there, please do give us a review. You can also write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you want to send a tweet, it's @howibuiltthis. Our show was produced this week by Rachel Faulkner with original music composed by Ramtin Arablouei. Thanks also to Nour Coudsi, Neva Grant, Sanaz Meshkinpour and Jeff Rogers. Our intern is J.C Howard. I'm Guy Raz, and you've been listening to HOW I BUILT THIS from NPR.
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