We had the good fortune of connecting with Brianna Lipovsky and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brianna, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Honestly, it was a little bit of everything. Most importantly, I was craving independence and freedom of thought, mind and time.
I always had a creative itch, but I never knew how it would manifest. Fragrance and brand building are the perfect medium for me to engage my creativity. With my past experience in building other brands I found space for a luxury brand that was purpose-driven, actively engaging with community, like many of the D2C brands, however ensuring that the products we put forth are the utmost of quality and craftsmanship. Bringing the utmost of luxury back, but in a modern way and utilizing the macro and micro shifts I was noticing in society.
In addition, financial control over my life was a big one. I no longer wanted to be dependent on others to dictate my worth.
Lastly, the perceived notion of having more time to spend with my family and competing in the equestrian sport of Dressage. Ironically, I now have little to no time!
Do you have a budget? How do you think about your personal finances and how do you make lifestyle and spending decisions?
Yes, and I always end up destroying it! I pour over Excel sheets modeling out a plethora of ways forward, in, and around. I am exhaustingly budget conscious, as it is my own personal capital, and even if it wasn’t, I would still be. However, the sheer scale of the operation would be that much larger. But I always find the one or two things that I must splurge on (which in turn ends up requiring me to re-calibrate the budget all night long in order to make the numbers work). Thus far, primarily our marketing and design budget has been cut into in order to focus on product, product, product and it has paid off. We have organically grown our business through word of mouth (even during COVID!) without spending a dollar on advertising.
In terms of personal finances… what are those!? We have paired way, way, way back in order to build this business. It has taken so much from me personally, my husband and even my daughter. We have made rather large sacrifices in terms of financial capital and time in order to make this a reality. There have been times where I fear the risk might outweigh the reward, but that is always at the heart of entrepreneurship- especially self-funded ventures. They are not for the faint of heart!
How do you think about risk, what role has taking risks played in your life/ career?
Oh gosh. I am so risk averse! Even the word risk makes me cringe. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my partners and my husband by my side. I am 100% focused, many times to a fault, but when it comes to actually being able to take the plunge and jump into the deep-end— I typically need a push. In fact, I was told by an in incredible teacher in High School that I was an entrepreneur, he could see it in me at a young age. However, it took me nearly 17 years to actually begin my own business even though I knew the desire was in me. When considering our funding strategy and re-allocating some longer-term investments towards the business, I panicked but my husband said, “sometimes you just have to bet on yourself.” That really resonated with me, Am I going to bet on the markets and a portfolio manager or am I going to commit 110%? I decided to fully commit. It’s scary, but I don’t think I would want it any other way.
Where are you from and how did your background and upbringing impact who you are today?
I am originally from The Finger Lakes region of New York State, a quiet little town next to Canandaigua Lake which has now become quite popular due to the recently opened resort, The Lake House in Canandaigua.
My background and upbringing taught me to be a leader. I am the oldest of 4 siblings, and therefore the designated caretaker, which I learned from my mother who was a nurse. I also get my entrepreneurial spirit and energy from growing up there, part of a small family business and obsessed by horses. I would do anything to afford lessons. I learned the value of hard work and a dollar at a very young age. On the other hand, it also taught me who I wasn’t. I always felt like an odd-ball in this small, homogeneous, conservative town, which empowered me to break free…
What value or principle matters most to you? Why?
Authenticity again. I like to be real and I like those I around me to be their truest version of themselves. I think after this year with the COVID-19 pandemic, human rights atrocities, our planet burning all around, and a general lack of leadership on many levels, I am just done with the BS! As wife, mother to two children, and an entrepreneur running two businesses, I am left with so little time that I am above all else valuing quality time and happiness more than ever.
Work life balance: how has your balance changed over time? How do you think about the balance?
This is the ever-elusive question. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist, and the sooner you can come to terms with that, the healthier you will be. For me, there are some days, weeks. or months where I am all out, 200%, and there is very little balance. Other times, I am all about the life part and try to remain fully present with my family and friends. I have a really hard time mentally and emotionally “shutting off” so that is something I am constantly working on. I am also a ‘Manifestor’ by the definition of Human Design and I need to read my bodies cues so that I can take the best care of myself and my energy, which fluctuates wildly. My husband and daughter are both ‘Generators’ and are always full steam ahead, with even energy levels at all times, and rarely depleted or in need of quiet or alone time. I meditate to give my mind and body a rest and reset, and try my best to turn off- AKA hide my phone when I am home and present with my family.
What’s the end goal? Where do you want to be professionally by the end of your career?
I want to have built a successful and sustainable (multi-generational, healthy EBITDA/cash flowing) business that is able to impact people’s lives including the way they live, consume, think, and feel. I have always wanted Maison d’Etto to be a force of change and to help humankind. That is ultimately my end goal.
On another note, I would like to eventually compete on an international platform in the sport of Dressage and that would really be the marker of success for me- to be able to compete at the top level of the sport. It takes a tremendous amount of time, patience, dedication, and resources so if I am able to one day do that, it would be a true accomplishment and box I have always wanted to check.
Why did you pursue an artistic or creative career?
I have a bit of imposter syndrome with this one. I am and have always been the “business person” and it is only in this new role that I am really stepping into my own creative power and freedom. Compared to the creatives that I work with on a daily basis- the perfumers, graphic artists, art directors, and photographers- I don’t hold a candle in comparison. However; what I am able to do is figure out ways to bring these teams together and create something magical, which in essence, is the job of a Creative Director. The time I spend debating over the shade of green and paper stock, or the amount of Indol in a fragrance, I also spend equally, if not more, in Excel, figuring out how to make the puzzle work financially. Cash flow, run rate, AOV, conversion metrics, and EBITDA are just as important to me. Unfortunately, that gives very little time for either side of my brain to rest or relax!
Tell us about a book you’ve read and why you like it / what impact it had on you.
I am currently reading Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith, which takes place in California. I love how her writing is a stream of consciousness. It’s so real and true. She is free and I find her words freeing. I am reading it because she and I now partially call Rockaway Beach, NY home. The magic, allure and draw of this place is profound to my soul. I can’t put my finger on it. I have never felt this strongly about a place and I am trying to find out why. Therefore, I am diving into the minds of artists, writers, locals, and cultural fabric.
We are currently staying at The Rockaway Hotel, which recently opened and is in incredible. My family was displaced from our primary residence due to COVID-19 (and a flood), but the silver lining is that my entire family has absolutely fallen in love with this city beach town. I feel like this place and its inhabitants are like a giant onion unfolding right before your eyes. There are so many layers and depth, and I find the people fascinating out here. I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on what is pulling me towards this place, but I am hoping through exploring the writers, artists, and people who live here that it will help me find out what it is that makes this place so special and why it impacts my heart so much.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Gloria Luna Pascal Dangin My Parents, Siblings, Husband and Daughter Amy Rueckl Frederic Pignault Our Perfumers: Carlos Benaim, Pascal Gaurin, Mackenzie Reilly, Celine Barel and Alexandra Cassar Lotta Neiminen Marie Kouadio
Founder Portrait with Fragrances
Image Credit: Dora Somosi