Beauty Industry Professional Heather Welch Begins Her MBA at FIDM This Quarter
Her dream school since the age of 15 as a student at Danville High School in Illinois, Heather Welch is making it happen as she begins her studies in the MBA Program this week at FIDM. With extensive experience in the beauty industry, the graduate student just moved to Los Angeles from Portland, Oregon, with her husband and has already landed a position with Goop, a wellness and lifestyle brand and company founded by actress Gwyneth Paltrow. We caught up with her to learn more about her journey and post-MBA career plans.
Tell us a little about your industry experience: Hi everyone! Most of my work experience is in the skincare/spa industry and education in those areas. My esthetics journey started in Sarasota, Florida, in 2002. I attended the skincare training program at Florida College of Natural Health and had my first job as an esthetician quickly after graduation in 2003. My first treatment space overlooked an ocean marina in Sarasota and had a lovely bay window. Prior to attending esthetics school, I was always interested in makeup and had worked at the Clinique counter in my hometown, Danville, Illinois. Skincare just seemed to be the most fitting career choice, as it would have been very challenging to make a productive living as solely a MUA (makeup artist). I was pretty good at makeup—still am—but never really saw myself offering those services as a full-time gig. Spa seemed more profitable and rewarding.
Throughout the many years of working as an esthetician with AVEDA—Florida and Tennessee—I grew a passion for educating others to be the best esthetician they could be. Fortunately, the spa family that I was a part of for almost twelve years supported my goals of becoming an AVEDA Skin/Spa Purefessional (national educator). After meeting certain prerequisites to attend try-outs in Minneapolis, MN, I passed the interview/try-out process and began teaching skincare techniques within my distribution area at the time, Knoxville, TN, and the southeast (i.e., North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia). I partnered with salons and spas in the region and traveled to facilitate education needs, whether that be for front desk teams and/or estheticians. This role also provided me with the opportunity to teach at AVEDA institutes in distribution territory, which included Texas. I quickly realized that this was going to be my next FT position in my career.
In the first two years of my Purefessional role, there was not an AVEDA institute in Knoxville, so the possibility of being an educator in a classroom setting (adult education) was going to have to be elsewhere. I applied and interviewed at the AVEDA Institute in Minneapolis (the original—now they are all either distributor owned or independent) at the very moment construction was beginning on a brand new AI in, you guessed it, Knoxville! I was offered an esthiology instructor position with both schools, but I accepted the offer with Douglas J AVEDA Institute in Knoxville. The offer with Douglas J included free tuition to complete my studies and become a licensed instructor—a work/study program.
Teaching with big brand names like AVEDA, and Dermalogica/International Dermal Institute, San Francisco, was a big part of my life for about three years, but I was still longing for something bigger, something that offered more travel and more of a corporate setting. So, I set my next goal of working for a big skincare company in the sales capacity. During this time, I went back into the treatment space while looking for new opportunities. I was providing skin treatments to clients using Murad skincare products at Massage Envy in Pleasanton, CA. I began to see a few job openings with Murad in the Bay Area, and I applied for an education role. During the interviewing process, I was moved to an account executive interview. I got the job and felt like I had accomplished everything I set my mind and goals to. My sales territory was great and awarded me quarterly travel to Oahu, Hawai’i and Anchorage, Alaska. After almost two years in this role, Murad was purchased by Unilever. Like a lot of big company acquisitions, layoffs occurred, and my team was dissolved, my manager demoted.
Here I was again at a loss of what to do next. By this time, we had transitioned from the Bay Area to Portland, OR. Finding another sales and education role seemed futile. I found myself again in the treatment space. I felt like I was going backwards and had no sense of how my career was going to look from here. From being forced out of a role I really enjoyed, to moving back into a role I worked so hard to leave, it gave me time to really think about what I wanted from this next stage of my life. I’ve always loved fashion and wanted to give myself the opportunity to develop new skills in that area. I kept seeing ads for The Art Institute and thought, yeah, that’s what I should be doing. I researched their programs and found their fashion marketing and management program to be the best fit for me. Two years into my program there, all the schools across the nation closed and filed for bankruptcy. A plethora and I had to figure out the next frightening steps. Would all my credits transfer to a new school? What will be my new school? All of these decisions and more unfolded without too much concern or worry. I found my next school and continued my bachelor program at Academy of Art University - School of Fashion. I graduated with honors in May 2021 - BFA Cum Laude Fashion Marketing.
Your career up until now has been in fashion marketing and the beauty/wellness education space. Tell us how your path has led you to pursue an MBA: Now having finished my program with the Academy of Art University - School of Fashion, I have set new goals and high ambitions of completing the MBA program at FIDM. To me, an MBA is the best compliment to my current degree. I know having this knowledge will provide an appealing balance of creative skills and business acumen that companies look for.
Aside from the technical aspect, FIDM has been my dream school since around the age of fifteen. Living in the small town I grew up in, California was a long stretch financially for my family, which is where the dream was left, until now! When I toured FIDM with Seung Kim, my eyes filled with tears several times. As you can probably imagine, there were a lot of emotions running through me: excitement, accomplishment, surrealness, happiness, intimidation, nervousness. But Seung was so patient with me and comfortable to be around.
At this time, I believe that I would like to move into a marketing director role at some point. I don’t want to necessarily rush my career path, as there are many marketing areas. Digital marketing is the channel I am currently working in, but I see myself wanting a more creative space as well. Positions that incorporate deck presentations and copy creation are of interest to me.
You've been wanting to attend FIDM since you were in high school. Tell us a little about that journey and describe how it feels now that you're actually realizing that goal, especially in such an advanced degree program as the MBA: I can honestly say that getting ready to attend FIDM starting October 6, 2021, is beyond where I envisioned myself five years ago. We (my husband and I, and our pup, Layla) didn’t intend on living in Los Angeles and having an option to enroll at FIDM. Oregon is one of those wonky states where no matter what (online) one cannot attend. With that, it still seems a little surreal, exciting, and intimidating. A business degree is also something that I didn’t see for myself five years ago, but here I am about to start that journey in 2 weeks. There is no question in my mind that the MBA program will round out my previously learned skills and offer new skills and knowledge that will serve me well in moving into a marketing department lead.
What advantages do you think your industry experience will give you as a student in the MBA Program? As with any industry experience, a firsthand look at the work environment and expectations of others provides advantages in organizational skills and daily planning. I think my spa management experience, as well as my previous sales roles and managing a territory, will provide additional advantages in having a solid business understanding and foundation and pre-applied knowledge in meeting business goals. Regarding my recent marketing degree, I think my previous classes in marketing management, legalities and strategies will provide a good base knowledge in my respective, upcoming MBA classes.
What are you most looking forward to learning about in the MBA Program: I am really looking forward to meeting people with similar interests and being on campus. Other than my admissions tour, I recently attended a night market on campus and just truly enjoy the environment and faculty. Everyone that I have encountered, alumni alike, have been welcoming and very supportive. This all gives me a feeling of security in my decision to further my education and obtain my graduate degree. I will also share that I am so excited to be a part of the Capstone Seminar case study and building a business thesis.
Tell us about what types of jobs you're looking for right now and how they may complement what you'll be learning in the MBA Program: After months, years, of applying for various marketing roles with Columbia Sportswear, adidas, SOREL, prAna, and Dr. Marten’s, I can happily share that I was recently offered the position of Digital Marketing Intern at Goop. Goop was not a brand I had originally considered but after pre interview research it seemed like a great fit to what I am looking for in a brand and company. As this is the starting point to my newly launched career path, this role could easily lead to a more permanent position with goop. I am going into week three of my new role and feeling comfortable with SEO creation and implementation. The business analytic skills that I will learn in the MBA program will be very complimentary to roles at goop and offer a broad-spectrum knowledge in applying marketing ideas to campaigns and large-scale launches.
Anything else you’d like to share? This is going to sound cliché but it’s true what they say, don’t ever stop pushing for your dreams and working hard. Make attainable goals for yourself and make every step possible to achieve those goals. In between goal setting and working hard, find something that speaks to you and balances your soul. For me, that’s yoga and meditation, and getting outdoors whenever possible. I am most relaxed and connected when I am by the ocean or in the mountains, hiking, camping, grounding. Do whatever it is that reminds you who you are, and who you want to become. We are all growing each day, so make every moment count. If this past year and a half has taught me anything, it’s to value the present moment you are in. Don’t worry so much about the future and what lies ahead—most of the scenarios we create in our minds will never play out in a negative way. In fact, it will be something much more special and unique to you.