Joann Marks started the CosPro company as Cosmetic Promotions back in 1990 using a borrowed computer and her garage as a warehouse. That inauspicious beginning has culminated over 30 years later as a leader in beauty and health Marketing, working with CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens as well as hundreds of retail brands; distributing more than 100 million samples. Today CosPro Marketing has 23 employees, operates a 40,000 square foot warehouse, and has 8,000 brand ambassadors listed with our agency.
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Before we begin, our readers are interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to be where you are today or was it something you were led to? Share with us your journey.
Joann Marks: I always wanted to be involved in the beauty industry. I started behind a beauty counter at Sears when I was just 16 years old; after college, I worked for Almay, then became the National Sales Manager for Nat Robbins. After a few years of working for major beauty brands, I decided to start my own business. It took off quickly because at the time there was no other company filling the gap that my company did.
Tell us a bit about your current focus. What is the most important thing that you’re working on and how do you plan on doing it?
Joann Marks: Currently we are adjusting to the new normal – Covid lost us almost 2 years of instore events. In 2020 we rebranded to include all CPG product categories instead of just beauty. We also have begun working with non-retail accounts and expanded our experiential marketing activities to include major brand activations across the country. We expect 2022 to be a great year for a human to human interaction.
Some argue that punctuality is a strength. Others say punctuality is a weakness. How do you feel about it, please explain.
Joann Marks: To me, it is a strength. I also say after 50 a woman can’t have bad timing or bad lighting! But seriously, being punctual shows respect to everyone involved. I hate people who are not a few minutes early!
How important is having good timing in your line of work and in the industry that your organization operates in?
Joann Marks: Good timing is not the same thing as punctuality. Good timing means understanding your industry and reacting or preparing properly for it. Many, many times I was too ahead of the curve and that meant some of our activations failed that might have been very successful a few years later.
Founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, states “Timing is everything in life, and it’s particularly crucial in entrepreneurship. People often equate success with luck, but it usually comes down to impeccable (and carefully mapped out) timing”. Do you agree with this statement? Please answer in as much detail as necessary.
Joann Marks: I would love to think my success came from impeccable timing but in reality, it came from impeccable service to my customers. I always build relationships with the client to make sure we are doing everything better than any other service company could.
As a leader/entrepreneur/CEO, how do you decide when to put the pedal to the metal and when to take a break? How do you time the key moments in your career?
Joann Marks: The first 25 years I barely took a break! We were so incredibly busy and I was growing so much from year to year I was lucky to take vacations. It took me a while to do a succession plan and finally was able to partially retire in 2018 and my management team is handling the majority of the day-to-day business. I still meet with them regularly to monitor our progress and to work on new business.
Branson also states “If you’re starting to feel like you’re just going through the motions and losing sight of why you started, it might be time to take a break”. But how do you decide when to take a break?
Joann Marks: The day I am not excited to get into the office and work, is the day I leave the job. Honestly, there are days that things go wrong and you have to take a step back and leave the office but so far I am not ready to quit. I have not lost sight of why I started but I have much more competition than I did when I started so I have to get more creative to stay relevant.
“Timing can be everything when starting up. It can be the difference between building a thriving business and not” How has good timing helped you achieve success in your career or business? Are there any particular examples from your career that you would like to share?
Joann Marks: I think we were in the right place at the right time when we started up. As I said, no one was doing exactly what we were doing – we were filling a gap in brand marketing at a specific chain. The brands had great national marketing but nothing specific to the chains, we created ways for the retailers to get exclusive promotions so that a brand carried everywhere had more visibility at the chains we worked with. In addition, we created what became our mainstay today – shared vendor programs so that vendors could share in the costs of shipping and boxes and save money. So our original timing was perfect.
“When you’re thinking of starting up, ask yourself: ‘Is the community I want to serve ready for this idea?’ It could make all the difference!” Would you like to add anything to this piece of advice for all the aspiring entrepreneurs?
Joann Marks: My best piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to find a mentor – it is so much you don’t know about running a business that a mentor can help you with. If not a mentor, then see if there is a small business association in your community that can help you make your business plan and go through what every business needs to know before starting. Specific to my industry, I ask my mentees WHY do we need this product. There are so many beauty and skincare lines out there, why would we need yours. I also try to make them understand that getting into retail might not be best for them.
Your insight has been incredibly valuable and our readers thank you for your generosity. We do have a couple of other bold questions to ask. What fictional world would you want to start a business in and what would you sell?
Joann Marks: My favorite period is the 1920’s to 1940’s – classic Hollywood. I would want to be involved in the movie industry at that time and sell set design, makeup, or clothing to match the movies!
Before we finish things off, we would love to know, when you have some time away from business, what is one hobby that you wish you could spend more time on?
Joann Marks: I love redecorating and remodeling – if I was not doing what I do now, I would flip houses and would love to have a TV show with I remodels!
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Joann Marks for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Joann Marks or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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