The name “Teachers College” may not trigger an immediate association with the executive suite, but the list of high-profile CEOs who earned degrees on West 120th Street includes Trustee Marla Schaefer (M.A. ’03), former head of Claire’s Stores; Lida Orzeck (Ph.D. ’72), founding CEO of the lingerie products company Hanky Panky, Azadeh Jamalian (Ph.D. ’14; co-founder and Chief Learning Officer of Tiggly) and many others.
One of the brightest newer stars in that firmament is Tracy Holland (M.A. ’00), founding CEO of HatchBeauty Brands, which incubates start-up beauty brands, forecasts industry trends for Walmart and Walgreens and other clients, and co-develops “on-trend” brands with retailers.
Holland – who, like Schaefer and Orzeck is a graduate of TC’s social-organizational psychology program – was named Los Angeles’ 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young for elevating product lines such as found facial serums and creams, the Kristofer Buckle luxury makeup and beauty collection and the Nailing Hollywood nail care, art and color products. Yet – again, much like Schaefer and Orzeck – she didn’t plan on becoming a business leader.
“Originally, I was bitten by the political bug,” recalls Holland, who worked on political campaigns and held positions in the public service sector. Indeed, she might well have made a career in government service or politics had it not been for a California lawmaker who praised her entrepreneurial instincts and suggested she consider a business career. Holland applied to Columbia University’s MBA program, was wait-listed, and, while pondering her next move, discovered the org-psych program offered on the other side of the street.
“I told myself, ‘I’m not going to wait another year, and I’m so glad I did,” she recalls. “Because I wasn’t planning to go into investment banking. I was looking to learn a process. And TC became my learning ground.”
While still earning her degree, Holland collaborated with a classmate to develop and market a nail polish that was picked up and sold by Bloomingdales. Perhaps even more importantly, she absorbed lessons on the practical application of research, approach to systems and appreciation of group and individual dynamics, all of which stood her in good stead during the next decade as she variously headed a small beauty products company, served as a top executive for a hair company and then a brand retail strategy group, and finally, in 2009, launched HatchBeauty.
TC taught me the importance of remaining open and vulnerable, and also that you motivate people by being sensitive to dynamics.
“TC taught me the importance of remaining open and vulnerable, and also that you motivate people by being sensitive to dynamics,” she says. The latter take-away has been particularly helpful in a business that employs many younger people, whom Holland believes have been unfairly characterized as lazy and self-absorbed.
“Millennials are looking for a reason to go to work each day,” she said. “It’s not about compensation. It’s about what they can contribute to the world and what they can do to make a difference.”
Millennials are looking for a reason to go to work each day,” she said. “It’s not about compensation. It’s about what they can contribute to the world and what they can do to make a difference.
Whatever she’s doing, it’s definitely working: HatchBeauty’s annual sales now top $100 million at retail. The company recently announced a partnership with Lion Capital, a capital investment firm that counts Jimmy Choo and other well-known brands among its client – a move that is providing the resources to move into new segments such as wellness incubation – and is also collaborating with Macy’s.
In 2017, when she was honored as an entrepreneur, Holland declared, “I want to help women and inspire them to become sophisticated business leaders in their industry.”
Like any good entrepreneur, she’s making good on her promise.