How I Get It Done: Olivia Chantecaille

Illustration: Lauren Tamaki

Olivia Chantecaille was born into the beauty world. Her mother, Sylvie Chantecaille, is a beauty entrepreneur who launched cosmetic lines with Diane Von Furstenberg and Estée Lauder. From a young age, Olivia would accompany her mother to the product labs, entertaining herself by drawing pictures with lipsticks and eyeliners.

Today, the two women — along with Chantecaille’s siblings — run the family’s namesake beauty brand, which is known for seasonal palettes that raise awareness and funds for endangered species. Chantecaille resides in New York City with her husband Ren Grady, and their 5-year-old daughter Delphina. Here’s how she gets it all done.

On a typical morning:
I wake up before my daughter does — between 7:30 and 8 a.m. — and immediately check my phone to see what important emails or messages I’ve gotten. I spray myself with Chantecaille Pure Rosewater and drink a tall glass of water, and then my daughter and I have breakfast together. I have this delicious organic cereal that supports bees, which I like because I feel very strongly about supporting our pollinators. I also love gluten-free vegan banana bread.

And then we’ll start our day. I’ll jump in the shower and get ready. I really try to not look at my phone in front of my daughter, so while I’m getting dressed I usually have my phone glued to my hand. I’m doing many things at the same time unfortunately, but that’s the only way to get it all in.

On a day at the office: 
I try to schedule off-site meetings around 9 a.m. It can be anything from meeting with a vendor who supplies our packaging or ingredients to meeting with editors or with any of the labs we work with on our products. Once I’m in the office, it’s “go” time. I have so many things happening that it’s very hard for me to leave.

I head up product development, so I get to create the new products. I do it hand-in-hand with my mother and we have a team supporting us. We come up with the color trends, new palettes, new products — it’s very fun. We work closely with scientists, so we are always discovering cutting-edge ingredients.

I also run the international public relations and social media teams, and I oversee the website. We’re posting several times a day, so I’m also always creating new content and coming up with ideas for images, photo shoots, and blog posts. I’m lucky that I get to wear many hats.

On organization tactics:
I rely heavily on my calendar. I put everything in there, so I know where I need to be, what’s going on, deadlines, that sort of thing. I also am old-school in that I still use pen and paper and I have multiple notebooks. I make lots of lists. Sometimes I like to write a list on a Post-it Note; that makes it look shorter [laughs] like I can easily bang it out.

Of course, things are in order of deadline and urgency. If suddenly something comes up that’s due tomorrow, then that takes priority. I make sure that all social media content is completed first thing in the morning so we can post in time. And then we keep to a very serious schedule when it comes to product development to meet our timing for launches. We’re always working on multiple seasons at the same time.

On travel:
Traveling is one of the most stressful things for me nowadays. I travel a lot less since I had my daughter. I used to travel constantly for work, always globally. I was going to Asia a lot for press launches and events and going to Europe all the time to the labs to work on products and new colors. I used to go all over the country for personal appearances, but since I had my daughter it’s very hard for me to leave her.

On her company’s philanthropic efforts:
When we launched the line, we were deeply steeped in botanicals and we wanted to give back to nature in some way. When we found this way of creating palettes that could raise awareness and give back to environmental causes or species that were slowly growing extinct, it was very exciting for us. We found that we could be a voice for those who don’t have one. It has really created a community of people who care about the earth and the environment. We focus on urgencies and what needs help right now. And nothing is ever too late — a little bit of help can have such a strong impact.

On work/life balance:
As a working mom, I think you become a super multitasker. I try to pack in as many things as possible while still making sure I spend some quality time with my daughter. It’s nice having a child; it helps me to refocus my priorities and on things that are important.

When I’m in the office I want to be as present as possible and really be there and do everything I can possibly do. And when I’m with my daughter, I put my phone away and I focus on spending time with her. I try to make the time with work to take her to at least one activity each week whether it’s to school or a soccer or gymnastics class. I think I get more out of it than she does. It goes by so quickly. I don’t want to wake up one day and be like, Oh, I missed it.

On working in a family business:
People ask me all the time, How can you work with your family? I love it because we get along and genuinely like spending time together. We even go on vacation together. We all have such different roles, so there’s no stepping on each other’s toes. It’s more like our different responsibilities are dependent on one another. My sister does sales and my brother is the photographer and videographer, so we all work together in a productive way.

And working with my mother … It’s interesting because she and I are very different, but we see things in a very similar way. We don’t use words. It’s like elephant speak — we know what we’re thinking [laughs] which makes things run smooth and fast. I think the biggest thing that she’s taught me is to trust my instincts; we all have a strong inner voice and it’s up to us whether we choose to listen.

On winding down:
Depending on what’s happening in the office, I try to get home around 6 p.m. so I can spend time with my daughter. Sometimes if we’re shooting late or we have retailers in town for presentations, it will go later. I’m frantically answering all my last emails outside the front door before I walk into the apartment so when I’m inside with her, I’m focused.

After we’ve done our bedtime routine, we have a sweet little skin-care routine we do together. She stands on her stool and we each have our cotton pads soaked with rosewater and we clean our face. She puts on her face cream. I created an organic baby line for her when she was born, the Chantecaille Bebe line, so she uses her products and I use mine. We talk about our day and what we’re grateful for and focus on a few positive things that made us happy. Then, we read books and she goes to sleep. Once she’s in bed, I’ll go back on my iPad around 9 p.m. and finish any other things that need to be done.

On sleep:
I do my emails in bed, so the lights are dimmed and things are calming down. Everyone tells you not to look at electronics before sleep, but I would just be thinking, Oh my god, I have to answer this email, and I have to do this still, and I have to do that. It’s easier for me to feel like things have been completed before I go to sleep so I’m not thinking about it in bed. I go to sleep anywhere between 12 and 1 a.m. I wish I had more hours in the day and that’s probably why I don’t sleep enough.

How I Get It Done: Beauty Expert Olivia Chantecaille