Skincare. Makeup. Fragrances. As Western Regional Trainer for Elizabeth Arden, Alisa Usher does it all. And whether she’s in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba, the Blanche Macdonald Esthetics Program graduate does everything with a big smile on her face.
“As beauty professionals we’re in one of the most rewarding professions there is,” she smiles. “Our goal at Elizabeth Arden is to allow women to see themselves as beautiful. As professionals we want to create positive conversations that are focussed on attainable benefits, knowing that the products we suggest can lead to a lifetime of healthy and beautiful skin. We’re here to make people happy. So let’s have fun with it!”
Fun is fundamental to Alisa’s work. As an Elizabeth Arden Regional Trainer she’s regularly travelling from Vancouver Island to Winnipeg and every major city in between conducting daylong schools with makeup and skincare experts from stores like Sears, The Bay, London Drugs and Shoppers Drug Mart. Whether she’s detailing new product launches or developing customer loyalty techniques, entertainment comes as standard.
“I say that there are three things that make a successful school,” she continues. “One, you learn a few things that you can take back and apply to your role immediately. Two, you have a good laugh. And three, you leave full of food. Learning all the ingredients in a product can be simple. It’s everything else in our role as Beauty Professionals that can be challenging. We do a lot of workshops and role-play, and we have some very open discussions. It’s always a packed day.”
The Esthetics program was awesome! It wasn’t cookie cutter. It was realistic and it made sense.
Growing up in New Westminster, Alisa was receiving her own makeup, hair and skincare education from a young age, as her mother and grandmother were both beauty professionals. Having decided that she would explore the business for herself, Alisa started investigating esthetics schools in Vancouver.
“The minute I walked into the City Square campus I knew Blanche Macdonald was the place for me. I felt like I could be a part of it. I was blown away by the glamorous energy there. I was interested in Makeup and Esthetics. I was 11 or 12 when my Mom got me onto skincare, so I knew how important it was. I wasn’t academically inclined at high school, but the ingredients and technology in skincare products fascinated me. I’d go to spas with my family. So it all made sense.”
Choosing to study Esthetics rather than Makeup, Alisa was happy to find herself on a spa therapy program that was providing more than an education. It made her feel great too.
“Blanche’s Esthetics program was awesome! The teachers gave you their energy and personality. It wasn’t cookie cutter. They weren’t going by a textbook. It was realistic and it made sense.
“Debbie Nickel was the Program Director then. Even though she had a lot to look after, she always had her door open and the time to speak to me. And she always remembered the exact details of what we’d discussed the previous time we’d spoken. People like her confirmed that this was what I wanted to do. I was only 18. I knew I could go anywhere.”
Alisa went straight from Vancouver’s best Esthetics Program to a job at one of the city’s top spas, Aveda Eccotique.
“I absolutely loved it,” she smiles. “It was rewarding to give my energy to a client. Their skin looked great or their muscles were relaxed, and afterwards I’d feel amazing that I’d given that experience to someone. Even then, I knew I wanted more. I wanted to do my own thing.”
Determined to develop her business and esthetics skills, Alisa began working as a Cosmetician/Esthetician at a Coquitlam area branch of Shoppers Drug Mart.
“The training program at Shoppers is amazing because you learn about all these brands. And the first training session I ever went to was Elizabeth Arden. Cindy Clark was my manager at Shoppers, and she became a big mentor for me. She saw that I had growth potential and let me develop my skills and utilize my esthetics knowledge. I was obsessed with eyebrows, so I created ‘Eyebrows 101’ where I would go into other Shoppers branches with my own marketing material, stuff they could put on their counter, and get them to book appointments for me. I’d spend a couple of days a month telling people how to look after their eyebrows using the tools we sold at Shoppers. I realized that I loved educating clients.”
Cindy knew that Alisa was ready to make the step into management, and was happy when her protégé left Shoppers for a counter manager position at The Bay with Clarins. Alisa soon figured out the philosophy she’d need to succeed at the management level.
“I wanted to be number one; in sales and everything else. I tried to be the superstar and it didn’t work. I learned that to be number one I had to align myself to the right people and make my team successful first. I realized that I had to put my team on a pedestal and make them happy. I had to put myself last.”
Alisa continued moving upwards within the industry, moving to Holt Renfrew and soon being promoted to the position of Sales Manager. As much as she enjoyed the sales-focussed challenge of Vancouver’s leading luxury retailer, she craved the excitement that came with creating, developing and inspiring sales teams.
As Beauty Professionals, we're in one of the most rewarding professions there is.
“On Linkedin I saw that Elizabeth Arden had a posting, so I put in my résumé and started the interview process. I got the job and I’m still pinching myself!
“I love that I can have a group of beauty advisors in one room and we all have the same passion about what we do. I can go to different cities and I always see the same excitement. They always tell me they learn so much. That’s amazing to me. I’m real. Let’s get together and keep it informal. Apparently I get very animated and funny! I like to encourage beauty professionals to discuss what’s happening in their stores. Let’s have an open discussion about our industry and give people tangible concepts they can really use. I’ll ask them to try one thing that they learned at school and apply it immediately in their stores.
“The most challenging thing in our industry is loyalty. The marketplace is saturated. Why is someone going to come to you and not your neighbour? It’s not just generic customer service. It’s a connection. People want to trust you. People buy you before they buy the products. You have to show clients that you want to help them. You need to put them first. You should have a desire to put that customer on a pedestal.”
Alisa has inspired beauty professionals across Western Canada. Now she’s defining the standards for the entire Nation.
“I had discussed with Elizabeth Arden that we need to provide consistent facial treatments everywhere the line is sold, and they were very supportive, encouraging me to develop these service standards across Canada. I went to our Head Office in New York to learn about Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas, which are amazing retreats in the States. Then I worked with our Canadian Head Office in Toronto developing the protocols for our facial services in Canada. How can we take what the Red Door Spas do and make it specific for the Canadian market? It was exhilarating to focus on facials and customer engagement.”
Whether she’s teaching colleagues or new beauty professionals, Alisa’s approach to education continues to be inspired by the lessons she learned at Canada’s #1 Esthetics Program.
“The teaching style at Blanche Macdonald was straightforward, honest and candid. The School is glamorous but the classes were never stuffy. I took that teaching style because I could see that it works!”