The Mother-Daughter Duo: Lydia and Shiri Sarfati
The Legacy: Repêchage, a nutrient-rich seaweed-based skincare line founded in 1980, and used at spas and salons in 30 countries
As a child, Lydia Sarfati watched in awe as Polish estheticians gave her mom facials in their kitchen. When she emigrated to the United States from Poland, she worked for a salon and spa, soon becoming the head esthetician, creating products, training other estheticians, and having contact with journalists.
“What drove me to open my own business in 1977, was the ability to deliver more unique and personalized service to my customers,” says Lydia. “You need to create an experience that makes people want to return.
“I was inspired to never settle and never compromise, to always deliver the very best in everything,” she continues. “When you don’t compromise, when you don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and when you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, then you will be able to achieve what you set out to do.” Lydia went on to launch the Repêchage empire in 1980.
Passion. Know-how. Lydia has that, and she passed it down to daughter Shiri. “The work ethic that has been instilled in me since childhood is absolutely something that is part of the American dream,” says Shiri, who grew up playing in her mother’s office. “I’m first generation American, and I saw both my parents work hard, and they continue to work hard, to create that success and to realize their dreams. That work ethic and passion has stayed with me.”
After college, Shiri worked for boutique beauty agencies in New York City, building her professional foundation. Her passion, however, has always been with Repêchage, and in 2003, she came on board full-time, developing her own public relations and marketing team. “The first day Shiri joined the company, I put a ticket to Taipei, Taiwan, on her desk,” explains Lydia. “I told her, ‘You’re going there to launch Repêchage, and you have eighteen hours to work on your presentation on the plane.’ ”
Over the past decade, Shiri has continued to grow and to develop her knowledge and skills. Not long ago, she received her master’s degree in cosmetics and fragrance marketing from The Fashion Institute of Technology. “We both have vision for the company and the brand,” says Shiri. “Obviously, it’s Lydia’s vision, she started the brand, and I think today what’s exciting about it is that vision keeps on expanding. It’s obviously something that has changed over the last ten years. As our relationship has become more professional, this kind of balance shifted a little which makes it interesting.”
“There is a great deal of respect for each other, and for each other’s knowledge. Shiri brings a fresh approach to the table. I am always willing to learn, listen, and be open. A good friend said ‘when you’re green, you’re growing; when you’re ripe, you’re rotten.’”
Lydia knew she had a rock-solid executive in the making with Shiri by the way she dealt with difficult and stressful situations. On the other hand, Shiri will come right out and say it, “Lydia is totally no holds bar. She’ll tell you exactly how it is. I think I’m a little bit more diplomatic. Stylistically, that is one of our differences,” Shiri explains.
“Our work styles are a little different, but we certainly work well together,” says Lydia. “There is a great deal of respect for each other, and for each other’s knowledge. Shiri brings a fresh approach to the table. I am always willing to learn, listen, and be open. A good friend said ‘when you’re green, you’re growing; when you’re ripe, you’re rotten.’”
What Lydia considers one of her greatest contributions to the spa industry is helping consumers understand the importance of wellness, customer service, and delivering a truly exceptional experience to the consumer. For Shiri, it’s working with small business owners and giving them the opportunity to be successful.
The Sarfati women are constantly inspired by the things that surround them. “Whether it is my employees, my grandchildren, my clients or my distributors, every day something wonderful happens, and that’s an inspiration,” says Lydia.
As for the future, Lydia’s vision is to be able to continue to create wonderful things to make the difference in peoples’ lives that give estheticians and salon owners the ability to be successful, give consumers pleasure, and at the end of the day, “I feel positive waking up and knowing that what I do creates jobs for hundreds of people,” says Lydia. “And that gives me great pleasure.”
Shiri intends to continue to work hard, learn something new every day, love deeply, and have a good time as well. “I want to continue to develop my personal brand within Repêchage,” she concludes.