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How Deciem’s CEO turned around a skincare brand amid personal tragedy

September 13, 2021, 12:52 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announces a bid for president of France, Salesforce covers employee relocation costs from Texas, and a CEO turned around a multimillion-dollar skincare brand amid personal tragedy. Have a reflective Monday.

– Out of the ordinary. It’s hard to imagine a more dramatic journey to the C-suite than Nicola Kilner’s. The Deciem CEO stepped into the top job just before the 2019 death of her cofounder and friend Brandon Truaxe after a long and public struggle with his mental health.

Kilner wasn’t new to responsibility at Deciem—but before she became CEO she’d been mostly out of the public eye. “He quickly pushed away anyone who was close to him,” Kilner says of her friend and predecessor as CEO. That complicated situation, which you can read more about here, was on her mind as she took over the business.

For Fortune‘s 40 Under 40 package, which published last week, reporter Jessica Mathews has a new longread on how Kilner embraced the corner office amid personal tragedy and turned around the company. For those not familiar with its $6 serums, Deciem is the company behind skincare brand the Ordinary. Named for its original iteration as a sort of incubator for 10 brands, the business now brings in $460 million in annual revenue and is majority-owned by Estée Lauder.

Kilner, 32, is a reluctant CEO. She calls herself “very underqualified” for the role and credits her executive team—and the late Truaxe—with much of Deciem’s success. But, as Jessica writes, Kilner possesses many of the same qualities—like “truly believ[ing] in changing the world and the ability to make things better”—she so glowingly describes in her predecessor.

Read Jessica’s feature here and check out the rest of Fortune‘s 40 Under 40 list here.

Emma Hinchliffe

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


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"I’m not afraid to share my pain. I don’t have any walls up when it comes to sharing those parts of myself."

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