New Yorker Willa Doss, 12, launched her own skin-care line — and is now selling it at a store near you
- Last Updated: 11:08 AM, July 10, 2012
- Posted: 11:08 PM, July 9, 2012
It's a sweltering summer afternoon in a five-floor mansion uptown, and 12-year-old Willa Doss and her seven besties are unwinding the cool way — with cucumber masks slathered all over their faces.
“Your face is going to feel amazing afterwards!” promises Willa.
“Most importantly, it’s good for sleepovers.”
Willa isn’t just a budding cosmetologist; she’s a pint-size entrepreneur who’s talking about her own cucumber face mask ($1.75), part of her natural beauty line, Willa, conceived by her and her mother, Christy Prunier.
It all started four years ago,
when Prunier kept tussling
with willful Willa, then 8, over sunscreen application.
“Kids never do anything because their parents tell them to,” says Prunier, a 44-year-old former Hollywood film producer with titles such as “The Thin Red Line” and “The People vs. Larry Flynt.”
So Prunier decided if you can’t beat ’em, you might as well start a skin-care line for ’em. She did so with Willa’s help — and plenty of input from chemists, dermatologists and makeup artists. Willa helped design the purple-hued packaging, and gave her mom suggestions for the development of the willaskincare.com Web site.
Willa’s pals — many of whom have known each other since kindergarten — participated in numerous focus groups and talked about why their tween demo tends to slip through the cracks; skin-care giants Johnson & Johnson and Clearasil have well-established lines for babies and teens, but nothing for pre-adolescents. Willa and her crowd wanted fun products that weren’t too childish.
The line, which was launched in March, is now sold at Target, J.Crew and the UES pharmacy Clyde’s on Madison Avenue. With 300 of its stores carrying the line, Target says it’s committed to growing the brand and expanding to full distribution over the next few years.
Tooth-fairy money won’t snag you much, but the luxury-lite line is priced well within reach of the baby-sitting set, starting at $1.75 for the cucumber mask and topping out at $15 for Face the Day, a tinted sunscreen.
The 17 products in the line, including an acne spot treatment, Start Fresh foaming face wash and a sleepover travel bag, don’t skimp on the SPF factor — or on the fun. Upbeat, cheery names like Be Brilliant body lotion complement sleek packaging that deliberately skips the clichéd pinks of Disney and Hello Kitty, and avoids cloying scents.
“This is the Apple generation — they’re very design-driven,” says Prunier of the understated packaging.
“We wanted the products to be affordable, but aspirational.”
Mom and daughter have no plans to introduce cosmetics to the brand; the Willa line will remain fresh-faced and wholesome.
“There’s something refreshing about 12-year-old girls who actually want to look like they’re 12 years old,” says Prunier of the preteens, decked out in brightly colored and age-appropriate maxidresses.
Meanwhile, as the girls are busy talking — also singing, chirping and squealing — about braces, boys and their recent walk over the Brooklyn Bridge for friend Anna’s birthday, they’re doing right by their skin. “They don’t realize it, but they’re really clearing out the impurities,” says Prunier, who recently moved with her family from the Upper West Side to Greenwich, Conn.
Down-to-earth Willa, who’s into Maroon 5, French immersion camp (that’s all French, all the time) and dog walking, waves off talk of being a mini-mogul: “I’m just a kid!” she demurs.
At least her friends think she’s a rock star: “It’s so cool for someone our age to have her own line,” squeals her longtime friend, 12-year-old Shanna of the UWS.
“I mean, she has her own business at 12!”
And for all her worldly smarts and city-bred sophistication, Willa is a kid at heart.
“I don’t really need makeup,” she says. Adds Anna, 12: “Except on Halloween.”