For beauty innovator Divya Gugnani ’98, women’s needs matter most

Lindsay Ellingson and College of Human Ecology alumna Divya Gugnani ’98 co-founded Wander Beauty in 2015.

Divya Gugnani is a longtime entrepreneur and co-founder of Wander Beauty, a company that aims to disrupt the beauty industry and streamline makeup routines by creating beauty essentials for busy lifestyles.

How did you get your idea for your business?

My co-founder, Lindsay Ellingson, and I felt that beauty brands in the market were not speaking to us as consumers. We both live in constant motion: Lindsay, a supermodel, is always on planes, trains and automobiles, and as a working woman with two young kids, I’m on the go all day. Artistry brands were telling us that we needed tons of steps and trendy colors. We both had bags filled with dirty brushes and cracked powders and felt there had to be a better way to live our most beautiful lives.

Divya Gugnani, CHE ’98, is the co-founder of Wander Beauty.
Divya Gugnani, CHE ’98, is the co-founder of Wander Beauty.

What problem does your company or product solve?

Wander Beauty creates fewer, better beauty essentials. We believe in a less-is-more philosophy for beauty and create multitaskers that streamline your routine. Our customer is the modern woman who is doing it all and still wants to look gorgeous, but doesn’t have time for a 15-step routine. Our multitaskers give that time-starved woman beauty must-haves that deliver maximum impact with minimum effort.

Cornell taught me the value of teamwork. I always remind our team that there is no “I” in Wander Beauty, and that is a philosophy that is rooted in what I learned at Cornell while working on group projects.
—Divya Gugnani '98

Entrepreneurship is all about taking calculated risks. What’s the most pivotal risk you’ve taken, and how did it change your path?

The biggest risk I took was launching the brand with only one product. Everyone thought we were crazy, but we figured that we were launching Wander Beauty to focus on fewer, better beauty essentials, and that we should create one true essential that could help an individual feel more confident and more beautiful in 20 ways. That original multitasker became an instant bestseller and customer favorite. Taking that risk solidified that there was space for us in the market and that we were speaking to a customer need, and it gave us validation to go forward.

Lindsay Ellingson and Divya Gugnani, CHE ’98
Lindsay Ellingson and Divya Gugnani, CHE ’98, co-founded Wander Beauty to streamline makeup routines for women everywhere.

How has your experience at Cornell influenced how you approach business?

Cornell taught me the value of teamwork. I always remind our team that there is no “I” in Wander Beauty, and that is a philosophy that is rooted in what I learned at Cornell while working on group projects. I also learned that intelligent, hard-working people can solve any problem, and, believe me, entrepreneurship is fraught with problems. As a co-founder and CEO, you need to invest in the right people to help turn your vision into a reality.

Was there a particular faculty member or class that influenced you the most? If so, how?

Alan Mathios, in the College of Human Ecology, truly influenced me and my career post-college. He was an excellent professor, and he taught me how to teach. He is the best example of teach, learn, inspire. He had a thirst for knowledge and was constantly learning and also inspiring those around him. He had an incredible empathy for people, which I still aspire to emulate.

What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur? Why?

My proudest moments are when I get emails, calls and direct messages from customers with feedback about how much they love the brand, something they’ve enjoyed about a product, or even something they didn’t like. It’s amazing knowing that I’m touching the lives of so many people, and that I am innovating and creating things that are out of the box and that are solving problems for real people today. I love letting clients co-create with us and be involved in the process, and actually creating things that they asked for and wanted.

Products from Wander Beautyl
Select products from Wander Beauty

Who or what inspires you?

A quote by Louise Hay has stood out to me: “I do not fix problems. I fix my thinking. Then problems fix themselves.” Every time I come across an obstacle, I don’t give myself time to dwell. The key is to change your mindset from “Oh no!” to “OK, what can I do and how can I fix the situation at hand?” Learn to grow from your mistakes and the challenges that you face. And when in doubt, simply ask a family member, friend, mentor or even a stranger for advice! Seeing the world through a different perspective makes life so much more interesting, and nothing is better than getting past something you thought you couldn’t.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Always be listening. Listen to experts in your field, your mentors, your clients, your suppliers and your team. The more you listen, the more you will create a strong opinion on how to act and how to put a plan in motion. There’s a reason we were born with two ears and one mouth. We should listen more and talk less!

Cornell’s expertise in research, technology and business education translates into meaningful impacts in communities around the world. Our mission extends beyond the classroom, helping entrepreneurs access the research and mentorship they need to start and grow successful businesses. Learn more.

This interview was conducted by Savannah Whiting of Cornell Strategic Communications.

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