Women in Business Q&A: Gloria Vanderlaan, CEO & Founder, TriDerma

TriDerma was founded in 1992 after Gloria Vanderlaan had a dermabrasian procedure. With an arduous healing process, Vanderlaan searched for a product to help nourish and heal her skin faster, but her doctor's only recommendation was to use Crisco, the heavy, greasy cooking oil. Hesitant to put cooking oil on her raw, peeling skin, Vanderlaan set out on a mission to develop products that would help repair her skin faster, without the use of harmful cortisones, parabens and other damaging drugs. In a short period of time, Vanderlaan created the answer when she established TriDerma's Certified Genuine Organic Aloe Vera complex.

In its infancy, TriDerma was sold strictly as a specialized skin care product to doctors, estheticians, plastic surgeons and medical supply stores. Knowing that there was so much more her products could do, Vanderlaan set out to directly connect with her customers. Her effort led to the expansion of TriDerma's sales channels, making it easily more accessible to consumers. Without changing its premier medical strength formulas, TriDerma launched its products into retail stores. While TriDerma started out with postsurgical products, Vanderlaan leveraged the Certified Genuine Organic Aloe Vera complex as a base to expand her product lines, creating treatment solutions for: acne, psoriasis, eczema, dry skin, diabetic skin, cold sores, burns, aging skin and infant skin.

Today, TriDerma is growing at a rapid rate. In order to continue providing its customers and retailers with the best customer service possible, TriDerma recently moved from its Anaheim, Calif. headquarters to a larger warehouse facility in Corona, Calif. to meet the demand. A woman-owned family company, TriDerma now has more than 100 product SKUs that are sold nationally and internationally, with no signs of slowing down in the future.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Growing up in a non-affluent family, I learned how to provide for myself at a young age. I taught myself to sew and figured out I was very good at it. This is when I learned that if I wanted something in life, I was going to get it myself. Starting TriDerma, I never took on investors and always made the decisions on my own. This has helped me have full control over the company and 100% ownership. Not many people can say that.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at TriDerma?
Every job I have had or business I have started has groomed me for TriDerma. From being a teacher to a real estate broker, there are many aspects of each that helped shape this company. Working in different fields before TriDerma, I learned how to look at every angle of a situation.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at TriDerma?
When we first started, our flagship product, Intense Fast Healing® Cream, was such a hit that I couldn't believe it actually worked. Vietnam veterans used it on their hard to heal skin irritations, prized horses and pigs had it layered on their skin, and my own personal use never ended. And 23 years later customers still call in raving about it.

Starting your own company is a learning experience in itself. But starting this business, I had no idea where to market the product. The product worked, but it was finding that niche market that took the longest time.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking a career in your industry/to start their own business?
Believe in yourself, in your idea and stay focused. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it, because you can.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
The past 23 years I have put everything into growing TriDerma. Because I enjoy helping the customers find relief like I did, finding their self-confidence.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think that women allow themselves to believe they are not dominant. Women believe in the myth that men must dominate the workplace and in the end women are deterred from being their own boss.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
In all my life, I have not had a mentor guiding me along. From my childhood on, I have been self taught and remained independent. This is my driving force.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
My mother. Her stamina and grit for life is something I have always admired. When we were very young, she became my younger brother's little league coach. There was not any men willing to take the time to coach those kids, and she stepped up to the plate, literally. She did something that she didn't have any idea how to do. She took a chance, even though she might have failed, but she didn't.

What do you want TriDerma to accomplish in the next year?
I would like TriDerma to expand more internationally with our export. It's a big world out there, and everyone has skin! Also, I'd like TriDerma to have a larger presence online.