“Learn to Listen”—A Serial Entrepreneur Shares the Secrets to Her Success

Meet Divya Gugnani, the queen of clean beauty.

By Langa Chinyoka

Being an entrepreneur is in Divya Gugnani’s DNA. She came to the industry from an unconventional path, pivoting from investment banking and private equity to the aesthetics-driven world of beauty. While it’s a transition that’s uncommon on most resumes, her title, the “accidental entrepreneur,” is only a small part of her story.

Now the founder of the clean beauty brand, Wander Beauty, Divya’s trajectory serves as a powerful reminder that at every step in our journey, we’re exactly where we need to be. As is true for many passionate, successful founders, Divya’s current venture was inspired by the challenges she was facing in her own life. She set out to create a solution for busy people seeking out clean beauty essentials. And Wander Beauty sits squarely at the intersection of these two pursuits.

“Our goal was to help streamline the modern woman’s routine so she can spend less time getting ready and more time doing what she loves.”

As is conveyed in the intention behind each of her products, Divya’s lifestyle prioritizes this pairing of efficiency and finding joy in her every day. She limits her social media minutes, works out between meetings, and keeps tech out of her bedroom. With this structure set, she has more time for her children, more space for spontaneous creativity, and the bandwidth to feed a food-shopping obsession. Did I mention she swims at night?

Just as Divya knows how to build a company, she knows how to build a life. In both, she’s guided by her intuition and she’s not afraid to do things differently. This makes for a routine that offers both focus and flexibility. Dive into the inspiration below.

On Building an Unconventional Career

You left a successful career in investment banking and private equity to launch your business. What inspired you to take the leap?

I left my career in finance to become an entrepreneur and successfully started four different businesses. Prior to starting Wander Beauty, I worked at QVC after I sold my previous company to them. But while there, I found that I missed entrepreneurship. Ultimately, I saw a problem in my own beauty routine and decided to launch a business to solve that problem.

What was the impetus behind launching Wander Beauty, and what was the goal?

I was a working mom and had two kids in two years. I was more time-starved than ever, doing my makeup on the subway, my skincare at the gym, and my hair at my work desk. I realized that my products and routines were not made for beauty in motion: There were too many products, an arsenal of “must-have” tools, and products housed in packaging that was too heavy, bulky, and fragile to take beyond my vanity. I needed high-performance products that saved me time in my day and space in my beauty bag.

In 2015, Lindsay Ellingson and I launched Wander Beauty to create clean, effortless essentials you reach for every day. Our goal was to help streamline the modern woman’s routine so she can spend less time getting ready and more time doing what she loves. 

The Lessons She’s Learned Along the Way

What values have driven the direction of Wander Beauty?

I believe in innovating, not imitating. When we first set out to launch mascara, everyone discouraged us because it was already a very crowded space. But we knew that we had something special with our mascara so we trusted our gut and went forward with the launch.

We innovated in the formula, delivery system, packaging, and the wand. Both our Unlashed Volume and Curl Mascara and Mile High Club™ Volume and Length Mascara are now multi-award winners.

Pursuing Passion, Finding Success

If you could pin your success down to one thing, what would that be?

I always trust my gut and always follow my intuition.

What’s your favorite piece of career advice?

Learn to listen. Active listening is a vital skill for any leader. It builds and strengthens relationships between customers and brands, and between managers and employees.

Divya Gugnani Shares Her Morning Routine

What does a typical morning look like for you?

I start my day with ginger water and transcendental meditation to calm my mind and body and give me the strength I need to focus for the day. Then I empty my inbox and do some stretching before I drop the kids off at school. I often stop by the grocery store on the way home because I’m obsessed with food shopping and always trying new and interesting recipes. Then when I get home I start my workday. 

What do you eat for breakfast?

I love to make this homemade yogurt with granola and fruit.

Take us through your beauty routine.

I don’t wash my face in the morning. I start by just splashing my face with warm water and then spritz my face with Mist Connection Essence and Toner. I finish my skincare routine with Sight C-er Vitamin C Concentrate and sunscreen.

Wander Beauty Mist Connection Essence and Toner

Missed Connection is a bi-phase formula that combines essence and toner to balance and moisturize skin in a single step.

Mist Connection Essence and Toner, $40

Wander Beauty Sight C-er Vitamin C Concentrate

When protection pairs with a skin-brightening formula, you know good things are in store. Plus, it absorbs into the skin quickly, so you’re not left with a sticky residue.

Sight C-er Vitamin C Concentrate, $42

For makeup, I start with Dualist Matte and Illuminating Concealer and then add some color to my lips and cheeks with Double Date Lip and Cheek. Lastly, I swipe on a few coats of Upgraded Lashes Treatment Mascara. These products keep me ready for the day.

Dualist Matte and Illuminating Concealer

If your weekday mornings are more hectic than calm, this is the double-duty concealer to add to your routine. With a crease-proof formula, you’re guaranteed all-day coverage minus the dreaded cakey appearance.

Dualist Matte and Illuminating Concealer, $30

Double Date Lip and Cheek

With a lightweight feel and statement-making formula, the resulting impact of this hardworking duo is a look that’s sleek, sheer, and totally effortless.

Double Date Lip and Cheek, $24

Upgraded Lashes Treatment Mascara

While you might think that most mascaras are one in the same, this take, as is alluded to in the name, is a complete game-changer in the lash-boosting game. While the bumped-up volume is immediately apparent, this mascara plays the long game, ensuring healthier lashes with every use.

Upgraded Lashes Treatment Mascara, $26

Divya Gugnani on phone working

Getting Dressed With Divya Gugnani

What’s your daily uniform?

I wear workout clothes or loungewear every day. I love Giapenta, ThirdLove, Athleta, and Heroine Sport. My daily uniform has totally changed since quarantine because I don’t have to go into the office since I’m working remotely from Miami.

What’s on your favorite getting-ready soundtrack?

“Tusa” by KAROL G and Nicki Minaj, and “Dákiti” by Bad Bunny and Jhay Cortez.

What about your favorite books?

Divya Gugnani morning routine

Rituals and Products for a Smooth, Successful Morning

What do you always keep on your nightstand?

I like to keep my nightstand clear so I don’t have any distractions. I keep a pen and paper in my drawer for any late-night ideas because I don’t like to touch my phone at night. My bedroom is a haven for me. I don’t do any work there and I don’t have a TV or any electronics in the room. I do, however, keep my phone since I use it for my alarm, but it’s on Do Not Disturb mode. 

What are your morning media rituals?

I like to focus on my work first thing in the morning, so I hold off on checking my Instagram, the news, and other media until later on in the day. I really enjoy reading The New York Times every single day. 

Do you work out in the morning?

I try to fit in a mid-morning or lunchtime workout if I have a break between meetings. I alternate between weights circuits and cardio (elliptical, treadmill, biking, or spinning). My favorite exercise is swimming and I usually swim in the evenings after work. It’s a relaxing way to end the day while getting a good workout in.

What do you do to stay present and grounded?

I thank God once a day, every day for everything that I have: health, a roof over my head, hot food to feed my kids, and that I’m still able to spend time with both of my parents. I think that the best thing I can do is express gratitude every day and there’s not one day that goes by without me thanking God.

Sentence Finishers

I never leave the house without: my Dualist Matte and Illuminating Concealer. You never know who you’re going to see.

If there were more hours in the day, I would: exercise every day.

Healthiest morning habit: morning meditation.

Worst morning habit: checking Instagram.

One thing I want to be known for is: helping others.

The biggest sacrifice I’ve made for my career is: missing special moments in my children’s lives.

The one thing I fear the most is: being irrelevant.

When I feel that fear, I: read everything and stay current with what’s going on in the world around me.

The book I always recommend is: The Ride of a Lifetime.

The top traits you need to succeed in life are: hard work, confidence, and intellectual curiosity.