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Dramatically Different: Ruzwana Bashir, Entrepreneur

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In 1968, when Clinique introduced Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion, the product was the first of its kind to offer super-light, unscented hydration for all types of skin, whether dry, oily, or combination. Crafted by a dermatologist (another first!), Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion—or DDML, as it soon came to be called—shook up the industry and the then-standard of thick, heavily fragranced creams. It was, in a word, different. Disruptive. Distinctive.

This year marks 45 years since the iconic lotion hit shelves. In celebration of DDML (and now, the updated version, Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+), we partnered with Clinique to spotlight three inspiring, energetic, and determined women who are doing exactly what the butter-yellow bottle did so many years ago: changing the game. First up? British-born, San Francisco-based beauty/brains combo Ruzwana Bashir, the 29-year-old founder of travel website Peek.com, which aims to simplify the way we plan our trips.

Name: Ruzwana Bashir, Founder, Peek.com

Her background: Born in Yorkshire, England to Pakistani-immigrant parents

Her passion: “I was always the explorer, the person that didn’t have any limits—I still don’t. I’d always had a passion and knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and build something from scratch.”

Her path: Studied philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford; became president of the prestigious Oxford Union debating society; went on to investment-banking and private-equity gigs at Goldman Sachs and Blackstone Group (respectively) before earning her M.B.A at Harvard as a Fulbright Scholar. Worked at startups (Gilt Groupe and Art.sy) before founding Peek.com in 2012.

A woman in a man’s world: Bashir was the first woman to be hired onto her team at Blackstone Group. “In a lot of areas of business—whether it’s finance, whether it’s tech—you tend to have a lot more men. I think I felt like I needed to act like everyone else around me, so I definitely picked up traits of being more confident, being more aggressive, when I was there. As the first woman being hired into a situation, you desperately want to make sure that people don’t think, ‘Oh, well, she’s a woman—she’s not going to be as good.’ You’re there, trying extra hard to prove yourself.”

Her company: “The big idea for Peek came when I was planning a weekend in Istanbul with my friends for my birthday. I was struggling to figure out what we should do, so I was asking friends, browsing the web, buying all sorts of guidebooks. Finally, I was able to come up with a big list of things that we might want to do, and from that, I had to figure out who to do it with: find a guide, call them and see if they were available to help, book some of the experiences we wanted to have. The whole process took over 20 hours. I thought, ‘That’s ridiculous! I’m going away for a weekend. It’s not a good use of time.’ And then I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a one-stop shop where you could discover what to do when you travel and then actually book it?’” That’s Peek.com.

Work-life balance: “The last few years have definitely been work-focused, and that’s just because I derive a lot of joy and passion from my company. But I also have a lot of people on my team who are relying on me to help build something that’s going to be truly disruptive and world-changing. The reality of a startup is that you have an amazing team, you’ve taken money from fantastic investors, and so you owe it to yourself to absolutely put everything you can into it, within reason. Yes, I work sixteen hours a day, six days a week, but I do take that one day off to go out and just do nothing or whatever it is I want to do. And every now and again, I’ll try to take a couple of days off to completely switch off because I think that’s important for my creativity, my perspective. Right now, I’m probably sacrificing the social and ‘life’ elements and focusing very much on work; that will change over time.”

Her advice: “I absolutely believe it’s important to hire people who are smarter than you. And ‘smart’ is not just ‘book smart,’ which is essential to understand. It can be about being particularly creative, or, you know, having persistence and grit and really just getting things done.”

Her lesson: “You have to accept what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. That way, you can go and find the help you need; you’re never going to build a company on your own. My background is in economics and I’m really good at financial analysis, but I’ve never studied computer science, and if you’re building a technology company, you better make sure that you have somebody working on it who has. Which is why I have a co-founder, Oskar Bruening, who is our CTO [chief technology officer]. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that a company is about a whole group of people, and that group of people—your team—is what makes everything. At the end of the day, you might have the vision that they’re aiming towards, but without them, you wouldn’t be able to do it. So you’re really just helping your team get better and giving them the resources they might need to get to where they want to go.”

Her routine: “I’ve had the exact same beauty routine for five years—it makes my life a lot easier. For me it's about cleansing every morning and evening before bed, applying SPF, and I put on my makeup during my commute to work, which doesn't take more than three or four minutes. And that's it.”

—as told to ITG

Photographed by Emily Weiss in New York on July 8, 2013. Part 1 of a Clinique-sponsored series celebrating the launch of Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+.

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  • http://lilyonfillmore.com/ Valerie

    So inspiring. Bookmarking Peek for future use! Thanks for sharing.

    http://www.lilyonfillmore.com

  • Lana

    Wow! I swear reading articles about such amazing women like Ruzwana make the climb to success seem so far away as a college student. It is definitely motivating. Congratulations on all of your success and pursuing your passion, Ruzwana.

  • SV

    She is so beautiful I cry.

  • PS

    Ruzwana's top shelf- her brain.

    • ritournelle

      Well said! I can't believe she's accomplished so much at her age. Very inspiring!

    • Leetoki

      Exactly. Super beautiful, super smart, and a hard worker to boot. Realistically, that gorgeous face is almost irrelevant in such a long list of accomplishments at such a young age. So admirable.

  • guest

    her eyes!! so gorge!!!

  • gigi

    love what shes wearing she is absolutely beautiful and her story is inspiring thanks for sharing it! xx. gigi. http://www.gigikkitchen.blogspot.com

  • ITGNick

    Hey J, Though the Met and Cloisters are technically "free," both have a recommended admission price of $25, which is the cost of the NYC museum package sold on Peek, from what I can tell. Don't think they're trying to pull a fast one on you!

    Nick

    • J

      Fair enough point Nick. I guess it's more an issue about making the "recommended" aspect more transparent (an issue at the Museum as well quite frankly).

      • 16mmlle

        Here here!

      • pamb

        The reason some museums have a 'suggested' price is so they are not off limits to those who truly cannot afford to see great works of art.If you don't support museums financially, they won't be around forever. If you can't afford $25, give as much as you can.

        • Michelle

          From what I understand though, the Met is loaded and not in need of funds. Other museums, yes.

  • TT

    It would be great to know the exact cleanser, SPF sunscreen, mascara, eyeliner, bronzer and lip stain!!

  • Catherine

    Absolutely loved this post!

  • Anna

    Thing what i like is that here are so much about her, her way and then just a tiny bit about her beauty routine.

    http://www.affecteepar.com

  • http://www.vibrantbeautyblog.com/ Jennifer Monforton

    What a stunning beauty! Really enjoyed the interview- great feature! xo

    -Jen

    http://www.vibrantbeautyblog.com

  • Anya B

    I read an article about her in the WSJ I think! She is so inspiring! I liked her because the article mentioned that she preferred Birkins to backpacks. It's so refreshing to see women in technology start-ups!

  • kathS

    Eyebrows.

  • ITGNick

    Hi there, We will definitely be doing a Top Shelf with Ruzwana in the near future, getting into the nitty-gritty of her beauty routine. We wanted to keep this feature focused on her career path and and business advice. Stay tuned!
    Nick

  • hithaonthego

    She's such an inspiration. I had the pleasure of interviewing her for my travel series (here - http://www.hithaonthego.com/en-route-with-ruzwana-bashir/) and adore her. Peek is also incredible!

  • LO

    There have been many articles on this topic. The MET is under fire right now for not disclosing that admission is free. And actually there is a lawsuit about it. http://gothamist.com/2012/11/15/lawsuit_met_is_defrauding_people_wh.php

  • Beverly

    Big fan of Peek and Ruzwana for sure. A force to be reckoned with in SF.
    Beverly
    http://www.thecitizenculture.com

  • Gina

    While I love the Top Shelf segments (product porn), I do appreciate the simplicity of her routine!

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