There isn’t a Black girl around who isn’t familiar with Luster’s Pink Lotion. The brand was there for us throughout our teen and in between years, helping us take care of our hair. And now, in our adult years, the 60-year-old company is helping us take care of our health in more ways than one in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We’re trying to make sure we do the best that we can at this time,” said Senior Brand Manager Resa B. Luster who’s a third generation leader in the family business.
It was Resa who saw the writing on the wall with coronavirus and told her father and uncle, the company’s CEO and Vice President, respectively, that they needed to pivot and begin producing essential items like hand sanitizer –not just for frontline workers, but for their own employees and their families. And that’s exactly what they did.
In continuing our series on Black women and how they are leading their companies and looking out for consumers during coronavirus, Resa talked to us about the unique challenges of operating a family business during this time and why her advice to business owners is “Keep your faith, look for opportunities, keep you passion, keep your hustle, and don’t let anyone stop you, even this pandemic.”
How has Covid-19 affected your role as Senior Brand Manager at Luster’s Pink?
If I was just a regular brand manager, not a family member, I would say everything is easy peasy great. But the fact that it is my family’s business, it’s not a matter of just checking things off of my to-do list. We care about the wellbeing of, first, our coworkers. Unfortunately, [the pandemic] has impacted our business significantly; however I’m very grateful that my father, my uncle, and my aunt who are the owners, actually have a facility where we can manufacture. We produce all of our own goods so we were able to provide our coworkers with hand sanitizer to take home for their families and for their personal use as well. I’m grateful to say here at Luster’s some have been able to keep their jobs and their benefits, but we are challenged like many other companies are at this time.
Tell me about pivoting to produce hand sanitizer for employees as well as local community organizations.
I’ve been obsessed with Covid since it first hit the news. I went to my uncle, who’s our vice president, and my dad’s our CEO and said we have to make hand sanitizer, we have to make some powerful cleaning goods, there’s gong to be a huge demand for it and they were kind of like, “OK, Resa ,what are you talking about? Lo and behold, we just saw a boom and I was like, “I told you guys.” Our R&D team had to put a halt on production of new items we were working on, so it was a pivot, but it was something we knew we could do.
We’re very blessed that we have chemists who are passionate about their position here and also the greater good. We’ve given a lot of hand sanitizer away and we’ve also opened it up so that certain charity organizations can buy cases for a very low amount just so we’re breaking even on the cost of making these goods. We have the Luster’s foundation and what we’ve done throughout the years is provide to those in need through the American Cancer Society; the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago; Social Works, which is Chance the Rapper’s organization where he tries to uplift the inner city and help feed the homeless of Chicago as well. We’ve built 18 drinking wells in Ghana so we’re very big on giving back and when we saw the crisis was going to impact people’s daily lives, especially their health and their finances, we knew we had to become a part of the movement to make a change for the greater good of the world.
What are you doing to take care of yourself in the midst of all of this change and uncertainty?
My fiancé is a finance guy and what we started doing was a series of IG Lives –and we’re going to migrate to Facebook as well –to make sure our people are educated. It upsets me how people don’t really understand how this is going to impact their finances long term. It brings me a great deal of comfort knowing we’re trying to get the right people in place to help people while they’re at home. A lot of people of color don’t realize just because a credit card company says you won’t receive a late fee for your payment does not mean you won’t receive that interest on your credit card. Lets get to the facts so we’re not hurt. Although we have not reached everybody in our community, hopefully we’ve reached enough where they can go tell others. Although we’re still selling products, our thing is to make sure our community is good.
What are your hopes for what life looks like when this pandemic passes?
We all know that in Chicago’s south side and west side we have some interesting things happening with us. That’s where my family is from and I hope we learn to value one another more, stop the violence, and realize life is too short. I hope that we also appreciate life. I hope that we learn to take advantage of certain opportunities, even if they may not be ideal or the best in hopes that they will get us to where we want to be in life. I hope that we just appreciate outside. Unfortunately, in Chicago, a lot of the violence happens when the weather is nice. So hopefully with us being cooped up in the house, I hope that when we go outside we learn to value it. There are kids throughout the Chicago area who their parents, out of love and fear when its nice outside, say, you cannot go outside and hang out on the block. Like everybody from Chicago knows, a bullet doesn’t know any names. So I hope we can just come together as a people.