Hoya Highlight: Christy Prunier (C'90)

Christy Prunier (C'90)

CEO, Willagirl, LLC

Describe your current position and what led you to your job:

I am the founder and CEO of Willagirl, LLC—a line of natural skincare products for girls.

Willagirl came to being out of one of those quiet but extraordinary moments between mother and daughter. My daughter Willa, then 8, was taking a bath and wanted to know why she had to use her little sister's "babyish" products to wash her skin. She wanted something just for her. I thought it would be only a question of going to one store to find natural skincare products she would love to use. But, we couldn't find anything anywhere except the pink bubblegum chemical products made in China.

This made me think of my own skincare story. I had bad acne as a tween/teen that I treated by baking in the sun thinking it would dry out my acne. Then, I overtreated breakouts with the strongest products I could find. Cut to age 29 and my first facial skin cancer. This is when I got serious about taking care of my skin. But every dermatologist said the same thing: "Christy, what is going on with your skin is a direct result of what you did or didn't do when you were younger, and 80 percent of lasting damage happens by age 18."

I didn't want Willa or other girls to repeat my story. So, Willagirl was born.


What has been the most rewarding moment in your career?

Getting into Target.

What is the best career advice you have received?

"Next." My mentor, Marcia Nasatir, from my days making films in Hollywood always said "next" on Monday morning if we had a disappointing opening weekend at the box office. You learn from your mistakes but you move on.

What would you recommend to someone interested in working in your field?

Research, research and more research. Before we began formulating our first product, we spent a year talking to girls and understanding their behaviors—or lack of behaviors toward taking care of their skin. Then, we used that information to ensure the girls would love using the products. Having spent that year doing focus groups on everything from packaging to product, ensured our products made a mark when we launched last year.

What challenges have you faced and how did you successfully manage one situation?

Starting Willagirl, or any entrepreneurial endeavor, is not for those who are risk averse. We had to raise $500,000 to fund our launch. It required us to pull our kids out of the private schools they loved, move out of the city and secure an SBA loan using our new home as collateral. It was not an easy decision. It is stressful. However, the kids are thriving living outside New York City and that makes me very happy.

What skills are necessary or what prepared you the most for your career?

Tenacity (Georgetown), creative thinking (Hollywood) and picking the right team.

What professional associations have aided in your professional development?

Individuals—namely mentors more than professional associations—were key to any success I enjoyed in Hollywood and with starting Willagirl. In fact, my daughter Willa was named after my Hollywood mentor's granddaughter.

If you could have another career what would it be?

I miss working with creative writers and directors. I'd go back to being a film executive in another life, but it demands a lifestyle that doesn't work well with having a family. So, it would have to be in another lifetime.

How did your time at Georgetown University influence you and your career path?

I worked for legendary Hollywood Producer Mike Medavoy. I got that job because he liked that I was an English literature major—I was a voracious reader, and I could identify great storytelling and characters. It was our shared passion that informed my job every day. Not a day goes by that I don't think how deeply my four years at Georgetown informed the person I am and the passions I live.