Yelena Kalendareva CEO of Aneley Cosmetics
My journey began in Khazakhstan (mom is from here). I was born there, but grew up in Uzbekistan (dad is from here). I was always a happy child. It was 3 of us, sisters (our brother was born later, he is the baby in the family). Our parents gave us everything we needed. They always worked very hard. Mom is a great cook as well. We always lived with our grandparents (except for a few years right before we came to this country). Being around different ages influenced us a lot in different ways. I was 12 when we came to the USA. I went to public school for about a year and then we were transferred to a girls Yeshiva. I really wanted to learn about Judaism, unfortunately the teachers at that school didn’t care much about that. None of my questions were answered, being such a curious person, my curiosity was not satisfied. I assumed that that’s how Judaism is and just completely avoided it. I told my parents I wanted to go to public High School. I went. This is where I discovered sooooo much creativity. Everyone were so nice, I joined theatre guild, I played sports, made awesome friends (with many of whom I’m still friends with today).
After graduation I went for psychology. I graduated with honors, but quickly realized during internship how boring it was for me to sit in the office all day. I enrolled in Business and decided to take that route. Wow accounting classes are vicious! How does one sit through it and survive to talk about it. It was painfully boring.
I have always been a self-starter and go-getter, with strong opinions and carefully thought out ideas on improving a business. No matter where I worked, I always climbed very quickly up the ladder to achieve great heights. While at business school, my best friend, Liliya, calls me up and says, “Yelena you should become a Cosmetologist!” and I immediately replied, “Oh I’m not touching anyone’s hair!” She didn’t give up the idea and called me every day for a month to remind me to at least visit the Beauty School. One evening, I decided to go. As I was walking through the floor of future Cosmetologists, I came to one of the main rooms where women were creating color, cuts, creative updo’s, makeup – it was so creative and beautiful, I felt at home. I registered immediately, and gave my final week notice to my employer and never looked back.
As I came home and told my family, they were all against it. No one could understand why I would quit psychology and join the beauty industry. I took a $13,000 loan to pay for Beauty school. As I was there, I started winning competitions. My parents noticed, and little by little, they came on board with my decision. Right before I graduated, I was offered a job in a small, yet very upscale salon called Donna McNally Salon, it was in Greenwich Village. I learned many things there while assisting the main stylist. One year after graduation, my father bought me a salon. He said, “what’s the worst that can happen? If you don’t succeed, you can always go back to working for someone”. This marked my journey of becoming a business owner.
I was 24 years old and life seemed perfect – the business was growing, and I was doing very well for 14 months, until July 29th, 2009, at 4 am, I received, what seemed at the time, one of the darkest calls in my life. My business landlord said, “Yelena, come quick, everything has burned down! Everything is burned!” I was shocked, speechless and crying. As we were pulling up to the salon, the horror went over me – I felt numb. TV news stations were asking me for interviews, and there were police and firefighters everywhere. My world turned upside down. It felt worse because I broke my engagement to a man I was set to marry just a week before this happened (which was a good thing). It was so much pressure on me.
After about 2 weeks of being in total shock, I pulled myself together, printed out resumes and went to Manhattan to look for a job. I went with the one owner who personally knew me from ELMIS (my salon). Simultaneously, I began doing hair for fashion shows. As I was getting pretty known in the field, I met my amazing husband. He was very religious (what are the odds right?). The only problem was that 99% of fashion shows were on Saturday evenings. So, one day, he asked me, ‘I would really appreciate it if you didn’t work on Shabbat, it’s totally up to you, I’m just mentioning it”. He was so kind and supportive that I decided to stop doing the shows and just continued working at the salon in Manhattan. Inside, there was this void that felt so unfulfilled professionally.
I LOVED the fast-paced backstage life at the fashion shows. However, choosing my husband over the fashion shows, was totally worth it. We got married 6 months after we met. I got pregnant, and at 7 months we had a little car accident, and I was placed on bed rest for 2 weeks. As life kept throwing curveballs at me, I just kept going and hoping that things will turn out amazing in the future. At one point, my husband was the only provider, and we were financially tight, so I decided to get a regular job at the office, just to make ends meet. Deep down, I was so upset that nothing I ever started lasted. I had to constantly adjust to life’s situations. As I sat next to the computer searching for a job where I can sit and work, I started crying and praying to G-d to guide me on what I should do. I suddenly received a phone call from a woman, and she asked to book 6 hair appointments for her sister for 6 different events. I hung up and broke into tears. This was a sign from above! I quit working in the salon in Manhattan after we had an accident, so my only flexible option was my dad’s salon in Boropark, Mini Mode. It was in a very religious Jewish orthodox area. Women there did very simple haircuts. I felt so creatively deprived, but I had to keep going. Eventually, I realized that this was all happening for my own future. I fell in love with the people. They were so kind and really helped me grow in many different ways, including religion. I realized that the school I went to was nothing like real
The idea about creating my line of makeup began in my first salon. I began doing facials, waxing and realized that many women asked to apply makeup afterwards. I could not find a safe enough brand to offer them. So, I began going to different beauty expos. It was just a thought when I worked with clients at my first salon, and now it has become a reality. I had 2 of my first kids 12 months apart. When my 2nd was 6 months old, I had another expo. The evening before, I asked Daniel (my husband) not to go anywhere so nothing happens before my big event. Of course, men are men, he said nothing will happened and went to play basketball with his friends. To no one’s surprise he came home with a broken foot. At this point, I just exploded! After everything I had to give up and go through to this point in my professional career, I was not going to give up on this! I started screaming and crying and told him that he will need to figure out how to stay at home with 1.5-year-old and 6-month-old children. I went to that expo!
This was a turning point in my life! I met a small-scale chemist at the show and explained what I needed – he exclaimed, “oh! You need pharmaceutical grade minerals!”. I had no idea what that was, but asked to guide me and we created a line of foundations first. I did not think about creating a makeup brand. It all came from the need of my clients. As time went on clients asked for more products and we kept going. I officially registered my company in February of 2013. I called it Aneley Cosmetics (Aneley is my name, Yelena, backwards). I felt so good – I felt rewarded for all the sacrifices, choices and ups and downs I went through.
Aneley Cosmetics is made with pharmaceutical-grade minerals and organic, natural ingredients, that are perfect for use immediately after skin treatments, such as facials, waxing, microdermabrasion. It is vegan, cruelty-free, PETA certified, Kosher for Passover, natural, organic, ethically sourced minerals, anti-inflammatory and breathable. It does not clog pores, and it’s perfect for sensitive, allergy-prone and problematic skin. Our powder products are also approved for use on Shabbat for Jewish Orthodox women.
Just as many businesses in 2020, we were all hit with the shutdowns, and AGAIN things were turning upside down. My lab was closed for 2 months; Salon was closed until June 22nd. My husband’s business was closed for months. It was difficult. With 4 kids at home, my husband felt terrible not being able to go out and provide. So I pulled myself together and restructured my business so I was more online. Thank Gd lockdowns ended (for the most part), and I was able to go back to work. We became very busy with Aneley and I asked him to work with me. Now he is my right hand in business and we are finally in a good place. My brand went international; I participate in multiple events a month. I have many collaborations, interviews, workshops, podcasts and more lined up.
During the height of the pandemic, I was able to focus on changing the packaging for my powder line. It took a ton of time, negotiations, sampling, waiting, and of course, investments. In April 2021, we launched our Royal packaging for Aneley Cosmetics powder line, that went viral. It was such a successful launch. It makes me so proud that I stuck to it and got women such luxurious packaging for an already clean and healthy product.
The latest package was a dream come true! I wanted to upgrade the packaging for years. During the pandemic of 2020, I was completely overwhelmed with 4 kids, a husband, setting up 2 home offices for my husband and me, 3 out of 4 kids on zoom asking for five hundred things a day, and a nursing baby, but this is when I connected with manufacturers and found the perfect packaging. I had a packaging designer create boxes for them, found a luxurious printing company to print boxes and finally launched before Passover, in April of 2021! It was a hit! It went viral and loved throughout the world.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is how we react to situations and adjust accordingly. I believe what got me through are 2 things: my strong belief in G-d and the fact that I am a very positive person by nature and choice. Our products are in stores, many makeup artists use them and offer them to clients, and we attend multiple in-person and online events. I even have clients place the new packaging in a visible space in their homes as decor!
In 2017 Aneley Cosmetics was one of the products that were given to celebrities at the Golden Globe awards. I was invited to different events and made several appearances. It was amazing! In 2017 I learned about a thing called “Shabbat makeup”. I began researching and learned a lot about it, and I needed Rabbinical approval to sell it for use on Shabbat. It was a GIANT struggle – very political. Too much red tape to go through, but I fought and got my approval in August of 2018. This was a huge achievement for Jewish religious women who cannot use traditional liquids and cream makeup on Shabbat, due to 39 laws.
Since creating my private Beauty community on Facebook, called Aneley Cosmetics Beauty, where I teach makeup techniques to everyday woman, I realized there is a demand to learn how to apply makeup for busy women. I created a very detailed self-guided course on how to apply makeup. I also created LIVE workshops. My next step is to educate women in a corporate setting and those entering the working world after staying home. Teaching women about awakening their personal beauty routine, applying makeup in under 5 minutes, and look presentable at any event.
Always put family first, everything else will follow…