Anisa Telwar Kaicker | Crain's San Francisco

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Anisa Telwar Kaicker


Anisa Telwar Kaicker began working for her mother’s import/export company when she was 17 years old. That experience ultimately inspired Kaicker to build a company of her own, and in 1992, she founded Anisa International. The company now produces more than 25 million makeup and cosmetic brushes a year for brands such as L’Oreal, bareMinerals, Sephora and Mac. Anisa International has offices in Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, China and London. Although cosmetic brushes remain the core of Anisa International, Kaicker has branched out to body brushes, storage solutions and brush cleaning and care products.

The Mistake:

When I start business relationships, I sometimes don’t continually assess them, asking where we are today and how are we doing. That happened early on in my career with a gentleman who had a manufacturing facility in China.

He came from this industry of manufacturing, designing and sourcing makeup brushes. I came from an international trade background, so I understood how to import goods into the United States. I could also handle the marketing, and I understood how to work with beauty companies that were emerging.

I worked with him beginning in 1987 and continued the partnership when I founded Anisa International in 1992. It was a good partnership. For 15 years, we were able to work together. I thought we had such a close and trusting relationship, so I didn’t put anything in writing between us.

However, the industry started to change. It wanted to go direct to China for products and didn’t want anyone in the middle. I was in the middle. My partner didn’t protect me and around 2002, he circumvented our relationship. That forced me to look at my business and see how I could directly manufacture products instead of being in the middle.

As a business, you need to have a check with your strategic partners, just like you have employee reviews.

The Lesson:

My partner and I should have sat down every year and assessed our relationship, but we were busy building the business. I learned that even if things are working, you need to really pay attention and not ignore the strategic partners that are in your business relationships. Are the partnerships that we have today the right partnerships?

A partnership assessment is a business review. We do that with our customers, where you have a scorecard. Are we still happy with the relationship? Are we still aligned?

I look at a partnership as we’re each concerned about each other’s resources. I think it’s really important, whether it’s the end of the year or the beginning of the year, that everyone sits down and is transparent. They talk about what’s working or not. It creates an opportunity for open communication and success and the ability to work through challenges immediately.

That’s what I’m still learning. It’s one of the most difficult things in a business when you sell product. If we have a relationship with an accountant now, we just let it continue without assessment. People do that. If a partnership worked 10 years ago or five years ago, people just let it happen. But as a business, you need to have a check with your strategic partners, just like you have employee reviews.

One of the biggest lessons I learned was also that I needed to own my supply chain. Not everyone has to own their supply chains, but it’s about setting out the rules of engagement. Those have to be clear when you’re selling a product and innovating.

Follow Anisa International on Twitter at @AnisaIntl

Photo by BeeFli Photography

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