As Chicago cosmetics titan Ulta Beauty unveils its first Michigan Avenue outpost, star CEO Mary Dillon shares the personal passions that keep her inspired and on the move, in the Windy City and beyond.
Reason to smile: CEO Mary Dillon (pictured here at the company’s satellite office in the Loop) has helped grow Ulta Beauty into a multibillion- dollar business.
With eight straight quarters of double-digit sales growth, Bolingbrook-based Ulta Beauty has momentum any company would envy. At the helm of the multi-billion-dollar brand is savvy CEO Mary Dillon, whose experience at major players like McDonald’s, Quaker Oats, and Starbucks is paying big-time dividends for the cosmetics retailer. As Ulta opens its 999th store—a 10,000-plus-square-foot boutique on the Mag Mile—the 56-year-old local resident gets personal about what inspires her, from beauty essentials and the outdoors to making a difference in women’s lives.
Definition of beauty: “‘You but better’ is the best way I can put it; I stole this phrase from one of my daughters: ‘Just do you.’”
Must-have product: The Dyson Supersonic hair dryer. “When you have the kind of hair I do, it takes a while to dry—and this is a game-changer.”
The Ulta advantage: “[We give] shoppers the ability to come in and touch, feel, and experience products and services, and come out feeling great and confident and having had some fun.”
Favorite destination: “Anything that involves being with my family [outdoors in] beautiful locations, like Moab, which is one of the most beautiful parts of our country.”
Ultimate luxury: “The perfect day for me is to go out and run and see the sunrise at one part of Lake Michigan—and then be in Michigan that night and see the sunset on the other side.”
Culture beat: “I was just at the Field Museum exhibit ‘Specimens,’ which brings out all the specimens that have been collected over 120 years and curates them with a beautiful, artistic view. It was one of the most interesting exhibits I’ve seen.”
Travel essential: “I always have my Mizuno running shoes. As a working mother, I haven’t had the ability to tack on an extra day or two [to trips], but I could always get up early, throw on my Mizunos, and run around Paris or Munich or London.”
Make it better: “We’ve created the Ulta Beauty Charitable Foundation [to aid] local causes that support and help women and children. It’s important that we’re growing and doing well, but giving back is important [too].”
If I weren’t a CEO: “I think I’d be in showbiz [laughs]. If there’s ever any opportunity to get up and do karaoke or lead people in a line dance or something, I’m the first person there.”