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We are delighted to share with you our interview “Questions and Answers with Irene FORTE, founder of Forte Skincare and Wellness Director of Rocco Forte Hotels”. 

Carla MARTIN: Please introduce yourself for those who do not know you yet. Kindly tell us about your background and your business? How you decided to create your business?

Irene FORTE: I’m Wellness Director for Rocco Forte Hotels and founder of Irene Forte Skincare. Rocco Forte Hotels is a family-run five star luxury hotel chain. Irene Forte Skincare is a considered, multi-benefit and sustainable skincare line, inspired by Sicily and formulated in Italy.

CM: What was your path to the role you have now?

IF: I spent my school holidays and gap year working in hotels, and a year abroad as Communications Manager at Verdura Resort. After graduating from Oxford University, I enrolled on a 4-month fast-track development programme at Brown’s Hotel. I joined the Rocco Forte Hotels central team in January 2013 as Quality Standards Executive. By the end of 2014, I started to take on work outside of Learning & Development, and particularly in spa and wellness where I launched a new spa concept. In 2018, my role changed to Wellness Director, giving me time to fully focus on this great passion of mine. In December 2018, I launched my own company and skincare line- Irene Forte Skincare. The line was debuted for Rocco Forte Spas as Forte Organics in 2015. After seeing the immediate positive reception to Forte Organics, I wanted to learn more, create more and launch an even bigger line. So you can say that it was 3 years in the making.

CM:  What does a typical working day look like for you?

IF: It really depends. I tend to travel every week to one of the Rocco Forte properties. I often travel to Verdura Resort in Sicily, where I grow many of the ingredients for Irene Forte Skincare and where we have a 4000 square metre spa. We have also just opened two new hotels with spas (Hotel de la Ville in Rome and Torre Maizza in Puglia) so I have been spending a lot of time in these to properties. I also go to my lab for Irene Forte Skincare in Trento, Italy at least once every two months.With all the travel, my days can be very varied!

CM:  Tell us what is your success mindset?

IF: Working hard. Without giving things your all, they will never work.

CM: What was your biggest challenge on the personal side also business side?

IF: On a personal side, balance; I find it challenging to have work-life balance.

On a business side, there is challenges every day, especially with a start-up. I think it is about persevering and never giving up.

CM: I would like to know what is the best advice in business you have been given? May I ask who gave it to you?

IF:  I have had so much amazing advice from a number of people. My father has always taught me that the business world is tough and without working hard and giving it your all, you will never succeed.

CM:  For a young entrepreneur, what advice would you give?

IF: Try and connect and meet with as many experienced people in the industry you are involved in; get as much advice from these individuals as possible.

Surround yourself with the right support network.

Have a team that you can rely on, trust, and that complements your own skill set.

Learn to take criticism and adapt things following feedback.

Things will always go wrong and you just need to be strong enough to keep persevering.

CM: With everything you have achieved, what you would say your greatest achievement is?

IF:  It is always difficult to find your thing, especially when working in a family business. I have found something that I am incredibly passionate about, and that is still complementary to the family business that I love.

CM:  From your entire professional experience, what was your most exciting project up to now?

IF: Definitely launching my eponymous skincare line.

CM: What is your business current focus?

IF: Ensuring the success of our two newest spa openings, which are Irene Forte Skincare-only spas: Torre Maizza Spa in Puglia and De La Ville Spa in Rome. Working on opening two new spas: Rocco Forte Spa in Shanghai and Villa Igea Spa in Palmero. And generally, growing a very strong and successful Irene Forte Skincare-inspired spa brand. My goal is also to continue to secure luxury retailers in key markets (Europe, US and Hong Kong) for Irene Forte Skincare, as well as day spas and clinics.

CM:  What charity do you support?

IF: I have supported a number of charities over the years. Right now, my family and I are supporting Depaul Internaional. Depaul’s work ranges from providing safe shelter, accommodation, food and health services to helping people affected by homelessness receive education, employment and social services.

CM: Who inspires you today?

IF: A number of people! There is a number of amazing individuals in the ‘wellness’ space that I find very inspirational, such as Sue Hamsworth that founded ESPA and Susie Ellis that founded the Global Wellness Summit.

My aunt, Olga Polizzi, is also an inspiration. She has always been my father’s right hand at Rocco Forte Hotels, as well as overseeing all interior design for the hotels. She also has two beautiful hotels of her own (Hotel Endsleigh in Devon and Hotel Tresanton in Cornwall). She is an amazing wife, mother and grandmother, as well as being involved in a number of amazing charities.

My father, Rocco Forte, is also someone that I find very inspirational. After losing his father’s hotel chain with a hostile takeover battle at the age of 52, he decided to set up his own hotel chain the very next day. He is so passionate and dedicated about what he does, and is someone that never gives up even when times might be difficult.

CM: Do you have a secret talent?

IF: I’m still trying to discover my hidden talent.

CM: You found your passion, in your opinion how does everyone find their own passion?

IF: I’m very lucky that I have found my passion, as I know that it is not easy. I would just say, keep searching until you find it, as you will eventually find it.

CM: If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?

IF: I would reverse the damage that we have already done to our environment.

Thank you so much Irene for your time and kindness to answer my questions.