Szilvia Hickman, Owner, Szép Élet/Ilike Organic Skin Care

The company co-founder comes clean about her work, life and penchant for Friends.

Darren and Szilvia Hickman

Szilvia Hickman's obsession with skin care began when she was a teenager growing up in Budapest, Hungary. All too aware of the dermal concerns affected by her age group, she decided to become an esthetician and help clients resolve their skin problems and associated self-esteem issues. “It’s typical in Hungary for girls and boys to start visiting an esthetician for monthly facials
when the hormones kick in and the pimples start showing up,” explains Hickman.

In 2006, Hickman and her life partner Darren launched Szép Élet (which means “Beautiful Life” in Hungarian), the exclusive North American distributor of Ilike Organic Skin Care. Ilike’s name is a tribute to the products’ original formulator, herbalist and biochemist Ilcsi Molnár, “Aunt Ilike”, who passed away in 2013. Hickman describes Molnár as a “true visionary, who dedicated her life to the development and advancement of natural remedies, as well as the improvement of worldwide aesthetics knowledge and practices.”

Hickman attributes the products’ efficacy to the fact that they’re made using whole, nutrient-rich, raw pulp to yield the highest possible active content. “As soon as I experienced my first facial
using our AHA Fruit Peel/Hungarian Paprika Gel Treatment combo, I was hooked!” she says.

The U.S. market was hooked too, thanks in part to the brand’s international pedigree. “Our products were created nearly 60 years ago and had already been a market leader in Hungary for decades. It was only when I moved to the U.S. that I realized how much Eastern European aesthetics practices and skincare products are respected here,” Hickman explains.

What keeps the brand successful in today’s competitive market? Hickman cites her “wonderful, talented and experienced team” at company HQ in Indianapolis and around North America. She
too remains hands-on at every stage. “Customer satisfaction is my passion, and that involves every bit of how I run my business,” she says. “I believe that a good manager should be able to successfully perform any process, even if it’s not part of their daily responsibility. That way they get to understand their colleagues’ challenges, and truly appreciate their ideas and achievements.”—Lesley McCave

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Convincing people that taking care of their skin is not only an aesthetic objective but that if they follow an all-natural, antioxidant intensive skincare regimen it will contribute to their total well-being too.
What's your earliest memory?
Falling out of a second-story window at the age of five and spending the entire summer in bed in a full-leg cast.
Who would you most like to meet/have met?
Jacques Cousteau, David Attenborough or the ‘Trimates’: Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall and Birute Galdikas.
What's your personal mantra?
Always pick the most natural solution.
What’s the No. 1 reason clients should choose organic skin care?
Research shows that organically grown herbs, fruits and vegetables have a substantially (20% to 40%) higher antioxidant content than conventionally grown plants. Equally important is that the skin is our largest organ, and it absorbs products like a sponge. Many chemical ingredients are also harmful to the body and, unfortunately, aren’t (yet) regulated by the FDA—even if they’re banned in other countries.
What advice would you give to your younger, just-starting-out self?
Don’t do what you believe people would admire you for, or what would bring you more money, if it doesn’t bring you so much pleasure that you look forward to going to work every day. Do what you love and success will come.
What’s your favorite film, TV show or book?
I like all funny movies, and I'm a huge Friends fan. Ask me anything about those six!
To what do you attribute Ilike’s continued success?
The result of the care and attention we pay to the quality of our ingredients and finished products. They look and smell great, but the No.1 goal with any new development is efficacy. No new Ilike product is ever introduced to the market if it hasn’t been proven to bring results.
What’s the best career decision you ever made?
Focusing initially on foreign trade, because that led to a career outside of Hungary and one in international business. But my husband would say it was marrying him!
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
Without fail, I cry if a film doesn’t have a happy ending.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love snorkeling and diving. That’s what relaxes me the most. Enjoying underwater life, listening to the droning of the mass of sea water in my ears, while admiring the colorful and peaceful environment of a (healthy!) coral reef. I'm lucky enough that every member of my family shares this love with me, so we have the best vacations.
Who is your mentor?
My husband. He has taught me so much in life and in business. I'm a much more analytical manager now. I remain calm under stress and make more thought-over decisions. He has calmed me down in the past 17 years so I could mature into a more successful person in all fields.
What was the last good film you saw?
The Revenant. What a great presentation of raw life and nature!
What was your last splurge?
A diving vacation with my family in the remote Caribbean.
What do you miss most about your home country?
All the fun; the joyful and cultural daily experiences. Budapest is a city of fun. Ask anyone who has visited!