Roché, Joyce 1947–
Joyce Roché 1947–
Joyce Roché, president and chief operating officer of Carson Products, began her high-flying corporate career in the marketing division of Avon. In her 19 years with the company, she rose from an entry-level marketing job to become vice president of global marketing. According to Caroline V. Clarke, writing in Black Enterprise, Roché “glided from one groundbreaking marketing opportunity to another, becoming a virtual case study in ‘rising to the top.’”
In 1995, Roché became executive vice president of global marketing for Carson, manufacturer of ethnic personal care products, including the well-known brand Dark & Lovely hair relaxer. Less than a year later, Roché was promoted to her current position at Carson, a company valued at $65 million in 1997. Carson, based in Savannah, Georgia, is one of the few publicly traded companies under African American management, and the only one solely dependent on black customers.
As one of the first African American women to make it into the executive suite, Roché has long been held up as a role model. She has been featured in Business Week as one of the “50 Top Women in Business,” and Business Month selected her as one of the “Top 100 Women to Watch in Corporate America.” Most recently, along with three other executives, she graced the cover of the August 4, 1997, issue of Fortune magazine, under the headline “The New Black Power.”
Joyce Roché was born on March 16, 1947, in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, to John Roché, a farmer, and Julia Roché, a domestic. When she was two, her father was killed in a hit-and-run accident, an incident that Roché still recalls with great bitterness; afterward, her mother moved the family of eleven children to New Orleans, to be near relatives. Roché was raised in her mother’s house as well as the house of her aunt and uncle, who had no children. “I basically grew up as a poor kid in the South,” Roché said in a personal interview.
Roché attended various public schools in New Orleans, working during the summers to earn extra money. At McDonald 35 High School, she was active in a wide range of student organizations, including the cheerleading squad. After graduating from high school in 1965, she attended Dillard University, where she majored in math education, planning to become an educator. At the time, opportunities for African Americans in higher education seemed very limited, Roché said in a personal interview; most chose either education or medicine. “I didn’t even think about the corporate environment,” she said.
In her senior year of college, however, she suddenly began to reconsider her career goals. “Some friends were planning to go to business school, and it was at a
At a Glance…
Born Joyce M. Roché, March 16, 1947, St. Gabriel, LA; daughter of John Roché, a farmer, and Julia Roché, adomestic; single, no children, Education: B.A., math education, Pillard Univ., 1970; M.B.A., Columbia Univ., 1972; Stanford Univ., Senior Exec Program, 1991.
Career: Assistant to business mgr., CUNY, 1972-73. Positions held at Avon, 1973-79: assoc. merchandising sales planner, U.S., 1973-74; merchandising sales planner, U.S., 1974-75; senior merchandising sales planner, U.S., 1975-76; group merchandising counselor, Jewelry & Gifts, 1976-77; manager of merchandising, Avon Canada, 1977-79; manager of merchandising, Gifts & Jewelry, U.S., 1979. Positions held at Revlon, 1979-81: dir. of marketing, Polished Ambers, 1979-80; dir.of marketing, Classic Revlon, 1980-81. Positions held at Avon, 1981-94: director of Gift & Decorative, 1981-83; dir. of consumer promotions, 1983-84; group dir., Fragrance, Bath & Special Markets, 1984-85; vice president/general manager, Gift & Decorative, 1985-87; vice president, U.S. Merchandising & Brochures, 1987-88; vice president, Cosmetics, Fragrance & Toiletries, 1988-89; vice president, Product Marketing, 1989-91; vice president, Product Marketing & Package Design, 1991 -92; sen tor marketing officer, U.S., 1992-93; vice president, Global Marketing, 1993-94. Positions held at Carson Products: exec, vp, Global Marketing, 1995-96; pres., chief operating officer, 1996.
Awards: NAACP Corporate Special Recognition Award, I 1993; Distinguished Career Award, Dollars and Sense magazine.
Member: Board of Trustees, Dillard University; Board of Trustees, Queens College, Hew York; Board of Directors, Cosmetics Executive Women.
Addresses: Home— Savannah, G. A. Office— Carson Products, P.O. Box 22309, Savannah, GA 31403.
time when many major universities were recruiting blacks for their graduate programs,” Roché told Essence magazine. “After talking to them, I thought,’Why couldn’t I go to business school?’ I didn’t think those guys were any smarter than I was. And I didn’t see teaching as a major growth career.”
After graduating from Dillard in 1970, Roché won a fellowship to Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business, where she concentrated on marketing. She earned her M.B.A. in 1972, then worked briefly as a research assistant to the business manager of the City University of New York. The following year, she landed an entry-level job at Avon: associate merchandising sales planner.
Over the next five years, Roché received five promotions, until in 1979 she was recruited by rival cosmetics company Revlon. Two years later, Avon lured her back by offering her a position as director of the gift and decorative market. After two more promotions, Roché was named vice president of the gift and decorative marketing division in 1985. Roché was responsible for selecting and marketing the figurines, candles, ornaments, and other “impulse” items that Avon sells—an arm of the business worth $150 million.
Roché continued to rise in the company until she reached the position of vice president of product marketing for Avon. In this position, Roché was responsible for the strategic direction and development of all of Avon’s U.S. line—a total of 500 products, from cosmetics and fragrances to jewelry and gifts.
One of her major successes was the 1990 launch of Undeniable, the largest spring fragrance introduction in the history of the company. As part of the marketing plan, Roché asked Billy Dee Williams to be the celebrity spokesperson for the product. The decision was doubly risky: it was unusual enough to use a male spokesperson to endorse a woman’s fragrance, let alone an African American star for a non-ethnic product. “It was the first time any major company used a black celebrity to promote a general market fragrance,” Roché told Black Enterprise. The strategy worked; first-year sales totaled $20 million, and Undeniable remains one of Avon’s top five fragrances in the U.S. market.
Roché also was responsible for the launch of ANEW, the first commercial product to incorporate Alpha Hydroxy Acid. ANEW became the largest-selling skin care product in Avon’s history, generating over $38 million in its first year and $55 million in its second.
In 1993, as Avon looked to expand its share of the international cosmetics market, Roché was promoted to the new position of vice president of global marketing. She successfully introduced two strong U.S. brands, ANEW skin care and Avon Color cosmetics, to the international market. She also led the development of new brands of foundation and skin care exclusively for the global market.
By late 1993, however, conflicts arose within the U.S. marketing division, which, as Avon’s largest market, wanted to set policy for all markets. When Roché accepted the global marketing position, she thought she would have complete autonomy from Avon U. S. for both the development and management of global brands. However, Roché was told to report to the head of the U.S. group—a position she had previously held.
Despite the prestigious job title and six-figure salary, Roché decided that the lack of autonomy in her position was unacceptable. By this time, Roché had already held every marketing position within Avon, and further career progress within the company seemed impossible. Although she had initially expected to work for Avon until retirement, Roché realized that her career had reached a plateau. In October of 1994, after 19 years at Avon, Roché decided to resign—even though she did not have another job lined up.
By August of 1995, Roché had found her new job: executive vice president of global marketing for Georgia-based Carson Products. The company manufactures personal care products designed for the black community, including Dark & Lovely hair colorings and relaxers and the Magic shaving product line. The new position offered Roché responsibility for every aspect of Carson’s marketing, as well as an important general management role.
According to the August 4, 1997, issue of Fortune, “Few companies have undergone so great a transformation in so little time as Carson Inc.” Until 1995, it was a privately held company with a white management team, and an elderly white owner who still referred to his customers as “Negroes.” That year, it was taken over by Dr. Leroy Keith, former president of Morehouse College, who put together an investor group to buy the company for $96 million. Keith then assembled a management team of experienced black corporate executives—a key member being Roché.
Next, Keith decided to take Carson public, both in the U.S. and on the Johannesburg Exchange. Carson is now one of the few publicly traded companies under African American management. Only about a dozen such companies exist in the U.S., and of these, only Carson is solely dependent on black customers.
In June of 1996, less than a year after joining Carson, Roché was promoted to president and chief operating officer, with total responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the $65 million company. With a staff of more than 400 in Savannah and South Africa, Roché oversees such key divisions as sales, marketing, operations, and research and development.
Roche’s priority is to secure the company’s status as industry leader in ethnic personal care products, and to build the company’s business internationally. “When people look at the ethnic market in the U.S., they think it’s small,” Roché said in a personal interview. “However, you have to realize that there are 900 million people of African descent in the world, so there really is a very large potential market.” With a new and challenging job to learn, Roché is not sure what the future holds. “Never in my career have I been able to answer the question, where do you want to be in five or ten years. If I had, I probably would’ve missed a lot of opportunities that came my way,” Roché told Black Enterprise. “Now, I feel that I’m ready for the opportunities as they surface. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m definitely in a different place—literally and figuratively.”
Black Enterprise, August 1991, p. 39; February 1996, p. 72.
Essence, September 1986, p. 125.
Fortune, August 4, 1997, p. 55.
Joyce Roché biography, Carson Products, 1998.
Joyce Roché personal résumé, 1994.
Personal interview with Joyce Roché, January 6, 1998.
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