Stellar Angeleno: InStyler Brands Head of Operations, Arin Meyer

Life is an incredible journey. It is also filled with trials, tribulations and outright battles. More simply put: Seldom is the journey easy. This is why stopping to recognize the progress of those fighting to be great is so important to Dan Fugardi, a Navy veteran and today’s Chairman & CEO of major beauty conglomerate, InStyler brands. 

After fighting off life’s onslaught of challenges, Dan has a textbook success story: Upon his exit from the military, he entered LA by parachute with nothing but a vision. He quickly learned the rarity of honesty, the nightmares of bad business, and how bad the setbacks can outweigh the wins. With stubborn determination and taking lessons from each set back, he pressed on, staying true to his entrepreneurial vision and now leads a high-profile company responsible for delivering tens of millions of beauty tools worldwide.

It comes as no surprise that this CEO feels a great responsibility to coach and guide those finding their way, passionately sounding the horn for those putting points on the board. He characterizes the definition of a winner by integrity, perseverance, and potential. Dan’s favorite type of people are those determined to excel in business but are deeply driven by becoming an asset for the betterment of the world.

For the 15th Anniversary of InStyler, Dan enthusiastically sets out with several initiatives to recognize noteworthy growth, achievement, and exemplary leadership. This marks the start of one monthly series in which InStyler spotlights local rising stars of Los Angeles who are enroute to a realm of massive magnitude in their career. Starting with his own first-hand account, Fugardi kicks off the series with a shining star no further than the doors of InStyler Brands: its Head of Operations, Arin Meyer.

Fugardi, Meyer setting up for event at Rihanna’s house

Arin’s trajectory is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Now a standout operator in her industry, she has defied norms and accelerated her career through a unique path and at an unprecedented pace. Her journey starts with studying her undergrad in technical cinematography at Chapman University, where her obsession for making quality work first garnered attention from the Academy of Arts. This led to being noticed by Snap Inc., the deca-billion-dollar tech giant who is known not only for having the most competitive talent criteria in tech, but also for having a tense culture in which “recalibrations” commonly occur to shed the lower rung of performers. 

She passed through the company’s firing squad of eight interviews and received the invite to join Snap as a studio production lead. A successful first year led to an early promotion where she was key in driving a global studio infrastructure expansion.

Moving at what Fugardi now refers to as “the speed of Arin”, she learned her newest role at Snap likely too fast, encountering a speed bump where she would first experience corporate politics. Signs of slowing growth started to appear when Arin’s contributions were being openly verbalized as threatening by a superior who already struggled to stay above water in the demanding environment.

When attempts to save her company millions by fixing blaring cost centers were ignored or quieted, Arin maintained professionalism and continuing to affect her department’s performance within the capacity she was given but knew an environment existed where she could leverage her talents to create a much greater impact. In a further showcase of maturity and foresight, she directed her off-hour energy to learning as much as possible as to where that place may be, and identifying sources of guidance as she reassessed her overall goals.

She went to her network and had remembered the Founder of Vantage BP, Derick Manlapeg, who has a reputation for being a business prodigy and an avid supporter to growing entrepreneurs. Derick immediately recognized something different in Arin and wanted to help connect the dots. He set up a meeting with a friend and business partner, Dan Fugardi, someone he knew selectively offers coaching from his own experiences in navigating tough political environments.

Dan Fugardi attends a monthly coaching event

What demanded the spotlight for Dan was Arin’s high overal competence and well-articulated technical knowledge. Similarly, her well-spoken aptitude for business logic spelled a potential future ability to analyze and integrate technical skills with board-level business acumen. She was encouraged to shift focus towards business and explore this intersection as it requires a nimble mind and is subsequently high in demand, as it will be for years to come.

Arin prioritized her business education while keeping in tow a touch of coding lessons. Just a month later, she casually showcased free-hand coding skills during a catch-up. After following that with a highly adept business conversation that spared no detail from the previous month’s conversation, Fugardi started to understand the commitment and potential of this Stellar Angeleno.

Feeling encouraged that energy wasn’t being squandered just weeks after InStyler’s acquisition, Dan offered to continue in a mentorship capacity as long as value was found in it. This was reciprocated by Meyer, with an offer to help improving systems the new team was too busy to address early in the transition. 

Arin almost immediately became an invaluable part of the team, contributing significantly to the improvement of every system across every department in the company, according to Fugardi. In Q3 of 2022, her soon to be CEO determined that this demonstration of excellence was not fleeting, and conveyed an open door offer at InStyler Brands, if ever a career move was to officially take place.

In true form, Arin responded with two things that mattered to her personally:

1. She wanted verification that her loyal dog Blue was welcomed to hang with the team at least some of the time, and 2. She expressed that before doing anything, her duty was first to get her current project in a good place so her team is not left abandoned. In another notable show of maturity and integrity, Arin followed through and later submitted a lengthy 60-day notice to adequately turn over her duties before leaving to begin her new full-time role of Change Manager at InStyler Brands.

Meyer visits the warehouse for hands-on QA inspection

It came as no surprise that Arin’s rapid mastery of the business intricacies and understanding the departmental needs of her new company was followed with pointed recommendations and execution. “I had never in my career seen a person so quickly roll up their sleeves, learn damn near everything and, without being reckless, aggressively solve major issues that had stumped the previous VPs and C-suites for years.” Fugardi said with a chuckle.

With Meyer seen as indispensable coming into Q2 of 2023, Fugardi made an atypically early decision to appoint her as the company’s Head of Operations. “She was still new by most standards, but I suddenly didn’t care if my board or anyone else might give me a hard time. I now thoroughly understood why she so quickly hit a ceiling at Snap. Suppressing her capabilities is where they made a mistake and it was clear that if I knew what was good for me, her, and the company, I would get the heck out of that woman’s way!” he continued with another laugh and look of being genuinely proud of his new recruit.

Fugardi, also clearly grateful for the necessity of a strong hire, described the incredibly challenging obstacles the year would go on to face. This included a major categorical shift in Walmart’s retail assortment that heavily impacted the company’s Flower line by Drew Barrymore; a crisis with Ulta Beauty resulting in disruptive rollbacks and the retailer unilaterally withholding large amounts of receivables; third largest buyer Bed Bath & Beyond going bankrupt; a subsequent ripple into the performance of a half dozen other retailers, all during new global supply chain issues and the largest freeze in U.S. capital markets since the 2008 financial crisis. “We were getting recognition from people like Gisele Bündchen, press from Cosmo, Elle, Vogue… with people like Mila Kunis, constant personal shouts from Kim Kardashian, even winning major awards from Allure, Good Housekeeping, Pop Sugar, New Beauty…and we couldn’t even stop to enjoy it or do much with the opportunity because crisis management just steals priority in a company.”

“It was just one of those years where it was one thing after the next and taking a break was often not an option,” Fugardi paused. “At times, we might as well have been in the middle of a real war, and I don’t want to imagine what that year would have looked like if we didn’t have Miss Meyer on the core team in the trenches with us. She maintained the composure and leadership of a war general, meticulously managing crisis fallout in parallel with hitting time-sensitive department improvement milestones. Despite being the newest executive team member, she was the most effective and it was impressive. Few have gained my respect on this level.”

It turns out the board did have a question or two about the CEO’s decision initially. After the storm settled, the other board members, Joe Ali, Wahid Bastoros, Vicki Nguyen, and Elliot Kermani, all verbalized the appreciation for Dan’s sound intuition as everyone now sees Meyer as the organization’s undisputed 2023 MVP. 

Coming into her third year with the company, Arin Meyer’s major contributions are being recognized. She has been given an award for Excellence in Operations and the Logic Luminary Award, citing her reliable and highly dynamic abilities to analyze under pressure, find strategic solutions, form strong decisions, and execute – all at the speed of Arin.

Blue diligently working her post in DTLA

Dan finishes, “When she goes on to the next tour of duty, if we’re not already shoulder to shoulder fighting in that one, I look forward to grabbing some popcorn and keeping an eye on the cool things this rockstar pulls off in life. Her vision is in the right place as she wants to solve big problems for the world on the level of macro-economic inefficiencies, infrastructure issues, food logistics issues, etc., and believe me when I say she’ll do it. I half seriously joke that she’ll one day be the country’s president…but for now, I am certainly proud to see her setting the bar for aspiring leaders who want to know what it means to be truly extraordinary in business.”

Author: Hanny Playa

Lover of all things music. Seeker of the highest frequency. When I’m not writing or attending concerts I’m marching to the beat of a different drum.