At 13, Soula-Marie Perdis dreamed of having her own bag full of make-up. Now the Chief Operating Officer of Australian make-up conglomerate Napoleon Perdis has more lipsticks and eyeliners than any girl would ever need.
Her husband, business partner and namesake of their company Napoleon Perdis discovered his love for make-up also aged 13, when he would help his mother get ready to go out.
Theirs is a story of how love, hard work and passion for your career can intertwine to create an amazing life.
Much has been documented about Napoleon Perdis. He has even starred in his own reality TV show where he reminded us ‘not to prime is a crime.’
But this week Soula-Marie told her story.
From her humble beginnings as the Greek-Australian daughter of a single mother to her now glamorous life in Los Angeles, Perdis has in her words, ignited her own path to success.
On Wednesday night in Sydney, she was joined by her husband at the Macquarie University Jubilee Gala Dinner at Sheraton on the Park. In a room full of academics and those who had attended the university’s annual Women, Management and Work Conference, Perdis encouraged other women to combine hard work and their passions to create the life they want to lead.
Soula-Marie and Napoleon both attended Macquarie University. It’s where they met and fell in love. Soula-Marie, a self-confessed numbers nerd, was studying finance and actuarial studies after being named Dux of her high school.
The “rock-n-roll looking guy with no shoes and streaked hair” who stole her heart, would go on to create one of Australia’s most successful make-up brands, using her as his muse.
“He was the first Napoleon I had ever met at that stage … well before I met his cousins!”
After completing a Bachelor of Economics, Soula-Marie started a conservative career working for a finance firm. But it didn’t “rock her world” like her husband and his passion for his business did. Soula-Marie was shocked to find on her first day in the job that she wouldn’t be getting her own office.
“I love the quote that you shouldn’t wait to strike until the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking,” she says of the empire the pair, along with Napoleon’s brother Emanuel, has since created.
In the late 1990s, after the Napoleon Perdis brand had opened two flagship stores in Sydney and Melbourne, Soula-Marie brought her aptitude for numbers to their business full-time and left her day job.
She’d been supporting her partner before that, as Napoleon’s client base grew through word of mouth, however as their brand started to grow she knew it was “the right time to converge their business and personal life.”
She’s now a mum of four, who divides her time between her family, her business and charity work.
Responding to the clichéd question of how she does it all, Soula-Marie admits like every other woman she just “makes it work.”
“The same strength you find as the child of a single parent, you make it (life) work, as women continue to do around the world every day.”
Perdis does admit to relying heavily on technology – “how did we live before iPhones!” – but says the mutual respect and admiration she has for Napoleon has also contributed to her success.
“He rocked my world and changed my outlook like no other individual or event in my life. Whatever he promised me, has happened.”
You get the feeling she means so much more than a full make-up bag.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Agenda.