Will Gowing chats with Tova Borgnine
Tova Borgnine is a pioneering businesswoman and beauty industry entrepreneur who founded the TOVA Corporation in 1977.
Starting with four skincare products containing cactus extracts that were marketed directly to customers through mail order, the TOVA Corporation
grew to become a multimillion-dollar fragrance, color cosmetics and skincare enterprise, with offices in London, New York and Beverly Hills.
has been sharing her
passion for beauty with television viewers since 1991 and has earned the honor of being named QVC's
"First Lady of Beauty".
At the age of seven, Tova
emigrated from Norway to the United States.
Drawing inspiration from her
mother, Aase, who, though she
had only seventy dollars with which to start a new life in America, remained steadfastly determined to succeed, Tova
has since been ruled by her
dictum that "It can be done".
dreams of modeling and acting in New York but soon discovered a keen interest in the cosmetic arts.
After studying with the city's most gifted makeup artists, Tova
opened a boutique along the New Jersey shore called "Tova's
Selling the business, Tova
moved to Las Vegas, establishing makeup concessions at Ceasar's Palace and the International Hotel and friendships with the many headline performers and showgirls who made up her
All showed signs of skin damage from harsh stage lights, heavy makeup and drying desert sun.
When legendary screen beauty Merle Oberon shared a small jar of an ancient Aztec beauty potion derived from the roots of five desert cacti that miraculously restored the skin, Tova
embarked on a quest that would consume several years and eventually form the cornerstone of her business empire.
It was while with her
husband, filming on location in Mexico, that Tova
finally traced the source of the cactus-based essence.
Faced with the choice of returning each of the checks to avoid prosecution for mail fraud, or starting up a business from scratch to meet the demand, Tova
chose the latter and, in a mad six-week scramble, managed to fulfill the orders and build her
Unable to place her
products in high-end department stores, Tova
innovated the use of new technology, such as toll-free telephone ordering and acceptance of credit cards for payment.
handpicked a corps of expertly trained TOVA Beauty Counselors to keep in close personal touch with an ever-growing and fiercely loyal customer base; calling to wish happy birthday or to give a friendly reminder to reorder.
In 1982, Tova
introduced the Fragrance Hall of Fame
nominated TOVA Signature fragrance; a cleanly sensual American classic scent that instantly struck a chord with consumers.
In 1991, after Tova
met with executives of QVC
and demonstrated her
belief in herself and her
products, this was the scent that cracked the difficult television market, debunking conventional wisdom that with perfume there could be no selling without smelling.