Founder of Dominique Beauté, the first luxury beauty concept store in São Paulo.
THE INSPIRATION TALK
COUCOU OLIVIA! TELL ME MORE ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE FROM AND WHAT YOU WERE ASPIRING TO DO GROWING UP.
I grew up in Paris. When I was younger I wanted to work in the music industry, in the production part. One of my first internship was in a music label called Scorpio Music; they are the ones who discovered the Village People… I was obsessed with the music revolution and I think I was the first one in France to own an iPod. I have the DNA of a geek; I love any new techno product and I knew it was going to be a huge deal.
I first studied literature and then I went to a business school. In order to validate my diploma I had to do a final internship which I chose to do at Apple. I was in charge of the accessories for Mac and iPod for the online Apple Store. I loved it! It was back in 2006. After I graduated I started working at Pixmania which became the European leader for e-commerce. I stayed there for seven years working my way up to sitting at the Board of Directors.
WORKING IN A MEN’S WORLD AS A VERY YOUNG WOMAN MUST NOT HAVE BEEN THE EASIEST…
It was difficult… When I was 26 years old I already had 100 people on my team, and some of them were 50 years old. I looked -and I still do (laughs)- very young; imagine the big international meetings and me with the face of the intern! It was very challenging but also fun after they understood I was the boss (laughs). I learned a lot there.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO QUIT THIS JOB?
I was in a complicated personal moment in my life and I wanted to get out of Paris. I needed a drastic change. I needed to go somewhere with a lot of light. Brazil called me.
First I started to look for a job in the area I was good at and became a partner in an e-commerce start-up. During my first year, I really discovered Brazil and the richness of its culture but also the relationship women had with beauty. On top of being a geek, I am also a beauty addict. My mom would always take me to her beauty appointments in the best places around Paris. From a very young age I knew how to recognize the best products and how to use them. I have been educated knowing the importance of taking care of myself. So eventually I asked myself “why is it that Brazil, the country of beauty, doesn't have these beauty products I know are the best?”. Within four days of having this question on my mind I went to see Joëlle (editor’s note: Joëlle Ciocco, one of Paris’s most famous skin guru who invented Epidermology) who is like a godmother to me and confided in her. She told me that I should do something about it and bring a part of who I am and had been raised with, to Brazil. It convinced me.
DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW YOU WOULD START YOUR OWN BUSINESS ?
No. I don't function like that. I never make plans. I don't know where I am going to be in 5 years from now. But that doesn't mean I don't know what I want.
SHERYL SANDBERG, ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS GIRL BOSS KNOWN OUT THERE, SAID IT WAS SUPER IMPORTANT TO ENCOURAGE LITTLE GIRLS TO HAVE A STRONG VOICE AND BE PROUD TO HAVE AN OPINION. SHE GAVE THIS (SAD BUT OH SO TRUE) EXAMPLE:
"WE CALL OUR LITTLE GIRLS 'BOSSY.' WE DON'T CALL LITTLE BOYS 'BOSSY,' BECAUSE WE EXPECT THEM TO LEAD. WE SHOULD LOOK AT OUR DAUGHTERS AND SAY, 'YOU'RE NOT BOSSY, YOU HAVE EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP SKILLS AND I'M GOING TO SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGE THAT”.
DO YOU THINK THAT LEADERSHIP IS FOR EVERYONE? WERE YOU SUPPORTED FROM A VERY YOUNG AGE TO GO IN THAT DIRECTION?
I definitively don’t think leadership is for everyone. But I see a new trend now which is that if you are not an entrepreneur it is almost seen as something negative. I think this is stupid; at the end of the day it should be only about what you like to do, and this could be anything. What we should teach our children is how to be the best baker or how to make the best use of your hands. Eventually, manual works will be much more useful than banking or that kind of stuff. I think being a leader has to do with loving taking risks a bit more than the average. It is difficult to be a leader. There is the glamorous side that everybody sees and then you have the “back-office”, that I personally love. I am very at ease with managing and giving orders, my friends have a lot of jokes about it…(laughs).
My parents were the most amazing ones, I never felt any limitations for anything I wanted to do. If I had told them I wanted to become an astronaut, they would have said “what are a great idea”. It always comes back to love. I was surrounded by a lot of love thus giving me a lot of confidence. In that context, everything looks easier. But don’t get me wrong; I am scared, I am between panic zone and magic zone everyday, but I take it day by day and try to do my best. There is no magic zone without panic zone. There is the comfort zone, then the experimental zone, the panic zone and the magic zone. For every good thing that happens in your life you need to go through all these stages. Most of the time we stay between the comfort zone and the experimental zone. I know the magic zone is coming.
WHAT DOES BEING A WOMAN MEAN IN BRAZIL, KNOWN TO BE A VERY SEXIST COUNTRY. IS IT A CHALLENGE THAT MOTIVATES YOU?
Unfortunately it is still a challenge but it all goes back to education. I don’t get offended when I hear sexist comments about me because I don’t care about these people's opinion. But I am positive it is changing towards the right direction.
YOU CHOSE THE HIGH LUXURY MARKET. DO YOU THINK BEAUTY HAS TO BE EXPENSIVE TO BE ASPIRATIONAL?
High Luxury is very difficult to define because it is something very subjective. To me, luxury is not about “gold” everything. My luxury is time and being alone on a beach.
I sell beauty products from R$80 to R$2000 and I understand that some cosmetic products are expensive because of their ingredients, their formula, their R&D… If you take a brand like Joëlle Ciocco: it is “artisanat”! When you do arts and crafts you don’t want to scale it just to have a more affordable price. And even if I am completely aware of the amount of marketing in the beauty business, when you take Cire Trudon and see that even the glass container is made by hand you understand that you pay the craftsmanship.
Having said that, of course beauty doesn’t have to be expensive to be aspirational. I can buy a €5 nail polish and find it aspirational. What I wanted to do here was to bring and curate the best experience of beauty, from our products (pillows, tea, cosmetic treatments) to the place in itself. My sales persons are very well educated about the products we sell here. Luxury is about the details. I commit to bringing the best quality products I can find around the world.
WHERE DOES THE NAME DOMINIQUE COME FROM?
From my mother. She was my inspiration. I come from a family of women. Our meeting room was the bathroom. We had a huge, very cozy bathroom with carpet on the floor. My mom used to spend a lot of time in it and although she wasn’t sophisticated in the sense of wearing a lot of jewelry etc., she was always impeccable. She would have her nails done as a sign of respect for herself and for the people she met. Hygiene was something very important in our family, and on top of that it is something that makes you feel good about yourself. When you wake-up and feel pretty, you own the day. And again, “pretty” isn’t about looking like a model but feeling at your best. I always say that taking care of yourself is like a meditation; you feel very close to yourself.
CAN WE TALK ABOUT DOMINIQUE’S INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT? I THOUGHT IT WAS BETTER THAN MOST COSMETICS ACCOUNTS AND I AM SURE THE REASON FOR THAT IS YOU ARE THE ONE BEHIND IT. DO YOU FEEL COMPLICATED TO DELEGATE?
Yes I do it myself because we are a start-up and like in many start-ups we are a very small team. Also I think that I, better than anyone else, know what the DNA of my brand is and what I want to say. I do whatever I want. I don’t buy followers; I have a few followers for the moment but very engaged ones. Everything takes time and it will grow. I am very happy because everybody likes it.
DON’T YOU THINK PEOPLE LIKE IT BECAUSE IT FEELS VERY GENUINE?
They can definitively see I am behind it because I respond in Portuguese with a lot of spelling mistakes (laughs). But to come back to your question, I don’t think it will be complicated for me to delegate because once we’ll grow bigger, I will hire people smarter than me! The results will be amazing. For the moment we are all learning.
BEAUTY HAS ALWAYS EXISTED BUT I FEEL THAT THE MARKET REALLY EXPLODED 6 YEARS AGO WITH THE EMERGENCE OF YOUTUBERS AND MAKE-UP TUTORIALS DEMOCRATIZING IT.
BIG GAME CHANGERS LIKE EMILY WEISS FROM INTO THE GLOSS GAVE A WHOLE NEW OUTLOOK TO THE INDUSTRY WHICH IS NOW MORE ABOUT TEACHING WOMEN TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT THEMSELVES RATHER THAN TELLING THEM WHAT THEY SHOULD DO TO LOOK LIKE AN IDEAL OF BEAUTY. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE NEXT STEP FOR THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY?
People have access to a lot more information than before and because they are smart they know when you bullshit them. Advertising promises like “Wash your hair and you are going to look like Gisele”: they are not buying it anymore. People expect more. Most of the time, customers know your product better than you do. I think the retail experience is everything. And beauty has this particularity of being a texture, a smell, something very sensorial which will always need retail. Even if e-commerce is growing for this industry, we will always have physical shops because we need contact. I love when customers come to my store and tell me they feel at home. I kiss them hello, like if I was receiving a friend in my living-room. Beauty is intimate, the customer wants to be treated this way.
DO YOU HAVE ANY MENTORS OR POWERFUL ALLIES TO KEEP YOU INSPIRED?
Every single friend I have has helped me in so many ways. It’s funny because people often tell me “wow you did this all alone” when I couldn’t have done it without my friends. From Charles Bianchi who was my COO at Pixmania who helped me on the business part (and the stress part), my friend Lisa who has a great communication agency in Paris and helped me on the branding, Colombe who has designed the staff uniforms, Noémie who is helping me on the lawyer part… I trust their advice. And then I can get my inspiration from Beyoncé, Sheryl Sandberg, Georges Lucas or Steve Jobs. I am interested in many different things: music, art, sports… From the Olympic games we have seen in Rio to any big CEO. It needs to be a mix. The best of everything.
DO YOU EVER FEEL THIS IS TOO HARD?
Yes! Of course. But then I have a glass of wine (laughs). Obviously I have investors, I have my own fear not to succeed: you don’t want to disappoint the people who put their trust in you. I put extremely high standards on myself and in everything I do, but I have to say I changed my cursor. It’s is not about money, success, social recognition anymore. To me, it is about love, family and being happy. At the end of the day it is the only thing that really matters. Whenever I start suffocating I take a deep breath and I let it go. I’ve had tougher moments in my life which taught me to put things into a greater perspective.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB?
All of it. Building the project was amazing. Running it is amazing. I like numbers, I like meeting people. Maybe there is a part of the job that I like less which is fighting the administration. Chasing can be tiring. But then again, you need to take a deep breath and find the energy to do it.
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT MOVE? CAN WE EXPECT A DOMINIQUE COSMETIC LINE?
There are many “next moves” to come. First: lots of events and things I want to do with the store. And then my own brand for sure. The possibilities are endless but I want to stay in a qualitative model. There are a lot of cities in which I think Dominique could fit perfectly. There are a lot of new brands and new treatments that I would like to bring like amazing acupuncture from Korea for example. But I don’t want to do anything just for the sake of doing it. Either I do it very well or I don’t do it at all.
WHAT SONG WILL ALWAYS MAKE YOU WANT TO DANCE?
“All I want for Christmas” by Mariah Carey! It is actually my morning alarm song.