14.11.2018 | Entrepreneurship
Women now account for nearly a third of all entrepreneurs in France. Among them, Anne-Marie Gabelica is the founder of oOlution, a new cosmetics brand marketing 100% natural and organic products. What are the milestones in her career as an entrepreneur? What tips does she offer aspiring entrepreneurs? Learn about her experience below.
First of all, I am fortunate to come from a family of entrepreneurs, so starting my own business is something I’ve always thought about doing. I have always had a deep-seated desire for independence. But it was the need to align my job with my values that motivated me to take the leap. I was working for a corporate group at the time, and the deep dissatisfaction I felt in my job was a strong motivator.
So, I turned to a field I knew well from my science education and eight years of experience in cosmetics—skin. I started by observing that our skin suffers a great injustice—most cosmetics products are based on only one active ingredient, even though our skin is such a complex part of our bodies. If you ask me, no single ingredient can meet all the needs of our skin!
I’m an entrepreneur because I wanted my job to align with my values
That’s why I wanted to develop more elaborate products. But I also wanted to make natural products, with substantial benefits for the environment. In fact, the cosmetics industry is responsible for environmental disasters such as deforestation in Southeast Asia, which is an especially important issue for me. I wanted to take an ethical approach from start to finish. And that’s the story behind my 100% natural, organic and vegan cosmetics brand, oOlution.
A lot of people told me I wouldn’t make it, that I was too idealistic or that it wasn’t realistic to start out with such a demanding list of specifications right out of the gate. But these demands represented the trademark and reasoning behind my approach. It was my belief and faith in doing the right thing that urged me on. I laughed at pessimistic comments—being an idealist has never been a weakness! Especially when you keep your feet firmly on the ground.
Being a woman ironically turned out to be an advantage in my career—very few women become entrepreneurs.
What motivated me from day to day? Offering greater personal and collective wellness to truly make a difference. I think we can change our behaviors by becoming better informed. That’s why I take the time to educate my customers. Aside from a free online skin diagnostic that I developed and posts I write for the oOlution blog, I host a weekly segment called "Bien dans ma peau" for the news program La Quotidienne, on France 5 (a French TV channel).
I had so many questions as an entrepreneur. I heard about mentoring from the WBMI (Women Business Mentoring Initiative), a volunteer initiative helping women entrepreneurs. I was fortunate to have an incredible mentor, who challenged me and enabled me to move forward quickly. Next, I had the opportunity in 2016 to attend a week of classes dedicated to entrepreneurs in Stanford, in the United States—the Women Entrepreneurs Program organized by BNP Paribas Wealth Management.
There I met other women entrepreneurs from all over the world. We shared our experiences, brainstormed and discussed our shared issues—and there were many of them. This support helped me launch my business in the best conditions and continue to develop it today. In the months ahead, my team and I are preparing to expand our line and release body care products. After that, we will tackle international markets. We have some major advantages for the international markets, with our 100% natural and ethical brand. It’s also Made in France, and even Made in Provence! That has a lot of appeal.
Self-care starts by looking at the label when you buy skin care products. Think as hard about the ingredients in your cosmetics as what goes into your food. In short, follow an informed beauty routine and buy and use products responsibly. That’s why I stress the importance of education. Apart from that, meditation helps me a lot, day to day, and being smart about my diet, mainly by trying to eat less meat. I know it’s not always easy with how busy we are as entrepreneurs. I have trouble doing it all myself, especially since I became a mom last year!
My best tip for new entrepreneurs is never underestimate your financial needs, especially in terms of working capital. Entrepreneurship takes up all your energy from morning to night. It’s best to have a good plan for how to make ends meet.
As a pioneer bank in supporting women entrepreneurs, BNP Paribas has developed in France and internationally tailored solutions to meet their needs that go beyond the simple financing of business activities. For example, BNP Paribas Wealth Management in partnership with the Women Initiative Foundation has launched the Women Entrepreneur Program in 2015. The annual week-long program is a mix of intensive classes, workshops and exchanges at Stanford University for 40 accomplished women entrepreneurs coming from a wide range of industries and various countries. An opportunity for the participants to develop their managerial skills, strengthen their network and identify new business opportunities.
Photo credits : header ©Seed to Seed - Oolution // freebird7977 // Jacob Lund