Sophie Guillon, who has been in the trade for 31 years, explains quite bluntly that her instinct is worth all the marketing studies. And why is this totally believable? Because Valmont propelled itself amongst the most successful beauty brands with more than 60 persons working at its headquarters and 120 references, distributed in 52 countries. On the verge of opening a spa in Paris, this active-woman takes a look at her career and shares her pro tips.
How did you fall into the cream business?
Since I was very young, the manufacturing of products interested me. I touched, crunched, disassembled everything. After studying business and focusing on international marketing, I began working at Sanofi Beauté in charge of exports. Three years after our first encounter in Paris, I went off to join my husband, who is Swiss. I continued working for Yves Saint Laurent Beauté. Obviously, for a Parisienne, Switzerland is not necessarily an immediate choice.
How did you arrive at the head of Valmont?
After 7 years and with young children, I left Yves Saint Laurent. In 2000, I started working part-time for my husband’s company, which had been bought back by his father. I assessed the various projects and it quickly became a full-time job.
The society was already very dynamic. When he arrived in the company, my husband started out developing exports, consolidating the business... We are both A-types. He made the company jump from 4-5 markets to fifteen in 10 years. As for me, I went from a range of 15 products to 120… And it’s true that since the past 3 years, one feels the strong popularity of Valmont.
Is it complicated working with your husband?
It’s nice but difficult at the outset. The priority is defining the territories of each one, then everything becomes easy. Products, technique, communication are my field; he is in charge of Artistic Direction. My husband, who is also at the head of the Fondation Valmont, is an artist.
How did you manage the digital turn?
I strongly believe in the “Brick and Click” by continuing to wager on cabins and experience. We made a name for ourselves with beauticians and beauty institutes— notably Françoise Morris, then with the Valmont spas.
This said, today, everything takes place on Internet and the social networks. We have just launched 13 e-commerce sites this year—it was the 12 Labours of Valmont! The most difficult was China with the language and technical barriers.
For the social networks, between the photos for inspiration, the tutorials, Instagram, working with influencer agents... we had to hire 6 persons just for that!
Please define the values of Valmont?
A love for quality, and promises kept. We flirted for a long time between cosmetology and a more medical orientation. One thing is for sure: when you start using Valmont products, it is noticeable—and when you stop, it is also noticeable … So, you can never stop!
What is the key to your success?
Authenticity! People can sense sincerity. It may seem a little crazy, but I work without market studies, mainly by instinct—I just know what is going to be a success! And it works... In fact, I function with applied sociology. I think out my products by thinking about women. I do not hesitate to rectify seemingly perfect formulas, which don’t correspond to my intuition…
Parisiennes like tenderness. However, Russians gals are not tender: they want efficiency. Asians are also very technical, ready to spend a lot, but on the condition of having products that keep their promises. I work on products for all these women.
The credo of the brand?
At the outset, it was “ageing graciously”. Twenty years later, it’s “ageing happily”.
What would you say to a woman who has a hard time coping with her first wrinkles?
Happiness comes from the inside, it does not come from the skin… Creams are not a miracle product, they give the possibility of working on a youthful appearance. The trick is knowing how to shift from appearance to essence.
Do you have a tip for us?
It’s always easy to lament one’s self, but there will always be someone unhappier than you are. One must learn to be contented with what one has, learning to let go in a visual world, while compensating with humour, auto-criticism and auto-derision. It does not do any good to spend one’s time at the plastic surgeon’s office if one has nothing inside.
How to apprehend the new notions of green?
Organic cosmetics is not something I believe in and I hope this is my prerogative! But of course, we take into consideration the environment, a way of naturally thinking up new brand ranges such as “Detox O2”. We make a cream using a base of nasturtium extract that transports oxygen inside body tissues.
A pitfall along the way?
I had to reorganize my entire team in 2015… Everyone left at the same time, a coincidence due to mutations (since we are based in Switzerland, we mainly work with expats). In short, I found myself all alone. I was terrorized. I know nothing technically, but I know how to manage. So, I went to speak directly with my cream mixer. At the beginning, he could not understand my vernacular … We finally worked it out, resulting in a big success.
We loved working together!
Would you like your children to continue the adventure?
My 20-year-old son studied business law like his father, but does not wish to work with us. However, my 21-year-old daughter is following in my footsteps, she would like to take over the management of the group. She is currently working as an intern in Hong Kong. She is very curious and interested by management. I also intend to lead her more towards products— the actual “living matter”.