From idea to success through business model, the path of entrepreneurship is filled with challenges. To understand and draw inspiration from the experiences of others, HEC Stories has chosen to engage with actors in the dynamic world of beauty and cosmetics, where our alumni have excelled. This DOs & DON’Ts series begins with Flore des Robert, the co-founder of La Bonne Brosse. For a more personal touch in exchanges between entrepreneurs, she will be the interviewer in the future.
1. Building Your Idea
From my experience as a newbie in the entrepreneurial world, I believe that ideally, you should find yourself at the confluence of two things: sensing that there is a market need, preferably with not too much competition in the same segment. If the market is saturated, it’s best to move on unless you have an exceptionally strong innovation. Moreover, it seems to me that an entrepreneur should aim at solving a problem they have personally encountered or observed in their surroundings, something very tangible. One of the reasons for the success of La Bonne Brosse is that we address a real need – having a good tool for beautiful hair – in a relatively unexplored segment.
2. Building Your Business Model
You should focus your energy on testing it rather than writing it! The time to put it to the test quickly comes around. Some people spend weeks, even months on their business plan. The most important thing is to put your product – even if it’s not perfect or entirely finished – in front of your consumer, see what works, listen to feedbacks, and evolve accordingly. La Bonne Brosse is sold online and is present in the traditional distribution channels – this wasn’t necessarily our original business model. You shouldn’t get locked into your business plan. Ours is made obsolete every three weeks.
3. Making Use of Your Campus Years
I majored in marketing at HEC, and the fundamentals haven’t changed a bit! How to build a brand, set a price, understand market competition – we know how to do all of that, so just go for it! HEC also taught us to live in a community, work in teams, and, most importantly, solve problems, which is a daily part of an entrepreneur’s life.
4. Choosing the Right Partner
Pauline Laurent, the co-founder of La Bonne Brosse, is one of my great friends from my graduating class, and she worked in the beauty industry just like me. We often met to exchange ideas when changing jobs. We told ourselves that we should start something together one day. With COVID, turning 40, and a desire for change, we thought it was time to take control of our destiny. Both of us were working in large organizations. We were under pressure, working a lot, but it was going well. Neither of us wanted to be trapped in a model that was becoming less and less suitable for us, and it was the right decision for us.
5. Overcoming Failures
Entrepreneurship has taught me humility. You may think you know how to do things, but doing them for a multinational corporation and doing them for yourself are very different. Our advantage is that there are two of us. We encounter failures and challenges, but one of us is always there to lift the other’s spirits. So, we don’t fall too low. Our motto regarding mistakes is “fail fast, fail cheap.” If a project isn’t working, we stop, and we stop quickly. There’s no point in clinging to an idea. We’re expanding into international markets; if it doesn’t work, we will think about trying again in a year, for example.
6. Navigating the Acceleration Phase
You need to be ambitious, and sometimes women find it challenging to be ambitious for their own projects. When you present your business to investors or when you create your sales forecast, if you feel there’s traction, think big… while taking it step by step! For us, we try to correlate recruitment with the numbers. It’s essential to create the conditions for growth, but you also shouldn’t burn out. We remained a team of two for a year and a half. Then, we brought in an intern and a project manager. A more senior profile has recently joined us.
7. Launching Collabs
We loved working with Aime Skincare, founded by Mathilde Lacombe and François Morrier, for two reasons. The brand aligns with the values we try to promote: made in France, practicing a gentle form of self-care… And this brand, having a few years ahead of us, brings some of their notoriety to us. This year, we are working on more artistic collaborations to position the product as a desirable, collectible, almost totemic object.
8. Managing Social Media
Today, we obviously can’t do without it. We use social networks as a powerful means of conversation with our community. They generate engagement and establish a certain notoriety, but not everything should rely solely on them. The success of La Bonne Brosse comes from the fact that we have a strong presence in traditional media and among professional hairdressers. I heard someone say that before buying a product, you need to have seen it eight times. It can be on Instagram, on someone, or in a magazine. You need to be multi-channel. That being said, someone on our team does this all day: posting, responding. We call it “always on.”
Bonus: Advice for Young Graduates
We love the mantra: “done is better than perfect.” Entrepreneurship is like riding a bike. The hardest part is the first pedal stroke. I thank my lucky stars every day for partnering with Pauline. Alone, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. At the start, she was much more eager for the adventure than I was, as I’m somewhat risk-averse. I had chosen a sabbatical leave to have a fallback plan if it didn’t work out. It helped me take the leap because I had a safety net just in case.