Co-founder of the jewelry brand Gemmyo, Pauline Laigneau (H.12) is also a successful podcaster and offers personal development sessions with Demian. Portrait of an extraordinary multi-entrepreneur.


After France, Switzerland, and Belgium, Pauline Laigneau is set to conquer Tokyo. A pop-up store of her brand Gemmyo opened last December in a luxurious hotel, followed in November by a boutique in the heart of the capital of the Land of the Rising Sun. A commercial success that broadens the horizons of an entrepreneur who already has a wide range of interests: her frequent trips between Paris and Geneve, where she now lives, her podcasts, her recent venture into training, and her multiple passions leave her little time to get bored. They make her an unclassifiable character.


The pillars of success

We are all conditioned, whether we like it or not, by our parents and the education we received during our childhood. The family context shapes our personality, character, and major decisions,” analyzes Pauline, herself the daughter of an entrepreneur, speaking at the HEC Life Project event last April. Indeed, her father instilled in her a taste for hard work and perseverance. Her mother, a landscape architect, developed an artistic temperament and a strong aesthetic sensitivity. Thanks to this upbringing and her parents, she was able to express her originality while developing her sense of initiative.

As a young girl, although Pauline envied the professional autonomy of her parents, both self-employed, she always imposed a framework on herself. This desire to balance freedom and conformity pushed her to pursue higher education, and she soon dived into a life of rigorous study. Although she was an average student in middle and high school, she decided to take the agrégation in 2004, aiming to join the École Normale Supérieure. The highly selective exam was a significant challenge for the young woman. “In my success, there is always an element of luck, but I owe it primarily to my hard work. I had the pleasure of studying with very good friends from prep school, and a strong team spirit allowed us, despite the competition, to bring out the best in each other and fill in each other’s gaps,” she recalls. Admitted to the École Normale Supérieure in modern literature, she even passed the agrégation in English, but decided to abandon her studies that were leading her towards teaching.



An outsider at HEC

In 2009, after “failing miserably” the entrance exam to the ENA, she joined HEC to develop her entrepreneurial spirit. When she set foot on the Jouy-en-Josas campus, she felt like an outsider among the other students. “I was 26 years old, a civil servant, and I knew perfectly well that I wanted to become an entrepreneur, whereas most HEC students are young people who come straight from prep school and pursue these studies to please their parents. They know they will get a good job after graduation, but they have no idea how to find their path,” she said jokingly. Despite her obvious difference, she retains some of her best memories from her time at HEC. She discovered the world of business, interned in India with Pernod in viticulture, and experienced the adventure of driving a delivery truck for Hugo & Victor patisserie shops.

At Jouy-en-Josas, Pauline also formed lasting friendships with Idriss Hassim (M.12), Claire Canot-Houiller (H.12), Anna Rossin (H.12), Julie Barbezat (H.12), Jonathan Tuchbant (H.12), and Estelle Abbou (M.12), the daughter of Jacob Abbou, her former professor and mentor at HEC-Entrepreneurs, who recently passed away. “Anyone can be an entrepreneur, not just because of their degree. It will be harder and take longer, but if you really get to work, you will succeed!” His words still resonate with the accomplished entrepreneur she is today. These words allowed her to free herself from the burden of her impostor syndrome.


Gemmyo, born from an idyllic romance

2012. A series of fortunate events: at 27, Pauline graduated from HEC and got engaged to Charif Debs. When her partner proposed, the couple set out to find an engagement ring but couldn’t find one that was both original and within their budget. This led them to the idea of creating a personalized, demanding, and made-in-France jewelry brand that respects environmental issues.

Thus, Gemmyo was born from this idea: manufacturing ensured by seven workshops across France (except for watches, which are made in the heart of the Swiss Jura, the cradle of watchmaking). The company soon employed over 150 artisans and used 75% to 100% recycled gold to limit its ecological footprint. Initially only available online, Gemmyo’s jewelry is now distributed in nine boutiques in France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Japan.


Crisis and Reinvention

However, the ups and downs of entrepreneurship also bring challenges and periods of doubt. In 2018, the jewelry house had grown, and the founding couple was no longer the majority shareholders of Gemmyo. This loss of independence deeply affected Pauline, who even considered leaving the company. “We were no longer at home, and it plunged me into an existential crisis, which happens to me every four or five years. I could have left, but I am partnered with my husband. If I had left the company, he would have seen it as a betrayal,” she explains.

Designing Your Life served as a lifeline. “This book helped me a lot to realize that I had made choices at certain points in my life, but those choices were not necessarily final, and that I could still change my path and reinvent myself.” A year and a half later, Pauline and Charif regained majority ownership of Gemmyo. But the long period of introspection allowed the couple to change their lives: they moved to Switzerland, with its mountainous landscapes and as a bastion of both jewelry and watchmaking, and decided not to have children. They prioritized their life as a couple.


An extraordinary entrepreneur

During this turbulent period, Pauline began listening to American personal development podcasts. “I had become quite closed off, and it gave me a lot of perspective,” she recalls. Gradually, she started creating her own content. The Podcast de Pauline Laigneau was born in March 2018. “Rubbing shoulders with success to invent your own is the ambition I set for myself with this podcast,” she summarizes. At her microphone, speech is free and unadorned, with leading business figures sharing their stories transparently. With over 500,000 streams per month, 257 guests, nearly 500 episodes, and a YouTube channel with nearly 41,800 subscribers, The Podcast de Pauline Laigneau is number one in its category in France. In 2020, in the midst of the health crisis, she decided to launch a new project: offering personal development training. Four years later, Demian already has 15,000 clients.

Passionate about marketing, management, and entrepreneurship, this businesswoman lacks time but still indulges in unexpected passions. Pauline is an avid gamer. “I managed to blow up the motherboard of my brand new computer because it overheated after a weekend on Heroes of Might and Magic.” And when she looks up from her screen, it’s often to look at the sky in search of a rare bird. An expert ornithologist, the entrepreneur particularly loves the great cormorant. This endangered species is one of the few seabirds whose feathers are not waterproof. They must therefore spread their wings to dry them in the sun.

Taking all the time she needs to spread her wings and secure her take off, this entrepreneur experiences periods of intense doubt just as much as she is attuned to personal growth concerns and the pursuit of a greater meaning.

Biography :

2004 : Joins the École Normale Supérieure

2007 : Passes the Agrégation in English

2009 : Joins HEC Paris

2011 : Engagement and creation of Gemmyo

2018 : Starts her podcast

2020 : Creates the company Demian

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