Premium Beauty News - Yet you did not really have the profile of an entrepreneur who sets off alone on a big adventure?
Joël Ponte - It’s true! Before this date of February 2009, my professional background in the beauty industry was more the one, a little classical, of a senior manager who, so to speak, “appropriately” started his career end of 1986, at L’Oréal as a product manager for Lancôme. In 1989, I was given the opportunity to create the Group’s subsidiary in Indonesia. Between 1994 and the end of 1995, I became Deputy General Manager of Lancôme. Then, a new opportunity to expatriation arose, this time in Brazil, where I took in 1996 the General management of the Luxury Products Division.
These will surely be remembered as my best years abroad and the start of a continued commitment to this country. In 1999, I returned again to France as Managing Director of the Perfume Division.
It was at that time of my life that I made an encounter that will completely change not only my approach of the business but also bring me a little closer to Brazil. The man behind this encounter is named Luiz Seabra, the founder of Natura. A few figures enable to measure the gone through road by a man who created from scratch in 1969 a company to manufacture and distribute cosmetics and whose empire is now worth two billion euros in sales, all this only relying on a single concept, the one of direct sales thanks to the “busy-bee work” carried out by nearly a million “consultants.” These very “consultants” who are also able to sell products with dugout canoes in the depths of the Amazon.
Premium Beauty News - But most importantly, from this encounter with the founder of Natura will emerge a collaboration that will last several months!
Joël Ponte - Absolutely! And this may make a few people smile, but I realized that L’Oréal was not the centre of the world.
This was the time when leaders at Natura were reflecting on the way to change the Group’s business model especially outside Latin America. This will result in the opening of a Natura store in France in April 2005. In fact, what we had in mind with the opening of outlets was more to have a flag ship shop who would serve as a reference for the brand while developing at the same time a direct sales network. The same strategy will then be developed in Russia, England, United States.
But my job also consists as of 2006 in analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the brand. Very quickly, we understand that the strong image of the company, based on natural products, and which is naturally present in the collective imagination of consumers should better match the formulas, the graphics and the design of product lines. “History must be visible!” A task that will last three years!
Premium Beauty News - Then at the end of 2008, it is the financial and economic crisis. But it is also at that moment that you realize both the potential of the dermo-cosmetic sector and the development opportunities available in this segment, specially in Brazil where obviously women visit their dermatologist to look more beautiful! So, you decide to start out!
Joël Ponte - Yes, in fact it’s typically Brazilian! Don’t forget that the association of dermatologists in Brazil is the largest one in the world after the United States!
Yes, I start out in February 2009, on my own, in the creation of my company with a strong idea in mind: use one of the characteristics that make Brazil stand out: the country’s fantastic network of mineral spring waters, more than 400..., find the one that best suits the criteria of purity and balance which are keys to the development of skincare lines matching the characteristics of Brazilian skin. And it will be the source “Serra do Japi.”
Premium Beauty News - The name is well chosen, “Purainova”!
Joël Ponte - Well, at least it is perfectly evocative of the almost unique and patented concept that we developed after much thorough research work with the active participation of renowned dermatologists and numerous tests. This initially resulted in three product lines, one line for sensitive skin, two night and day anti-aging products, a line of mineral waters in a spray - including a patent for a mineral water transported by liposomes. End of 2011, we launched a line for oily skin and a line of sunscreens.
Premium Beauty News - But it is not enough to just find and produce the perfect product! Il it also necessary to have it distributed to as many people as possible...
Joël Ponte - It’s a huge challenge that can only be evaluated, as an individual entrepreneur, when your are confronted to it. We had a strategic line and we did our best to stick to it. The one of distributing before all in the network of pharmacies and drugstores. There are 60,000 pharmacies in Brazil. We also have 15 representatives who regularly visit more than 2,000 dermatologists.
For our brand Purainnova, the potential, is of about 3,000 to 3,500 outlets. We are already present in 400 of them.
Premium Beauty News - And financially?
Joël Ponte - From our starting point in 2009, we knew we needed three years to find our balance. This balance will be reached in 2013. We deliberately chose to create our own laboratory and to have our own sales force. This necessarily requires substantial initial investments.
But the results are there. The success of our products is undeniable thanks to their quality and to the accuracy of their positioning versus the Brazilian demand, but also because of our price policy.