Social Impact: In Conversation with Anne-Marie Gabelica
Founder of oOlution, Manufacturer of natural skincare products
“We entrepreneurs have to act as citizens of the world. Creating a positive social impact should be the way to do business in the 21st century.”
Anne-Marie Gabelica had been working for a global cosmetics brand for seven years when she decided it was time to follow her instincts. She knew there was growing demand for high quality, natural skincare products. Yet she also felt uncomfortable with how the industry marketed these products, particularly the tendency to focus on one or two “star” ingredients as the solution to all skin problems.
With her background in organic chemistry, she believed she was capable of offering something better to health-conscious customers who didn’t want to compromise on quality. In April 2010, she created her own brand – oOlution – which is committed to 100% natural sourcing of ingredients.
Ms Gabelica believes the success of the brand is partially down to the original clarity of purpose: “We are purists. That hasn’t changed in the seven years since we started the business. Our products use organic extracts from up to 65 plants, so that all skin types can draw what they need. Safety and quality have always been our guiding principles.”
In addition to spotting a gap in the cosmetics industry, Ms Gabelica says there was a strong ethical dimension to her business decisions. “I actually felt it was my responsibility. I wanted
to create something that would be coherent with my personal values.”
For Ms Gabelica, social impact was a key motivation. In practical terms, this means educating customers so that they can choose safer products. It also means avoiding ingredients that are known to cause environmental damage. “The cosmetics industry is responsible for about a fifth of global palm oil consumption and we know that this is contributing to deforestation in South-East Asia. The impact is devastating.”
She adds: “We are being true to our founding vision. oOlution was recently recognised through an award by the French Ministry of Ecology for being the first cosmetics brand not to use palm oil in its products.”
She has learnt, however, to balance the strength of her principles with a pragmatic approach. “When I started my business, I initially wanted to have bio-degradable products. After extensive research and contact with multiple biotechnology centres, I had to admit that the science wasn’t there yet. I was hard on myself for a while, but then I realised I needed to get
on with enacting my vision or the brand would struggle to get off the ground. It was an early lesson.”
Wasn’t she scared to take the plunge after experiencing the safety of paid employment? She laughs: “No, it felt quite natural! I’m from a family of entrepreneurs so I knew in the back of my mind that I would one day work for myself to regain my independence.”
She continues: “I didn’t create oOlution to become rich. We entrepreneurs have to act as citizens of the world. Creating a positive social impact should be the way to do business
in the 21st century.”
The above article is an excerpt from BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report 2018.
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Picture source: https://www.oolution.com/