The smell of success - beauty company entrepreneurs turn €7 thousand into €77 million

The winners of the RSM International Entrepreneur of the Year title at the European Business Awards (EBA) are the founders of Maesa Group, Julien Saada and Gregory Mager.

The Maesa Group is one of Europe’s fastest growing and most comprehensive resource for “Beauty on Demand” products and services. With offices in Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, the company is responsible for signature perfumes for Kim Kardashian, Mary J. Blige and Oscar De La Renta.

Our European Director, Robert Coles, got the chance to speak to Julien Saada at the EBA Winners Conference in Rome yesterday, where he heard about their experience first-hand. This is what he had to say…

What ignited the spark to start a new business venture? How did the idea for your business come about?

When my childhood friend Gregory Mager and I were just finishing university at 22 years old – 15 years ago – it was unusual for recent graduates to launch their own business or activity. Still, we wanted to be independent and take destiny in our hands. We were very young with a lot of energy and without financial commitments, but still naïve and lacking a clear business plan or capital.

We noticed that many retail shops in the US were beginning to expand their product range by selling branded beauty products – in some cases, 20% of the stock was beauty products. We foresaw that this model would spread to Europe and with only €7,000 decided to start our own business.

The desire to start a business and have a clear market vision ignited the initial spark. We were graduates with a bright idea – who better to be an entrepreneur?

What is your advice for those starting out in business? Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?

During the early stages it is important to focus on three things:

1) The product concept - Is there a market? Are you answering a gap in market or creating a market? Ultimately, is your product unique? 2) The customer – The customer needs to come first, before the business approach and even the product. 3) The cash – A company cannot start or survive without sufficient funds. It is essential to sort out capital right at the beginning.

What motivates you to continue growing?

First of all, we are responsible for 220 people all over the world – not only in France, but also in China, the US and the UK. We have the responsibility to maintain and grow the business for our employees.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to invest in a small but growing market. I’m motivated by the fact that this market is wide and getting wider – more people want to grow their beauty brands and require help during the various stages of development.

We’re pleased that our 2011 turnover was €77 million, but after 15 years of work and investment, we are pushed to achieve even more.

How do you define success?

For me, the success of a business is dependent on stability, growth and sustainability. At a minimum, the business must have the ability to sustain its suppliers and its people. It also needs to keep its door continually open. Then, the business needs to sustain a good level of at least 10-15% sales profit before tax. Although you can have a stable business, you need to complement that with growth and sustainability for true success.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

In 2008/9 we completed four international acquisitions – two in Europe and two in the US. It took two and half years to complete the process as it was a very difficult time for France economically. However, despite the challenges we managed to multiply the business by four. This fantastic growth is certainly a highlight in Maesa’s history with expansion both within and outside of the continent.

Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?

Maesa Group will continue to grow as a business –that’s for sure. We expect to double the company’s size in 3-5 years and expand in emerging in countries. As for me, I expect to focus on Maesa Group as it keeps me happy in my professional life.

It is inspiring to hear about Maesa Group and its founders’ entrepreneurialism. Even though they started this company some time ago, the values of hard work, innovation and the passion to succeed in business still resonate today. Maesa’s experience proves that these principles are essential regardless of company industry or size. We are pleased to continue promoting these values through our support of EBA’s RSM International Entrepreneur of the Year.”


Jean M Stephens
Chief Executive Officer