FACC - NY |
2017 FACC Foundation Gala Laureate and Serge Bellanger MBA Scholarship recipient Stephanie Davison completed her MBA at ESSEC Business School in France, with a specialization in International Luxury Brand Management.
Support future scholars like Stephanie by attending the 2018 FACC Foundation Gala on Thursday, September 27th. The 501(c)(3) Foundation is a non-profit and funded almost exclusively through this premier event that unites 270+ French & American business executives for a night of cocktails, dinner, entertainment and networking.
FACC: You're working on an entrepreneurial venture now, can you tell us more about the concept and how your MBA helped propel you to this point?
SD: Yes, you are correct! I am embarking as an entrepreneur in the beauty industry, also known on social media as a “beautypreneur”. Before my MBA at ESSEC, I NEVER would have dreamed of being an entrepreneur – I always thought I didn’t know enough about particular subjects, I didn’t have the right background, I was afraid to take the risk, the list goes on…
Before the MBA, I was a chemical engineer working in the oil & gas industry (which is very different from the beauty industry!). I had a strong passion to work in the beauty industry, but I had a gap in my marketing and brand management skills. ESSEC’s MBA in International Luxury Brand Management bridged that gap for me by providing me with experience in brand management, brand DNA and brand awareness strategies, product development, 360 marketing strategies, competitive strategy, brand distribution, etc.
After graduation, I actually struggled to find a job in the beauty industry. This may sound strange to others outside of the beauty industry, but I was either overqualified or underqualified for positions. I was overqualified for entry-level brand management positions because I had 6 years of working experience as an engineering project manager, but underqualified for beauty manager positions because I lacked real experience in the beauty industry.
I sat down and reflected on a principle my professor Fabrice Cavarretta had taught me in our MBA entrepreneurship class called the “Bird-in-hand” principle: Start with Who you are, What you know, Whom you know, and I add What you can immediately do. Myself: I had engineering experience including project management, operations, logistics, production, budgeting, and working with suppliers & vendors. I now had my MBA brand management and marketing experiences as well. I combined by engineering and brand management skills – I realized I have a mind that understands both the backside of beauty production (formulation chemistry, ingredients, packaging, batch production, etc.) AND the frontside of beauty (the consumer, marketing, trends, online retail, etc.) I then decided it was time to launch my own brand: a haircare beauty startup from Southern California called beautifood.
I named my brand beautifood to reflect the positive link between superfoods and beauty. The first product will be an Avocado Hair Oil, really showing the brand’s passion for foods that are native to the Southern California region. I want the brand to be socially driven through Instagram @beautifood_official. The product ingredients are made from plant-based oils, so the brand will be cruelty-free, vegan, and non-toxic. Also, the bottles will be made of glass (versus using plastic) because we want our packaging to be sustainable and eco-friendly. The products will be small-batch and hand-poured for quality.
Becoming an entrepreneur is a huge undertaking for me, and I do acknowledge that it comes with potential risks. However, I felt this was the right time in my career path to try! My MBA experience at ESSEC has brought my dreams to life! I am grateful the FACC has supported me and my career.
FACC: What is the most surprising thing you learned about business while at ESSEC?
SD: I studied business specifically for luxury brand management. My luxury brand management professor Simon Nyeck taught me the most important concept for luxury business: the ability of brands to manage the paradox between tradition and modernity. How does a brand remain timeless and true to its history and brand DNA, but also follow the modern consumer with innovation and technology trends?
The most surprising thing I learned is that this paradox between tradition and modernity is, or should be, at the heart of every business model, no matter the industry. Every single day since the MBA, I see this paradox in the real world.
This past year, I’ve seen countless examples of this paradox. For example, luxury fashion is collaborating with streetwear (an example is Louis Vuitton and Supreme) to expand their consumer base and stay relevant to trends. Another example – With the rise of indie beauty brands and user-generated content (UGC) on Instagram, Chanel beauty realized they needed to stay relevant with technology and consumers. Chanel created Instagram handle @welovecoco to create a community of beauty insiders who love Chanel. They can safely post UGC on @welovecoco, while they still maintain their luxurious brand image on their main @chanel.beauty account. Another big example – Facebook expanded their platform too far, which made a rough year for PR (spam, fake news, and a data breach.) They re-evaluated their business, and went back to their brand DNA with their “Here Together” ad campaign “so we can all get back to what made Facebook good in the first place – friends.”
Business is managing paradoxes.
FACC: What advice would you give to this year's recipients embarking on their journey in France or the United States?
SD: 1. Network! You will be surrounded by classmates from every nationality. Network and become friends with these people. You never know – maybe your study group partner will be your future co-worker or business partner after the MBA.
2. Follow your dreams! Stay true to yourself and your passions. Your path to your dream job may be a challenge. If it was easy, then everyone would do it. Just continue your hard work, and it will pay off. When you have to work 10 times as hard to get something, the reward is 100 times better!
FACC: Did you improve your cultural of linguistic skills while in France?
SD: From the food to the fashion, the French culture is unlike anything I’ve experienced in the world. France is truly the heart of luxury. French beauty, especially skincare, is something every country can learn from. The French have a look that appears so effortless, but also extremely elegant at the same time. As I continue my work in the beauty industry, I will always study the French culture, fashion, and beauty.
FACC: How are you involved in the French-American business community today?
SD: I attended the Paris & New York Luxury Capital Symposium in Paris last year, in which the FACC was a sponsor. I was able to network with many French and American business leaders. It made me realize how important relationships are in business. In the beauty industry, French and America are both powerhouses and leaders. Each have similarities but also differences. It’s important to respect each other to learn and grow.