Leadership Lessons With Romain Gaillard, Founder and CEO of The Detox Market
“There is a huge paradox in green beauty and green living. Most brand founders are highly stressed and working insane hours. There is just no way around it. I can’t speak for others, but I can tell you that one of my priorities is to create a positive company culture and hire the best team to work together. If you have this positive energy at work, it makes a huge difference. Working more hours or under stress is very different with the right people.”
I had the pleasure to interview Romain Gaillard, Founder and CEO of The Detox Market. What started as a pop-up shop to showcase very niche natural brands has now grown into the cosmetic industry’s leading green beauty voice with seven brick and mortars in LA, Toronto, and NYC, and a thriving online store.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up in Paris, but moved to California about fifteen years ago. I used to do something extremely different, as I was in tech. I worked in a quite male-dominated industry on very technical issues that I am not sure I ever totally understood. My last tech venture was a security software company that protected businesses from new types of malware and attacks. As interesting as it was, it never resonated with me — I always felt something was missing.
When a friend of mine got cancer at a young age, I started to learn about the toxicity around us, and how to avoid it. One particular area that blew my mind was toxicity in personal care — everyone was talking about processed food and how you need to eat organic, but somehow no one cared about what they were putting on their skin. Even I was not immediately convinced — after all, skincare in my home country of France is sold in pharmacies by people wearing white lab coats.
By doing more research and meeting more people, I realized that something needed to be done to educate consumers. I discovered a lot of brands with passionate founders behind them. They all shared a dedication for creating non-toxic products that worked. So in 2010, I decided to create the first Detox Market as a pop-up store on Abbot Kinney in Venice, California. My vision was that beauty should be cleaner, and that health, beauty, and wellness should be seen holistically. The vision was good, but the timing was a little in advance.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
So much has happened in the past ten years. When you start a company, you end up doing things you never thought you would be doing. You improvise and wear a lot of hats — painter, photographer, web designer, accountant.
I would say that the most important thing that happened to me is to become a father a few years ago. This gave another dimension to what I was doing, and I felt even stronger about providing the best and safest products available. Education is so important, and I truly believe that by setting a better standard and leading by example, this new generation will be much healthier. If you look at my three-year-old son, he loves green juices and kale! I don’t think I tried green juices before I was in my 20s.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I make mistakes all the time! Making mistakes is part of making decisions and learning, so you should embrace them. Some are painful and some are funny.
When I launched the first Detox Market, I didn’t know what I was doing. But we had a great team of friends who came to help put together the store from merchandising to installing the POS system and the alarm.
We were all so focused on creating a cool experience, displaying the products in a creative way, and educating the team, we forgot to put prices on the products!
So when the first clients arrived we had no idea how much the products were. Everyone loved it, and we stayed like that for a while.
This anecdote is really representative of our state of mind when we opened The Detox Market. We are not focused on sales, and even now our brand ambassadors are not commission-based so they can focus on building relationships and educating.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There are a lot of things that makes us stand out — we were among the first to promote green beauty, we have the strictest guidelines when it comes to non-toxic ingredients and efficacy, and we are very community driven…
But I think that what makes us stand out most is our company culture and our team. There is a higher level of care, and we are notorious for taking a long time to hire anyone to make sure that it is a good fit for the company and for the person.
The result is a team that gets along very well together and that share the same mission and passion.
A great example for me is our client services and operations team that work at our warehouse. Every time I go there I am impressed by how amazing this team is. The level of care and professionalism of the team is outstanding. They work incredibly hard, but maintain a great atmosphere. They play cool music and celebrate with waffle days, luaus, and vegan barbecues — they truly care for each other.
I see The Detox Market as a way for the team to express their talent and their passion for green beauty. There’s a reason we call ourselves The Detox Market Family.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not burn out?
There is a huge paradox in green beauty and green living. Most brand founders are highly stressed and working insane hours. There is just no way around it. I can’t speak for others, but I can tell you that one of my priorities is to create a positive company culture and hire the best team to work together.
If you have this positive energy at work, it makes a huge difference. Working more hours or under stress is very different with the right people.
None of us would be able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a person you are grateful for who has helped you reach where you are today?
I didn’t make it by myself for sure! Over the years, I have been helped by many people, received so much great advice, and was cheered on during tough times.
The famous idiom says, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” I don’t see myself as great, but I am surrounded by great women for sure. The Detox Market workforce is 95% women.
And the one who helped me the most is my wife. She has been a steady support no matter what is happening, and also helped tremendously when we started. As a graphic designer she spent a lot of time working on our identity.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I am not sure goodness is the proper term, but our DNA is that of a mission driven company. Our goal is to help people detox their beauty. We want to educate people about toxicity in personal care, and empower them to make the right decision.
In the past 10 years, at our small scale, I do think we have made a positive impact on the beauty community.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote” Can you share a story on how it is relevant to you in your life?
“I love the man that can smile in trouble.” — Thomas Pain
The first four years of The Detox Market, pretty much everyone thought we were not going to make it. And to be honest we barely made it. Green beauty is only recently starting to catch on, so we really were pioneering a business that didn’t have an audience yet. We had many difficult times, and very long weeks and months, but I always try to keep a sense of humour about things.
At the end of the day, as long as the people around you are in good health, there is not much you can complain about.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company and why. Please share a story or example for each
● It is going to be painful.
I haven’t met an entrepreneur who hasn’t suffered — at least when they started. The level of stress, the crazy things you have to do, and the sensation that you are constantly playing catch up is a painful experience, in particular if you financed the project yourself, and you know that all you have is in the company…
I think it takes a little bit of craziness to start a company, but it is worth it, even if it doesn’t work the first time, keep on going.
● It is going to take a while.
I used to be in tech where you see a lot of overnight success in the press. Somehow, you feel it can happen to you as well, but reality is quite different.
Most likely, it will take a while…
I believe that the first two years, you fight for your life, the next two you try to figure out how to grow without running out of cash, and after four or five years, that is when you are a little more established and you stop being scared.
So if it takes time, don’t worry about it. Just think that you are creating great memories.
● Trust your team.
For many entrepreneurs, it takes some time to fully trust their team. That can be very penalizing for the company. I feel that you really need to trust your team’s actions. We started expanded our company in Canada as a pop up a few years ago, and at that time no one was interested in green beauty. The store was not doing well at all. I didn’t have the budget to go back there often, so I decided to rely 100% on the team there. I had a very transparent discussion with everyone, and I was impressed at how well the team did. In five years
we only had one person leave the original team!
● Never address an issue on the spot.
In a world with smartphones, you end up responding to issues too fast. Unless something is an emergency (and it rarely is one), take the time to answer properly. It is much better to wait a couple of days to have an appropriate answer rather than start a back and forth discussion.
Usually, if I am concerned or pissed about a matter, I write a response but I don’t send it. Then I read the email again the next day, and 99% of the time I realize that my response was not appropriate.
● Understand what you are looking for
This seems like a very generic tip but it is quite fundamental as an entrepreneur. You will have a lot of decision to make when it comes to growth, capital funding, hiring team members or finding a business partner.
Before making these decisions, think about what you are trying to achieve: are you looking to make a reasonable living or are you looking to become very rich very fast? Are you looking for freedom and independence or is your dream to have a great team around you? Do you want to keep your company for a long time or sell it off soon?
There is no right or wrong answers, you just need to align your decisions with what you are looking for.
One thing that helps me is to meet as many entrepreneurs as possible, it really helps to share experiences.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger
I really do not qualify as a person of great influence, but I feel that The Detox Market has become an influential figure in our green beauty community, and that is something I am really proud of.
We have dedicated ourselves to wellness and health in beauty, but I feel that working more on sustainability in beauty is going to be a future focus for us.
We are actually looking for ideas and suggestions so if anyone has any, we are all ears.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find us on Instagram @thedetoxmarket as well as Youtube at tktk, and on our blog at blog.thedetoxmarket.com.
Originally published at medium.com