What is now the worldwide leader in the beauty industry was founded by a chemist and entrepreneur, who started with just one idea in his kitchen: creating a safer hair dye for hairdressers and consumers. What if this entrepreneurial spirit never left the company culture? One century later, more than 50 startups have been incubated, accelerated or co-created inside L’Oréal. In addition, employees are also demonstrating an ‘entrepreneurial mindset’, this je-ne-sais-quoi.
To better understand what this means exactly, we decided to interview the best duo we could find to answer our questions: Genevieve and Nico! Why? Two years ago they left L’Oréal as full-time employees to come back stronger… this time as Start-up co-founders accelerated by L’Oréal! Gen and Nico recently launched wedohair: The first premium coworking space and digital platform that connects independent hairdressers from the worlds of fashion and cinema with demanding consumers searching for their ideal stylist.
Let’s see what they have to say…
Can you tell us more about your startup?
Wedohair proposes a complete solution to help premium independent hairdressers from the worlds of fashion and film to develop and simplify their businesses and in parallel, we help consumers with very high standards to find their ideal hairstylist.
From a B to B perspective, wedohair offers everything these premium independent hairdressers need to succeed: A professional and inspiring coworking space, open from early morning to late evening for maximum customer convenience — a digital marketplace to recruit new customers and highlight their talent by showing real proof (photos, ratings & reviews) of each stylist’s ability to execute perfectly the service requested — and of course pro services to help the stylists develop and manage their businesses.
Wedohair also gives consumers access to top industry talent for best-in-class hair services at a fair price. Our stylist partners work regularly on editorial shoots for major fashion magazines, backstage at top runway shows, and on-set for films. And they have the most demanding clients — celebrities- which is a very strong guarantee of excellence! And because they are hired to reproduce specific looks on a variety of hair types, they master all hair types and styles. Also, their backstage experience has given them a huge skillset for quick fixes which makes them ideal hair coaches. Looking for an easy to maintain but chic hairstyle? Need coaching on how to style your hair for important meetings or social events? Our studio stylists will empower you with specific tips and tricks for your hair and for your style. They are a hidden gem of the hairstyling industry, we see their work everywhere, but most consumers can’t access them for a haircut. That’s where we step in.
We connect consumers with their ideal stylist via our “stylist-match”, a unique digital platform that allows you to browse their portfolios, their services, their prices and make your reservation easily without any surprises. We then welcome you and your stylist in our spacious co-working atelier for your appointment.
What is your personal story? What was your job before?
I went to cosmetology school at 15 and started working as a licensed hairdresser in a small town in the mid-west USA at 17. I then self-financed 6 years of full-time university studies on my income as a part-time hairdresser paid on commission. At 23 years old, I had graduated with my MA from Georgetown and was making a six-figure income as a hairdresser in Washington D.C. At 27, I left the lucrative world of elite American hairdressing to follow my lifelong dream of mastering French, living in Paris and working for the industry leader, L’Oréal. I spent the next 10 years working for L’Oréal Professional Products Division at their HQ in Paris where I rose quickly through the ranks developing the international colour collections for L’Oréal Professionnel -the world’s biggest colour brand- and later as Brand Director for the Middle East & Africa zone.
Why did you leave L’Oréal? Or did you actually really leave?
Since moving to France in 2009, I was struck by the lack of financial opportunity for stylists in the traditional salary system and started inquiring: what would it take to empower French independent stylists to achieve the same quality of life and financial opportunities as their independent American counterparts? Inspired by the rise of co-working concepts for independent professionals in France and around the world, and encouraged and supported by several start-up founders & stylist friends, in fall of 2018 I took the big leap with the full support of L’Oréal to launch Paris’s first co-working space and digital platform for independent stylists.
To help execute my vision, I recruited a trusted former colleague whose entrepreneurial mindset and proven operational excellence are the perfect match for this ambitious project… Nico!
Nico, why did you join Gen in this adventure? What is your side of the story?
During my 13 years at L’Oréal, I launched a stylist booking app, introduced the first commission-based salon concept for independent Afro stylists in South Africa and revolutionized hairdresser education in the middle east to make it more accessible and more hands-on. Through the breadth of these experiences in markets as diverse as France, U.A.E., Saudi Arabia and South Africa, I have seen first hand how supporting stylists with the right services and incentivization radically grows the pie for everyone.
People usually talk about “entrepreneurial spirit” at L’Oréal… What is your piece of the puzzle?
My first entrepreneurial project was moving to France and getting hired by L’Oréal.
I was 27, working full-time as hairdresser in a top salon in Washington DC and I had one big dream: to work for L’Oréal, the worldwide beauty leader, at their HQ in Paris. However, I barely spoke French, didn’t know the culture or the employment system, so it was a big challenge to figure out how to make that happen.
Through my network — a client at the hair salon whose son was a marketing manager at L’Oréal- I was introduced to L’Oréal HR in NYC and realized that the most efficient way to proceed was to move to France and try to get an internship once in the country. So I saved as much money as I could, took French classes, researched the internship and visa system in France then applied to universities in France. Not long after arriving in France, I secured an internship with L’Oréal in Paris and was then hired on a permanent work contract by L’Oréal Professional Products Division.
It was stressful being alone in a foreign country and not fully understanding the culture, language or the employment system. What I learned is that while it’s essential to carefully prepare a big project, but you can’t plan everything. At some point you must take a leap of faith and believe you will be able to figure out the rest. I took a risk leaving a very comfortable life and salary in Washington DC to become an intern in Paris and it worked out beautifully — L’Oréal took a chance on me and I was able to build a dream career at the L’Oréal HQ in Paris.
Now, after 10 years of L’Oréal, I am co-founding a business and I relive many of the same emotions as the 27-year-old me. Except that it’s not as frightening now because (1) I know from experience that I am able to take on a huge project, manage uncertainty, keep a positive attitude and focus, and make it happen and (2) thanks to my 10 years at L’Oréal I developed strong marketing, sales and management skillset that helps me tremendously in my role as co-founder of a beauty tech start-up today.
How does it work at a startup being incubated at L’Oréal?
The L’Oréal Beauty Tech Atélier program at Station F is fantastic. We really enjoy discussing and exchanging ideas with the other very talented and innovative start-ups in the program. We also take full advantage of the wonderful classes and resources offered by Station F.
In fact, one such class at Station F was game-changing for us: Nicolas attended a few sessions on “No-Code” solutions and with this knowledge and training, started building our digital marketplace platform. In just a few months, he was able to create a fully functioning MVP (minimum viable product) that saved us a lot of money and empowers us with the autonomy to test & learn and modify our site however and whenever we want.
What is your next ambition for your startup?
We just opened our summer “Pop Up” in an amazing atelier, bathed in sunlight next to a spacious tree-lined garden courtyard with its own bar/café at Le Grand Quartier Hotel, Paris 10°. In this idyllic summertime setting, our talented stylists receive clients Thursday to Sunday until the end of August. In September, we will open a permanent space in a new location in Paris to welcome our hairdressers and their clients.
What would be your piece of advice that you took away from your whole experience?
My personal experience is very much influenced by the fact that I am a wife and mother of 2 small children.
Making the decision to launch a business in these circumstances was made possible by careful financial planning, a husband who believes in me and shares domestic tasks with me, and a strong co-founder -someone you respect and trust and whose skillset is complementary to yours so that you can be an efficient team.
Your choice of a life partner, your personal financial management, and your choice of co-founder are factors that you 100% control. So manage and plan the best that you can, then take the leap and stay focused on your goal !
Finally, how can we follow you both or even enjoy a nice haircut?
Come see us at our summer “Pop Up” at Le Grand Quartier in the beautiful gallery space and courtyard garden at 15 rue Nancy, Paris 75010. It is a 100m2 open space atelier, bathed in sunlight, on the ground level overlooking a beautifully manicured garden courtyard. You can enjoy a coffee in the magnificent garden or on the rooftop w/ amazing views of Paris.
If you are in Paris, you can meet our independent hairdressers who offer premium hair services for women and men such as haircuts, brushing, balayage, and hair color services. 24-hour booking online. Browse the portfolios of our talented stylists-to-the-stars on:
wedohair - coiffeurs de stars, lieu atypique, pop-up estival
En quelques dizaines de minutes et pour 20€ seulement, venez à notre bar coiffure pour : - des chignons d'été chics et…
Or stop by anytime for a free consultation! 😊
We also are on Instagram, so don’t hesitate to follow or message us @wedohairpro!
Feeling like you are an entrepreneur as well? Check out our life at L’Oréal: