Intégrer le développement durable au sein des processus d’entreprise - Entrevue avec Léa Bégin

You will find bellow the english translation of the interview.

Q: How would you describe the place of sustainability in your company?

A: In our years right now, if you launch a project, whether it's a blog, a store or a clothing line, if there are no values that are anchored in sustainable development, it doesn't make sense because we are already saturated. I have been able to place sustainable development in my company on several levels. There are so many things that I don't know where to start, but they are all small details. For me, it's in the details that we make the difference, whether it's in the facials that we try to make zero waste as much as possible, in the choice of suppliers that I will contact... Cosmetic companies, whether skin care or makeup, hair products, body products, are all companies that find themselves in an industry that we call "eco-chic". It's super nested the eco-chic: good quality products with non-toxic ingredients, either natural or organic, etc., but they also have a packaging that is interesting, that gives you that feeling of luxury, or of having a beautiful product that you like. In short, in this niche that I'm exploiting, the suppliers I'm going to contact have missions that are aligned with mine. There is also the fact that we really put education at the center of our service. So when you come to Beauties Lab, we welcome you as if you were our best friend, and we're not going to try to sell you a lot of products you don't need. I've been a makeup artist for 15 years, for 15 years I've been hearing women around me say, "I went to such and such makeup store and spent way too much money on products that ended up in my drawer." But these products are ink that has been poured, it's plastic that has been created, it's a carbon footprint that's really important. The cosmetics industry is super polluting and we have to be careful about that. So I bring education into customer service, and give the tools to as many people as possible, not just women, men as well. If you have the education, you become independent as a consumer. You consume less, because you know what you really need, you know what you don't need anymore, you will spend better. So we are very "less is more", we are very "less but better". That's what sustainable development is, it's how we can make sure that what we do today doesn't have a negative impact in the long term, and that it doesn't prevent people of other generations later from being able to do the same thing. It's really in all the little details like that that we're going to make a difference.

Q: Was it difficult to find Quebec suppliers that match Beauties Lab's values?

A: At Beauties, 50% of our inventory is local. By local I mean either Montreal, Quebec or Canada. I didn't want to limit myself to Canada only because in my opinion, it's important to offer a wide range. I'm in an industry that's already very niche, that's already very specialized, so it's very specific what we're going to look for. And in terms of eco-chic, if I just stuck to what we do locally, I wouldn't have a range that would be interesting enough for customers. I also like being open to the world and being able to encourage other types of companies in other countries. But it's important for me to be able to encourage a lot the local. So yes, there is still a challenge, I would say especially at the make-up level. When it comes to hair products, skin care products, it is fine, but makeup is not so easy. Some people might listen to this and say "oh no, I know this brand and that brand", yes, but the challenge for us is that there are a lot of companies that still demand minimum orders that are huge. So for me, this lack of flexibility is still a challenge to overcome. There are companies that don't understand that if we're talking about sustainable development, if we're talking about the environment, we're talking about the health of the planet. I'd like to be able to access the brands I want by ordering the products I know I'm going to sell. But there are companies that still say "no, you have to order at least so many products, and you don't have the right to choose which products you're going to have in your order", so I run the risk of ending up with products that I might not sell, and that goes against my values. There are companies like that that fell into my choice because it didn't fit with Beauties' values. It's not really sustainable to end up with an overstock of products that I won't sell.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?

A: Obviously like everyone else I was affected by this. Since my business is small, I compare it to being two on a canoe, as opposed to a big, big, big liner with a crew of a thousand people. If we have to turn left, we turn left. Them, if they have to turn left, it is longer, it is really longer and it is complicated. So it took me about twelve hours and I turned around. It went really well. I was able to push. I already had an online store, so I pushed the sales on the online store. I managed to make a series of twenty lives to go help people, so that we could take care of ourselves because that's at the heart of our mission: the art of taking care, of remembering to take care of ourselves and giving ourselves the tools to do it. One challenge we had, however, is that my best-selling product is a product that people often hear under the name Gua Sha, but it says Guā Sha in Chinese, it's a self-massage stone for the face. It's my best-selling product, it's the one I make the most profit on and it's a product that comes from China. I don't order it from China to try to get cheaper, it's because only in China there are factories of Gua Sha, which is made of quartz or jade. And my order stayed in China, obviously, because of the Covid. So I didn't find it funny, I thought "ok, what do we do with that? Is there any way to buy it elsewhere? I'll just double check. " And yes, it was just in China. So I contacted Quebec artisans who work with all kinds of materials. I came across a woman who works with porcelain. She is the only woman in Canada who works porcelain according to the Limoges method, which is only taught in France. I sent her the Gua Sha and I asked her if it was possible to pay tribute to traditional Chinese medicine, from which this product is derived, but to integrate the Canadian Quebec terroir into this product. So from a challenge came an idea that will come out soon, in the fall, which will be called Minera and it will be the first Canadian Gua Sha that will be made of porcelain. It's white and it's beautiful, and I'm really very happy with it. And you see if the Covid hadn't arrived, there wouldn't have been that little silver lining behind it.

Q: What advice would you give to young professionals looking for inspiration to propose innovative solutions in sustainable development?

A: I really think it's important to go and see what's being done elsewhere. To read as much as possible, but in what is being done elsewhere. To read from people who don't have the same point of view as you do, and to understand why. To go and see the companies that are most important to you and subscribe to their newsletters to really inform you as much as possible about what is being done, but outside your circle. Education, I would say, is the number one tool, but above all, to open your horizons, not to judge and just be curious. And then to go and read. Otherwise there are documentaries, it's a great source of information for people who maybe like to read less. But yes, it's super important to be educated and informed, and I think you're in the right place for that.

Q: Do you have tips for developing a strategy that will improve a company's profitability?

A: You don't know until you do it. You have to go to work, you have to go out in the field, you have to explore, you have to make mistakes, and it's in this whole global experience that sometimes life will lead you to switch your perspective, to look in a different way, for different reasons, and you'll have to find a solution in the moment. I think that trying to plan too much in advance, trying to calculate too much in advance, not starting a project until it's perfect, I think that's something that's disabling and can be very damaging. So for me the strategy would be to maybe follow your guts and not have too much strategy. Follow your values, make sure that if the planet could speak, if it had a voice, would it say "go, go ahead". If future generations could be here right now, and they had a voice, would they say "go, go ahead".

Q: What are the particularities of sustainable development for a company working in the fashion industry?

A: I would say that the particularity for someone working in the beauty industry is the over-consumption of products. The cosmetics industry has always been and always will be one of the healthiest industries in the world. Because it plays on - it's very psychological - on the lacks we have and the complexes we didn't have but that we were created. So it responds to a lot of things, and because of that, we consume much more than we need. I would say that this is a particularity for the beauty industry. In terms of sustainable development, the challenge here is to consume less, but consume better. And for that, we need to bring education back to the center of customer service, of the customer experience, to make the customer independent, so that he can make his choices at least with full knowledge of the causes. Then we'll already have an industry that, in my opinion, will be healthier.

Q: How do you perceive success at Beauties Lab?

A: We advertise by word of mouth. And I want to keep it that way. I believe in "less is more", but for me it's in everything. I believe in less clients, but clients that I'm going to take care of like the love of my life and who are going to tell their friends, and their friends are going to tell their friends. So to grow like that organically, more than to develop incredible advertising budgets to try to get a client with whom her values may not be reasoned with. She's going to buy once, but she's not necessarily going to connect with the essence. It's not because she's better or worse than us, it's just because my goal is not to please everyone either. I prefer to have a smaller store, fewer brands, less inventory, fewer customers, but that everything is done with the heart and that everything is in line with the values. For me, that's what success is all about.

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