Start-up Interview: Female Entrepreneur Ester Saez of CosmetoFruits
Let's face it, most of us would love an elixir of eternal youth, and most of us look for it in the form of skin products. Here, Ester Saez, co-founder of COSMETOFRUITS talks to The NextWomen about the challenges of starting a business, the benefits that working and studying abroad can bring and how their antioxidant elixir will help to combat free-radical damage.
Tell us a bit about yourself – your background and education?
I am a happily married woman and mother of two, who decided a year ago to join the entrepreneurial world. After a long and fun career in marketing, I decided to follow my heart and put my experiences in bringing brands and products from their development stage to the regional marketplace, into practice.
Throughout my 16+ marketing years I have performed roles for highly visible and well reputed brands in multinational consumer companies (locally and internationally), including a number of retailers in various International markets - Chile, South America, and Europe, and have also led virtual teams. I reached high executive positions and enjoyed a sense of pride being part of their growth, achieving professional and personal challenges and goals.
At the Beginning of 2009 I joined the world of entrepreneurship in Chile by starting up my own business, entering the increasingly emerging nutri-cosmetic industry. I also dedicate several hours per week to mentoring innovation projects, which brings me ideas and happiness.
Being an entrepreneur is definitely tough, but it is an incredible challenge, and one I thrive on as I work to balance it with my family.
What is COSMETOFRUIT? When did you launch and what are your local and global objectives over the next three years?
The new and first Chilean COSMETOFRUIT is a concentrated antioxidant elixir with clear benefits for cosmetic welfare to fight free radical damage, repair skin and retard future signs of aging from inside out. Our goal is to become a valued and well-reputed global specialist in the creation and development of cosmetofood systems / products, and be a leader in the emerging world of the nutri-cosmetic industry “beauty from within”. Furthermore, promoting and participating in the development of Chileans’ flagship active ingredients, and their commercialisation at a global scale.
The Project consists of developing and internationally marketing molecular nutri-cosmetic products and food supplements with cosmetic benefits based on extracts of polyphenols from Chilean berries and grapes, which provide 40% more antioxidants than similar ones cultivated in other lands.
We are currently in the phase of formulations, stability and clinical studies, and aiming at having products ready for marketing in the coming 4 to 5 months, at which point our site will go live.
Our products count on the scientific support from academic institutions: PUC-DICTUC and the bio-technology development from Lucien Biotechnologies Chile, an emerging Chilean biotechnology laboratory, which guarantees the right ORAC levels present in these products, unique in their wild form in our Chilean fruits. Furthermore, our project is applying for R&D&I funding from the Chilean government.
How are your products different from those of your competitors?
In one word, their origin: CHILE and hence the source of our raw materials.
Chile is an exceptional bioclimatic island. The composition of rich soils and unique climate conditions close to the Los Andes Mountains and Humboldt Current, are favoured by high levels of light (seen nowhere else) and provide greater temperature differences during the day (greater generation of polyphenols and flavonoids), which in turn allows for optimum crop height growth.
The state of the art biotechnology processing applied to our products, and no others, also allows us the benefit of identifying the product’s precise ORAC score (level of antioxidants).
Will you sell predominantly on the internet or do you intend to have a high street presence?
We will go for a high street presence in the first instance, to create and establish our brand positioning as a world class retailer, but at the same time as selling online. In the mid-to-long term we will then take the business more and more online, selling through both our own site and other online retailers. Our target retailers are high-end specialist beauty stores channels.
Who is in the COSMETOFRUIT team? What experiences do you all bring to the table?
Our team is diverse, fun and full of talent. We have: Chemical Engineers, Bio-chemists, Agronomy Engineers, Marketing and Business people.
I am Co-Founder and creative director and have worked (amongst others) for Avon, Colgate, Unilever, Wal-Mart (ex D&S, Chilean company), where I have led on every aspect of business and marketing. Jose Miguel Fernandez, Co-Founder and Director, majored in Industrial Marketing and has 17 years experience in management, interpersonal, communication and company leadership in the multinational environment at every level. At the beginning of 2009 he became Business Director of Proteus SA – a leading company in the development of the first Chilean drug achieved through biotechnological processes.
Marcelo Diaz is our Executive VP – Research and Development, an Agricultural Engineer by training, he has 11 years experience in entrepreneurship having played a role in founding 8 companies, and is currently Chief Entrepreneur of the Business Incubator of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, one of the most important institutions in our country.
We also have a strategic alliance with Lucien Biotechnologies, where we work with: Felipe Camposano, an Industrial Engineer; Andres Leschot, a Biochemist and Álvaro Olivera-Nappa, a Chemical Engineer.
What have been your start-up costs and how have/will you fund these?
US$ 57,700 worth of initial shareholders’ funds, however, we are now applying for a government grant, which promotes innovation and entrepreneurship. These funds are provided by CORFO, a state agency, which aims at rewarding innovation and the commercial scalability of projects.
You also run Saez 360o – assistance for practical creativity. You have a cool website – did you design it yourself or did you get the work done out of house?
This website is my way of communicating with the world - it’s my “Brand me” where I can put what I am and what I think.
I thought of the idea and created the logic design, but its programming was developed and implemented by an external team guided by me. Though my background is in business, I have always been thrilled by design and creativity, which has lead me to be part of the product development committees in many multinational settings.
You have studied and worked in Chile, U.S.A, Belgium, Spain, UK, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic. How has such a broad experience affected your outlook on business? Have you found yourself implementing processes and work ethics from any of these countries that you otherwise wouldn’t have?
I find working and studying abroad a challenging and enriching experience, and one that has gained me confidence, building my personal and professional development and thus further enhancing and honing my character and competencies. It is these experiences that I believe have led me towards managing more demanding responsibilities, and better relating to people from different cultures.
Meeting people of varied backgrounds with different life stories is an excellent experience, as it provides diversity in opinions allowing me to grow and learn as a person. You learn to listen and recognise new visions of the world. You realise there is so much to learn.
Travel and study outside of Chile has helped me to have an adapting capacity to assume new challenges and build a strong interpersonal and communicational skills, creativeness and clarity of purpose.
What single piece of advice would you give to a woman thinking about starting an online business?
Be humble in the sense of listening and seek support from those who have lived the experience of entrepreneurship, both good and bad. Do not pretend to know everything. Find or ally with a team with which you can have a good time and are willing to share your values. And never get into a venture that does not trigger your passion. Being deeply in love with a dream helps you to move forward - it’s not only about money or fame. It’s about you and making people happy, generating the space to evolve every day into something better. Giving society a little bit of you.
On a lighter note, name one website you wish you’d founded.
I could sure give you more than one… I’m in multiple flanks always, because I love it so much.
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