Laurice Rahmé, founder and President of Bond No. 9, is this year’s honoree for CEW’s Great Idea Award for Fragrance Innovation, sponsored by IFF. Here, she talks about joining the beauty world, some of the best career advice she’s received and how her most defining moment, September 11, changed the course of her business—and the fragrance industry.
BI: Growing up, were you one of those go-getters with a game plan? Or did your ambition kick in later?
LR: I was a go-getter and quite ambitious to make a difference in the world. However, my plans always were and remain flexible – there are many fascinating things to learn, see and explore and I was and always will be curious. There is no one way to arrive and sometimes where you arrive is not where you thought you would – but it is a much more fulfilling and exciting place! In a nutshell, I always follow my passion!
BI: What’s the smartest career advice you received and how have you applied it?
LR: Very early in my career, my mentor Robert Salmon at L’Oréal told me two things that have been most important to me. They’re simple but very powerful. He told me to ‘always focus on creativity, all the rest will follow.’ And it is true! If the product is amazing, unique and created with passion and pride, all the rest will fall into place. The second thing I learned from him is not to be afraid to be different. He always reminded me that it is important to be myself, not to follow, not to look at what others are doing but to find the path that is right for me.
BI: How did you wind up in beauty?
LR: I started my career in France where I studied art history and worked in the arts and antiques field after finishing university. My fascination with aesthetics, my business sense and my international heritage soon brought me to L’Oréal where I fell in love with the beauty industry while working all over the world, in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. From there it was a short step into the world of true perfumery when I got the opportunity to partner with Annick Goutal and introduce her fragrances into the U.S. market.
BI: Your most defining moment?
LR: September 11 was certainly the most defining moment of my professional life so far. This was the moment when downtown, where our flagship boutique and offices are located, was in the center of the aftermath of the tragedy that forever changed New York and the world as such. This was when we were all traumatized and saddened beyond belief. This was when you could smell the burning debris so intensely, see the smoke and dust all the time – a constant reminder of what we had lost. That was the moment when the idea to make New York smell good again was born! That was when I decided that I wanted, had to, celebrate this incredible city: its grit and energy, its dynamic people and their optimism with perfumes that would pay homage like never before to the neighborhoods, to the New Yorkers, to its authenticity, it history and its future.
BI: Describe a perfect work day.
LR: The perfect day for me begins with 20 minutes of meditation to get centered, followed by an hour of yoga to breathe flexibility into my body and mind. Then I am at my offices on Bond Street from 10 a.m. until about 8 p.m. with different topics to manage and various meetings to attend, such as calls or meetings regarding sales, accounting, creation, media, and production. Having time for myself in the mornings and then looking to a day full of varied meetings and seeing the business progress is a perfect day for me.
BI: Professional mantra you swear by?
LR: It’s by Andy Warhol: The most fascinating kind of art is being good in business.
BI: Over the course of your career, what big skill sets have you had to gain that you didn’t anticipate?
LR: I had to learn that being occasionally disappointed with the lack of integrity is part of professional life. Like everyone else I had to learn to live with that disappointment from time to time and not let it discourage or paralyze me. I also learned that my real satisfaction and real success comes from the focus on the end-consumer, my customer.
BI: What do you consider to be the key personal traits young women need to be successful in beauty?
LR: There are a few key factors that I believe are really critical to be amazing in beauty – a burning passion for empowering women and celebrating beautiful, surprising and delightful things, creative thinking, great detail orientation, and sharp business acumen.
BI: What are some of your most effective motivating techniques?
LR: One of the most powerful ways to motivate is involving even junior levels in the creation and running of the business. I have found it to be tremendously empowering for my team to see how creation happens and to contribute as much as appropriate to all aspects of the business. It creates a sense of ownership, fosters a great sense of fulfillment, and nurtures the team spirit. It gives the team lots of opportunity to take pride in what they do. And we have fun! We often celebrate as a team and spend time together not in a business context, so we know and respect each other as individuals and as professionals. This in my experience is the magic potion: Ownership, fun, and pride – this ignites the passion and makes it burn brightly.
Laurice will be receiving CEW’s Great Idea Award for Fragrance Innovation in the 2012 CEW Achiever Awards. Click here to register to attend the Achiever Awards Luncheon on November 2nd.