Valerie Grandury Found Skincare Success In the Aftermath Of Breast Cancer
The big C threw Odacité founder Valerie Grandury a curveball at age 45. She never imagined breast cancer would affect her. She had no family history of the disease. She had none of the typical risk factors. The diagnosis 13 years ago put into stark relief for Grandury the fact that life doesn’t always go as planned. A former commercial producer and health coach, she didn’t anticipate building a skincare company. Today, Odacité has taken off at stores the likes of Nordstrom, Bluemercury and Space NK. Grandury didn’t foresee herself at the helm of substantial beauty operations. Now, she leads a team of 28 people stretching from marketing to manufacturing that keeps Odacité’s chic, clean products on shelves. “I wanted to create a new conversation around beauty, and I’ve been propelled to take that journey,” she says. “I’m not worried about the competition because I really think this is larger than me.” Grandury talked to Beauty Independent about retail relationships, her passion for Los Angeles, steady sales growth and improving posture.
How did Odacité begin?
I’m from Paris, and I really fell in love with California. I wanted to find a way to come here with a job. I had a commercial production company in Paris, and we started an office in L.A. The idea was to come for two years, but California living got to me. Everything was perfect until I had a routine checkup, and three breast tumors were found, which metastasized to different parts of my body. If I wanted to heal, I had to remove toxins from my life. It was obvious that I had to change my diet, but I had absolutely no clue that the beautiful French skincare I had been using for years and years maybe contributed to the disease. I went into Whole Foods for natural beauty products, and my French genes were allergic to what I was seeing. It looked awful. It smelled like patchouli. The French take skincare super seriously. It’s like food. It’s a moment of pleasure and luxury that makes you feel good as well as look better. None of what I saw delivered on that. I went home and thought, “It can’t be that difficult to make.” I had no intention of starting a company. I wanted to make products for myself. The skincare I was making changed my skin, and people asked me what I was doing. I started making products all the time. Then, I felt it had to be taken to the next level.
What did it take to get Odacité off the ground? Is it profitable today?
It was completely self-funded by savings. The biggest investment was that my business partner and I didn’t pay ourselves for three years. I’m not really a numbers person. I didn’t go into it with the intention of profitability. I went in with the idea of making the best products. I had this incredible conviction that, if I did that, the rest would follow. We were lucky because we reached profitability after three years.
What is the brand’s retail distribution strategy?
As we were going out on the retail market, we wanted to build partnerships with retail stores. We chose to be exclusive with people who understood our message and would really allow us to train the staff. We thought it would be mostly little boutiques, but it has ranged from natural stores to Colette in Paris to online retailers in England like Cult Beauty, and to Nordstrom and Space NK.
Odacité launched at Nordstrom two years ago. How do you make sure the brand finds an audience there?
As a young company, it was a big learning curve to understand how we could thrive in that environment with so many brands. We are part of advanced skincare, and we don’t have our own counter. For the stores in Canada, there was a big summit that I went to. In one day, I trained the entire staff. With my serum concentrate, you can mix it as a concentrated booster targeted to specific skincare concerns. It is very easy to cross sell with other products. It really helps to have a chance to explain to the staff that we aren’t competing with anyone, we’re just enhancing the results of everything they are selling. In Canada, we didn’t put many boots on the ground because we had the opportunity to train the entire staff. In the U.S., we have boots on the ground. We have to be there every week. There is turnover. You build a relationship with the counter manager and, all of a sudden, that counter manager moves somewhere else. We have an army of beauty ambassadors in the stores. Recruiting them isn’t easy. They have to be able to work solo, come up with their own ideas, be creative about how to sell and be truly passionate.
“In the U.S., we have boots on the ground. We have to be there every week. There is turnover. You build a relationship with the counter manager and, all of a sudden, that counter manager moves somewhere else. We have an army of beauty ambassadors in the stores. Recruiting them isn’t easy. They have to be able to work solo, come up with their own ideas, be creative about how to sell and be truly passionate.”
Did you have to adjust your manufacturing processes to scale up for Nordstrom?
It wasn’t only because of Nordstrom, but, because of the growth we’ve had, in the last three years, we tripled our square footage. We had to train the whole operations team on new supply chain software to make sure we had inventory and are not on back order. The minute you are on back order, you lose sales. We have a fresh manufacturing system. We don’t produce 50,000 bottles of our serum. We produce for the next six weeks, and we are constantly producing, so there’s a lot of forecasting that needs to be in place for us to be accurate.
Odacité has been exclusive to Colette in France. Why?
When we started with Colette, they asked for a six-month exclusive, but it became such a great account and we were busy growing Asia, so it felt natural just to stay with them. We didn’t need anyone else in France at the time, and they were happy with the brand. We didn’t expect it to be more than a six-month exclusive, but it went on for more than three years. If Colette wasn’t closing, we would keep it going.
How do you feel now that Colette is closing?
I’m so sad. There’s really nothing like Colette. The eclectic nature of the store is wonderful. There’s everything from a little notepad to high design. Part of the success of the space is that everyone can find something at Colette, whether you want to spend a large amount of money or a few Euros. It’s very rare to have that range of price. It’s an amazing store.
Why do you favor exclusive arrangements?
We don’t have an exclusive arrangement with Nordstrom. They asked me if I had plans to launch in Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s, which I didn’t. Honestly, I don’t have the resources to launch in different department stores, and I like to build a partnership. That way, I’m able to understand what Nordstrom really needs. I would rather be in one successful door than 10 unsuccessful doors. It makes no sense for us to spread out to average accounts. I rather my team focus on the best accounts.
What’s Odacité’s e-commerce strategy?
E-commerce is 35% of our business. When we launched the line, it was only online. It’s always been important to us. From the beginning, it’s been about relevant content, and information about how to take care of your skin, and issues relating to the environment and food. It’s a very holistic approach. We send out newsletters with meaningful content, and the blog is very present. We don’t just say here’s 20% off and that’s it.
Amazon, yes or no?
At first, I was absolutely against Amazon. I felt it just wasn’t us, and it didn’t communicate what I wanted to do with Odacité, but I kept having friends tell me they had gotten some of our serums on Amazon. I realized that I also want to shop on Amazon. I have no time to shop and, if I need something, I search on Amazon. We are now on Amazon Prime to satisfy the demand for our products on Amazon.
“I would rather be in one successful door than 10 unsuccessful doors. It makes no sense for us to spread out to average accounts. I rather my team focus on the best accounts.”
What’s the hero product?
I don’t think we really have a hero product. There are products that work better by territory. The one for hyperpigmentation does incredibly well in Asia. In England, they go crazy for our serum concentrate for clogged pores. Anti-aging is a bigger category in America.
How much of Odacité’s business is international versus domestic?
It’s probably 50/50. Because we launched online at first, we realized that people were ordering outside of the United States, even though it was expensive to ship outside of the States and the website was only in English. We understood very quickly that international was going to be key. Colette really helped us go international because people started to reach out to us after that. We have done the business overseas ourselves.
You recently hired a chief financial officer. Why?
If I want something, I make it happen. I don’t care how much it costs. I used to produce really big commercials and, for me, nothing is impossible. Questions like, what is your bestselling product? I don’t even know that, so we need someone who has an analytic mindset to help us forecast for our needs. Right now, we are investing in filling, packaging and labeling machines. I need someone to tell me whether we can do that or not.
Who’s an inspiration to you?
It’s very French of me, but one person that I always think about is Coco Chanel. She dared to liberate women from the corset and gave them fashion to frame the body in a very stylish way. I relate to that for what I’m doing with Odacité. I want to free women’s skin from toxins, but in an elegant way.
Are you going to raise money?
We have no plans to do it. For the moment, we can grow on our own. We receive emails at least once a week from equity partners. It scares the hell out of me. I want freedom. If I had an equity partner, they might tell me I’m crazy for using an expensive ingredient, but we might get to a point where we need to find a friendly investor.
What’s your approach to launching Odacité products?
We try to do three a year. Right now, with the team I have, that is what we can do super well. That’s also a reason I don’t want an equity partner is they would probably push me to do five or 10. For me, it’s always about quality more than quantity.
“We receive emails at least once a week from equity partners. It scares the hell out of me. I want freedom. If I had an equity partner, they might tell me I’m crazy for using an expensive ingredient, but we might get to a point where we need to find a friendly investor.”
At what rate are Odacité’s revenues growing?
We have had incredible, steady growth. I hope we can keep growing that way. On average, over the last three years, it’s about 80% a year. This year, I think we will do 100%. It’s not artificial growth. We didn’t push it with crazy sales. It’s really something that’s strong. I think it’s a brand that will be here in many years and be a very important brand.
Is there something in your office that you are attached to?
When you sit in front of a computer all day, you get the worst posture and, at the end of the day, you feel awful. I bought this stool that’s on a spring. It was very expensive. It enhances your core muscles because you’re constantly moving. You don’t really like it, but it improves your posture. It has completely changed my posture, and I feel good even if I’m sitting in the office all day.
You really adore Los Angeles. Why?
I live in Topanga Canyon, and I wake up with this incredible feeling because the sky is so beautiful. We go for hikes with the dogs in the mountains. Every weekend, I walk on the beach. In the winter, I go skiing. This city is so amazing. It has the mountains and the ocean. It has incredible craftsmanship, an opera and an incredible museum. When I need to get inspired, I go to the museum. I have traveled extensively in my life and, for me, L.A. is becoming the capital of the world.
What sacrifices have you made to be a skincare entrepreneur?
I am really glad that my kids are now on their own, and they are out of the house. I could not have done it if I had kids at home. I am super lucky that I have a husband that is supportive and doesn’t mind that his wife goes away for half the year. You do sacrifice time with your friends and family. One thing I have also learned from my healing journey is that this is where I need to be right now. I need to be on the ground, getting my message out there and meeting people. I’m completely present.