Manucurist is a family affair: a mother-daughter collaboration that has grown into a female-run business. So, with Mother's Day in early May, we decided to chat to Gaëlle Lebrat-Personnaz, CEO and co-founder of Manucurist.
She shares her story of how her long-held dream finally became a reality and talks about life as a woman, mother and very busy entrepreneur.
Gaëlle, you started Manucurist in 1996 with your mother. Can you tell us how the idea came about and how you made it all happen?
Gaëlle | My mum has always had beautifully manicured nails painted with stunning red polish. After raising three children, she wanted to keep herself busy and trained as a manicurist. She started off working for different hair salons in Paris until she found her ideal spot: Place du Marché Saint Honoré. And that's where we created Manucurist—dedicated to creating beautiful hands!
I personally worked in fashion for 15 years, helping remotely with product development, communications, etc.
At the end of 2016, I took over Manucurist 100% to develop a new type of polish and treatments aimed at all women. I wanted the formulas to be as clean and natural as possible without compromising their effectiveness.
Which of your mum's qualities do you admire the most?
Gaëlle | I particularly admire my mum's courage, perseverance and work ethic. She has always said to me that if I wanted to be free as a woman, I needed to be financially independent.
Later, when I was reading "The Second Sex" by Simone de Beauvoir, I felt like my mother was speaking to me: "It is mainly through work that women have closed the gap that separated them from men; only by working can they be sure of real freedom."
What effect has motherhood had on you?
Gaëlle | Motherhood is a vast subject! It's hard to say—I think it has both weakened and strengthened me. I realised that I was no longer alone and these small human beings were completely dependent on me, which is scary because we lose the freedom and carefreeness of youth. But it also empowers you to know you are no longer just doing things for yourself. You feel needed. It gives your life a purpose, which was missing for me previously.
How do you combine your role as a mother of five with your responsibilities as CEO?
Gaëlle | That's crazy! No-one would ever ask a male CEO that question, or any man for that matter. It's as if women are the only ones responsible for running the household. Unfortunately, that's a reality in many countries, and there's still a lot of work to do to achieve equality in this and many other areas.
All busy mothers are constantly making lists inside their heads. It's the famous (and exhausting!) "mental burden".
Like all women, I am often overwhelmed by my never-ending work/home to-do list. Added to this is guilt—that typically female feeling of not being there often enough for your children. But over time I've learned it's not necessarily the number of hours you spend with them that counts, but the quality of time you spend with them.
What do you want to pass on to your children?
Gaëlle | They're being brought up in a city—Paris—and I find that a bit sad. I want them to have an appreciation of nature and gardening. I'd like them to know the names of flowers and trees. I try to help them enjoy the moment and appreciate the little things that make life special. They often imitate me by saying, "This is the life, isn't it?"
There are also essential values like respect for others and a strong work ethic. Not much is possible without them. I want my daughters to feel beautiful from within. To accept who they are and use makeup to strengthen that. And I want my boys to grow into fair-minded men who are capable of doing their fair share around the house.
But above all, I want them to be themselves without trying to please me or anybody else. I want them to be who they really are.