Launching a start-up or brand is never easy. One in five businesses fail within the first year. Despite the fact that entrepreneurialism and small businesses are the backbone of America, this is a pretty grim statistic.
I am an entrepreneur myself. I have experienced both success and failure. I launched my latest start-up, a pop-up hospitality brand and raised money, which I had never done before (American Express has been the only way I have gotten funding for my previous start-ups and businesses), and then COVID happened and killed it.
Failure is never fun. Failed businesses cost money and take an emotional toll. But, like anything in life, you must keep moving forward. I am also a contributor to Forbes where I cover a variety of brand and founder stories. I feel fortunate to have access to executives and founders across a variety of industries. I have learned so much over the last six plus years of getting perspective from these individuals.
Some founders I have spoken with knew they would have their own businesses at a young age while others step into entrepreneurialism later in life after climbing the corporate ladder. The latter was the case for Veronique Gabai, who left her storied career working as president for luxury brands like Estee Lauder and Vera Wang to launch her eponymous lifestyle brand that includes fragrance, skincare, beauty, and jewelry.
Since I know firsthand how hard it is to create something successfully out of nothing, I wanted to know why Gabai left a career that most entrepreneurs would consider to be a safe bet to step into the unknowns of business ownership. This article is my interview with her.
If you have ever wondered what it was like to launch your own brand or private label a product line for your beauty location, read Gabai’s story. What impressed me about her was that she has managed to create a luxury brand with a compelling founder story, swoon-worthy fragrances, and unique product offerings—and in the process has developed a loyal customer base that continues to grow. She clearly has her fingers on the pulse of who her customer is and what they want, which is one of the keys to any successful brand.
With over fifteen years serving as President at several luxury brands like Estee Lauder and Vera Wang Group, Veronique Gabai left her corporate career to launch her eponymous brand in the fall of 2019.
“I always had the desire of creating my own brand to bring to the world: a connection to nature, and the encouragement for people to express who they are,” she shares with me. “It began with a passion for the craft of perfumery, a desire to express creativity with a deep respect for consumers and for professional partnerships. As I grew in my career my responsibilities expanded to include global management. I enjoyed overseeing that broad vision, but it came at the cost of losing my creative developments and connections with consumers. I missed what brought me to this industry in the first place.”
For those unfamiliar with the brand, Veronique Gabai has created an intoxicating line of fragrances housed in bottles that look like art that will transport your olfactory senses to the South of France, jewelry, and a few-must-have, vegan face and body products that support healthy skin and give you the perfect sun-kissed glow.
“The brand is about bringing ‘sunshine to the senses and the soul’,” states Gabai. “It’s like a home in the South of France by the Mediterranean Sea. It is rooted in the values born in the Mediterranean like hedonism, humanism, and nature. It is a collection of perfumes, beauty must-haves and unique accessories, all inspired by the Mediterranean and crafted around the best of nature for one’s wellbeing. The products are versatile so you can play with them and fine-tune them to your liking. Ultimately, my deepest wish is to bring joy to people, and to add beauty to their everyday life.”
Gabai utilizes the highest quality ingredients available in nature to make her products. “Most of the ingredients come from the Mediterranean region and are harvested in Grasse right in the center of the Côte d’Azur,” she explains. When it comes to fragrance selection, Gabai tells me the choice is personal.
“It is about your own emotions and memories. When a fragrance is composed with a high concentration of natural ingredients like my line, it evolves on your skin in a very unique way. My scents bloom on skin mysteriously with a long lasting and memorable silage. I love the personal aspect of fragrance, and I encourage people to smell it on their own, and on their skin without being influenced by names, packaging or advertising as this connection is very special when you let it happen.”
Gabai tells me that the act of creating fragrances is magical and that a big part of that comes from the collaboration with perfumers to create fragrances that evoke memories of a place or time. “I wanted to offer not only a sense of wellbeing through the careful use of natural ingredients in a light and sensual composition, but also the feeling of escape,” continues Gabai. “Sur la Plage for example is like a vacation in a bottle. Vert Desir is like transporting yourself to a magical garden that fills you with the power of nature. Sexy Garrigue is an invitation to a sinful evening.”
Gabai is preparing to launch her latest fragrance, Le Point G (G-spot in English), which she explains is like a woman’s journey through scent. “Women are extraordinary—their vulnerability, sensibility, capacity to nurture and to love, their creative force, seduction, and spirituality,” states Gabai. “I tried to capture the magical moment of ecstasy in a drop of perfume. Le Point G is built like a pulse, a vibration, or a crescendo. Each time you smell your skin you feel a power building up and you discover a new facet… almost like a climax.”
You can layer the fragrances to make them your own or utilize one of two scent boosters Gabai created. She explains, “I created two booster scents that can be worn alone or applied as a layer to any scent in my line: Eau du Jour (Sunrise) and Eau de la Nuit (Sunset). They enhance either the luminosity of your signature or its mystery, depending on your mood or attitude.” If you are unsure what type of scent works best for you, Gabai has created a personality test to identify what fragrances will work best for you.
In addition to a collection of intoxicating fragrances, Gabai has also launched a small, but mighty goddess-worthy capsule of skin and body products. “My beauty philosophy is about bringing luminosity and youthful radiance to the skin. My beauty products are all vegan, and we use natural ingredients like Moringa Oil or Argan Oil to enhance the radiance of the skin,” says Gabai. “The products are meant to complement any beauty regimen. For example, add a few drops of my Sunshine Face Oil to your daily cream or your foundation to experience instant luminosity.”
I adore the brand’s Goldie Highlighter, which gives the skin and face the perfect amount of shimmer and is buildable for more dramatic make-up looks. Gabai continues, “It is formulated as a transparent base, and it works perfectly on any skin shade or tone. My body lotion formula is light and quickly absorbs with eight hours of moisturizing properties that make the skin instantly glow. It is scented and available in both of my booster scents.”
Gabai’s jewelry capsule offers beautiful statement perfume pendants and bracelets that were inspired by travel—something many of us aren’t doing much of these days due to the pandemic.
“Right now, we are not traveling as frequently, but when I was, I was frustrated that I could not carry my favorite scents. I decided to combine my passion for fragrance with my love of jewelry and designed a perfume pendant. It is handcrafted, chic and makes a statement. Even better, it carries a small vial of your favorite scent. It has become a piece that I treasure and wear every day.” The jewelry is currently made from sterling silver and gold-plated 18-carat gold. “Recently, I created a new version in the collection with a different metal alliage, the Saint Tropez Pendant,” she tells me. “They are substantial pieces that will last you a lifetime.”
Leaving what some may perceive as the security of working for a big company and starting a business on your own can be terrifying. When I ask Gabai what the process has taught her about herself she tells me, “I knew I was resilient. But the first phase of my brand development certainly proved it. I launched my brand to connect with people. I had to re-learn how to do it through social media. I knew it would take time and hard work. But, when you are passionate, days and hours do not count anymore. When you launch a brand, you have to pay attention to every detail. I have learned to accept what I need and can do it at my own pace. One day at a time.”