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Have you ever thought about the bacteria on your skin? Marie Drago did, and it inspired her to create a skincare brand, Gallinee which is completely catered to caring for it. Here’s how Marie overcame self-doubt to create the first beauty brand dedicated to caring for your microbiome, from head to toe…
1. Where It All Began
Marie Drago was born and raised in the South West of France, where she also trained as a Pharmacist before moving to Dublin and then to London to finish her studies. Her love of science and ingredients led her to beauty, “I worked in the beauty industry for 15 years before Gallinee; I worked for Revlon, Soap & Glory, and La Roche-Posay to name but a few. I made mistakes with other people’s money before starting my company”.
2. The Idea for Gallinee
Like many people, Marie struggled with self-doubt, “I was always really scared to create my own brand, thinking I’m not good enough for that, then one day you think; actually, I’m going to try”. The aha! moment for Gallinee came to Marie during a digital detox: “all my best ideas come then”, she said. But, the initial idea came from Marie’s struggle with her own skin’s microbiome. “I have an autoimmune condition called pyoderma gangrenosum, it’s very rare and causes the skin to dissolve, and I had to take immune suppressants. Because of it, I got really interested in microbiome”. Marie saw a gap in the market for microbiome-friendly skincare, formulas that preserve bacteria instead of killing it.
3. Launching a Business
Marie knew she had a great business idea but struggled with imposter syndrome, “I was always scared to start my own business. I was always talking about what I could do, and one day my flatmate in London said, do a business plan, and I will help you so that you stop talking about it. They were my first investor. I needed someone to say just do it, then one of my friends said it will either be the best line on your CV, or you’ll never need a CV again”. She’s also grateful to her former boss, who helped her take the leap, too, “I asked my boss at the time to go part-time, and they said no, so they chose for me. And I’m grateful for that because I am quite a scaredy-cat; I needed that push”.
Marie went back to university to pass her thesis on microbiome, then patented it and used it to create the brand in 2016. Next, she had to come up with the name. After watching people struggle with French beauty brand names, she knew she wanted a French word that was easy to pronounce, “Gallinee is the French word for a hen, and a rooster is the symbol of France, and I thought we’re always talking about the male, let’s talk about the female for once”.
Despite her own struggles with confidence, Marie was always confident in science, “I was always confident in microbiome, and that microbiome was a revolution in beauty. I remember I went to Cosmoprof, a beauty trade show and I needed to find a lab. I had no money. I met an industry professional there, and they believed in me. They had been doing beauty brands for 40 years, and they believed in my business idea. They’re still my lab now”.
As a successful businesswoman, I had to ask Marie what her advice for a budding entrepreneur would be, she said: “Talk about your ideas to as many people as possible. No one is going to steal it. It’s really about who will put the work behind, rather than just the idea. Ask questions, ask for help – people love to help.”
4. The Future
When I asked Marie to tell me what day she’d love to relive from the brand’s history so far, she smiled and said, “Every day is the best day ever”. Her passion for the business, her team, and the future of microbiome-friendly skincare shone from her, “It makes me so happy. I always had a problem with sleep, and since I had my company, I sleep really well. I know that I’m doing the best thing I can with my life. I am what I wanted to be when I ‘grow’ up. I get the best Mondays ever – you’re your own master of your own destiny”.
Marie said about the future of microbiome-friendly skincare, “Microbiome skincare isn’t a trend, it’s a revolution. “Brands have no other choice other than to embrace it. The other day a big beauty brand got rid of some of their antibacterial compounds, but they don’t talk of it much as it’s such a big shift for them. It’s changing the way that beauty is formulated. Brands always talk about the active ingredient, but 95% of the formula is something else, and this ‘something else’ needs to be geared towards helping the microbiome and not destroying it”.
As for the future of Gallinee, it looks very bright, “A woman that I admire a lot is Mathilde Thomas, the founder of Caudalie; if one-day Gallinee can be a tenth of Caudalie, I’d be so happy. I think we have a lot of categories that are unusual for a skincare brand, and I have so many more ideas, so it’s a great future because I can do anything, and we’re all having a lot of fun doing it”.