The First Luxury Society event in Paris was a success !
Our guests were the entrepreneur Luca Gonzini and his girlfriend, the model Serena Archetti. Luca was born in Brescia and after the primary school he moved to Parma where he obtained a degree in Economics and Management. The passion for travel and for the family business which operates in the production of building and industrial paints, are the winning combination at the base of his idea of business. In February 2012 during a trip to Morocco, a stop at an argan oil production laboratory intended for the cosmetics, fascinates Luca and inspires him a new and dynamic business idea that would also combine with the family tradition. It took three years of work in the company founded by his grandparents before the union of all these synergies gave birth to that idea now called FEDUA.
Fedua is a typical Maghreb name, chosen in honor to Morocco, to the Great Atlas landscapes, the nights in the Sahara desert until the Medina Square in Marrakech, that have inspired and implemented this idea of beauty
Luca and Serena were brilliant in presenting their business and the story behind it. It was very interesting to know more about the issues related to running a company in the luxury world when you are just 28! After their amazing presentation we spent some time with Luca and had the opportunity to ask him some more questions about him, his life and his projects. Here’s our exclusive interview !
How did your family react when you told them that you were going to start this new adventure with FEDUA ?
They weren’t totally convinced at the beginning. I initially wanted to start producing on account of third parties but it was too complicated, the required investments were too high and, at that time, it wouldn’t have been worth the risk. My family asked me if I was really sure and believed in the project. I already had my job, my responsibilities, my role and my money but at some point, you know, you do it to challenge yourself. I didn’t want to keep doing something someone else had given to me. My parents will never admit it but I think they weren’t happy with my choice at all. But now that they see that I have created a brand that could potentially be valued more than their enterprise, they are very proud and are really supportive and ready to invest in my business. This is really important to me, I am financially solid and this allows me to higher the price to the new investors. If you are not financially stable you might sell yourself for less that what you are worth.
How could you manage the patenting and the use of new chemical compositions and technologies ?
To be honest, it is really hard to patent this kind of products and it’s not too clever. Just by changing 5% of a patented formula the product is considered new and the patent doesn’t give you any exclusivity right. Formulas are a bit hidden but if you read carefully there is a list of ingredients from which a professional can easily understand the formula as well as the process behind it. What I do to avoid other producers to copy my formulas is split my production process between different suppliers and factories. For example, I have someone creating the color for me and someone elsedoing the finishing. For professional gel polish, colors are made in US and finishing in Italy. This way, even multinationals find it harder to discover the formula and if eventually they will understand it, let’s say in 3 years, I will already be even more technologically advanced.
Who are your competitors ?
Since I am both on the retail and professional market my main competitors are OPI, Shellac, Gelish. I hope to become the third italian player in the next two or three years .
Since you have a degree in Management do you think your most important skills are linked to marketing and management or do you value more your technical knowledge ?
I value more the skills that I have acquired working in my family’s paints factory. I have learned to spot the ingredients of a chemical formulation just by smelling or touching it. I have an economical background, even if not at your level at ESCP, but I believe I have learned a lot on the field. If you run your own company you need to know how to market your idea and be the CFO at the same time.
Tell us about the partnerships with Bulgari and Coppola : how could you make it ?
Serena introduced me to Aldo Coppola while the collaboration with Bulgari was started by my commercial director who had been the HR director for Costa Crociere. The cruises field was stricly connected to the SPAs and luxury hotels so then introducing FEDUA in those channels became a lot easier. At that point we already had a high quality product with a correct pricing and a nice network, that’s why we could get those 4 big players with us one after the others.
What’s Serena’s role in the company?
She is the face of the product. First of all, she is a girl! It’s a lot easier to sell nail polishes if you are a woman. She has lots of contacts in the fashion world and a wider knowledge of the sector. She helped me scouting the trends and introduced me to some very important people which then became partners.
Would you say that the brand positioning came out working with your partners and receiving their market’s feedback or did you decide that you wanted to have a luxury brand from the beginning?
Absolutely not. I chose to create a product. A good product. The best possible product ! It was then the market that made me understand where I had to position myself. It’s the market that decides !! Take Enzo Ferrari. When he built the first Ferrari he didn’t want to create a luxury car, he just wanted to build the fastest car ever. Then, of course, to a high quality product you have to apply the right pricing and positioning.
In a similar way I tried to create some kind of a disruptive product, something people would have seen differently. If my nail polish had been similar to all the others, without a strong brand behind me, I would have been out.
Now that you have positioned yourself, do you choose your distributors based on some characteristics you look for ?
Yes, absolutely. Now I am starting to take real strategic decisions about my distributors.
What are the critical aspects of the market ?
The retail market is going through a recession. For this reason we are trying to push on the professionals, because through this channel we obtain an immediate feedback and a higher margin. Professionals buy the product, finish it and place another order. In the retail, if you choose the wrong selling point, the risk is to end up having products left on the shelves for one year with the eventuality of giving space to a circle of discounts that would damage the market.
What do you think about going franchising ?
It depends on the region. Take Tunisia, you cannot go B2B because very few people can afford a 18 euros nail polish. Instead of a collaboration from which I could gain maximum a hundred thousand euros per year it makes much more sense to open a concept store to which you will sell the product continuously . In some countries, like Italy, franchising rhymes with suicide, it’s just not profitable without a strong brand. While it’s probably the other way round if we talk about developing countries like Tunisia or Argentina.
To conclude : your biggest long-term objectives for FEDUA ?
My dream is to go global, and create a personal network that would allow me to develop this business and, why not, many others. I like beautiful things and I want to create beuautiful products.
If two years ago someone had told me that I would have been here to present my company in front of ESCP students I wouldn’t have believed it. As well as I wouldn’t have believed that I would have spent time trying on semi-permanent gel polishes. But I had to ! I don’t trust anyone when it comes to my products, I want them to be perfect. If you want to do something important you have to know exactly what you are doing.
Francesca and Lorenzo