This March, The Tease is bringing you stories from women who are #MakingHairstory, #BakingBeauty and #DoingItForTheCultuHer. Learn how these influential women are breaking barriers, disrupting their industries and empowering others to do the same all month long.
As President of the Professional Beauty division at Coty Inc., Sylvie Moreau is an inspirational leader, teammate and advocate with more than two decades worth of experience. Overseeing industry leading brands like OPI, Wella and ghd, Moreau maintains Coty’s global status while fulfilling her own passion for hair and beauty.
We had the absolute pleasure of speaking with her about being a woman in business, striving for “Ikigai” and the importance of building the right team.
The Tease: How did you get started in the salon professional industry?
Sylvie Moreau: I studied business and started my career in France in Marketing at Procter & Gamble over 25 years ago, where I’ve held a variety of positions in local, regional and international roles, managing iconic brands such as Pantene and Olay. I then wanted to pursue my career in beauty but rather work in high-end beauty, [so] I chose 12 years ago to join Wella and the Professional division of P&G.
The choice at that time was mostly rational for me. I was passionate about beauty and wanted to learn a new business model. I did not realize I would genuinely fall in love with this industry and find my passion. I love and have a true passion for this beautiful industry, and it gives me a huge amount of energy every day. I’ve never looked back since.
How would you describe your relationship to hair?
Growing up, I never had a particularly strong relationship with my hair, only that I saw it as a chore to manage. I had a breakthrough around the age of 35 when I discovered the magic of hair color and became blonde (deep down, I’m a true blonde!). It’s also the time when I discovered the heat styling tools of ghd, which literally changed my life when I realized I could change my look on a whim, and from the comfort of my own home if I so desired. As a result, my hair went from a chore to a true canvas of joy and self-expression!
Women are often discouraged from sharing their accomplishments, but we want to hear about them. List some of your career highlights. What are you most proud of?
I am a firm believer that it’s important, especially for us women, to be loud and proud when it comes to our personal and our professional achievements.
I’ve been fortunate to have many bright moments throughout my career but if I must choose one, I’d have to say that I am exceptionally proud of the successful turnaround story of our business. Back at the time when I joined the organization, P&G was really struggling to understand the Professional business model, and the results were mediocre at best.
Fast forward to the present. My team has done a great job of putting the hairdresser and the nail artist at the heart of everything we do, refocusing our strategy on the fundamentals. For nearly 5 years, we’ve been on a success journey, turning around our business performance and cementing Wella’s position as the number 1 professional hair color brand in the world, and OPI as the number 1 professional nail brand in the globe. These are phenomenal achievements, in an extremely competitive environment, made only possible with the support and effort of what I can confidently say is the best team in this industry.
I am especially proud to be at the helm of a winning organization, and I feel honored to represent all our brands and our community and will continue doing everything within my reach to justify the trust they put in me. I am sincerely humbled by the opportunity I’ve been given to lead such an exceptional group of people.
What are the biggest challenges you have experienced within the industry and how did you overcome them?
Someone said that giving up is the only sure way to fail, and I completely agree with this. I really see challenges and failures more as learnings – I guess that’s the optimist in me that always sees the glass half full. I prefer testing and trying, improving ideas and executions fast and getting to a better place.
Our brands (Wella Professionals, OPI, ghd, and others) come with strong founders and entrepreneurial heritage and that’s the mentality that we are trying to maintain in the company. The secret we’ve learnt from them is to fail small, fail fast, improve and move on.
If you fail small, no one remembers it, as long as you create something better. For example, a few years ago we postponed a very important launch for us, the launch of a new hair color range, as the marketing and commercial proposition wasn’t perfectly right. It just didn’t talk to hairdressers or their clients. It was painful to make that call to delay the launch, because we had to scramble to get something else in place. But, on the other hand, a few months later we had reworked the plot into a fantastic proposition that became hugely successful 5 years on. Today, Wella Professionals Illumina Color is a brand that keeps on growing and is one of our jewels.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
I’ve learned many lessons, too many to count, but let me share two of my favorites:
First, I am a firm believer in living a life with purpose and following your passion. Passion happens without success, but true success never happens without passion. I came across one of the most profound and powerful models about self-fulfillment: a Japanese concept called “Ikigai,” which captures the reason for being for one’s soul. It is this magic place when you can combine what you love, what you are good at, what you can be paid for, and what makes a difference to the world. I can say in my role as President of the Professional Beauty division, I am blessed to be able to combine my personal passion with my profession.
Second, I’ve learned the immense power of having the right team. Very early on in my career, I have recognized the power of developing people as THE way to achieving business goals and sustainable results. I deliberately chose to surround myself with an outstanding and diverse group of people and take time to coach my team, so they thrive together with me. I believe you rise by lifting others!
Are there any women in the industry who inspire you or your work? If so, who?
What I love about the beauty industry is that women founders and visionaries have played a key role on many of the most iconic brands in the business. Several of our own brands in Professional Beauty were started by strong, business-savvy women, whose stories I take inspiration from. To give you a few examples:
Geri Cusenza, founder of Sebastian Professional, was ahead of her time, with a unique sense of creativity and innovation. Passionate about the professional hair industry, Geri created a brand that resembled her, that broke with convention, and enables self-expression and endless creativity for hairstylists and their clients.
Eva Graham, founder of Nioxin, is another entrepreneur and visionary. A true pioneer, Eva worked with scientists, stylists, and salon clients to develop a unique approach that changed the way people thought about caring for thinning hair. Thanks to her vision and passion, Nioxin became the brand it is today, helping women and men feel better about themselves with thicker hair, and empowering stylists to build a lifelong bond with each client.
Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, co-founder of OPI, and known as the First Lady of Nails, revolutionized the nail category when OPI got its start in 1981. The business started very small but expanded rapidly with the unique and entertaining shade names that broke the mold of standard numbered tones. Suzi is the epitome of today’s contemporary businesswoman, with an incredible entrepreneurial spirit and drive.
The visionary and entrepreneurial spirit of these women has revolutionized our professional industry, with new product and services that still help women and men of today feel better about themselves. I’m proud of being part of a company that has revolutionary and unique founders and hope their stories have inspired some to never give up and believe in yourself.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other women within the salon professional industry?
I love sharing with other women (and men) some of the things I’ve learned in my years in the business, and I can boil it down to one main piece of advice:
To be successful, you need to have a life. Your professional success does not have to come at the cost of your health and personal life. In fact, without proper balance and re-charging, many of us get overstressed and become unproductive. There is a world outside work, and you should recognize its impact on your life. Don’t just live to work but work to live.
I wrote more on this topic, and you can find my detailed thoughts here.
What’s next for you?
2020 is a very special year for us. It marks the 140th birthday of Wella Professionals, the #1 professional color brand globally and the cherished jewel of our portfolio. We’re also celebrating the 40th anniversary of OPI, the #1 nail color brand in world and the 20th of ghd, the leader in hair appliances.
One thing all these icons have in common is that they were not built in one day. They all have withstood the test of time, an incredible 200 years combined, thanks to the passion and dedication of our teams and clients and many more before us.
We’re also in the midst of a divestiture process, announced back in October 2019. This means that sometime later this year, our brands and our people will have a new home. Finding the right home for our brands and our people is precisely where all my energies will remain focused these coming months. My current vision is that our team will stay stronger than ever as we write yet another successful chapter for our wonderful brands and for ourselves.
Finally, I’d like to thank The Tease for this wonderful opportunity. I hope my experience helps inspire others. I’ll take this opportunity to encourage the women reading this interview to keep their professional aspirations alive and to take time to share their accomplishments loudly and proudly. Always remember that the most important things in the world are family and love. Make sure to take time to honor and appreciate them properly.