What we are doing right now, right here, to help

Two weeks ago, my youngest sister Roxane, a Medical Doctor at the hospital in Sion, Switzerland, asked a very pointed question on our Polla sisters Skype: “What can our beauty businesses do to help during this time of crisis?” I did not have an answer, but I did hear her question. A few days later, I saw on LinkedIn that Mathilde Thomas of Caudalie donated products to numerous hospitals in France. And I thought, well, we also have products that help with chapped hands and irritated faces… 

So I began my week with a donation of products to Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, the hospital that is affiliated with the business school I went to and that is less than one mile from my office. Similarly, in Switzerland, we donated products to my sister Roxane’s hospital (in Sion), the one affiliated most closely with my heart since she works there every day. 

In speaking of this with my sisters and my team, I was amazed to hear about their own initiatives to help and contribute to their communities. Here is what they are doing: 

Angie (NYC): “I gave a donation to New York’s Food Bank last month. This month, I am donating to José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen. I like that some restaurants are feeding healthcare workers and that also helps support the restaurant during these times.”

Emma (Arlington, VA): “I am buying books (used and new) from eBay US sellers instead of Amazon. It makes me feel better that I deal directly with real people and contribute something to them instead from big companies such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The sellers that I’ve dealt with so far shipped everything from their house which is listed on the shipping label of the packages that I received.”

Jenna (Reston, VA): “I baked assortments of cookies and sent them to friends and clients to cheer them up. Also, I live across the street from a trauma hospital so every night at 7 pm people in my building and surrounding buildings go outside on their balconies to cheer for the hospital workers at shift change. A small gesture, but it makes everyone (including myself) feel good.”  

Kelli (Charleston, WV): “I have compiled lists of local restaurants offering delivery or carry out and local businesses doing online sales or online classes that I share regularly on social media.”  

Mandi (Washington DC: “I have been ordering food from all of my favorite local restaurants and taking classes from my favorite yoga instructors (some donation-based and some free) and posting pictures to my social media to help build their client base.”  

Rachel (Geneva, Switzerland): “I have been buying groceries for a few older women who are high risk and should not leave their homes, both among my neighborhood and among my Forever Institut teammates.” 

Roxane (Sion, Switzerland): “I have been extra ‘gifty’ to my friends who have had birthdays in the last few weeks, since they can’t celebrate as they usually would. I have been having cupcakes delivered to them (from a brand called Melazic, a business owned by two sisters) as well as personalized cookies with positive messages from the brand Bobiskuit, also a woman-owned brand.” 

There is no right or wrong way to help or contribute. There is no act of kindness too small or too insignificant to matter. And it makes me so proud to be a part of a family, a team that instinctively takes care of their communities, of their world, of our world. 


Remote Inspiration

This week (quarantine week 3) has been particularly challenging because the current reality has lost its novelty and is starting to sink in. I finally realized on Monday that life is going to be this way for another 4-6 weeks (hopefully not much longer, please). 

I wrote last week about my new sanity rituals, which while I am (mostly) following, are not helping (much). I do not feel inspired. I do not feel productive. I do not feel creative. When this happens during “normal life,” I go out in the field and visit Alchimie Forever customers. Nothing re-engages me in my brand, in my work, than being out in the field, listening to our brand ambassadors, learning from them, feeling their enthusiasm rub off on me. 

In “current life,” however, that is not possible. So instead, I turned to customers, business leaders, brand owners, for some remote inspiration. Here are four things that have helped me re-engage. 

 A remote training session with Heyday. This was almost as great as being in the field, visiting with the Heyday therapists IRL. Their questions, their feedback, their enthusiasm was contagious even “just” on the screen. And this gave me an opportunity to wear lipstick (first time in two weeks…), which felt wonderful. 

The COVID-19 speech by Marriott International President & CEO Arne Sorenson. I am a Marriott girl through and through, and will forever be after this speech, possibly the best crisis communication I have heard. Honest, realistic, hopeful, compassionate, emotional. 

The wise and honest words of Jennifer Yen, Founder & CEO of Purlisse, as quoted in Glossy today (article written by Emma Sandler). 

“As a brand founder who experienced the 2008 financial crisis and recession, the experience taught [me] lessons which [I have] applied for the past 12 years, including the importance of keeping a lean team, focusing on profitability versus growth, and reinvesting profit into hiring and product development. … Scrappy is the new sexy. It’s hard to see when the party’s over when times are still good, but I’ve been preparing for another moment like 2008 because it was so traumatizing.” 

The community efforts by Mathilde Thomas, Founder of Caudalie. Her brand sent hundreds of products to hospitals throughout France to help with chapped, irritated skin. In her LinkedIn post about this, she encouraged everyone: FAITES CE QUE VOUS POUVEZ POUR AIDER (Do what you can to help). Her example inspired me to reach out to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital to offer to donate some Dry skin balm, some Kantic Brightening moisture mask, and some Kantic+ Intensely nourishing cream. Because that is what I can do right now, right here, to help. 

How do you stay inspired and engaged in your work, in your brand, during these strange times? 


BeautyView: Mathilde Thomas, Co-founder, Caudalie

A couple of years ago, my mother, Dr. Barbara Polla, had the pleasure of meeting Mathilde Thomas, co-creator of Caudalie, in Paris for an article on women who created beauty brands. I remember feeling a tad envious and wishing I were there to meet the gorgeous Mathilde in person. I have always been fascinated by her, thinking about all of the business questions I wanted to ask her. I only had to wait a year before a beauty conference brought Mathilde and I together. If you don’t know her, you should. She runs Caudalie, a successful beauty brand based on the benefits of grapes (indeed, true to her brand, she loves wine!). She runs the business with her family. She is French in all of the best ways possible. She is kind. And she is humble.

AP: What city were you born in? MT: Grenoble capital of the French alps.

AP: What city to do you live in? MT: New York, NY.

AP: What is your middle name? MT: Julia.

AP: What is your astrological sign? MT: Sagittarius.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? MT: I spent 6 years with the French skin team of L’Alpe d’Huez ski resort.

AP: What is your most prized possession? MT: My family and my team.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. MT: French.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? MT: Yes. A vintage Hermes watch that my mother gave me when I was 18 and graduated with honors.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? MT: Neither. I like jewelry by young creators.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? MT: I try to keep it simple: 1. Maintain beautiful and natural skin with my Caudalie skin care. 2. Stay slim and fit at all times. 3. Keep your hair shiny.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? MT: The Des Vignes at night and Zeste de Vigne in the morning. I designed them with the uber-talented Jacques Cavalier and Francis Kurkdjian.

AP: Botox or not? MT: Absolutely not.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? MT: I like the gentle non-drying INOA color.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? MT: A glass of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte a day.

AP: What do you do for exercise? MT: I run around Central Park, and I run after my three kids all day long.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? MT: A bottle of white Smith Haut Lafitte 2010 and home-made yogurt.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? MT: Red Smith Haut Lafitte 2009.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? MT: I aim to spend my time 1/3rd as a lover, 1/3rd as a mother, and 1/3rd as a creator.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? MT: Way too much.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? MT: 1. Moisturize your face and body before getting on the plane. 2. Never eat on the plane. 3. Drink plenty of water throughout travel. 4. And one more, change the time on your watch to the time at your destination as you board your flight.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. MT: ICU by Lou Doillon, Baby I’m yurs by Breakbot.

AP: What book are you reading right now? MT: I am finishing the Grace Coddington biography.

AP: Quote to live by. MT: “Just do it.”

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? MT: I wake up at 7 am daily, and I try to get eight hours of sleep per night.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? MT: My love for the industry can be summarized by this Linda Wells quote: “Beauty has started wars and inspired sonnets. It is serious and superficial. Beauty is about a dream of a better self.”

AP: Who is your mentor? MT: My grandmother.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. MT: Focus and keep a balance.