Mathilde Thomas, founder of Caudalíe, made her dream into a reality thanks to her open-mindedness and innovative vision. As a wine-enthusiast turned luxury skincare developer, Mathilde creates products that are made with the rich antioxidants found in various parts of the grape plant including the skin seeds and vine. Mathilde’s passion and persistance allowed her to achieve her goal of producing a high-quality, natural skincare line with undeniable effectiveness. A philanthropist as well as an entrepreneur, Mathilde has pledged one percent of Caudalíe’s global profits to support economic and social initiatives, including a project which supports the fair-trade production of shea butter by communities of women in Burkina Faso.
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: Before I started Caudalie, I was actually studying to be a perfumer and was planning move to Grasse, France. My career path was re-routed when my husband Bertrand and I met Dr. Joseph Vercauteren, an expert in grape and grapevine polyphenols, during the harvest celebration at my family vineyard, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. He explained that there were incredible natural resources within the grape’s seeds and vine stalks that were literally being thrown away following the harvest. After that first meeting, we started doing research on the molecules in these raw materials and facts we found were undeniable. My husband and I realized that we had an incredible untapped resource to work with and at that point there was no turning back!
Q: If a business has several, viable ways to grow and innovate, how do you pick the best road to take?
A: Invest in research and quality – whatever your product is. We are living and working in a very competitive marketplace these days with a savvy consumer who knows what he/she wants. It’s key to make sure you are putting out the very best product you can, otherwise, you will not last.
Q: What’s your best advice for an entrepreneur in an early/bootstrapping phase? Or in a growth/need to ‘now scale’ phase?
A: One of the biggest challenges as an entrepreneur with a steadily growing brand is to maintain the growth momentum, while also staying focused. In the early years of Caudalie, we were excited to expand the brand and open in multiple countries at once. With guidance from my parents, we realized that the key to our success was to grow qualitatively and focus on our strengths and business in key countries without spreading ourselves too thin. We’ve now hit our stride, but it was a key learning phase for us in the early years.
Q: It’s hard to focus on the “big picture” sometimes because we can get caught in the weeds of work and life. When does visioning come clearest or easiest for you? Or what inspires your vision?
A: I am lucky because my environment constantly inspires me – my family’s vineyard in Bordeaux, nature, the beautiful scent of the cypress inside the vine, the tea that we drink at the end of the day at the vineyard, and Dr. Vercauteren and his research. Having recently moved to NY, the city is a huge source of inspiration for me right now. I take inspiration and learnings from my various surrounding and incorporate them in to the Caudalie brand.
Q: What do you believe makes a great brand?
A: To build a great brand, it’s key to make sure you are innovative and have a stand out product. There are so many products on the market these days, and consumers have become experts at identifying unique products. It’s important to make sure you have something strong and unique before you put it on the market. After that it’s about being driven and making sure you’re ready to put in the work.
ON Starting Out
Q: If you had a young sister or a daughter who was a senior in college, anxious about landing her first job or unsure of what she wanted to do, what would your advice be to her?
A: There is so much pressure to secure that perfect job. It’s important during this time in one’s life to try new roles and see what suits one’s interests and talents. It’s just as useful to find out what you like as what you don’t like. Try out different jobs and responsibilities to see what fits best.
Q: What simple things in life today bring you joy?
A: I find joy spending time with my family and children. We love to ski as a family in the winter and spend time by the beach during the summer – this year, we all learned to surf! Of course, having a glass of wine from my family vineyard, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, is always the perfect way to unwind after a long day.
Q: How do you balance career and motherhood?
A: I admit, it’s challenging to balance it all. You want to be a good mother, a good wife, a good friend and a good employer. For me that means working to adjust the balance slightly every day to make it all work. The good part about having three kids is that once Bertrand and I get home, there is literally no time to talk about work until the children are in bed. It’s a fun, busy, active household and the kids take up all of our time, which is just how we like it!
Q: What are the beauty items you could not live without?
A: I always have a bottle of Premier Cru La Creme with me wherever I go because it has everything you need in it – polyphenols to fight signs of aging, viniferine to brighten the complexion and resveratrol to firm the skin. It does it all! I also love Ojon’s Damage Reverse Instant Restorative Hair Serum. I use it on dry or wet hair to add shine quickly without weighing my hair down. I also adore Le Labo: Santal 33. I love the artistry behind Le Labo and that every scent’s composition is a bit different. They get it right every time.