Valérie Taupin - The CEO who is taking the wrinkles out of the beauty market.
Magazine BILAN, Switzerland August 2021 Section Leaders, author Chantal de Senger
A meeting with the visionary businesswoman who founded one of the world leaders in products containing hyaluronic acid in Geneva in 2003.
This summer, people in Geneva saw a poster campaign promoting Teoxane’s lip filler. This proves that the use of hyaluronic acid to fill in wrinkles or enhance cosmetically enhance lips is no longer a taboo. As this market is reaching new heights, Bilan met the discreet founder of this Geneva-based company.
A visionary entrepreneur
Valérie Taupin is not an heiress. She is a visionary entrepreneur who built her company by anticipating the needs of a market through innovation, always with a strong sense of independence. Today, after nearly 20 years in the business, she employs 460 people, including 220 in Geneva, and runs one of the world's leaders in hyaluronic acid and wrinkle filling products.
Following a baccalaureate in sciences at the end of the 1980s, Valérie Taupin went to business school. Her first job took her to Cologne, Germany, where she worked for a manufacturer of made-to-measure clothing for severe burn victims and liposuction surgery patients. Daring and determination, Valérie Taupin demonstrated both in spades when it came to scouring the yellow pages for hours to cold-call potential customers and effectively create the market from scratch – without initially mastering the language of Goethe. Germany is where she learned the values of rigor, effort and respect for the given word.
In the early 1990s, she made a decisive encounter. It was with a famous head of plastic surgery who had just invented a product to fill in wrinkles; he asked Valérie Taupin to commercialize it. The market was in its infancy. Very few cosmetic doctors were doing injections. “I had to develop and democratize an embryonic market. It wasn’t easy but it launched my career in the industry.”
Complete mastery over everything, from design to implementation
In 1993, at the age of 26, Valérie Taupin started her own business distributing filling products in France. Thanks to the network she had built up, Germany accounted for a large share of exports. She then created the Juvederm brand, which quickly gained significant market share. “We were very innovative and that made our products very attractive to doctors. We had a new and compelling proposition.”
In 2003, Valérie Taupin parted ways with her partners and created Teoxane. The young entrepreneur decided to set up her company in Switzerland, in Geneva, on the rue de Lyon, where it is still located. “When I created Teoxane, I started with a blank page and knew exactly what I wanted: I didn't want to work with subcontractors anymore and above all, I wanted to fully control the design and manufacturing of my products to gain both agility and innovation capacity. The first two years were both exciting and frightening because it was a race against time.”
On the one hand, fixed costs kept piling up, and on the other, together with consultants, experts and the team I had just recruited, I was developing formulations, setting up product manufacturing and working to obtain the crucial approvals and registrations that would allow us to market them.
The international network that she had built up during her early years was a confidence builder, enabling her to sign distribution contracts with multiple international markets from the very beginning. “When we started out, our manufacturing capacities were limited because nothing was automated. We had difficulty meeting demand. Industrializing our production processes quickly became priority.”
Valérie Taupin kept working hard. She launched two first formulations that were an immediate success. In 2006, the market for volumizers took off. A competitor of Teoxane had launched a product that had to be injected with a cannula, it was quite thick and the injection left scars which. “I felt that this market had great potential, and that we could do a better job of addressing it.” This led to Ultra Deep, a volumizing product that is also injected, but unlike its competitor, with a very fine needle, without leaving any marks. At the same, Teoxane launched Kiss, a product to enhance lip volume. “This boosted sales and our reputation. Today, the Ultra Deep volumizer is still one of our best-selling products.”
Going for glamour
Teoxane was also the first to launch a product to fill-in dark circles around the eyes. “Redensity is still our #1 selling product and has become a benchmark.” Also a first: Teoxane’s founder broke with traditional medical codes and gave products for doctors a glamourous touch, by creating a distinctive branding with pink and purple packaging and putting a face on the product in the form of a beautiful model.
As more and more doctors take to the new technology and begin injecting, Valérie Taupin realizes the importance of training. She creates the Teoxane Academy headed by expert doctors: in Geneva, rue de Lyon, but also in the main cities of Teoxane’s export markets, and remotely by digital training. More than 20,000 doctors have been trained In the past twelve months alone.
Although competition from the majors is tough, the Geneva-based company is expecting 35% growth this year. Turnover is close to 220 million francs (USD 239.62 million). Teoxane plans to invest nearly 30 million in the Geneva site where the laboratories and production are located over the next three years. 70 new hires will be joining the company in 2021. “Seventeen years after the creation of Teoxane, I remain faithful to the company’s founding values: excellence, innovation and independence. It is on these foundations that I built Teoxane's culture, which is as strong as ever. In an industry that has become ultra-competitive, we are proud to be an independent Swiss company that is among the market leaders and continues to offer its customers increasingly effective and sophisticated anti-aging solutions.”
Teoxane in figures
Sales of CHF 220 million (USD 239.62 million) in 2021
35% growth forecast for 2021
460 employees, including 220 in Genève
25 different formulations
20,000 syringes exported every day to 90 countries
7500 m2 (≈81,000 square feet) of office space in Geneva’s rue de Lyon
Millennials mad for lip fillers
In the market for hyaluronic acid products, lip plumping is hot. It’s a multigenerational thing, but according to the IMCAS Global Market Summit 2019 demand from millennials (20 to 29-year-olds) has increased 32% since 2010. This generation is clearly influenced by celebrities and social media. “Having full lips is a fashion phenomenon that began 4 or 5 years ago, with the selfie craze,” confirms Thierry Bezzola, FMH (Swiss Medical Association) Specialist in Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery in Geneva. Despite the Covid crisis, the demand for these treatments has remained very strong among people under 30. Indeed, looking after their looks is among the top priorities of millennials according to an AAFPRS survey. Teoxane Global Market Research also released a survey which found that 71% of millennials consider getting a lip filler treatment at some point, and 90% of those who have already done so plan to do so again. It’s also a very profitable business for doctors. In fact, “one of the reasons why many doctors start injecting is because it is very lucrative,” confirms Dr. Thierry Bezzola. At the same time, there are also those who champion a world without artifice. Says Claudine Burton-Jeangrois, sociologist and professor at the University of Geneva: “It’s about different norms for different people.”