A few years ago, Swiss Style Magazine shined the spotlight on Ronit Raphael – Leitersdorf. Then an up and coming entrepreneur who had just founded her first ‘Temple of Beauty’ on the rue du Rhône, her business has now skyrocketed. We sat down with Ronit Raphael again to chat about her firm, marketing, and the concept of looking good.
Raphael exudes the confidence and charm that one expects from an entrepreneur… and with good reason: Her first store, ‘temple of beauty’ has been a stunning success, and her firm is planning the further expansion of the brand to international markets. “We can now say that we have a worldwide presence”, she says. “We are located in Geneva, in the South of France, in Italy, and in May, we will inaugurate our New York store and shortly our Moscow and Macau centers.” Still, Raphael is careful not to dilute her brand. “We could open everywhere tomorrow, if we want, but we want to keep ourselves small and unique. We have no intention of becoming a mass market product.”
Perhaps most surprising to her has been the firm’s popularity amongst the Swiss population itself. While she admits to initially thinking that most of her clients would be expatriates, the reverse has been true. “In the beginning we never thought our customers would be Swiss. Today, 73% of our clientele are Swiss and it turns out that they are very good and loyal customers.They really take care of themselves… I love the Swiss market. This is my baby”! Expansion in the German part of Switzerland is being investigated and the firm is eyeing an expansion to that region, traditionally composed of heavy spenders on luxury products: there seems to be healthy margins for her to grow within this country.
Our conversation is punctured by laughs. It seems incredible that her business was motivated by a horrific accident which left her with chemical degree burns on her face. Her account of what happened is characteristically blunt. “When I was 18, I had acne. I believed I needed to cure this problem. The doctor did a phenol-peel, I spent time in the hospital, and it took me 20 years to recover from the intervention. This accident rapidly ignited a passion for cosmetics that to this day goes well beyond hype and questionable promises. For Ms. Raphael, her stores are not just a showcase of her products, but rather, a place where women and increasingly men, can go to find comprehensive advice on how to look their best.
Unusual for a cosmetics brand entrepreneur, Raphael is blunt when she states that her products are not miracle cures. She insists that her sales staff, that acts as consultant, concentrate not only selling her wares, but also offer holistic advice on beauty and welfare. Her stores are manned by beauticians, makeup artists and other aesthetic technicians, all under one roof, reducing the odds that women will be left to their own devices. This is not just the use of clever communications ploys however: her approach seems to be based on a genuine disgust with the way beauty products are marketed to women. “Women today are putting their head under the carpet, and it’s upsetting me.” she says, “we need to stop living in a dream, and realize that to look good, to feel good, to stay young, is hard work.”
No one can accuse Raphael, currently rearing three children whilst constantly shuttling between Verbier, Geneva and New York on business, of living the easy life. Speaking on the challenges of juggling professional and personal personae, she admits “It’s very hard.” One senses however, that for this hyperactive entrepreneur, business is more than just means to make money. Despite the difficulties of raising a family while constantly on the move, a sense of humour is never far from the surface. When pausing for breath, she looks up and smiles. “I say to myself all the time that I should have been a teacher! I should be a teacher!”
For more information visit: www.l-raphael.com
Article by Alain Bartleman