Six years after being incubated in the Carlin premises, we take stock of the evolution of the first brand of beauty products specifically developed for and by women concerned by cancer.
Interview with Judith Levy, co-founder of MÊME.
Edouard Keller – Head of International Sales: How did you come up with the idea of MÊME?
Judith Levy – Co-founder of MÊME: MÊME was born from my personal experience, more precisely my mom’s cancer. This is the first time that I have encountered this disease. As her treatments went on, I realized the impact of side effects, especially the less well-known ones.
For example, regarding the skin, the treatments cause the weakening of the cells because these have some points of resemblance to those of the tumors and cause a very important dryness of the skin from the head to the foot, and particularly at the level of the extremities such as the scalp, nails, feet and hands. To the point that some patients can no longer write and / or walk.
Obviously, the impact of these side effects on quality of life, and therefore morale, is immense, to the point of discouraging some patients from continuing their treatment.
Judith Levy – Co-founder of MÊME
E.K: Is this a shared observation in the medical sphere?
J.L: All oncology caregivers are increasingly aware of the importance of managing these highly impacting side effects for the quality of life of their patients. Especially since the newer, more effective treatments are also often much more powerful and have greater side effects.
E.K: What about the pharmaceutical industy?
J.L: At the time (2010), there was no pharmaceutical response to these ailments. This was the beginning of my reflection.
E.K: What was the launch process?
J.L: In 2014 I graduated from Strate College where MÊME was my graduation project. I then quickly met my partner Juliette Couturier, who had a similar personal story, during our time at L’Oréal.
I told Juliette about MÊME within 3 minutes of our meeting and we very quickly decided to go for it. Thus, in January 2015, we benefited from our first hosting at Carlin. It was fantastic having a shared workplace with Marketing, Beauty and Digital experts.
Judith Levy and Juliette Couturier – Founders of MÊME
E.K: Between 2014 and 2020 how has the brand evolved?
J.L: Our goal from birth was to make MÊME a desirable, non-medical brand. MÊME had to become part of the daily lives of people with cancer who obviously kept their tastes and their flirtatiousness despite the disease with cool and normal products. This goal is still relevant today. What has evolved is above all our proximity and our knowledge of our community since the launch of our e-shop in January 2017.
E.K: Let’s take a look at your positioning. How did MÊME fit the market when you launched it?
J.L: The whole universe surrounding disease, and especially cancer, was murky, clinical, medical and cold because the subject of cancer is scary. However, the woman diagnosed with cancer was not sick the day before and wanted “normal” products to which she was suddenly refused access to provide her with a bathroom filled with ugly products looking like medecine.
MÊME has always wanted to be a brand dedicated to women on treatment, with all the respect and care that it requires, but we also wanted to be able to seduce her non-sick friends. With hindsight, we were among the first to dare to speak about cancer in this normal, uninhibited, tender and comforting tone. And besides, today we have a number of our clients who are in good health!
Nail Care Pen – MÊME
Scalp Mist – MÊME
E.K: Beyond the marketing and design issues, I guess the R&D was a crucial point?
J.L: It was hard and long, but it was necessary. Between the start of our incubation at Carlin and the launch of our e-shop, 2 years have passed. It was exciting to discover the R&D universe of formulation with our new approach. Back in the day, we heard ourselves say “It’s complicated: you want to bake chocolate cake without chocolate”. It was quite new at that time to talk about toxic ingredients, especially endocrine disruptors that were, and still are, present in the vast majority of cosmetic products around us.
Dermo-cosmetic range – MÊME
Gloves and foot care cure – MÊME
E.K: It was essential for your target?
J.L: We have interacted daily with women with cancer for six years and we find that when they get sick, they question everything about their consumption: what did I eat? What does this product I apply contain? etc. These reflexes are much more marked than in other consumers. Without our community and these exchanges with them, we would have missed a lot of crucial elements.
E.K: Do you have a few examples in mind, or more generally on the behavior of your community?
J.L: First, it’s important to keep in mind that we encountered this community before we even had a product. Like many DNVBs, our existence started on Facebook and Instagram. It has allowed us to always talk about MÊME with a lot of transparency, honesty and trust. We must also keep in mind that we wanted to create MÊME to help women. Thus, we are at the service of our community which brings us the vast majority of product improvements implemented since the launch. Moreover, when we receive a negative comment, it is always taken very seriously by the team, as if we had knocked on our door to deliver it in person.
We have an invaluable chance to be able to speak with our customers live, to have immediate feedback on our actions, with, in general, a lot of kindness. We would be silly not to take advantage of it and always try to make our offer better!
E.K: Is your community made up of very different people?
J.L: Unfortunately, this is obvious. Cancer affects the whole population regardless of age, occupation or standard of living.
Some women find out about their cancers very young, sometimes even when they are pregnant or much later. It’s terrible, but it’s also the challenge that drives us: creating the right products to meet everyone’s expectations – while remaining trendy and desirable. Our approach must remain intergenerational.
E.K: Before leaving, the unmissable question: what impact of the Covid on your sector?
J.L: It turned a lot of things upside down, and some aspects are actually quite positive. Internally, I was impressed by the adaptability and agility of our teams! In the space of a few days, we went from the appearance of a virus at the end of the world to overhauling all of our action plans …
With hindsight, it mainly played a role of accelerator, in particular concerning the digitization of pharmacies. More and more of them are accepting presentations in videoconferencing format. Remote inventory management and restocking have also become widespread, which is real progress in the long term.
On a much less positive note, we are very scared of the health consequences, especially regarding the many people affected by cancer who have voluntarily or involuntarily suspended or delayed their treatments because of the virus and the first lockdown. This impact could be catastrophic …
E.K: Finally, what are the next steps for MÊME?
J.L: We think more and more about export. In particular the Anglo-Saxon countries where we are convinced that our uninhibited tone in the face of this serious subject could appeal.