Anne Ghesquière: Portrait of a mutation

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How a personal awareness leads to revisiting one's business model and choosing the right one slow attitude to reconcile quality of life and company sustainability? Anne Ghesquière recounts a singular path where awareness determines the life path and humanistic orientation of her company.

What if Anne reflected the times?
Many managers and executives are now leaving companies, comfortably positioned to focus on the meaning of their actions, the values that animate them, a pace more consistent with the living. The phenomenon seems to be on the increase, conventional breaks are multiplying and CEOs are stunned by these quadra and quinqua who give up the comfort of a salary and favour the essence of work in harmony with their existential quest for meaning.
Is Anne Ghesquière in some way one of the pioneers of these internal revolutions that lead to societal changes?

Christine Marsan : Can you tell us what led you to create Fémininbio.com?

Anne Ghesquière : I had a happy childhood in Noirmoutier. My parents, who were professionals, wanted to change their life, to live in a more natural way by reconciling aesthetics and freedom. I was delighted with this communion with nature, but I was still a bit bored, I wanted to explore the world.
I then went to business school so that I could work and travel abroad and I found one of the few schools that at the time allowed for this type of opportunity.
I became passionate about NICTs in the years 1995, which represented a new El Dorado. I discovered Dominique Nora's books The information superhighway: I'm fascinated by new technologies and I think it's going to revolutionize the world.
After a postgraduate degree in business law, I started working in this sector.

I then worked for Vivendi and that led me to a career as a business woman, the offices being based in La Défense. I was having a great time doing what I was doing, I found it exciting to be clearing new territory; however, I realized that this life didn't feed me much. So I created a start-up company specialising in group purchasing, based on the principle: "the more the merrier, the lower the price". The adventure lasted three years and that's when the Internet bubble burst. My husband and I sold our respective businesses and decided to take a break to look for the meaning of our lives. We went to live in Barcelona and for three years we travelled a lot around the world.

The main shock took place in India. Apart from the many situations that many people experience: spirituality, poverty,... what impressed me was to observe how close people and women in particular were to nature. Their knowledge of plants fascinated me. I saw sublime, beautiful women, in spite of often difficult living conditions and I wondered about their beauty secrets.
Had we lost this knowledge in the West? I had no recollection of my family using the resources of nature so easily. I also saw in Australia or among the Maori and other cultures the anchoring of the first peoples with the living. This led me to look at my own culture and observe that women in the West, despite beauty salons and cosmetics, are never satisfied with their appearance, while these Indian women are resplendent with the daily use of plants and ancestral practices.

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Having discovered many phytotherapeutic products, and ancestral therapeutic practices such as Ayurveda, I wanted to make all this wealth known in France.
I set out to find the treasures of our pharmacopoeia in Europe and to identify our recipes for well-being and beauty. I then met in France many craftsmen passionate about botany and manufacturers of well-being products, unknown to the general public. I wanted to introduce them to women.
I then wrote the Organic cosmetic guide (1) with my friend Eve Demange because I wanted to promote organic, that is to say living in a joyful way, enhancing the glamour side. I did not share the point of view of a majority wishing to go through fear to raise awareness of the living. Life is beautiful enough to highlight it with its positive facets.

CM: Was that the only trigger?

AG : I also had a child, then a second one, and I felt inspired by a holistic approach to life, broader than cosmetics. I advocated the adage: "a healthy mind in a healthy body" (2) and I'm also interested in organic food and farming.
Pretty soon I was identified as "Madam Organic Cosmetics." but what I wanted to share was much bigger than that. I then realized that there was a lack of reference media on the subject. I imagined that it could answer all the questions that women ask themselves and which is in fact ecology in everyday life: clothing, food, habitat, health. And, I insist, I dreamed of an inspiring media that remains joyful and positive. Hence the idea of launching Fémininbio.com (3).
I have become aware that women are at the forefront of everyday consumption when they question themselves about breastfeeding, through their relationships with health professionals such as pediatricians or when they do the shopping for the family. They have the intuition of a change in consciousness. Therefore, they are the real drivers of paradigm shifts. 

I did not want to pass on the guilt speeches of some or the over-intelligent speeches of others, but I wanted to show that we women are making real changes in our daily lives. I wanted to highlight the way in which each of us goes about living differently. A permanent evolution that leads women to question themselves more globally.

Moreover, I felt called by a strong spirituality, rooted in my Catholic tradition in particular. Close to the texts of the origins, the words of Christ inspired me in particular. So I had the idea of highlighting the living woman, hence the name Fémininbio.com combining the living, organic, and the woman, feminine.
This quest for the living also brought me to the field of mysticism. Hence the desire to celebrate the living by showing a woman who dances, rejoices, celebrates life and knows how to manifest all its facets, as well as nature, the organic as well as the sacred and spiritual dimension of existence.

CM: Fémininbio.com, is it an adventure?

GA : On May 13th the magazine will celebrate its seventh anniversary. And in fact, it is a path that has been at times painful because between this beautiful idea of FémininBio, of celebration and communion with the living and the concretization that resulted in an undertaking there have been great gaps that have not always been comfortable to live.
Wishing to create a real company that could finance its growth, and not based on volunteers, we had up to fifteen employees. We had to worry about having a regular and sufficient income, and for two years I was afraid of not being able to reach the financial balance necessary to make ends meet. Especially since I didn't want to do any fund-raising, it was important to me that we could remain independent.

When I launched the magazine, I gave birth to my third daughter almost at the same time and the oldest was three and a half years old. So setting up a company with employees, taking care of three children, two of them babies, and doing long breastfeeds led me to physical exhaustion. There was a kind of egotistical madness in me to want to share this way of life, for the company to succeed and also for this message to be known. And after two years, I realized that it didn't suit me/us at all. We were living in such a tension that it was actually contrary to the holistic vision of the original project.
Then, one day, my partner had a burnout and I didn't get far either.

CM: What did it trigger?

GA : In parallel to this company creation, I have achieved a long path of personal development. I deepened my personal quest which led me to decide to reduce the size of the company. This meant having to separate from some people, which was a very difficult time, having fewer employees and mourning my "misplaced" ambitions as an entrepreneur. I moved to 4/5 in order to take care of my children and live more at home. The company was located across the street from us and I rediscovered what a slow company could be, which means not trying to conquer the world by accumulating profits, but just being in balance. It has been a great journey.

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After five years, I felt the need to no longer be alone and I met Mickael Amand, my new partner, who has extraordinary human values. We are very complementary. The team was essentially female and the arrival of this man has created a greater yin and yang balance. I was able to let go of operational management and concentrate on what I like, which is meeting people, interviewing them, taking care of the editorial line and less on technology. And over the years, I've come to realize that I now prefer the job of editor to that of technophile or manager.

CM: What have you created as a new business model?

AG : The choice to lay off was difficult and allowed us to become smaller again. We refused to be bought out by bigger companies. We chose to remain a small women's office with a very open way of operating. Everybody was salaried, most of them had children, and we had very flexible arrangements. Everyone could stay home quietly if there was a health problem with a child. All you had to do was call to say yes, if there was a need to take a holiday, it was always yes. Everyone worked but we didn't want it to be to the detriment of privacy. It was a very family-oriented operation with jobs that we were passionate about. Career development was possible and this was based on the desire for evolution and not only on achievements.
Initially formatted by the model performance businessWith Fémininbio.com, we have created something more feminine, softer, more intuitive. So I stopped making business plans. We listened to what was happening in the present moment, with the opportunities that were emerging. I went against my natural conditioning.

CM: And what was the result?

GA : We let go. I have learned to live in the confidence of the present moment: "I don't know what will happen and let's enjoy the present moment, let's enjoy the relationships between us". We were no longer glued to the roadmap, we listened to the living and we have reached financial equilibrium whereas previously we were losing money. And one year later, we were able to join forces with the Palpix company created by Mickael, which I mentioned, we were making small profits but we had proved that we could support the employees and move forward in a different way.

When I'm no longer waiting, everything becomes possible. I had to go through this phase to fully realize it, especially in the business sphere.

CM: So you have brought together wisdom and business, the feminine and the laws of the living. What could you say about your plans?

GA : I've been enormously enriched by all the people I've interviewed. What is new for me is to move on to personal creation and not just be a relay of messages and listen to what I carry deep inside.
This has led me to a real metamorphosis and today I feel much more aligned with who I really am. I will soon publish cards on the theme of metamorphosis that will start this new collection. As an editor I read many authors and these maps represent a kind of synthesis and I want to share. Because the metamorphosis is never finished, far from me the idea of having arrived! Sometimes you think you've made progress and in fact it's worse than before. Then it's living the path that is extraordinary.
Life comes to remind us that not everything is settled and that some things were just hidden under the carpet. And events are reoccurring until they're resolved. That's why I want to share this metamorphosis so that maybe it can inspire others.

CM: Do you have an inspiring sentence to share with us?

GA : "We dream of an ideal, we pray for it, we call for it, we watch for it, and the day it takes shape we discover the fear of living it, the fear of not living up to our own dreams, the fear of marrying them to a reality for which we become responsible. » Marc Levy.
I could have chosen other authors but this quote surprised me and I like it!
I also like the winks of the living, such as quotes from YogiTea. Here is the one of the day: "Life is a chance, love is beauty, grace is reality. "These little everyday messages remind me that life unfolds in every moment.

CM: You also discovered Wutao?

GA : Yes, it is an important element in my personal journey that has participated in my transformation. Wutao has allowed me to reveal my body, to create a true union of body, soul and spirit and this through the discovery of the alchemical breath, meditation in movement, incarnation of the being through the breath. And this allowed the metamorphosis.

To finish with the listening of life and the incredible synchronicities, I would like to relate the episode of my meeting with a famous healer that I had planned to interview. This trip seemed really unsuitable considering all the things I had to prepare before we left for the United States. It was like an extra burden. It was unreasonable, I was about to cancel the ticket and do the interview over the phone, yet something inside me was pushing me to go anyway. I went, I had about six hours on the train and opened my computer to work. I closed it immediately and wrote 365 sentences that came out of me automatically. Since then, I've taken them back and reworked them, but what stood out for me was the creative process. I found myself in a state of letting go, of abandonment to the breath of life, in a reunion of my whole being with life, and that was the gift: magnificent and dazzling.
This journey was like a preparation for the meeting with this soul. A miracle of life.
It represented a path of healing.

Christine MarsanPsycho-sociologist

(1) http://www.amazon.fr/guide-cosmétiques-bioAnneGhesquiere/dp/2711418227
(2) Men sana in corpore sano. Juvenal
(3) http://www.femininbio.com

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