All founders walk, but Herb + Flora co-founder Marie-Pierre Stark-Flora can swim, bike and run.
Stark-Flora is a beauty industry veteran who has held leadership roles at companies including L’Oreal, The Estée Lauder Companies and Coty, and an avid triathlete whose personal passion has led to a career reshaping.
Last January, she and fellow athlete Guillaume Herbette launched Herb + Flora, a skincare brand that mimics the anti-aging effects of exercise on the body, like physical activity, by accelerating autophagy and reducing oxidative stress in cells.
Over the past 12 months, the brand has been growing — launching on macys.com, entering livestreaming, opening a cross-border store on Tmall, and driving its own direct-to-consumer business. Likewise, Stark-Flora has pushed her physical limits, recently participating in a long-term event called Sahraouiya, a five-day competition to promote unity and peace among women, which includes running, Boats, night runs, training camps and orienteering.
Although the two activities may seem completely different, there are many similarities between building a business and preparing for the competition. “For both, you need to be well prepared. But no matter how prepared you are, you’re never going to be ready for what’s going to happen,” Stark-Flora said.
“It’s always a lot harder than you think,” she continued. “You have to find the energy and resourcefulness to face what’s inside you.”
Stark-Flora has been swimming since her teens, but a relatively newcomer to triathlons, competing in her first competition at age 44. Since then, she has attended around 16, and her age has been an advantage.
“The sport is very inclusive, half men and women, all ages,” she said, “and the older you get, the better your endurance. It’s counterintuitive and makes you think about age completely differently.”
Training is also like a full-time job. Stark-Flora typically works five to six days a week, playing two of three sports. She usually starts around 5:45 am before starting her day. “You’re full of energy until 5 p.m.,” she laughs, “and then—you’re broken.”
Her favorite distance is the Ironman, which includes a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 58-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile half-marathon. Her average finish time is about seven hours — but that’s not about Stark-Flora’s speed.
“I’m not fast, but I always finish,” she said. “In business, a lot of startups don’t succeed. There are many factors – opportunity, money, energy, people. But also belief and energy, don’t give up, always push, push, push. At the end of the day, successful people are A very stubborn person who doesn’t give up easily.”
Not surprisingly, The Odyssey is the symbol of Herb + Flora, and Stark-Flora’s personal Instagram account is @life_is_an_odyssey. “It took Odysseus 10 years to come home. He had triumphs and near-death experiences,” Stark-Flora said. “It’s a very tough road, and so is starting a business or a competition.
“Anything can happen – you can get injured, get dehydrated, hit a wall or have a great win and break your own record,” she continued. “When you’re the owner of a small company, trusting yourself and trusting others, you have to be ready for anything.”