On 30th July 1909 a 28-year-old chemist named Eugène Schueller founded the Société Française de Teintures Inoffensives pour Cheveux (the French Safe Hair Dye Company). Working out of a small two-room apartment that served as laboratory, dispatch office and living quarters, the young entrepreneur offered a range of hair-colour products that could be counted on the finger of one hand. Could he have known then that his modest undertaking would grow to become the world’s number one beauty group — the L’Oréal of today?
“I took care of everything: formulation, sales, deliveries,” Schueller later remarked. “The hardest part was sales. I was shy and had to force myself. I endured my fair share of sharp rebuttals.”
But Schueller’s vision was unshakeable: just a few years after its foundation, the company boasted a team of ten sales representatives who made their rounds on a fleet of delivery tricycles. By 1920 the company employed three chemists (by 1950 that number had risen to 100). In 1928, L’Oréal purchased the soap company Monsavon — the first in a long line of acquisitions. Today the the group’s portfolio boasts 32 international haircare, skincare and make-up brands present on five continents. What began as one man with one small idea truly has travelled to the other side of the world.
“Hair dyes are a niche market with a very limited future. You’re going to fail.”
Such were the words of Eugène Schueller’s first and only boss when the young chemist announced that he was striking out on his own.
However, the pioneering entrepreneur would not be dissuaded so easily. Going door to door by day and perfecting his formulas in the makeshift laboratory he had set up in his kitchen by night, Schueller worked tirelessly to build the bright future he envisaged.
To grow his sales network, he forged ties with hairdressers who began offering his products to their clients. He strengthened this relationship with a magazine for haircare professionals entitled La Coiffure de Paris — one of the first of its kind. In 1910 he set up the very first hair-colouration institute to train hairdressers in the use of his products.
This special bond with the profession was not only key to L’Oréal’s early success but thrives to this day in the form of the group’s Professional Products Division. Schueller’s entrepreneurial spirit remains a fundamental part of the group’s DNA.
Research and innovation have always been the cornerstone of L’Oréal. It was in his laboratory-cum-kitchen that Schueller laid the first foundations for a century of success and today L’Oréal boasts 23 research centres spread throughout the world.
For the group’s founder, research was above all a passion. He was fascinated by artists who dedicated their lives to their work. For him, time was no obstacle when it came to perfecting a product and it is to his diligent efforts that we owe the first bar of soap with a superior fragrance and appearance.
Schueller once said:
“I always believed that our expansion would above all depend on the excellence of a handful of results-driven researchers whose primary virtues were imagination and determination.”
This statement was as true then as it is today, not only in research but in all the professions that contribute to the group’s continued success: this ceaseless quest for excellence remains a driving force at L’Oréal.