ambitionOne.org is proud to share this success story about two game changing entrepreneurs, Irma and Carla Khanjian, who used their skills and determination to develop a revolutionizing skin care business; LA PEAU. The ambitionOne initiative is build on the believe that people make a difference, Irma and Carla are living proof of that.
“In today’s competitive marketplace – it is possible to succeed without the millions spent on advertising campaigns, without any external financing, without a large team; yes it is possible to succeed if we share an unparalleled passion, if we believe in ourselves and if we are not afraid of many sleepless nights…”
Four continents. Two devoted sisters. One flourishing business. For Irma and Carla-Maria Khanjian, having oceans between them has only catapulted their success to new heights. With operations divided between Montreal and Geneva (with a foothold in Asia & Middle-East as well), their biotechnology company, BeFutur, is up against some of the biggest players in the cutthroat industry of cosmeticeuticals. Part global businesswomen, part scientists, and part cosmetologists, this tenacious twosome exemplifies success born out of sibling devotion and fierce perseverance.
As CEO and Chairman, respectively, of BeFutur Biotechnologies Suisse, Carla-Maria and Irma never imagined becoming leaders in the field of skincare with their own brand LA PEAU, let alone owning a whole biotechnology company. The sisters, who were born and educated in Beirut, studied economics at the American University of Beirut – Carla-Maria earning a Master’s degree and Irma a Bachelor’s. After escaping the Lebanese civil war with frequent trips to Europe, they immigrated with their family to Montreal; Irma excelled in human resources and recruitment, while Carla worked in management consultancy for positions in North America, Europe, China and the Middle East.
Behind the ever-growing company, BeFutur Biotechnologies Suisse SA which produces the amazing skincare line La Peau (www.LaPeauSkincare.com ) is the sister team Carla & Irma Khanjian. Carla is the CEO and one half of the sister team that runs BeFutur Biotechnologies Suisse SA. Her sister Irma serves as Director and Chairman and is the other half of the dynamic sister duo.
Irma now lives in Geneva and is a Swiss citizen. Carla lives in Montreal, both are running the business from the two cities. As children, Carla and Irma grew up in different countries as a result of their father, who was transferred to various cities – from Beirut, to Athens, to Montreal. Moving was not always easy as they had to adapt to the cultures and customs of the different cities. However, the traveling made the sisters more confident about themselves.
“Every person should create his/her own opportunities in this world. We were lucky enough to be offered opportunities. However, I think that we made it happen because we were confident in ourselves. To become an entrepreneur [it] does not happen overnight; it is a process that you build up during the course of years – from your business and personal experiences, from your interesting encounters and from your wish to make the world a better place for us all.”
Carla’s & Irma’s work experience spanned various continents and sectors. Their work experiences have ranged from jobs in Montreal, Canada to Geneva, Switzerland, to Shanghai, China, to Athens, Greece… to Beirut, Lebanon. Carla’s work has led her to be nominated as one of the three finalists of Women Entrepreneurs in Canada, which was organized by Ernst and Young. Not only does Irma & Carla excel in the boardroom, they also shine outside of work. They speak and write more than five languages. They have competed in various triathlons around the world. Irma was a human resources consultant, had various international experiences and as fate would have it, Irma’s personal life took her to Switzerland.
In Geneva Irma joined an investment firm whose clients included the founder of BeFutur Suisse, a cutting-edge Swiss biotech company that specialized in cells and tissues engineering. Soon the two sisters were asked to join the corporate ranks of BeFutur Suisse to help market a serum-free medium for stem-cell research. Teaming up with an elite laboratory and renowned scientists from Geneva & Stanford Universities, the company developed a proprietary technology for harvesting cells, which in turn was sold to top biotech companies for research. After a number of years building experience and professional relationships, the sisters began to strategize a business partnership together. By 2006, after tireless efforts, sleepless nights, and a shared vision, they bought out Befutur Suisse and developed LA PEAU skincare line – becoming its sole owners.
The relentless work, which combined years of marketing skills and financial strategies, finally paid off when they launched BeFutur’s own proprietary skincare line called LA PEAU ([PO] means SKIN in French) and marketed as a face cream that outperforms some of the leading anti-aging brands with its antioxidant and anti-wrinkle properties. Mostly through word of mouth & credibility of doctors, interested buyers soon emerged, ranging from medical and scientific circles to beauty-product retailers. But the sisters’ work did not stop there. They continued their efforts in heavy marketing and public relations, hitting markets in Asia, Middle East & Australia. With only two pairs of hands and little financial backing, the sisters have seen a small company reach global appeal with very limited resources, believing you don’t need millions to realize your passion.
“Our goal was to formulate a revolutionary skincare line which embodied a healthy lifestyle. We wanted our products to provide superior treatment qualities vs. purely cosmetic benefits. It took four long years of research and determination before we reached a major milestone by discovering the regenerating effect of our new non-animal molecular complex on the skin – but it was worth it! Our R&D efforts were based in Switzerland where we were able to form a team of top scientists and biochemists to carry out intense biotech research in cells & tissues engineering.
Eventually, they produced our unique proprietary formula – which, of course, had to undergo rigorous clinical trials on real people. You can imagine the delight and satisfaction that we felt when the test results measuring the antioxidant properties of LA PEAU were not only excellent – but they were far better than results obtained by the other leading brands. We knew we had found something very special, something that would be of benefit to women and men throughout the world – a true anti-aging product for skin. Our years of determination led to a true success, and we were amazed!
Once we were sure that we had an excellent product in our hands, we went back to the shareholders and started a 6-month negotiation period to acquire the company. Our management buy-out proposal was accepted and after 8 months BeFutur Biotechnologies Suisse and LA PEAU became ours – for just 1 Swiss Franc”.
“When we bought the company, the product line was just a concept,” Carla says. “Our merit lies in the fact that, yes, although we inherited a concept, we made it happen by our own means. “Once we saw that the test results of our products (antioxidant, anti-aging, hydrating) were better than the leading products, we surrounded ourselves by world’s renowned professors from Geneva and Stanford Universities and we developed LA PEAU – the world’s best antioxidant skin care line”, Irma adds.
We feel there is a big future for innovative niche brands with new active ingredients such as LA PEAU. Modern biotechnology has allowed the development of new antioxidant formulations, which make many of the other skincare products passé. These science-backed products address wellness and youth preservation, and will be the ones which succeed for years to come. Today’s consumers – men & women – want to remain healthy and prevent the natural aging process internally and externally. They want an exclusive niche product that is highly antioxidant, a product that can be easily absorbed without being super oily, one that makes their skin firmer. It must be perfectly hydrating underneath make-up without the messy greasiness.
One message Irma and Carla-Maria would like to pass on to the reader is that exercise and sports may just be the best coping mechanisms for surviving some of life’s worst hardships. The sisters have empowered and mentored numerous women through professional networks. The Khanjian sisters’ story has also appeared in various publications, and La Peau has graced the pages of The New York Times, Elle, Vogue, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Hello, Fashion, Exclusif, Le Temps, Les Echos, among others. But their most critical test was passed when they gained acceptance and respect from the world’s most finicky connoisseurs of scientific-grade skin care “the Swiss themselves”, as Irma mentions.
Indeed, Irma’s and Carla’s dream of someday being on the cover of Forbes Magazine doesn’t seem so far-fetched. After all, they have already paved a unique path for future female entrepreneurs. We look forward to watching their stars rise higher and higher.
We needed a revolutionary skincare line embodying our healthy lifestyle
We wanted to give it a Swiss quality image
We made it happen with world renowned scientists from Stanford & Geneva
We obtained better test results than the leading brands
We were encouraged by prominent dermatologists
We received rave reviews from everyone
We believed in it, we loved it
And we bought the company…
Carla & Irma, proud owners – LA PEAU Skin care by BeFutur Suisse SA