June 4 2018  |  Fragrances, Cosmetics, Skincare & Haircare

Essence Corp’s Patricia and Jean-Jacques Bona tell us what makes their company tick

By Hibah Noor

Pictured at the IAADFS 2017 cocktail party(from left): Antoine Bona, Patricia Bona, Jean-Jacques Bona, Guillaume Bona

Essence Corp is celebrating 30 fabulous and productive yearsin business this year. The company’s senior executives have identified the key milestones that have made the Miami-based fragrance distributor what it is today – a family-owned business with core philanthropic values.

Enjoying the IAADFS 2015 cocktail party (from left): Jean-Jacques Bona, Patricia Bona, Antoine Bona, Laetitia Bona Piedra, Gabi Medeiros Humbles

Today, the top management team consists of Jean-Jacques Bona as President; Patricia Bona – Vice-President; Antoine Bona – Executive Sales Director; Guillaume Bona – Executive Sales Director; Laetitia Bona Piedra – Executive Director Administration & Finance; and Gabi Medeiros Humbles – Executive Director Marketing.

According to Patricia and Jean-Jacques Bona, 2003 was a milestone with three major events:We became the regional office of Clarins for the next 10 years, we opened our own warehouse in Miami, and tripled its surface in 15 years, and we welcomed the second generation, first with our son Antoine, then our nephew Guillaume and our daughter Laetitia.

Patricia and Jean-Jacques Bona are pictured in their Miami office

In 2012, the company created a strong marketing department with dedicated brand managers, headed by Gabriela Medeiros Humbles as Executive Marketing Director.And in 2016, the company diversified its activity in becoming a local distributor in Panama and Colombia.

Here, Americas Duty Free asks Patricia and Jean-Jacques Bona to reveal the secrets of the company’s success.

Americas Duty Free: How do you feel on your 30th birthday?

Patricia and Jean-Jacques Bona: We feel proud of our achievements and confident that the next generation will keep on growing the business during the next 30 years. And as we are personally getting older, we appreciate this stage of life as a new adventure. This is the time of our (and of our company’s) life for engaging in new opportunities.

The Essence team’s annual corporate run (pictured in April 2017) benefits The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis

ADF: How did you start your company?

P & J-JB: We founded Essence Corp in 1988 in Miami following the path of our Paris, France-based family company, Guillo & Bona S.A. which operated as an agent, and focused only on the Caribbean. We had two missions in mind: first, to strengthen our presence in the region to support our expansion across the travel retail markets of the Americas. Second, to become a distributor.

ADF: Are you satisfied with your achievements?

P & J-JB: One should never be entirely satisfied and always seek to do better… But the truth is that we are extremely pleased, not only of our growth in sales and of the success of our brands, but also of looking at the team we have built, led by the younger generation: talented, optimistic and successful.

The Essence team’s Miami Rescue Mission took place in January 2016

ADF: What level of growth are you expecting in the next 2-3 years?

P & J-JB: We expect 10% yearly average growth: 7% organic and 3% coming from new brands. Both are very important. We want to see our partner brands grow in sales and market share, but we are also always looking for new prospects, opportunities, challenges. It is the most satisfying feeling to take the responsibility of a new brand and carry it to the next level.

ADF: What challenges made the company stronger?

P & J-JB: During these past 30 years our main challenge has been the globalization at brand level which made us lose some independent brands when they were acquired by established groups. These setbacks have not prevented us from keeping on growing thanks to the success of newcomers – brands such as Montblanc, Versace and Victoria’s Secret, which we handle in the whole travel retail market.

In the Caribbean, we were able to grow our portfolio of distributors with established groups such as Shiseido, Puig, Clarins, Hermès and LVMH.

In the local markets of North America, we maintained our involvement by changing our modus operandi: from agent we became supervisors of local distributors on behalf of some brands. We also decided in 2016 to become a local distributor (for Panama and Colombia).

ADF: Are you sticking to the beauty segment?

P & J-JB: In 2010, we decided to focus on cosmetics and fragrance brands. We were successfully involved for 10 years in the accessory and watch segments but we decided to specialize in one category to optimize our level of service.

ADF: How will you be celebrating 30 years?

P & J-JB: We blew the 30 candles of our birthday cake with our staff during our internal seminar in January and shared with them our achievements and goals, and our vision for the next 30 years. We will continue to make every effort to impact lives, through constant office team work and service to the community. We have a strong commitment of giving back: one cannot imagine better feeling and better celebration.

ADF: What is your secret to a successful 30 years?

P & J-JB: Hard work and loving every minute of it. Loyalty to our brands and to our customers. Assembling a professional team with strong priorities. Always being curious with a constant will to learn and to improve. Keeping our family values and business vision in focus and passing it on to the next generation.

What Essence Corp’s longest-serving employees say:

Natalia Vergara, Senior Financial Analyst with 29 years at Essence Corp: “When I started back in 1988, there was very little technology, unlike today. I have seen the company grow exponentially in 29 years. The Bonas not only taught us new things, but kept us up to date with the industry. Essence Corp continues to impress me every day.”

Beatriz de Vegas, Market Coordinator with 17 years at Essence Corp: I remember Mrs Bona telling me that everyone who joined the company never wanted to leave. Some 17 years later I have come to realize how prophetic her words turned out to be. It’s a testament to their core values and I feel an immense pride to be a part of it. I look forward to the next 30 years!”

Gabi Medeiros Humbles, Executive Director Marketing with 16 years in Essence Corp: “It has been an amazing experience of professional and personal growth simultaneously with the incredible growth of the company. Essence has always made me feel like family and has given me wonderful opportunities and cherishable moments. My mission here has always been to inspire teams and individuals to feel about this company as if it were their own. I’ve helped many others grow and fall in love with Essence Corp the same way that I have. I believe that their values and leadership make this company and all its employees proud to be at the TOP.”

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