Innovation Nation
Innovation Nation

Episode · 1 year ago

Diverse Team Members for Diverse Clients w/ Marta Araujo


When you evolve from a chemistry postdoc to the head of sales, marketing & communications at a fragrance company, you learn something about innovation. 


One of the things you learn is to ask many questions. Another thing? Gratitude. 


In this episode, I interview Marta Araujo, Board Member & former CEO of Castelbel, about how her roles at Castelbel evolved. 


What we talked about:  

  • The strength of an interdisciplinary team 
  • Before launching a product, ask for as many opinions as you can 
  • The social responsibility of manufacturers to give back 

Innovation is all around us. In fact, everyone innovates, often unbeknowns to themselves. Many mistakenly assumed the innovation is either a big capital project, a figurative bolt of lightning that brings inspiration, or the province of some exceptionally gifted person. This is the myth of innovation. But you can innovate as well. You are listening to innovation nation, the podcast where top executives in industry experts are sharing their insights on harnessing the power of innovation. We're here to help you stay ahead of the curve by driving your own innovation. Here's your host, Jasmine Martyr Rosen Hi. I'm joined today by Martha Ralujo, who is the former CEO and presently board member of Castell Bell. All of you have probably known and seeing the wonderful soaps and other products that they make. They call it affordable luxury, and Castel Bell has hit quade an ascendance in the market, and you cannot do that without innovation. So I'm glad I'm joined by Marta and those are questions will ask her. So how's Castle Bell innovading? Well, first of all, the thanks for having me. Well, gust so well. I think innovates in a way that is pretty standard nowadays, especially in the US, especially for those who studied the cases of Ideo and the likes. But but I would say that maybe what chill is not that common, which is we have of team of people, but about ten people who have very, very different backgrounds, and we build on the diversity of that group. So basically what we do is that, well, we are fragrance, home and body fragrance makers, manufacturers, and we have people from backgrounds or liker, management, design sales, chemistry, engineering, all sorts of backgrounds that then add on to the product, which is basically the the conception of packaging, of the of the ingredients, the formulation itself.

We try to adapt to the market, but with a hint of something new and and we do that by building on the on the different backgrounds of people. So you mentioned the diversity of the team and then what you described is, in essence, intodisciplinarity. What's the importance of that and how does that play into innovation? Well, first of all, because the base of clients that everybody has is pretty dimple diverse. So so if you have diverse clients, then it makes sense that you have diverse people making products for those climates. So what happens is that, instead of having everyone moving in the same direction and everybody agreeing to the same things and liking the same things, which you have here is is a set of people who have different tastes and and it's that interdisciplinarity that brings knowledge, different kinds of knowledge, different kinds of intelligence and different kinds of taste. And we really believe that that is what makes us successful. Is that we have very different collections within the collection. So we have two different friends. One of them is very, very ECLECTIC. Port to scale is our premium friend. Castel Bell would be more like our entry range, and then portoscalar would be the premium one, and in port to scalet it's very, very eclectic. It's different styles within the same collection. So is there an example where you would share? You personally would have disagreed with something, but then it was launched in was a market success. Absolutely, that happens all the time. It happens. It happens with several things. It happens on both sides actually, and in both the direction. So I was very, very confident that this collection that we had that has been just discontinued now. I was really hopeful that it would work and then would be very successful in the market, and was not, and and I was very surprised and the and then that taught us a lesson of...

...actually listening to a lot of people, not just ourselves, but actually asking clients first, asking sales associate, spirts, asking, asking a lot of people before actually launching that product. So, besides the product development team itself, we ask our distributors and partners in different parts of the world what they think of the collection that we are thinking of launching before or we actually do it. So you try to understand your audience absolutely, absolutely, usually what we do is that we create imagine this. So we start by trying to absorb see the tendems that we have in terms of the trends, in terms of fashion, in terms of what's going to be the time come put down color, the year, what's the you know, in terms of interior design, all of that, plus the trends of fragrance, which which exists too. So we try to combine all of those things and then we create three different alternatives, usually, and those three different other ones that are subject to a poll and people vote. So it's the it's the sales people, it's the distributors, but it's also the engineers and it's also the chemists and it's also the designers. Everybody votes for their favorite and and that's mistake that we did with with the Amazoni aligned would not happen again now, because now more people would have said are shut. I really really don't think that's going to work. And the and nowadays we launch collections with more success rates, with a higher success success rate than before. Because of that. Excellent. So you formalize the process now? Absolutely, I think that. I think that this changes a lot and I think that it's a mistake not to listen. Listening is very important in this process. Listen to the people right that the end use interesting. That's extremely important and actually more businesses should have the rigor to do that in a systematic manner. I believe so. I believe so,...

...but it's I believe that it's also it's a question of the way you do it, because we have now. Nowadays we have the possibility of actually testing the market ourselves instead of going to a focus group or or to market research firm or something like that. What we do is that we have our own shops, so we have to we have a flagship store in port and another one in Lisbon, plus a shopping mall store and Porto, and we go, the team goes to those shops and talks to the clients. So we talked to any goods humors and we ask them what they think. So that's that's very helpful. So you get the direct response and you also trusting your judgment. Yeah, you keep learning to mix. It's a mix, it's a mix. Interesting. That's amazing. So can I tell bell was founded in one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine? They'll frankly, that was a new discovery for me. I thought was much old. A lot of people think that that's very common. So it is a product of recent innovation. Right. Yeah, true. Now the question is the know how. So where does the knowledge come from? So so, basically the company was co founded by three people. One of them was in charge of sales, the other one was the money guy, was fun big person, and then the third person was the chemical engineer who was actually already working in this industry. So he brought the know how off from from previous work. That he had done in the field, and that was probably the reason why, even though we are a mirror, merely a twenty year old company, but we actually know a lot about our business. It's because we are building on past experience from from the factory. So tell us a little bit about yourself, because, from what I know, your career path has also been very diverse and innovative. It's unusual, I would say, probably so. I'm a chemist and and I'm so I have a BASC in Chemistry and then a PhD... quantum chemistry, and the way I did it is also pretty unusual, in the sense that I have the degree from the University of Porto. But the work was all done in London at the Imperial College London, and the place where I was working, I had the group was, I believe, twelve people and only one worth British. Everybody was everybody else was from different nationalities, and that diversity was very, very helpful for me because I learned a lot. I learned a lot in terms of taller and sentence of culture, in terms of respect, in terms of incorporating the feedback and the knowledge and know how from all of those different people, and they were all very different, but the work, the results of the work of everybody combined was very, very good, I believe, because of that. So I did that. So I finished my PhD there and then I moved back to Portugal, where I even started a postock. I taught for a semester and then I was I I started a post dock, but at that time I was I was kind of a bit that up of a Ka temia. I wanted to be a professor, but I couldn't, I couldn't find a place to do that. So basically I got this offer, this job offer, from the front or of Castle Bell and that actually it was the the majority shareholder who invited me to to make fun of the team as the head of sales and marketing and communication. So here I am. Hit you down. Any sales marketing communication prior to that? No, I haven't, I hadn't. It was it was pretty much a question of trust and and and using the skills, not exactly the knowledge the not the scientific knowledge, and not the degree, nothing like that, because I didn't have that, but the set of skills that I had acquired during the time that I had been living abroad and how to deal with that and how to get things done and sorted and and I would say that probably that was the most important of the wall.

It's the it's the resilience, it's the knowing how to do things on my own. It's or figuring it out, not knowing, but figuring out and talking to a lot of people and I asked a lot of questions and and I asked for help to from a lot of a lot of different people here in Portugal, and that was extremely helpful and they and I believe that it went well because I studied and I talked and I asked and and I am listened. Above all, I listened to a lot of people. That's an amazing story. Clearly you have a very open mindset, try to learn new things and you mentioned a couple of skills, resilience, asking questions. What else can you share in specificity and give some examples of? I would say I would say that, well, one thing that most people wouldn't think, that is the first thought that comes to your mind, but it's really important in this industry, is that being a chemist actually helps. So this is this is a chemical industry, Strey, much so, so working with fragrants or human population working over all of this. It does help to be a chemist. So it's not like it was a completely different thing. But in terms of the sales and the building a distribution network and the marketing and the press and talking to the press and all of these things, this I learned on the job and I learned as I was I went along. But one thing that you have to consider is that this was, it still is kind of it's a medium sized company nowadays, but when I joined the company was a small company. So it's this kind of person profile that can adapt and and evolved with the company at the same time as the company does. It actually is not absurd. So it's it would be more difficult to fit into a culture of a big company. Dimension matters in this case because because actually,...

...if it had been all the processantly in place, all the everything, if everything were really structured, it would have been a lot more difficult. So in this case I was learning at the same time as everybody else. So it was not that difficult. Think of this as a company that is now three times the size in terms of done over as it was at the time. So it's different. So so it was easier because of that. So that. That's an amazing story and it shows that context does matter and actually you learned and innovated and evolved with the company in obviously you succeeded to have been promoted to CEO and board member. I think that the first thing that you have to do to embrace challenge like this is to be willing to adapt and to move along together with everybody else. It's not as if you were running on your own and and nothing else mattered. Everything else does matter you. You are surrounded by it and you have to adapt to it, and I would think that probably the most important traits, personal trait to do that is adaptable. Just being a dad, adapt very important. I think we're all adapting now to the code yere. Absolutely nowadays, that's probably the time where it's the most important to have that characteristic. Yes, yeah, so tell us more about what are the innovations that you're trying to put in place as a board member to drive the company forward. Well, it's a very recent thing. So so what I can say is more of a recent fasts kind of measures and decisions. So what we have been doing is to first of all, we want to we are probably Portuguese. You know, we are probably European and and we want to show our history and every product.

So it's not just the presentation of the product, it's not just a design and it's not just the packaging, it's actually the actual product inside. So all the products that we make here are one hundred percent made in virtual and we try to use local raw materials to so I would say that something that was innovative was the fact that we started using Cork, natural Portuguese cork, to make sentence sachets. We actually have a pattern for that. So so that would would classify as an innovation, but other things that are just incremental innovations. We are never talking about this structive innovation in this industry because we're talking about a traditional industry after all. So we're talking about a factory where I am right now. The factory has that stairs, a plan. We have over one hundred ladies wrapping soaps, hand rapping soaps all daylong. So you can imagine. But this is not a very disruptive kind of environment. But it's important to adapt within your field, because what we are doing is that we are not so manufacturers, we are lifestyle gift manufacturers. We are the you were mentioned at the beginning that this is affordable luxury. This is affordable and now sustainable. As we go we try to become more and more sustainable. This is a we have this kind of fact with ourselves that you want to become more sustainable in terms of environment, in terms of the social aspect also. It's very important for us to preserve the local the integrity of the product, to make sure that it's the best quality as it can be being made here by the people that are living all around it's actually one thing that it's very interesting about this company is that over ninety percent of the staff lives in the same within the same postcode, which is the postcode of a factory. So everybody is here and then, and I would say that that is important, we are pretty much academics also in the direction of the... and and this helps us have a very strong bond with local academia. So almost all of us come from the University of Porto, and that is the fact that they're trying to give back. is also part of our Social Responsibility Plan program that we try to give as much workshops as we can, lectures, way time, conferences. We share knowledge. We created that we also share it because we believe that that really is all responsibility. You're so motivated and it really comes through what feeds that motivation internally. Well, I love this company because it gave me an opportunity that not everybody, unfortunately, has and I had the access to life that I could never imagine I had. I had no idea that I would love to be a sales person. I would never imagine that I would love marketing because I was supposed to be a pure scientist, I was supposed to be a puretical chemistry. Can you imagine anything further from the reality? So I think that I have to be very grateful, and I am every day, for having been given this opportunity to actually develop myself, together with this environment. Of It's a vibrant environment. We have pretty a pretty young staff because, as we were just commenting before, it's a twenty year old company. So it's normal that people are not at all. It's a week. The people are up here since the beginning are still here. We have grown in terms of staff, but it's pretty much the same people that are growing with us, and I think that's that can only be that can only feel rewarding I feel that this is very rewarding. So you come also with an attitude of gratitude. Absolutely this is this is this was the best thing that could possibly happened to me. Wonderful. Any other thoughts you'd like to share without audience? I think that it's...

I wouldn't make this as a very strong case for female lead the shape kind of thing, but I would say that it's important to have as much balance as you can. In our case we are in balanced actually, because we have a lot more women than men, but that happens also because we have a lot more female clients than my old gliance. It's pretty much the same proportion. But what I would say is that, regardless of being gender or background or the scientific area or whatever that is for age or experience, I think that this company would makes it really good to work at and and successful, I would say is is the diversity that we have. I think that's really, really important. So that's something that would support every time. Well, thank you, Martha. I will show your very inspirational leader and I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much. You've been listening to innovation nation. For more, subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast player or connect with this on Linkedin. Thanks for listening.

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