In the lead-up to Rise Up, we asked our ambitious female founders a few questions about their entrepreneurial journey and what inspires them. First up is Gaelle Thieme, founder of Dust & Glow which creates waterless, eco-friendly, ethically made, cruelty free, natural and vegan cleansers, shampoo and body wash.

Where were you born and where do you call home now?

I am originally from France. I moved to New Zealand 10 years ago on a working holiday visa and have never looked back. Now I am a proud Kiwi and have travelled extensively around New Zealand with my little family. I love the rugged west coach beaches, the laidback approach, the beautiful scenery and New Zealand wine!

Tell us a bit about your work background?

I started my career in France and the US in product development and strategic marketing for a worldwide leader in small domestic appliances. When I moved to New Zealand I transitioned into the world of beauty. I worked for L’Oreal NZ as a Group Brand Manager looking after the skincare portfolio then headed up the Global Marketing team at Trilogy Natural Skincare.  Eighteen months ago I took a big leap of faith and decided to follow my dreams.

How did the idea for Dust & Glow come about?

I have been wanting to create a business for as long as I can remember. After working in the beauty industry for the past 10 years, I became more and more aware of how wasteful the cosmetics industry is. The inspiration for Dust & Glow, came to me when I realised the beauty industry needed a shake-up. I wanted to simplify and rethink the way we use products. Because in beauty, less can be more.

I had initially left my previous role to take a year off and work as a freelancer (which I did) but I quickly started playing in my kitchen with ingredients and trying to re-engineer traditional liquid products.

What has been your biggest challenge in your entrepreneurial journey?

Creating waterless, natural, preservative-free products was no easy task. It took over a year trying to re-engineer how you would usually formulate beauty products. I initially spent hours trying to source ingredients and testing and learning before contacting every single cosmetics manufacturer I know in New Zealand. After a false start (I changed manufacturers along the way) and countless samples we managed to re-imagine beauty and personal care in a powder form.

The second biggest challenge, I would say, is having people taking you seriously when you are a small start-up.

Who has been your biggest cheerleader along the way?

I have been blessed with great support. My family in France have been cheering from afar and I give them regular updates on my progress. I also had friends and family encouraging me and testing all the products. But my biggest fan is my 4-year-old daughter. While she doesn’t quite understand yet everything, she quickly realises that my new job is to make pretty bottles and that now our shampoo is in powder.

What or who inspires you?

In the past year I have been fascinated by the founders of Time for the Planet – a French non-profit company that creates and finances companies fighting against climate change at a global scale. Founded by six young entrepreneurs who had a crazy idea to fundraise 1 billion euros to create 100 companies fighting against global warming. Companies created by Time for the Planet will follow the open-source principle and publicly share their discoveries. In one year they raised €5,041,891 and have 25,649 shareholders on board (including myself).

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

To have a purpose and being different. My purpose is clear – I am on a mission to save water waste and give back over 1,000,000 days of clean water to those who need it the most by 2025. It is still early days but we have already donated 2,555 days of clean water. Every drop makes a big difference.

Do you have any advice for female entrepreneurs in NZ?

I feel it is a bit early to give advice, but I would say: do your research; be different and own it; and START!

Running your own business must be hectic, how do you unwind?

I have been on health kick for the past year, so I usually hit the gym first thing in the morning. I am also the proud Mama to my daughter Clara. I love cooking, always have a book on the go and love being by the ocean on weekends.

What three things can’t you live without?

Water, a great book and my family.

If you won Rise Up, what would you use the money for?

As I am just starting every dollar would make a big difference and help me scale up. I would predominantly use the funds to fund product development and production of a few new products that I have been working on. I would also put money into marketing and advertising so we can spread the news further and donate more clean water.

Register for your FREE ticket to see Gaelle and our other inspirational female founders present at our Rise Up Pitch Night on 23 November in Hamilton.