I was getting the grand tour of Karine Joncas new offices in Montreal’s historic garment district, when the skin care creator casually entered the chic and modern space ten minutes after our interview was set to begin.
She graciously apologized for being late and explained how she was packing for a family vacation with her two overly-excited daughters. It will be the first vacation she has taken in two years.
Similarly to the self-titled skin care line she launched with her husband 15 years ago, Joncas is a busy woman who is constantly on the go. Between running a business and taking care of her family, Joncas wasn’t shy to say that she was feeling stressed that day.
She was just 26-years-old when she launched her line in 2001.
She had a product, cosmetic eye patches, but no market. Not until Quebec pharmacie, Jean Coutu, would take a chance on her.
“If Jean Coutu didn’t believe in us, one of the biggest distributors, I think it would have been a very difficult time,” Joncas explains.
Fifteen years later however, her business is booming and she says she’s ready for the next steps.
“Today, I feel like I’m ready to throw myself into even bigger challenges.”
I sat down with Joncas to ask what 15 years of business means to her, how she manages work-life, balance, and much more:
You’re celebrating 15 years of business this year. What does that mean to you?
Fifteen years definitely represents an important road that I’ve walked. It’s certain that it hasn’t always been easy, but it’s never easy to launch a business. In general, it is said that the first five years of business are tough, but for me it was more like seven years because there were two phases in my business. First we launched our cosmetic eye patches, and then we developed our product line and launched our own KJ Laboratories five years later, which was like starting back at zero. We didn't know if the business would work, but it did. So 15 years really represents success, but a success that happened slowly.
Is there anything in particular that you think helped your business become the success that it is today?
I really believe that today’s success is due to the work we’ve put in day to day. I never gave up and I always persevered. My success is really due to the fact that I advanced little by little, and that I quickly surrounded myself with a team. Even if we’re an entrepreneur, we can’t do everything. There was a time where I had to trust my vision and start delegating.
What inspired your career in beauty?
It’s for sure my grand-mother. From a young age, I was initiated to the creation of beauty products at home. She made herbal teas and syrups, and from there, I think I really caught the bug.
And now, what does your day to day look like?
I’m really involved in the research and development side of the business as well as in the marketing, concepts and product testing. I also work a lot on our marketing texts and strategy, public relations and keeping up with the latest technologies. So my day to day is pretty much that. Though I never have a day that really starts at 8 am and ends at 4 pm. Sometimes I get to the office a little later, but as soon as I get up, I’m working. It’s part of our family’s routine, so I’m often in-between the two.
And how is it working with your husband?
When It comes to managing family life, I find it makes it so much easier. We understand each other. Starting a business is a risk, but our most difficult times are the times where Francis and I supported each other the most. I think that people who don’t have spouses who support them, there’s a time where they might ask you to choose between family and the business. But for us, it was always both. It’s a challenge, but if you ask me if I would encourage people to go into business with their spouses, I would say yes. No hesitation.
Do you have any tricks you use to help you manage work-life, balance?
I still haven’t been able to reconcile work-life, balance. I tried for a long time to not have any help at home while my kids were young. It was important for me to be there and to do homework with my daughters. But there came a time where I couldn’t anymore and I had to accept help at home. Women who can’t get help at home and who aren’t able to reconcile work-life, balance, I 100 percent understand them. The only way I was able to find balance was to get help at home.
What’s the best part of your job?
It’s to be able to continuously create! If I’m in a pharmacy or if a client asks me for a product, I can create it. The best part of my job is really that I can let my creativity flow to all sorts of levels. It’s special to start from nothing and to create something. All our products have a story and have lived for me as well as for the team.
What’s your biggest challenge at work?
Managing my employees (laughs). But seriously, numbers are numbers, but my employees are people. These are people that I know, who have a family, a life. When you form a team, you want the people around you to be happy. So the human side is what’s most precious, but it’s also what’s the hardest to manage.
Do you have any advice for young professionals who want to launch a business?
I have many (laughs)! If it’s a business or just a project that you want to do, you have to go from dreaming to reality. I’ve met so many people who talk to me about their dreams, and finally they arrive at 45 and they’re still dreaming, they haven’t started. You have to go from dreaming to reality, even if it is through small steps.