Prose Co-Founder & CEO Arnaud Plas on the power of personalization
Arnaud Plas, Co-Founder and CEO of Prose, is a CPG and beauty industry veteran. He moved around from Henkel to L’Oreal, working in Paris, Dusseldorf and New York across various marketing and digital acceleration functions, all while noticing the ways technology could improve products — and thus, build better brands. In other words, Plas was a natural entrepreneur.
While harboring dreams of starting his own company, he hired his future co-founder, Paul Michaux, at L’Oreal in 2015. “We were having intense discussions about where the industry was going, L’Oreal’s position in the market, the white spots,” Plas says. “It was a great collaboration for a year.” When Plas left the company in 2016, he told Michaux he’d love for him to join. “I said, ‘I just want to be an entrepreneur. I would have too many regrets if I stayed an employee forever,’” he recalls. Thankfully, Michaux felt the same way.
The duo went back to France for 18 months to work on the mission and vision for personalized hair care, where they also added CTO Nicolas Mussat. Plas had recognized the issues with customer segmentation, or grouping customers broadly into categories (“long hair,” “blonde hair,” “curly hair,” “dandruff”), and wanted to solve for it. “Maybe 20 years ago, the technology just wasn’t there yet, but I felt that now we could create something much more relevant for customers,” says Plas. “We could create a product for a person, not for a segment.”
Big beauty players like L’Oreal have a supply chain in place that has somewhat married them to their segmented business model; Plas wanted to start from scratch, creating the process to address people as individuals and building the supply chain to scale that vision. He knew this idea had legs. “Prose was the only concept where I was waking up at night so excited, not just about the core product, but about all the things it could enable,” Plas says. “A better shopping experience, feedback from the customer, improving your product over time.”
Today, Prose is reinventing the personalization, customization and supply chain infrastructure to grow with their consumer. With the company’s own software-powered machine, a customer purchases products first, and then those products are made according to their unique hair-type specifications — instead of making a million units of product, for instance, and then trying to sell all of it to customers. Prose’s model cuts down on waste, as well. “It was better for the planet and better for our customers,” Plas says.
Though Prose is growing quickly — the company tripled revenue for the third year in a row, with 75% of its revenue under subscription — Plas’ proudest moment as a founder-CEO is more personal. In fact, it happens each January at the company gathering in Canada. “Usually at the first dinner, I do an intro speech,” he says. “Just looking around at all those different people coming from different countries, different backgrounds, with different reasons for being at the company — without Prose, they would not be in that place at that moment, speaking together. Seeing them so happy and excited about the mission of the company is really where I load the battery for the year.”
For Plas, the Prose journey has been a thrilling ride, with his role as CEO evolving year over year, bringing new challenges. “You have to move from doing to getting, getting to empowering, from empowering to representing the company more and more,” he says.
But if any would-be founders are wondering if Plas’ entrepreneurial dreams lived up to expectations, he has simple advice: Start the company, whether you aspire to have a thriving small business or a unicorn startup. “It’s a fantastic experience learning about yourself and people in general,” he says. “And what is extremely rewarding is that you’re making such an impact on the people around you, whether it’s customers or employees… Life is too short not to go for it.”
Learn more at prose.com. Follow the journey on Instagram and Facebook.