Interview with Mylene Paquin, Co-Founder, DIVONA: Announcing the launch of a perfume brand dedicated to supporting survivors of abuse
Highlighted on HuffPost, SheKnows, YourTango, and on ThriveGlobal as one of the top 25 wellness brands to watch (in the company of companies like Moon Juice), DIVONA is a cruelty-free, paraben-free, and phthalate-freet perfume company that uses crowd voting to empower women in need.
As of this published article, DIVONA had met - and exceeded - the anticipated goal of $20,000 on Kickstarter. I had the good fortune to be able to interview co-founder Mylene Paquin on what inspired her to start this revolutionary company that empowers women with every sale - and learn from her unique tale of entrepreneurship.
DIVONA has a great message – can you expand on it and what inspired you to start this venture?
MP: I always had the dream of creating my own perfume since I was a little girl. As I grew up, years of being victimized by abuse damaged my self-confidence and courage to pursue my dreams. One day, a friend gave me a loving care package filled with items that helped me start a new life. It had a simple note: 'I believe in you.'
This was exactly what I needed to have a fresh start and it encouraged me to move forward with my longtime dream to create DIVONA! I found an amazing co-founder and together we want to bring the same support I received to countless other women. This is why at DIVONA, $2 from each perfume purchase goes toward creating care packages for women surviving traumatic events, including abuse and trafficking.
What is DIVONA’s mission and how do you plan to achieve it?
MP: DIVONA’s core mission is to support women rebuilding their lives. We partnered with 2 nonprofit organizations that support girls and women after surviving the horrors of abuse and trafficking. With their help, we will be able to send care packages to women they identify within their programs. In some cases, these care packages will be communal in nature, meaning that all girls in the safe house will be able to share the items within the box.
We go a step further by creating a ripple effect of empowerment with our care package suppliers. All items in the package are sourced from brands that also support women in a variety of ways, such a education, counselling, employment, safe housing, etc. This means that your perfume purchase not only supports the care package recipients, but countless women across the globe thanks to our suppliers!
What were the first logistical steps you took to start DIVONA?
MP: Funnily enough, because of my marketing and cinematography/directorial background, the very first thing that came to my mind was the fantasy-inspired teaser commercial featuring 12 models representing each perfume in our “Identity” line! I also had an incredible team to make it all happen and capture beautiful photographs as well to provide visual content for my next step: drafting my first ever business plan and approaching potential co-founders.
What has been the biggest challenge and, on the flip side, the biggest reward of starting DIVONA?
MP: The biggest challenge of starting DIVONA was finding all the right partners, whether nonprofit organizations or care package suppliers. All of our core values had to align, and after much research and communication over the course of 9 months, we finally established our social impact team!
The biggest reward was also the most touching moment of my time at DIVONA so far. We received an email from a domestic abuse survivor who shared her story with us and told us how profoundly moved she was that fellow survivors were launching a company that would support abuse and trafficking victims. It brought it all home for us and reminded us that the smallest act of kindness, whether it be words of love or a simple care package, can have a profound impact on someone. This is why we should never stop trying, no matter how small or insignificant our gestures may seem. To others, they can make a world of good.
What has been your proudest moment from your career so far?
MP: My proudest moment was also the most touching moment. We received an email from a domestic abuse survivor who shared her story with us and told us how profoundly moved she was that fellow survivors were launching a company that would support abuse and trafficking victims. It brought it all home for us and reminded us that the smallest act of kindness, whether it be words of love or a simple care package, can have a profound impact on someone. This is why we should never stop trying, no matter how small or insignificant our gestures may seem. To others, they can make a world of good.
What have you learned about yourself since founding DIVONA?
MP: I’ve learned that I’m far more capable than I ever thought I was, and it’s sad to think that I used to have so little faith in myself. Repetitive abusive cycles will have this kind of impact on some people and I’m very happy to know that I was able to break free of that and prove to myself that I was capable of building something that can positively impact women’s lives!
What do you feel is the most important characteristic for entrepreneurs to have?
MP: Definitely grit and conviction/passion. Without those, you’ll lose sight of why you even started this challenging, frustrating, rewarding journey to begin with. Without grit, you give up too soon and never find out how far you could go. Without conviction and passion, your heart is never truly in it, and that makes your product or service a lot less meaningful and fulfilling.
What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out in your career?
MP: During a crowdfunding campaign, a team for social media and PR is key. Trying to manage social media accounts without proper knowledge of each platform was quite a challenge. The wide variety of platforms that people use requires in-depth lessons on the psychology behind them as well as the workings of each of these individual platforms to maximize their potential to reach our desired audiences! Not an easy task!
What is on your desk right now? What are you reading?
MP: A delicious Voluspa candle (“Saijo Persimmon” scent), mini mugs from NYC holding pens and many business cards from new acquaintances, a notebook, and Lilly Singh’s new book - I’m having an absolute blast reading “How To Be A Bawse”! Also really enjoying the audio book for “Pitch Anything” by the brilliant Oren Klaff.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
MP: On a personal level, it was to be compassionate towards myself. We all tend to be very hard on ourselves and have unrealistic expectations of ourselves. It’s incredibly important to show yourself the same kindness and compassion you would to someone else going through the same thing you are.
On a professional level, it’s a tie between 2 things. The first is that we should surround ourselves with people smarter than we are in all kinds of areas of expertise to expand our horizons and accomplish what we want, as a team. The second is that we should never stop learning/reading - this helps us grow and keeps us mentally sharp in business.
What is your career advice for other young professional women?
MP: Whatever your passion or dream may be, go for it! Don’t let the others tell you what you can or cannot do. And remember that failing isn’t what happens when you don’t succeed the way you wanted - it’s what happens when you give up. You have it in you, so don’t give up!
For more information on DIVONA and to shop their line of perfumes, please visit www.divona.co.