If someone had told us we were going to do a beauty product together, we would have laughed,” says French entrepreneur Charles Rosier, thinking back to when he and Prof Dr Augustinus Bader first met over a decade ago. He was involved in business ventures while the latter was working on stem cell biology and cell technology at Leipzig University in Germany.
Rosier’s interest in medicine — he was helping a French professor on spinal cord injury — and a wound gel Bader used to heal a four-year-old with third-degree burns brought them together. He wondered if they could use the medical-grade Hydrogel to create a skincare product, then use profits from it to finance the scientist’s clinical trials and medical research.
By then, it had been four years since they met. Rosier took another two years to convince the professor to “take this idea seriously”. They co-founded Bader Group and rolled out two items, The Cream and The Rich Cream, in 2018.
Coming up with the brand name took another round of convincing.
“I told him it was important the brand carry his name for transparency because there are so many labels out there. It’s important that people can google Augustinus Bader and see his publications and research. That would show ours is not a fantasy project; there is real science behind it,” says Rosier, who marries two of his passions, biology — he nearly studied medicine — and entrepreneurship, with this project.
Science, and the story behind the brand, probably entice women to pick up the two creams and subsequent products, including The Body Cream, The Face Oil and The Eyebrow and Lash Serum. Response from Hollywood stars and celebrities to influencers and beauty experts has been phenomenal, with most saying the skincare line is “special and different from what they have tried before”, says Rosier.
Contrary to the business’ swift rise, he and his partner took time to warm up and understand how each other worked. Now, both say they have mutual respect for and complement one another.
“I have no skills to replace Augustinus’ knowledge. I don’t have the capacity to work on the science side of things. I would never interfere or make comments on science and he would never [do the same] with my business decisions.”
Bader, who likens finance, knowledge of banking and strategic planning to “a different culture”, compliments his partner: “Charles is everything I’m not. I know what I can do. But I’m not good at financing.”
What they had in common was that both faced major financial problems.
“My wife sold everything — our house, car — to pay the filing fee for the patents as my salary was not enough. I once had 100 patents,” Bader claims.
In the first year of their partnership, Rosier’s chief financial officer resigned three times because “he had too much stress from the cash flow situation. I really put everything into funding the project. I sold my flat in London and we found our external investor because I was selling another one in Paris”.
Then, Lady Luck smiled on them. Last year, Augustinus Bader was voted the greatest skincare brand of all time by a jury of professionals from the beauty sector, organised by Women’s Wear Daily.
“When you’re an independent brand, even if you have a great product, you can go bankrupt. We could have. Maybe we got lucky because of the energy we put in the project. I think we benefited from being naïve. If I were from the industry and understood how competitive it was, maybe I would not have taken all those risks. So my ignorance was a blessing,” says Rosier.
Recognition has come from different fronts. “We got an award from all the 45 editors of Elle magazine across the globe. We got awards from British and French Vogue. In the history of skincare, I don’t think a new brand has achieved that in such a short time.”
After being introduced to The Rich Cream and Bader’s TFC8 technology, Bobbi Brown invested some money in the company and recently joined as chief creative adviser.
“She advises us on content creation. Before launching new formulas, we send her the prototype. She has been working in the industry for many, many years and knows a lot about texture. She’s very frank. It’s very important to have people around you who give you straight opinions,” Rosier says.
“We benefit from that great product and unique technology, but for the other things to come along, you need, of course, hard work and luck. We’ve been incredibly lucky because it’s not like we had a master plan. A lot of things unfolded very organically.”
But when it comes to product content, nothing is left to chance. TFC8, a patented and formulated technology that Bader — “I grew up in a monastery school” — spent 30 years working on, is complemented by a very strict list of ingredients. Among them are natural amino acids, high-grade vitamins and synthesised molecules naturally found in skin, which support its innate potential for cellular renewal. His research focus is regenerative medicine and he believes “the body is its own therapist”.
The Hydrogel uses revolutionary stem cell science that eliminates the need for skin grafts and scar revision, and minimises infections that affect burn victims. He noticed the life-long suffering of children and the trauma of disfiguring burns while working at Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai, China and formulated the gel to promote scar-free healing.
Asked about brand expansion, Rosier says there will be 20 to 25 products for skin and eight to 10 for hair. “We try to bring solution-driven products that differentiate us from what’s in the market.”
Augustinus Bader is available at Kens Apothecary stores. See more here.
This article first appeared on Oct 31, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.