Meet Carole Lamarque, CEO of DUVAL UNION Innovative Marketing. Carole is a power woman with an enormous passion for strategic marketing, innovation and technology. She doesn't like the idea of false modesty and encourages people to defend their position with fire and passion. "You have to be bold!" In her free time, she loves to go for a long distance run surrounded by the beauty of nature. That's what she calls pure joy.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your career path?
I am Carole Lamarque, CEO of DUVAL UNION Innovative Marketing. Going viral and growing exponentially has been a quest and a passion for me for many years as an experienced marketeer. I am passionate about strategic marketing, launching innovations and new technologies. My love for innovation comes from the companies I worked for in the energy and media sector. The most disruptive learnings came undoubtedly from the ICT sector. I gained marketing knowledge working for Shell, Proximus and Telenet where I became marketing director and where I was involved in the launch of voicemail, the launch of the internet and the launch of Telenet's Cloud Computing & Yelo. Today, I do this every day as an entrepreneur in my own marketing company, together with my business partner Frederic Vanderheyde and my team of marketing experts.
Zoonotic by Carole Lamarque
I also recently released my third and newest book, Zoonotic. The purpose of Zoonotic is to explain what you can learn from viruses which I've linked to business strategies, leadership and communication styles. My starting point for this book is that by studying and understanding pandemics you can learn valuable lessons, lessons for the success of a viral business strategy. I am firmly convinced that entrepreneurs who conquer the world with viral innovations are not just "lucky". Just like with a pandemic, there is a predictable pattern at the heart of it. Economic principles are not a coincidence. Successful entrepreneurs follow a well-defined strategy. And that strategy, mindset and its principles I intended to map out once and for all.
Did you ever think you would be where you are now?
I don't know if I like this question... I ask myself, where do I stand? I am a striver, so I will always try to do better. I want to have fun every week, but also make it fun for those around me. That's my vision. The more people I can involve, the happier I feel. This has also been proven. The more people that surround you, either privately or professionally, the more easily happiness can be achieved. It's about the number of people YOU love. I really notice that. To realize my ambitions, I prefer to be well surrounded rather than doing things alone.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced during your career? Do you have any tips on how to deal with them?
That a zoonosis (i.e. a virus spreading rapidly around the world) cannot be restricted just like that is demonstrated by the current Corona pandemic. I was unable to handle the enormous impact the pandemic had. Everything slowed down and growth stayed away, but right from the start I said: 'the sea is retreating and a tsunami is coming'. In this case, I am talking about a tsunami in a positive way, a tsunami of customers we need to keep our businesses running. When you see the sea retreating, there's two options: you can watch and wait or you can run towards the water. Of course, we chose the second option and made a 90-day plan to reach the sea. The only problem was that I didn't know when and where we would reach it and even if we would ever actually get there. In the end, we did reach the finish line, but still there was no light at the end of the tunnel and that was the biggest disappointment of all.
Then I started looking at the phases of an economic crisis and told my team that everything would get better again. After New Year's entrepreneurs couldn't stand down any longer, could they? At the end of January, the sea was finally there. However, the wave was much bigger than we had expected. Suddenly, there was an abundance of customers. For months you had done everything you could to learn how to surf, but when the wave finally hit the only option was to face it head-on. People started to give up because they had been running for 90 days and were simply exhausted. For me, managing too much is easier than managing too little. Would I want to do it again? Not really, but then again the Olympic Games are only held every four years. What the future holds is still a closely guarded secret for me as well. I don't make any plans for it. I try to look in the mirror first and ask myself if I am doing the right thing.
What does 'making a career' mean to you and what role do you prefer to take on?
I absolutely cannot stand on the sidelines, that's really not for me. I like to take on a leading role and take people along. Making a career is having the luxury of doing what you love. If you do something against your will, you are simply not making a career in my opinion.
What drives you to get up every day and go back to work? What motivates you?
My team. It's great to get up in the morning and immediately think "what's next?". We also have super grateful customers. Our customers appreciate us, you can feel that.
What are you most proud of, both personally and professionally?
I am most proud of my child, that really cuts me to the bone. I am also enormously proud that I have the best life partner by my side. They give me such a warm feeling of love. The common thread throughout my career has been innovative thinking and I am really proud of that. I go from one innovation to another.
How do you find peace and relaxation? What is the definition of 'enjoyment' for you?
Running marathons, running long distance, being in the flow, the runners high. Preferably with my running friends and surrounded by the beauty that nature has to offer, that's what I like best. I also love music, I have been involved with music all my life.
Which KAAI bag do you have and what's your experience with it?
At the moment I have two! I have the HERO bag, which is the perfect bag for women on the go. I was interviewed at the very beginning of KAAI, when they were still working on their first design. This means I've experienced the pioneering process as well. Many of my friends also have a KAAI bag. I love KAAI's Unfair Advantage, which is 'A luxury work bag for the modern woman on the go', I think it's great. My other KAAI bag, the Ikon belt bag, is also very cool. They are made for any occasion because you can carry them safely as well as stylishly.
Do you have one last important message for young entrepreneurs?
I am going to explain it with an example. I remember well that I stood in front of a class room and all the girls in there looked exactly the same. All the girls wore their hair with a centre parting down their faces. There was one exception that didn't look like the others. I said: "listen carefully, at a certain point you will be appreciated for your distinctiveness, your unique advantage, something that makes you different from the girl next to you". They didn't realize as they probably had never heard it before, so I emphasized again that there is nothing wrong with being different. When you're older you do realize it, but it's still so deeply ingrained in our society that as soon as someone doesn't conform, they get left out. Even though it's great to dare to do your own thing. This also applies to the entrepreneurial field.
Back in the days... Carole Lamarque about KAAI
"What I remember about the very beginning of KAAI, is that they had a great idea. I had the impression that what they were going to do was incredibly difficult. The reason? A difficult landscape with tough competition both in Belgium and internationally. In the history of Belgium, we have a lot of Belgian brands in the same sector, some with an established long heritage others with a young dynamic DNA. So the competition can really be compared to a bloodbath of competitors. That proves that Ine and Helga, co-founders from KAAI have managed to differentiate themselves from the other brands despite the tough competition. And just like I explain in my previous book unfair advantage, they really do have that differentiating power, they clearly understand it very well. And to me, that is the best proof that if you are an SME, anything is possible. Before they had expanded their team, they set this all up with just the two of them which is admirable.
What I also admire about KAAI, something that not all brands can do, is the cross-generational factor and the appeal of the brand. Both mother and daughter are interested in a KAAI bag. There are many brands with clear positioning, but not everyone holds this cross-generational power. It's like a singer who can entertain both the young and the old. That's something I have always liked.