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Interview: Anke & Isabel from the CÎME team

by Isabel Coppens |

Want a sneak peek of what it's like at the CÎME office? Meet our team members and discover our best kept beauty secrets. 

Featuring Anke & Isabel from the CÎME team - The CÎME founders.




How did the story of CÎME start?

Isabel: Anke and I have known each other since we went to high school in Aalst, but only really became close friends since our law studies at the university. At that time we often philosophized about what we wanted to do after our studies. We knew that we both had the big dream of becoming our own boss one day and starting our own business. When after an exam, we were sunbathing at the Blaarmeersen in Ghent, we made a kind of pact that if either of us ever decided to start our own company, we would do it together. This was later called the bikini pact by a journalist.

When we finally graduated, we both started working as lawyers, but couldn't let go of the idea of having our own company.

Anke: It was actually when I was hiking with my family in the Himalayas that the idea of CÎME was born. I had been a lawyer for one year and told my dad that I noticed that my legal profession wasn’t my big passion after all. He himself, after more than 30 years of experience in the plant extracts, played with the idea of starting something with his knowledge of skin care products. After his studies he took part in a project on medicinal plants from the Himalayas at the UN in Nepal, so during the hike he recognized a lot of these plants.

So everything fell into place. We analyzed these plants and the results showed that they contain very high concentrations of antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and vitamins. All ingredients that are important for the skin. So the ball started rolling and the idea formed to start a skincare line with plants from the Himalayas, based on local traditional knowledge in combination with modern science.


Don’t you miss your job as a lawyer?

Both laugh.

Anke: Haha, no. I do get that question once in a while and always have to laugh. I used to like to my job as a lawyer, but when I have to check legal matters now, I find it hard to keep my attention. We think that's really boring now. It is useful to have that basic knowledge, but the downside is that sometimes we are too cautious. Because we know the laws, we notice that we follow them much more than other entrepreneurs.

Isabel: But no, I don't think we miss it.


How did you choose the name CÎME?

Isabel: We use CÎME because that's the French word for “top”. It is also used in the meaning “mountain top” which refers to the Himalayas. Therefore  also the accent circonflexe, because CÎME is a mountain top in our logo.


What makes the skincare products of CÎME different from the others?

Anke: Among other things, the powerful action of the active ingredients from the mountain plants of the Himalayas in our products. The plants there grow at extreme altitudes and in very pure conditions. However, they also have to deal with extreme weather conditions such as bright sunshine, snow, wind and far less oxygen. This results in small, but super vigorous plants and you can see this in the number of active ingredients they contain. This is the main reason why the active ingredients of these plants have such a great effect on the skin.

Isabel: It is also our philosophy that distinguishes us from other brands. We determined our values when we started CÎME, and we still hold on to them very firmly. Like other companies, our goal is to be profitable, but we do practice social entrepreneurship. Our products are organic, mostly vegan, are made fair trade, are not tested on animals and we attach great importance to ecological packaging. These are all aspects of the general story of sustainable entrepreneurship that we want to tell with CÎME.

This also translates into our slogan “Honestly beautiful”. Honestly refers to our honest philosophy and beautiful to the effect of the plants and their active ingredients on the skin.


How does CÎME deal with the Corona measures?

Isabel: We notice that Belgium is doing its best to support local businesses during this period and are very thankful for that. We notice that many of our customers continue to support us.
Many of our stores were fortunately allowed to remain open and they're doing very well. Those who had to close showed high flexibility and adapted quickly. Many went online or worked with appointments and were able to continue selling CÎME. All in all, it's not too bad for us in terms of sales.

Anke: We've always thought that our customers are very loyal, but now we've seen that very clearly. At the very beginning, we were a bit afraid that our clients would switch to cheaper alternatives, but in the meantime we see that they really stay loyal to CÎME and look for our products through the available distribution channels. That is a very beautiful compliment for us and we are very grateful.

Isabel: For the CÎME team working from home seems to run smoothly and we as a team are now digitally well in tune with each other. We have regular calls to discuss things and communicate a lot via our company chat. Our weekly team meeting, which we normally do during a joint walk, now takes place via video call. And it's nice to see that there are always colleagues who still take a walk during this meeting. It's the same but different. Of course we are looking forward to doing this together live very soon.


Which new products can we expect in the coming year?

Anke: For the development of new products, we listen very much to our customers, to what they miss in the range. What is most concrete in the pipeline is an eye cream and an extra hand and body wash with exfoliants and a new scent. We hope to be able to launch this in 2021.


Which products would you like to add to your range in the future?

Isabel: We always have lots of ideas. But because all our products are organic and the ingredients come from Nepal, the product development always takes quite a long time. We can say that we are working on a new range of products, but for now we have to keep you in suspense about that.


What does a workday look like for you?

Isabel: For example, a day like today looks like this:
This morning we had a call with Ester, our Sales Officer for the Netherlands and handled some mails. Now we are in Dilbeek to look at a building as a potential new business location for CÎME. Soon we will have a short production meeting with Walter and afterwards we have an online interview with the magazine Elle. If all goes well we will hopefully have some time for other things afterwards (laughs), such as providing feedback to our graphic designer. So it's an eventful day, but there are just as many days when we sit in the office all day and hold the necessary meetings or calls.
Twice a week Anke and I also have sports lessons with a personal trainer, nowadays this is done digitally.


Where will you see yourselves in ten years?

Isabel: We think we will always remain a niche brand because of the philosophy behind our brand. However, our ultimate dream is that CÎME will become the brand of choice when people think about sustainable, organic and fair trade skincare. In Belgium, but at best also in the rest of Europe.

We hope that together with that ambition our projects in Nepal can continue to grow so that we can have more and more impact on more and more people. Ten years may be a bit fast, so it is more of a long term ambition.

We want to keep expanding our range with new formulas and new products.


How do you see the future of skincare? Which trends do you notice?

Isabel: There are many emerging trends in skincare. We have noticed that the concept of natural beauty, which we have been standing for for years, is gaining more and more popularity. Little or no makeup at all, but naturally radiant and above all healthy skin.

We also see that skincare is gradually becoming unisex. Men are becoming more and more convinced that it can't do any harm to apply a cream once in a while. CÎME has existed for both men and women since the beginning, but with shower gels and shampoo we now reach more men.

Anke: Another emerging trend, and from our start a fixed value at CÎME, is sustainability. When we just started, it was more for people with a certain lifestyle now we see that big brands are starting to respond to that too.

Isabel: We can really only encourage that. Our idea was always: what we can do as a small brand with a small budget, the big players should certainly be able to do. The greener the world of cosmetics, the finer it is for us.

Anke: But people still have to keep buying CÎME, of course. (Laughs)


Knowledge about products and ingredients in the beauty world is becoming more and more important, how do you try to inform your customers?

Anke: A lot of people nowadays stand in front of a rack full of products and don't know where to start. That's why we try to inform our customers as much as possible. Our workshops are an important part of this, in which we share our knowledge about conventional, but especially organic cosmetics. What is your skin type, which ingredients are important or harmful in a product and how to cleanse, are some of the questions that are discussed in detail. That same evening we also do a complete skincare routine, so that people go home and know how best to take care of their skin type with the right skincare routine.

Besides the workshops, we are also very active in sharing information on social media, our blog and our website.

Isabel: We always try to bring a positive message and not to culpabilize people. We want to keep the transition to organic skincare easy, and let people discover something new with a sense of enjoyment.
We really are strictly organic for the convinced organic buyers, but we really encourage anyone who wants to make the shift to a greener bathroom cabinet.


Which entrepreneurs do you look up to?

Isabel: We work with a lot of inspiring stores, which we really look up to. Because even apart from corona, it's not an easy time to go into retail. We find it super inspiring how they listen to their customers and what kind of great initiatives they support.
Not to mention the many fine Belgian sustainable businesses we really look up to. We regularly try to start local collaborations to support each other.

Anke: We also think of Veja and Tony Chocolonely, for example. Both companies that have succeeded in turning their sustainable message into a trendy message and product that appeals to the general public.
Our ambition is also to make sustainable cosmetics attractive to the general public. That's why we're working very hard to find textures and fragrances that also appeal to people who are not used to organic cosmetics.


Do you think bio is the future for cosmetics?

Isabel: I do believe strongly that people are becoming more and more convinced and that we have to treat nature with respect. What we certainly dream of with CÎME is getting as many people as possible to use organic skincare.


What advice do you give to someone who can't find a cream for his or her skin type?

Isabel: We have a lot of customers with that story, who have often already tried a lot. I was like that, I had already tried everything from my pharmacy and the dermatologist. I didn't have an allergy, but I often had irritations and my skin started itching. Then I discovered organic products and for me that was the solution for my skin.
With our products, in addition to the organic aspect, we also choose to use the softest possible ingredients. We notice that our formulas help people who have been looking for a long time.

So we recommend that you take a look at organic brands and learn more about the ingredients in the products. There you might find the solution for your skin.

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