Text by Anna J. Kutor
Beauty is a serious business, one that needs to be handled in a forward-thinking fashion, with sensitive care and the wisdom of long-range experience. No one understands that better then Dr. Irena Eris, Poland's grand dame of the beauty industry. Having built up an enviable and prestigious cosmetics enterprise around the cult of cosmetic innovation and premium quality beauty products and services, her 25-year-old brand has become a household name in Poland and just about everywhere else in Europe.
The company's grand future commenced from very humble beginnings in the 1980s, from a makeshift laboratory set up by Dr. Irena Eris and Henryk Orfinger, a spirited husband-and-wife team. Eris was studying at the Medical Academy of Warsaw when she met Orfinger, a graduate of the Department of Transport at the Warsaw University of Technology. They shared the same vision of building a nimble and smart company that would design cosmetics and hygiene products based on comprehensive research and the best possible ingredients. That vision was turned into reality in 1983, at the height of Socialist power in Poland, when they kick-started the business in a small one-room workshop in Warsaw. At first, the dynamic duo employed one single worker and produced one type of cream at the plant and the monthly output of 3000 cream containers where distributed personally to each buyer by the family car. Acquiring satisfactory materials from foreign producers was painstakingly long and difficult under the strict Communist control, especially given the massive amounts of compulsory paperwork and the limitations of transport and communication, but their motivation and drive to develop their brand inevitably yielded positive results.
The real breakthrough came in 1989, with political and economic changes in Poland, when private entrepreneurs where suddenly greatly appreciated and new foreign markets opened up window of opportunity," explains Eris. With the stage was set for rapid expansion, the business stepped into a successful new era by opening a new computer-controlled production plant in Piaseczno, situated on the outskirts of the Polish capital. Technological improvements and the availability of innovative components had begun to make possible the formulation and design of a variety of different high-class cosmetic products, significant investment and increasing financial stability made way for employing a number of skilled professionals, and by 1995, the company had made its presence felt in the fiercely competitive local cosmetics industry. "We made the right moves at the right times, but I have to say our success was based on good timing and a bit of luck. My intuition and sometimes risky, albeit informed business decisions also played a part in building an innovative company that is constantly evolving".
The next chapter of the company's history was marked by serious visioning and missioning, as well as intense competition and change. In the years leading up to 2001, the Dr. Irena Eris opened its first cosmetics institute, launched a holistic hotel and spa facility in Krynica Zdrój - a southern highland spot dubbed "the pearl of Polish spas" - and, as the first company in Europe, began developing and distributing beauty serums with high concentration of Vitamin C. And, as another pioneering achievement, Eris's self-named venture established its own state-of-the-art research centre, the Centre of Science and Research Dr. Irena Eris, which not only extended the range of specialized skin care products but also catapulted the company into the leading position in the Polish cosmetics market.
"We definitely strive for a leading industry role, and we owe our prominent market position today because of continuos improvement and innovation, professional services and novel products that cater to the changing demands of consumers," says Eris. "The results of our wide-range research have ben multi-fold, including innovative, effective and safe cosmetics, countless scientific publications about Polish popular science in top foreign journals, and several presentations in international and local scientific conferences".
Cosmetics Across the Board
After 25 years in the beauty business, having successfully navigated through the turbulent waters of economic change and jungle of capitalistic competition, Eris's empire has grown into the most globalized beauty and cosmetics brand in Poland. At present, the company employs a team of 500 professional chemists, biologists, allergists, dermatologists and an array of doctors; and operates 26 Dr. Irena Eris Cosmetics Institutes in Poland, and one each in Bogota, Colombia, Prague in the Czech Republic and Kaliningrad in Russia.The company has sixty copyrighted cosmetic treatments, produces and distributes more than 5,400 cosmetics and has a monthly output of 1.4 million units, a large part of which is exported to 24 affiliate trading nations worldwide, from Russia to Ireland, the United State to Thailand. In 2007, the company reached a peak with logging an annual turnover of PLN 148 million (GBP 35.6 million), which represents a strong 17 increase as compared to the clocked PLN 127 million (GBP 30.6 million ) the year before.
Eris's extensive product portfolio features ten distinctly positioned holistic skin care lines, catering to women and men of all ages, who 'value premium quality products and the effectiveness of their action'. These cosmetic lotions, running between PLN 80-200 (GBP 20-48) per container, are available at leading pharmacies, beauty salons and department stores nationwide, and in international cosmetic chains in importing countries. "All woman, regardless of whether they are Polish, Russian, American or British, are similar in nature and they like to take care of their appearance. Therefore, it is important for use to encompass beauty in the broadest sense and satisfy the constantly rising expectations of our clients throughout all markets," explains Eris.
For women age 25-35, it produces three deluxe lines, including Skin Mood, a hydrating formula for the face designed to prevent cyclical hormonal changes from affecting the skin; Sin Skin, a range of facial cleansers, toners and creams formulated to shield the skin against the harmful effect of UV radiation, as well as You, a fountain-of-youth-type serum that counteracts the internal causes of skin deterioration after 30 - linked to the body's diminishing level of DHEA, a steroid hormone produced by the body. React!, a nourishing cocktail of active moisturizing and rejuvenating ingredients - including Hydrocomplex D and Blue Retinol -, and In Cell, an anti-aging product line both cater to women in the 35-45 age bracket. One of the latest and most innovative product lines, Nano Entrèe, targets the mature woman's skin with strong anti-wrinkle firming and nourishing properties. Focusing on the growing skin-care demands of the stronger sex and their burgeoning grooming sector, Eris created Platinum Men, a high-end line of products using the cutting-edge Skin Explore System, a technology that uses a combo of active ingredients and vitamins that are able to penetrate through the layers of the skin and strengthen the underlying tissues. Through the years, these product have reaped awards and accolades for cutting-edge design and excellence in quality, including the British Gold Glamour, the 2005 Beauty award for best new cosmetic introduced in Great Britain, Superbrands Polska 2005 and the prestigious Prix d'Excellence Marie Claire awards.
Chain Reaction of R&R
Aquatic healing and full-body rejuvenation treatments are not new concepts in the realm of wellness and today's consumer-oriented focus in healthcare, butthe three high-end spa hotels owned and run by Eris have certainly upped the standard of quality and service in the modern spa-ificaiton of Poland. Just as the inaugural resort, the two new recreation facilities - one in the same Krynica Zdrój area and the other in seductively tranquil terrain of Wzgórza Dylewskie (Dylewo Hills) in the northern Mazurian lake district - provide complete cosmetic and medical procedures. An ideal way to beat the soaring anxiety levels and work-related stress, these exclusive relaxation centres are each equipped with an array of massage and beauty parlours, manicure-pedicure, safe tanning and dermatological rooms and water-based activities surrounded by spacious, health-seeking visitors can choose from an assortment of spa- and personalized wellness programmes, including special fitness packages for newlyweds and moms-to-be as well as a ten-day slimming programme with biological regeneration (costing between PLN 5000-6500/GBP 1200-1500 per person) and a five-day revitalizing programme for men (PLN 2600-3300/GBP 530-800).
"Women now in Poland are highly active and well-educated professionally, and there's a growing number of us vigorously seeking new business opportunities and taking leadership positions in companies," says the radiant businesswoman, who gives the impression of knowing how to seize whatever opportunity arises. Now in her fifties, Eris effortlessly exudes a blend of charm and confidence that undoubtedly played a part in turning her eponymous empire into an exemplary picture of success, harmony and wellness. "Determination, passion and desire to pursue your own dreams is absolutely essential in business, and if you are strong, revered and respectful to the people around you, success will be at your fingertips."