Selected 2008

Walter Braun

  • Current company Dermage
  • Location Brazil
  • Industry Healthcare

Who doesn’t want a clear, radiant complexion? Dermage supplies dermatologists and their patients with innovative products focused in skincare, make-up, and hygiene. Based in Rio de Janeiro, the company develops, produces, and sells a full line of prescription and non-prescription skin and hair care products specifically designed for the Brazilian complexion. Combined with the company’s exclusive, in-store customer service, and plans to ultimately open 150 stores across Brazil, Dermage is well-positioned to soon become a Brazilian competitor of international beauty brand giants.

Founders Walter, Lisabeth, and Llana are turning their family business Dermage into a market-leading dermocosmetics brand in Brazil. A trained pharmacist and a civil engineer, Lisabeth and her husband Walter Braun have applied their distinct professional experience to creating a dynamic family business that meets this simple desire – and seizes this tremendous market opportunity. Along with their daughter Ilana, the Brauns run Dermage. With a 5,000-strong network of affiliated medical professionals and regular, face-to-face interaction with its customers across its chain of stores, Dermage has a forward-looking, cutting-edge, and responsive product development strategy. As a result, Dermage regularly provides its customers – beauty and health-conscious women in the 20-55 year-old age range – with the highest-quality products, specifically designed for the Brazilian complexion. Combined with the company’s exclusive, in-store customer service – and plans to ultimately open 150 stores across Brazil – Dermage is well-positioned to soon become a Brazilian competitor of international beauty brand giants.

Lisa Braun pursued an undergraduate program in pharmaceuticals and post-graduate work in technological pharmaceuticals and cosmetics at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. After she graduated, dissatisfaction with work in a clinical lab and a strong recognition of the business opportunities in the field – largely cultivated through international travel – prompted Lisa to sell her car and take a chance. Together with a partner, in 1978, in a small one-room office in the traditional Copacabana neighborhood, Lisa started her first business, Dermatus: the company was Rio de Janeiro’s first compounding pharmacy (one that prepares a specialized drug product to fill an individual patient prescription). Despite the odds against a woman in business – and entrepreneurship in general – Dermatus grew to four stores, but different visions for the future of the business led Lisa and her partner to split in 1990. For her next venture, Lisa found a business partner with complementary skills right in her own home. With her husband Walter – a trained civil engineer with years of experience in real-estate development – serving as the financial and administrative director, Lisa translated the lessons learned from Dermatus and created Dermage. Aware that prescriptions for compounded medicines were ordered recurrently, they began industrializing the more common, successful formulas on a larger scale, with better quality control, safety and effectiveness. As a first step to scaling their business, they built a plant, bought the required equipment, and started producing their own dermocosmetics. By 2006, they had opened 20 stores to sell their high-quality products. They wanted Dermage to grow faster, however, and saw a new franchising model as the solution.

This desire for rapid expansion gave birth to a unique sales model that includes two different types of stores: 1) “full” stores that offer compounded (customized for an individual patient according to a doctor’s prescription) dermocosmetics products; and 2) non-compounded (mass-produced) dermocosmetics and “skincare” stores – much easier to open – that sell a range of Dermage brand dermocosmetics sans compounding pharmacy. Who better to put their rapid-growth plan into action than Lisa and Walter’s daughter, Ilana, an attorney and economist with investment banking experience in the area of Products and M&A (mergers and acquisitions). In 2005, Ilana brought her skills and energy on board as Dermage’s commercial manager. The Brauns were officially ready to fly.

Now with 14 of its own stores and 20 franchises (plus products sold in 66 resale outlets) across all five regions of Brazil, Dermage’s innovation and competitive advantage lies in its unique business model, especially its close ties to the medical community. Dermage actively uses these contacts for product development and to promote its brand: a constant inflow of prescriptions provides regular market research and contributes to R&D and Dermage staff send bimonthly newsletters to 5,000 of Brazil’s 6,000 dermatologists. Lending further credibility to the company and bringing Dermage products to the attention of Brazil’s next generation of physicians, Dermage researchers teach classes in traditional universities and hospitals. Equally integral to Dermage’s success is its distribution strategy. Through its now rapidly growing chain of stores, Dermage is building a brand by fostering a shopping experience with exclusive customer service – and no competing brands on the shelves. The company’s new franchise strategy – in which franchisees are trained and coached in opening and running both lines of Dermage stores – is allowing Dermage to grow this brand at increasing rates, for less cost.

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