I had the pleasure interviewing Romain Gaillard. As CEO and founder of The Detox Market, Romain Gaillard is a sought-after industry leader known for pioneering the movement toward safe, effective personal care products. Over the past decade, Romain transformed The Detox Market from a pop-up to an award-winning retailer in clean beauty and sustainability with a renowned presence in the United States and Canada.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
R: When people ask me how The Detox Market came to be, they are often surprised to find out that my journey wasn’t always in health, beauty, or wellness. I grew up in Paris and moved to California over fifteen years ago to work in tech — a completely different industry that, albeit interesting, never resonated with me on a personal level. I always harbored a feeling that something was missing: a spark of purpose. That spark was ignited when a dear friend of mine received a cancer diagnosis. The more we learned about the toxicity all around us — particularly the harmful chemicals lurking in even the most basic personal care products like toothpaste, moisturizer, and sunscreen — it became clear that we were onto something. I realized that the beauty industry needed a massive paradigm shift, and that consumers deserved better. The first iteration of The Detox Market — a 2010 pop-up store on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, California — was clearly ahead of its time, we were promoting clean beauty and clean living, we had a matcha tea bar and served cold pressed juice.
Our vision never changed: health, beauty, and wellness should be seen holistically.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
R: Absolutely. Where do I start? When you first launch a business, you have no idea what you’re doing — which translates to a lot of unrealistic deadlines and lessons learned the hard way. Making mistakes is part of the process. I look back now and laugh at errors that once seemed so monumental (like forgetting to price products at our first-ever pop-up!).
My biggest lesson came later that year when I decided to open two more stores — in addition to our Abbot Kinney location, which was struggling to survive — the same month I got married. It was challenging to say the least, and created unnecessary levels of chaos and stress that nearly led to our demise. The key takeaway: If something isn’t working, fix it before you consider expanding. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get swept away in the pursuit of exponential growth. Instead of rushing to capitalize on perceived or desired momentum, ensure your business model is working before you scale up. (Also: Don’t overbook your wedding month.)
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
R: When it comes to seeking guidance and inspiration, I turn to history over business books and podcasts. There’s a saying: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” I’ve found that looking at times past offers valuable insight for guiding decision-making, honing intuition, and avoiding reinvention of the wheel. History also brings a powerful perspective. Business, like life, comes with unavoidable peaks and valleys — there are going to be periods when you feel stuck and stagnant, or backed into a corner. During those challenging moments, I find perspective in figures like Franklin Delano Roosevelt (there’s a great documentary series on PBS about U.S. presidents), Winston Churchill (Andrew Roberts’ biography is excellent), and Charles de Gaulle (I loved Max Gallo’s take). Seeing the ups-and-downs of their lives helps me reframe my mindset. What I’m dealing with pales in comparison!
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
R: I love the notion that purpose-driven businesses are more successful. It makes sense, intuitively and practically — when meaning is the driving force behind what you do, you stay in the game for longer, and for the right reasons. You constantly think about how you can improve your customer’s experience, how you can help them optimize their lives. People are smart; authenticity and trust are everything. When a company genuinely wants to create value for its customers, that intention is palpable — it’s evident in every aspect of business, from customer service to shipping.
The Detox Market is a mission-driven company. From day one, we’ve been on a quest to help people detox their lives. We’ve spent years educating people about the toxicity in conventional personal care products, providing them with pure, elegant, and effective alternatives — even when demand was so low that the market barely existed. What kept us going? Passion. We favor candidates with true enthusiasm and zest for what we do. If your team doesn’t share the company’s values, how can they connect from a place of authenticity?
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
R: My number one principle is to stay calm. Embrace equanimity. As a CEO, taking a middle-of-the-road approach is infinitely better than oscillating between emotional extremes or being carried away by the problem du jour. I probably don’t celebrate the ups enough — but I also don’t get as affected by the downs. As the captain of the ship, so to speak, maintaining composure is critical; whether consciously or subconsciously, your energy and attitude affect your team.
Of course, taking things in stride is easier said than done. That’s why I recommend catastrophizing — it sounds counterintuitive, but planning for the worst-case scenarios cultivates a sense of resilience. By hoping for the best while preparing for the worst, you create a safety net, one that allows you to not only adapt and survive, but thrive. With this pandemic, we put everything on the table, figuring out what we would do if, say, we went six months without revenue, or USPS/UPS/Fedex refused to ship. Once we constructed game plans for various potential setbacks, everything that went right was just a bonus.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
R: Without a doubt, the biggest work-related challenge we’re facing is the implementation of ever-changing safety guidelines — local, state, and federal. Navigating this unclear, unknown territory without any guidance, we decided to do what we do best: play it safe. Safety is in our DNA. It’s the cornerstone of our company. If there’s even a shred of doubt surrounding a particular ingredient, we blacklist it.
We approached this pandemic with that same mindset. Even before the gravity of the situation became clear, we doubled down on precautionary measures to protect our team. What initially seemed like an overreaction — having everyone from HQ work from home; closing the stores; requiring masks, social distancing, and separate supplies in our warehouses — turned out to be the right decision. Forethought spares afterthought, and when it comes to health, to err on the side of caution is not to err at all.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
R: Live for the day and focus on the present. As a CEO, my pre-pandemic days were defined by trying to forecast the future and anticipate curveballs. When COVID-19 arrived, it was the ultimate black swan — a reminder of our collective humanity and vulnerability. No one saw it coming. How could we have? Instead of mulling over the past or worrying about the future, I’ve been encouraging myself and my loved ones to channel that energy constructively. Take back control. Invest in yourself and your ability to find your footing no matter how shaky the ground. Resilience and grit are built from responding to crisis — not running from it.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
R: The only thing we know for sure is that the economic impact of this pandemic will be profound and painful — but it too shall pass. When you talk to some cancer survivors, many of them talk about how going through that dark night of the soul, however difficult, completely transformed their lives for the better. Similarly, on a global scale, my hope is that humanity emerges from this time with a new perspective — one that focuses on the things that truly matter.
The way we live and the way we consume are not sustainable. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we still have much work ahead of us when it comes to easing socioeconomic inequalities and protecting our planet. Already, we’re seeing evidence that our choices count — pollution and greenhouse gases have fallen due to social distancing measures, and many are speaking out on behalf of the essential employees that risk their lives daily to go to work.
One of the biggest opportunities this pandemic has created is the chance to green our economy. Imagine what the world would be like if the government used this time to invest in renewable energy, develop robust recycling programs, and clean up the oceans. Turbulence breeds transformation — we’re already living through history, why not revise it to make it the best it can be?
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
R: When it comes to social interaction, I don’t believe there will be drastic long-term changes. History has shown us time and again that our species is nothing if not adaptable. If you read French novelists Gustave Flaubert and Victor Hugo, for example, you will be struck by the social similarities; for better or worse, even 200 years later, the parallels are undeniable. The human spirit is resilient. After WWII, after 9/11, people didn’t stop living their lives — it took time, but eventually things normalized. We’re wired to crave connection and when we finally reunite with our friends and families, we’ll treasure it all the more.
My biggest concern of the impact of COVID-19 is regarding freedom. We’ve seen some governments respond to the pandemic with questionable, privacy-infringing policies and tactics, cultivating an illusion that to protect oneself, giving up certain privileges is required. Certainly, when used as a temporary measure, it can yield results — but we need to remain vigilant that such policies don’t become the new norm. Even with stringent control, nothing in life is guaranteed. Part of democracy is the right to make the wrong choice. Benjamin Franklin once said, “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.” Without question, democracy is an imperfect system; Churchill went so far as to say it’s the worst form of government except for all the others, which I wholeheartedly agree with. But it’s the best one we’ve got.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
R: If you have the privilege to focus on growth and expansion versus trying to stay healthy or keep food on the table, don’t take it for granted. Embrace this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset your life.
Crisis does two things: It removes the noise and forces you to focus on what’s truly important. This pandemic has turned out to be the ultimate elimination diet. We cannot travel, see loved ones, or engage in normal everyday activities, which gives us time to reconsider the status quo. There’s never been a better time to trim the fat, shed what’s not working, and harness that freed energy toward what feels right. Ask yourself the big questions you typically don’t have the bandwidth to ponder: What do I like? What am I missing? What needs to be reintroduced? Clarify what matters to you, both personally and professionally, and implement accordingly.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
R: One of my favorite quotes is by Seneca: “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” Experience has taught me that when you take the first steps, the staircase appears. Toward the end of 2008, I resigned from my job and incorporated my first company — on the day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. Fortune tends to favor the bold, and Seneca’s quote serves as an amazing reminder.
How can our readers further follow your work?
R: You can find me on LinkedIn and follow us on Instagram @thedetoxmarket!