Coming from an Italian aristocratic family, didn’t stop Countess Elena Aceto di Capriglia breaking free from a privileged path. Paving her own way, she has always shown resilience and determination in achieving her goals. However, it was only when she entered midlife that she finally realised what she really wanted in life: to create a family business with great ambition.
The pharmacist and president of the award-winning Medspa, headed by MIAMO – a functional cosmetics brand and one of the most important Italian companies in pharmaceutical and aesthetic medicine -, has a clear mission: giving concrete answers to every skin need at all ages and for every problem.
Now expanding in the USA, Elena is even more confident that “loving ourselves is the first secret to happiness“.
Elena, where did your passion for cosmetics and aesthetic dermatology come from?
It’s a passion I’ve been cultivating since University. I am a pharmacist who turned into an entrepreneur and I’ve been always very interested in cosmetic science. However, it was when I met my husband, a plastic surgeon, that I started to delve deeply into the field. Then, in midlife, I finally had the chance to start a project on my own, MIAMO, a cosmeceutical skincare brand that offers medical-grade skincare products with a high concentration of bioactive ingredients.
For many women, midlife is a time of rebirth rather than crisis. You managed to get back into the game by becoming a successful entrepreneur in an up and coming field that is still little known. How did you do it?
I am proud to say: I did it. However, making this dream come true has meant many sacrifices, too. I’ve never stopped researching new avenues and never stopped believing in myself but I didn’t want to just take care of my career. My plan was to create something that would have got the whole family involved. I’m happy to say MIAMO is the result of great teamwork.
Elena, do you think a woman’s career is still extremely different from a man’s in terms of opportunities and effort to achieve the same goal or has something changed?
For many women, it is still very tough. Especially in Italy, where I live, there is still a chauvinist society. A lot of opportunities in terms of networking, progression and rewards are very difficult to come by. Also, the gender pay gap is still wide and has only changed minimally over the last decade. In my company, I prefer to reward people by the goals they have accomplished not because of their gender. It’s important to lead by example.
What is your relationship with beauty and the passing of time?
Well, I am aware every day I might lose a little dose of that spark called youth, but what I’d rather prefer seeing reflected in the mirror is what I’ve achieved over the years. I mean, if you live a life with no regrets, then you’ll be able to see yourself very bright, no matter what your age. Of course, it’s important to find the time to take care of yourself. Being in our 50s doesn’t mean you are condemned to walk on the sunset boulevard, but nothing is for free, so it’s important to look after yourself. You see, good looking people might get extra opportunities but you have to invest in your overall well-being every day.
Today, more and more beauty companies are promoting a pro-age philosophy. Your brand, MIAMO, goes further, teaching us to love ourselves at any age. Can you explain this approach better?
MIAMO means “I love myself”. I believe that if we love ourselves then we do take care of our skin and body, too. You know, ageing is an inevitable part of life, but in some ways, we can partly control the process. More than fighting our years, we should be focused on keeping our skin as healthy as possible with the right lifestyle, enhancing our daily beauty routine through innovative products with high-performance active ingredients. Love yourself is the greatest revolution and it can start anytime with the right support.
MIAMO is a great cosmetic brand but also a cross-generational project, created together with your daughter (Camilla d’Antonio, also a pharmacist). How do you manage differences at work? Do you think is it possible for a common ground amongst generations, beyond stereotypes?
Well, yes we have a common background so we speak the same language, and this makes things much easier. Every day, we are able to improve our knowledge and skills by tapping into each other’s expertise. For instance, my daughter is so into innovation and technology and that it’s very helpful. Above all, I think that it’s possible to create a great diverse team as long as we approach every challenge with an open mind.
Ageism has been defined as “silent discrimination” and today it begins to creep into the world of work as early as the age of 40. Have you ever had similar experiences along your career path? If so, how did you react?
Fortunately, I haven’t experienced such discrimination. However, while waiting for better and stronger policies, I believe the best way to challenge ageism is to try to expose it in the system whenever we can and in the meantime work on our own self-esteem, too. If we can’t change others, then let’s change ourselves.
Finally, what advice would you give to those women who would like to launch an innovative startup?
I’d suggest starting with investigating a bit more about the clients they want to reach and doing some research. For instance, the success of MIAMO is also because I’ve been able to figure out what consumers couldn’t find in the market. You know, in some ways consumer dictates the market and we must give them what they want in order to reach our goals. Of course, any startup should also be able to count on accessible funds. I know for women it’s not always that obvious, but I believe meritocracy always pays. Sooner or later, a great idea is often rewarded.