If you’d asked Francois Kress what he thought he was going to be when he grew up, he probably would have told you that he was going to be a mathematician. It seemed like a very obvious answer, given his background. But life had other plans, and now Kress has arrived at the top of an industry he never expected, running a company he never could have foreseen. But it turns out that his different path gave him the ability to see things in a way others might not. And merging his love of science and entrepreneurial spirit with more than twenty years of experience running luxury brands resulted in something powerful but opposite of everything Francois has ever known: a start-up called Feelmore Labs.
“Five years ago I was invited to join [the] first board of the company, Feelmore Labs,” Kress said. “Very quickly, we decided that I should run it, as well, because it was a great combination of science, tech, and complicated consumer branding.”
And Kress is uniquely positioned to be the perfect person to bring all three of those things together. Since taking the helm, Feelmore Labs has been at the forefront of some very exciting scientific breakthroughs. One of its products, Cove, is a device that can positively change the trajectory of your mental health simply by activating the receptors in your skin.
But how did Kress – a giant in the luxury brand world – wind up taking the helm of a groundbreaking lab? What qualities gave him the unique qualifications to walk Feelmore Labs through the complicated and rigorous process of creating, vetting, and marketing an entirely innovative product? Find out on this week’s episode of The Journey. And, just for Journey listeners, you can use the promo code Mission20 to receive 20% off your order with Feelmore Labs!
- Follow the Passion: Even if you have found success in an industry or throughout your career, it is possible to be unsatisfied. Don’t settle just because you have reached the top of your field and still feel like there is a void. Follow your passion, take risks, and don’t be afraid to try something new, because you may find something that will fulfill you more than you thought possible. Francois never thought that he would wind up heading entire regions of business for the world’s most recognizable luxury brands. He thought he would pursue a career in academia, just like his parents. But when he found that he had talent in an industry that was, at first, foreign to him, he pursued it, and his work ethic and natural talent took him all the way to the top. However, when he found himself experiencing “luxury fatigue,” he found the strength to change his trajectory and return to his first love: science.
- Zoom in and Zoom Out: Francois’s different background is not a weakness – it is a strength. His time working in the luxury world allowed him to assess products on a national and even global scale. On the flip side, his love of science allows him to zoom in on small problems and find solutions. These contrasting views, when combined in a leader, is incredibly powerful. Use all of your experience and tools in your toolbox to zoom in and out on your own challenges, and never stay too focused on one thing that you forsake everything else.
- Be Patient: Francois knows that success doesn’t come overnight. When Feelmore Labs’their innovative product, Cove, was met with skepticism, Kress and his team didn’t give up on it. Instead, they focused on putting the product through even more stringent testing and studies so that he can bring the strongest product to market when it is time.
On how a contrasting background can be a strength: “I think the younger generations [have aspirations that are not] necessarily owning a piece of luxury. They care for the planet, which was not even a thing when I was young. It’s wonderful to see all that happening, which is not necessarily consistent with the values of traditional brands, which are evolving and starting to look. So I thought maybe I was doing something less relevant… and I kept, during my experience in luxury, my great interest in science, which was my first love.”
On the importance of bad ideas: “Not everybody has great ideas all the time. [Mine are] sometimes terrible, but I want…to try and create an environment where people are never hesitant to share an idea, even if it’s terrible.”
On surrounding yourself with talent that you don’t have: “You learn and you surround yourself with talent. For instance, I don’t think I’m a great merchandiser. I think I have taste… but I am not able to put a collection together and put it on the market. I am not great at that. [So] I hired the best merchandiser I could find…it’s all about how you pick the talents which compliment you on your team.” “You can’t get a patent and not enforce it… You might as well just not get it. It has no value if you don’t enforce it. And because we had had some early success, the world knew who we were and were making knockoff versions of our products and selling them by the hundreds on Amazon.”
On lessons coming from unlikely places: “I think… you either have certain leadership in you, or you don’t. I spent a little time in the French army… and I could test my ability to manage large groups of people. I think that is something that I had naturally in me.”
With over 25 years of experience as a C-Suite Executive in the global luxury industry, François Kress is passionate about establishing wellness as the new luxury of the 21st century, bringing luxury, healthcare and technology together, as seen through his leadership roles at LVMH, Prada, Kythera Biopharmaceuticals (KYTH), Myndblue and more.
As the Co-Founder & CEO of the Apex Neuro Holdings Group since 2017, Kress and his team at Feelmore Labs are continuing his mission by developing innovative consumer and clinical neuromodulation technologies that actively and effortlessly improve your wellbeing with scientifically proven results.
This season of the Journey is produced by Mission.org and brought to you by UPS. To learn how UPS can help your small business, go to UPS.com/pivot.