The Malta Independent 21 July 2018, Saturday

Marie Benoit's Diary: Celebrating an important milestone

Marie Benoît Tuesday, 12 December 2017, 11:38 Last update: about 8 months ago

Celebrating an important milestone

An invitation arrived on my desk - Professional Health & Beauty Services Ltd were about to celebrate 25 successful years of Guinot Malta and the founding of PHBS, at Xara Lodge, Rabat. This is Phyllis Muscat's outfit and I have known Phyllis for about as many years. We became friends and collaborators when she started advertising in our monthly magazine First when I was editor. She went on advertising with us regularly until she finally started publishing her own magazine.

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Phyllis always struck me as being 'a woman of substance'. I realized from my first encounters her wish not to live merely as an appendage of her husband, a wish I shared. Her staff, first in the PHBS offices in Mellieha then in larger and state-of-the art premises in Mosta, love her. She has managed to create a loyal and competent team around her. Phyllis's mother died young, leaving six small children behind - all of them have done well for themselves but Phyllis most of all.

I much admire her entrepreneurship. She is really larger than life and if she has an idea (usually large) she follows it through right to the end. Moreover, I have as yet to see her scowl. There is always a smile on her face and she is one of life's enhancers. Always pleasant even under stress. Her one flaw is that she undertakes far too much. She and her husband Pawlu, make a formidable team and now their son John is running the business. I am told their bright daughter Michaela is not interested in the business. With her Ph.D from the London School of Economics and her personality the world is at her feet and she can get whatever job she likes, here or abroad.

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The Prime Minister and Mrs Michelle Muscat were at the celebration as well as other personalities including the Ambassador of France, as always brimming with energy and bonhomie.  But also clients, beauticians and a few personal friends.

I missed most of the 'Tribute' on video, which the staff of PHBS had organized. I arrived in time to see the tail end of it. Well deserved!
The Prime Minister spoke and said how his wife Michelle had been connected to PHBS long before they were married as she used to be responsible for its portfolio with MPS - the marketing agency.

How Mrs Muscat manages to juggle so much in her life I cannot understand - and always looks well groomed and ready for the next job. She is a 'strong' woman and rises above the pettiness as 10,000 swords leap from their scabbards to attack her every move. She ignores them all and simply goes ahead with her many responsibilities which are way above the call of duty. Her life is not unlike riding a bike along a cliff edge: get it wrong one way and you bruise your elbow; get it wrong in the other and you fall 1,000 feet. But she takes it all in her stride.e

Nexthyllis gave a brief history of how her relationship with Guinot began. Many of those present had shared her journey which started in 1992. It was her friend Mary Vella (who has her own salon in Naxxar) who encouraged her to take a course in beauty therapy. "My introduction to this exciting industry led me to start exploring business avenues and opportunities through which I could apply this new knowledge," Phyllis told us. As it happens she had become interested in Guinot since it was regularly featured in Cosmopolitan - the magazine of the 90s - and so the choice fell on this French brand. "This leading international brand provided treatments, products and even education to professional beauty therapists," she explained.

Here she paid homage to Paul Dalli who offered his expertise in dealing with a foreign supplier - after all the import business was new to her. Mr Dalli also offered her the use of his office and fax machine. After a year of negotiations and phone calls she was finally invited to Paris for an introduction to the brand and to meet Patrick van der Wynckt, the international export manager. "I can still remember his cynical and incredulous reaction to my ambitious business plan for a population of merely 350,000." Mrs Muscat's plan was to open 20 Guinot beauty salons over a span of three years. Mr van der Wynckt needed some convincing and she still remembers how excited she was when he finally said: "Yes, I trust you will make this brand a success in Malta." Phyllis then placed the first modest order an order which was sold out in a week.

Phyllis then paid homage to Jan van Over Meiren the European Export Manage, who sadly passed away two years ago.  "He was my mentor and friend throughout all these years and we are honoured to have his family here this evening."

By the end of 1992 six Guinot salons were in full operation. Here Mary Vella comes onto the scene again for it was she who was responsible for the product training and treatment on many a weekend.

Mrs Muscat's team is now made up of 34 employees. Here she thanked everyone for their commitment and loyalty including her niece Clarissa, who ran the first team building operation in Gozo and Joseph Muscat (not the PM!) who laid out the vision of the company in 1997.

She then recalled some of the happy experiences in Paris with her beauty therapists and told us how the indefaticable Mary Vella, her partner in 'crime', on their first of many incentive visits to Paris, lead them on a walking tour of the City of Light in five hours - a tour which should normally take five days. Let us hope they were not wearing killer heels!

It was time to thank M. Mondin the owner of Guinot Paris for his continued support and also all Maltese suppliers for their services.

Her husband Pawlu was thanked "for his patience and steadfast advice in keeping me well grounded in times when I wanted to run" and to her children Michaela and John (who now runs the show) and have been involved in their mother's dream.

Then the reception was in full swing and I had to constantly try to avoid some of the delicious food and drink which made a non-stop show that evening. I did not go where pasta was being served... really the dress I was wearing just about fitted me. I didn't want to put my zip in the danger zone.

We then reluctantly dragged ourselves back home in a far better mood than when I had arrived. I won't be here when you celebrate the 50th anniversary of Guinot but your children will be. May they carry on with your dream Phyllis and continue in your path and philosophy of life.

mbenoit@independent.com.mt


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