February 2009 : Solange Strom [fr]
Solange Strom is originally from Lyon and the story that led her here to Toronto is absolutely singular. It seems that she is still today amazed of the shape things took. A student in medicine in Lyon, she decided in 1989 to explore for one year Canada, the country where her mother was born. At this time, she did not imagine an instant that her sabbatical year would, over the meetings, take a completely different turn.
She started to work as a commercial agent for the French pharmaceutical company, Boiron. “One year maximum”, was she saying ! She stayed there more than four years. In 1994, she was promoted Sales Manager for the Canadian West and moved to Vancouver, BC. She met her husband there, got married and finally left Boiron company in order to help him to create a new pharmacy in Vancouver.
Very attached to her dad’s provençale culture, he grew up in Marseille, in the south of France, she found “some confort” selling some products from Provence in her new store. This is how her relationship with L’Occitane en Provence started. When her husband decided to sell his pharmacies in 1998, Solange was determined to implement a new business. She took over the distribution of L’Occitane en Provence for the Canadian West and opened her first shop in Vancouver in 1999. Then, she successfully obtained the distribution rights for the whole country and inaugurated her second shop in 2000, in Toronto. The number of stores, under her direction, did not cease to grow. Today, Solange managed 12 of them, of which 3 in Toronto.
Ms Strom explains her success mainly through her work ethics and the quality of the offered products. She is also spending a lot of time with her employees, which are, according to her the “heart” of her company. “They are spoiled !” A lot of young French people, who came to Canada with the Working-Holiday permit, take advantage of this provençale experience. But she is making sure to preserve a cultural diversity in her working teams. Then, Canadians and French participate together to the radiance of the provençale culture.
Solange, who as a little girl was dreamig to work in an medical NGO, participates today generously to all the fundraising actions organised by L’Occitane foundation. This organisation, created by volunteers of the company in 1976, is taking great care to help people suffering from a sensorial handicap.
Solange criss-crossed Canada for around 20 years. Her life is now here in Toronto but the lavender and lemon trees scents that she is been spreading with pleasure and conviction throughout Canada, allow her, in some ways, to keep contact with her first love : la Provence.