LCA 2024 Successful Family Business - Vis Plantis
LCA 2024 Successful Family Business - Vis Plantis

Vis Plantis is formed by a very positive family. The company was founded by Dorota Topolska and Jaroslaw Topolski. Currently, their now-adult children - son Tomasz with his wife Magdalena, and daughter Malgorzata - are strong pillars of the business. In an interview with Wirtualne Kosmetyki, they talk about emotions involved in running a family business, how to maintain work-life balance, and what they have in common with the giraffe at the Krakow Zoo.

- Some people sarcastically say that family is best seen in photos, while you have been a close-knit team in your own business for years. What do you think is super important in running a family business?

We usually come out well in photos because they are posed and sometimes retouched (laughs). And seriously, everyday life looks a bit different, we are an explosive mix of different characters, often there are disputes and heated discussions between us. When emotions finally subside we are able to work out a compromise together, because ultimately we all care about the development of the company. To paraphrase a well-known slogan: in addition to our last name, we are united by our company.

- It all started with the business of parents: Jarek and Dorota, then the younger generation joined the company. So, the first question goes to them: what convinced you the most to develop this business and grow professionally in a family company?

To be honest, initially we did not connect our future with the cosmetics industry, all three of us (Gosia - daughter, Tomek - son, Magda - daughter-in-law) graduated from law studies. Initially, we treated our involvement in the company as something additional, occasional. Gosia took photos of products for catalogs and advertising leaflets. Tomek helped create various Excel tables needed by the logistics department. Magda, in turn, operated our company online store. Over time, each of us became more and more involved in our common company, and we began to realize that this was what we wanted to do next in our lives.

- So now a question to parents: did you assume the negative scenario that children would not be interested in continuing the family tradition in the cosmetics sector? In your opinion, what encourages young people most to enter, or at least try to get involved, in #familybusiness?

In my professional life, I've encountered many companies where one family has been able to successfully grow the business over multiple generations, creatively developing the vision of the founders. And on the other hand, we see how many well-known brands (including those in our industry) have disappeared because of the lack of successors, and this is regardless of whether they were liquidated or taken over by other entities. There are strong trends in the market towards globalization, concentration of business, but as a result of these activities we lose a lot of creativity and quest for solutions expected by consumers.

And speaking of us - at first I dreamed of a three-generation law firm, and it turned out as usual... When the children appeared in the company we struggled to stay in the market and did not look so far into the future. We always thought there was still a lot of time ahead.

Going back to the second part of the question - I think young generation is attracted by the awareness of the company operations and the market which, whether they want to or not, they absorb over the years, even during Sunday lunches. Some say that young people are driven to family businesses by the ease of starting and achieving a professional position, but in my opinion this is mostly a mistaken view. The awareness of responsibility, the impossibility, as it is colloquially said, of throwing papers and looking for a new path of development, can weigh heavily.

- Tell us a bit about what each of you does at the company? What do you like most about your work?

Gosia - I work in the marketing department, and for the past year I have also been the brand manager of our newest brand, Pharma Care. What I like about working in this function is that there is always a lot going on, and that we creativly work together to develop beautiful products, photos, videos and other materials.

Tomek - commercial director, I supervise both the national sales department, key accounts and support the export function in international expansion. What I like most about my job are the daily challenges, the fact that each one brings something new and unexpected. There are always many problems to solve, decisions to make.

Magda - officially I'm the coordinator of the sales department, but you could say that I'm the one who links up all the most important projects in the company. It's hard to find me at my desk, and certainly I do the biggest number of steps in the whole company (laughs).  And what I like - is that I arrange my own work: one day I am the queen of chaos, and the next I dress it up in excel sheets (laughs).

- Well, to get to know each of you a little better, elaborate on these three buzzwords:

#I start each day with....

Tomek - turning on the coffee maker, while Magda at the same time feeds our two guinea pigs, who demand breakfast extremely loudly.

Gosia - I am usually woken up by my 3-year-old child and we start the day together with hugs.. . or screams - it depends on what mood she wakes up in.

Dorota - a cup of good tea.

Jarek - a walk with Zara.

#My greatest passion is.. ..

Gosia - dance, especially classical, jazz and contemporary. After hours I hold dance classes for young people.

Tomek - loves to ride his bicycle and play tennis, while Magda in the meantime either reads books covered in a blanket on the couch or expands her knowledge in new courses.

Dorota - a lover of good books, small and big trips, cycling and idyllic life in the countryside.

Jarek - I don't have one passion. I generally like to combat with idleness.

#Place I am always happy to return to....

For years, the whole family has enjoyed returning to the Croatian island of Murter, to the small charming town of Betina.

- Do you talk about business issues over Sunday broth or is this a time when you prefer to take a break from such topics?

We always agree before the family dinner together that this time we won't bring up business-related topics. We usually hold out for about 10 to 15 minutes, and then inevitably move on to them. We laugh that the most affected is Gosia's husband Witek, who is the only one who is not connected with our company and is therefore unable to participate in this discussion.

- That said, let's now change family relationships to employer-employee relations for a moment. In your opinion, what is important so that the atmosphere in the company is good, while the results also match?

In our opinion, the most important thing is to maintain the right balance between a relaxed, family atmosphere and attention to the achievement of assigned tasks. Our goal from the very beginning was to maintain a good, direct relationship with employees, far from the corporate style. Results, of course, as in any company, are extremely important, but they do not overshadow the fact that the team and its members come first.

- What do you consider Vis Plantis' greatest success?

We are extremely proud of the development of our so!flow brand, which in a short period of time has found recognition in the eyes of Polish clients. We are working to repeat similar success in foreign markets.

- Is Zara still a frequent guest at the Skawina office? I remember that it was the one that greeted me first when I visited you once.

Yes, you can still meet Zara in our office. She actively participates in every major meeting, although due to her age she no longer runs to greet every guest. Still, she remains an indispensable member of our family and corporate team.

- Your heart for animals can be seen even in the Krakow Zoo....

Yes, it's true! We are greatly proud of our adoption of a giraffe in the Krakow Zoo. This decision was dictated precisely by our love for animals, our desire to support their care and protection. We believe that every gesture, even a small one, matters and can contribute to creating a better world for animals. Certainly this is not our last word on the subject of animals - we are planning more adoptions, activities and something completely different, but we are not talking about it out loud yet.

- What should I wish you for the next years of activity?

So that our family disputes always end without casualties and we never run out of patience with each other... Also, that the demand for our cosmetics continues to grow.

We wish you all the best, then!

Lidia Lewandowska, editor-in-chief of " Wirtualne Kosmetyki".

Every business is about the people who create it. We are happy that on the Wirtualne Kosmetyki portal and during the Love Cosmetics Awards we can tell interesting stories with this very human element. Consumers see cream, shampoo, body lotion on the shelves.... Often, however, they don't know the people behind a particular brand, although this is changing in the age of social media. This is important, because for many consumers, business ethics, locality, shared values, authenticity and direct communication are something that connects them to their favorite brands. We are proud that in the Successful Family Business category we have been promoting for years only good companies created by people with big hearts. This year, the award goes to the Topolski family of Małopolska. We greatly appreciate the fact that in this particular case the founders have been able to share power in the company with the younger generation, in such a real and very visible way. A beautiful example of passing the baton on! Good luck for the years to come, Vis Plantis!