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"I am my own muse!" | Shirley Billot, founder of Kadalys

[IMPOSE YOUR VISION] Changing the way you look at your island, representing the Caribbean at the Entrepreneur World Cup, committing to the training of women in science, Shirley Billot, founder of Kadalys, tells us about his journey and how everything became possible thanks to his faithful companion... the banana tree.

Tell us about yourself and your adventure as a Tiger entrepreneur

I was born in East Africa, from a Martinican mother and a military father from the Jura. - Yes Yes !! that's why I eat cancoillotte, morbier for breakfast, and county like candy. I arrived in Martinique at the age of 9 when my parents returned there permanently. Like many West Indians, I left Martinique to pursue my higher education and begin my professional career. I went back there after the birth of my son because I wanted him to be able to grow up there and enjoy his grandparents.

My parents are very committed : trade unionists and environmental activists. They have always been concerned about their impact and very quickly set up a magnificent Creole garden that is both nourishing and phyto-therapeutic. We collect rainwater and generate little waste. I have always loved plants but I needed to understand, that's why the major activity of my company is basic research. Promoting the plants of our pharmacopoeia is a real passion for me.

Kadalys was born from a succession of triggering events causing a real fed up and which led me to take the step from salaried employment to entrepreneurship 11 years ago. The cost of living crisis in Martinique, this feeling of a terrible glass ceiling, the intergenerational inequalities that penalize our development, terribly violent harassment that I suffered from my last employer at the time... and while I was going through a phase of questioning the meaning I wanted to give to my professional life, this idea of a banana came in the form of recurring dreams. During this period I carried out a pre-bibliographic study on the properties of the banana tree but also how other countries valued their banana waste in South America and Central America.

And why the banana tree?

The stakes are high in the West Indies, and banana production generates 20% "ugly and single" bananas every year. So when fate crosses the path of the President of the banana sector and the President of the CIRAD research center, I saw it as a very encouraging sign of fate! They accompanied me to carry out a feasibility study before I embarked on the bath of entrepreneurship.

I think dating, when you're ready, can be life changing! And above all that you have to give yourself the chance to realize your dreams.

On your site, we read that Kadalys' mission is to give "ugly, forgotten and single bananas" a chance: we are intrigued! Tell us all about the super powers of the banana.

The banana tree is the plant that has accompanied me since my childhood, all its parts have a utility and above all it produces all year round. It is a benevolent plant called plant with a thousand uses. It is used in particular for its healing properties, to treat psoriasis or acne for example.

We have 3 patents on the anti-ageing, depigmenting and soothing virtues of banana. And we have launched 3 active ingredients resulting from our research, these are bio-active ingredients extracted from banana: smoothing and detoxifying for green banana, firming and repairing for yellow banana, and super antioxidant and anti-stain for pink banana.

 First of all I chose the Banana tree because it chose mei 😊, I find it perfect. It is the symbol of our mixed culture and it is at the heart of our history and our economy. It is everywhere around us, it is the main economic resource of our island: we produce 70% of French bananas.

What makes you proud in your career? 

I feel like 'Queen of the Jungle' when I walk through the dense and lush vegetation of Martinique! When you are in the heart of this magnificent tropical rainforest, you feel invaded by a primitive yet powerful energy. A return to basics that allows you to put things into perspective and recharge your batteries.

I find it difficult to rejoice in "my" successes but I am happy May it be an inspiration to others. Among the highlights that have marked the life of Kadalys: when I was the only French woman selected to be part of the international mentoring programs Google and Unreasonable, or this week when I was selected by all the Caribbean islands to represent us at the entrepreneur world cup EWC whose final will take place in Saudi Arabia in November 2021. But also when we were referenced at Nocibé in France, or at Isetan in Japan, or The Detox Market in the United States…

I'm happy to to be able to promote the Overseas and to act to have an impact on the economic, social and environmental development of Martinique.

What makes your claws stick out?

My claws come out very very quickly as soon as I am faced with an injustice, or faced with a situation that affects my integrity, my family. It is best not to lead me down this path…! (laughs) 

Your view on natural, clean, organic...?

I grew up in Martinique with activist parents and with a lush garden where we were self-sufficient, commitment is engraved in my family DNA. So it seemed normal to me, when I founded Kadalys almost 10 years ago, to integrate my own values into the different professions of my company : research - we are experts in eco-extraction and upcycling -, our production - our active ingredients are organic, vegan - and in Kadalys products, organic, vegan, recyclable... As for me it was already normal, I decided to go further by involving 100% of banana producers in my capital but also by committing myself to the training of women in science. We have 3 theses in chemistry carried by women from Guadeloupe, Martinique, and mainland France.

Your take on... make-up?

It's part of my daily ritual. It never occurs to me not to wear makeup for a single day. It's a real pleasure to take care of myself and choose the color palettes that match my outfit, the weather or my mood of the day.

I come from an island rich in cultures including Native American, African and Indian, where makeup was not just for women. Makeup is a ritual that we have been practicing since the beginning, in my opinion, it plays an important role in the expression of mood - seductive or warlike - or religious for women and men.

In which occasions do you think makeup is important for a woman? 

I wear make-up more or less intensely every day, even during the days of confinement or teleworking. I do not use foundation but I prefer makeup for my eyes and my lips. I love the red - I love the 888 from ALL TIGERS, he is magnificent - with a more discreet eye makeup and when I want to accentuate my deep black look I apply beige or nude tones on the lips.

For me there are no occasions when makeup is important for a woman. It's really a very personal relationship on the desire we have to express our creativity and our emotions. 😉. Personally I like to please myself in the mirror every day, I am my own muse! Putting on makeup gives me positive emotions.

Thank you Shirley!

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