Ready, (not quite), set, go: This entrepreneur launched her startup early to help people #stayathome.

As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, Mariana Caillaud realised that the start-up she had been working on, even if not completely finalized, was needed more than ever.

Mariana Caillaud had been working on her new startup Dolipharm, a delivery service to link patients with pharmacies, when the COVID-19 outbreak propelled her to launch the much-needed service earlier than planned.

The digital platform was set up to offer free delivery of medicine from pharmacies to the doorsteps of those most fragile in the community, enabling them to #stayathome.

Harnessing the business and entrepreneurial lessons from her HEC Paris Executive MBA, Mariana launched Dolipharm’s services one month ago in the Normandy region of France, where Mariana has been living since 2018. Having already designed the online application, Mariana worked to establish a partnership with five local pharmacies to make the early launch possible.

“The difficult period we are going through, with this unprecedented health crisis, confirms the relevance of such a need, especially with the requirement to stay at home. Dolipharm wants to help keep the elderly, those who take the most risks out of the home, by simplifying access to treatment, whether it is an immediate or recurring need,” said Mariana Caillaud.

From light bulb moment to live business

Mariana first had the idea for a service such as Dolipharm around one year ago when an elderly woman asked for her help crossing the street to the pharmacy, just 15 meters from her home.

“The objective was simple, to make their lives easier by guaranteeing access to treatment at home” – Mariana Caillaud, Dolipharm founder. 

“I realized in this moment how much aging can make us dependent, especially as many are not fortunate enough to have an entourage available to help them. So, I thought about the solutions that the digital world offers us today, and the services that could allow these people to feel supported. The objective was simple, to make their lives easier by guaranteeing access to treatment at home,” said the entrepreneur. 

Harnessing the power of technology in the health industry

Dolipharm offers a delivery service for medicine through an online application.

The website and smartphone application have a simple design, making it user-friendly for customers, including the elderly. In fact, the idea that those most at risk (and often elderly) would struggle to use the Dolipharm technology was not an area of concern for Mariana.  

“Contrary to the assertion that the elderly are not technologically savvy, more and more elderly people are using new technologies,” said the French-Romanian entrepreneur.

“Technology must be at the service of human and health. And I stress the importance of the human.”

The entrepreneur emphasized that Dolipharm was designed to feel intuitive so that everyone can navigate it. Where necessary, it is possible for relatives or friends to place orders on behalf of the patient. The pharmacies involved also have a place in creating the link, often promoting the service on the front line with their customers.

“I believe that technology must be at the service of human and health. And I stress the importance of the human. Dolipharm’s ambition is not only to offer a technological service, but to create links between generations and health professionals, to support a logic of better living,” said Mariana. 

A digital shift for pharmacies


Dolipharm is a service to assist pharmacies as well as patients emphasized Mariana Caillaud.

In the context of industries being revolutionized by digital technologies, the pharmaceutical industry has been slower to adapt and transform services. Whilst there has been a gradual increase in options for medical at-home delivery, not everyone in the sector is in favor of this type of service for different – and some valid – reasons.

Mariana emphasized that her goal is also to assist pharmacies with the digital shift, which is pivotal for ensuring they do not lose their place to big pharma companies as home-delivery inevitability becomes more routine.

“Dolipharm’s ambition is to support the pharmacy in its digital shift, while promoting the key role of professional medical advice from pharmacists.” 

Additionally, Dolipharm is a service to assist pharmacies, as well as clients, as their goal is to service their patients in the best way possible.

Initially there have been some reservations from people in the industry who are worried about the arrival of a third-party, Mariana explained. But, through the philosophy of the project, the entrepreneur has been able to reassure pharmacists by ensuring their crucial role in the process.

Embracing the entrepreneurial spirit of HEC Paris

Mariana Caillaud will soon graduate from the HEC Paris Executive MBA program,

Arriving to the HEC Paris Executive MBA, Mariana Caillaud had a background in public affairs and marketing, and most recently was Marketing & Communication Director at the Carrefour Group. The EMBA gave Mariana the toolkit – and the confidence – to embrace her lightbulb idea and execute the required actions to see it blossom from a strategy to a live startup, serving the community in a tangible way.

“The HEC Executive MBA program helped me to transition from the CAC 40 business to entrepreneurship. It gave me the strategic keys and the 360-degree vision that a leader requires,” she said.

This change of career – whether it be sector, role or location – is a common desire or curiosity for participants entering the program. The HEC Career Center is a dedicated service within the Executive MBA which helps to guide individuals through this process.

“The HEC Executive MBA program helped me to transition from the CAC 40 business to entrepreneurship. It gave me the strategic keys and the 360-degree vision that a leader requires.” 

“The HEC Career Center helped me build my career strategy: self-questioning, exploration, and achievement. I came out of it growing up, better armed in the face of complexity and uncertainty,” said Mariana of the coaching she received as part of the program.

Parallel to her Executive MBA, Mariana was also part of HEC Challenge +, a program intended for all those who have an entrepreneurial ambition.

But Mariana’s story is far from over.

With her graduation from the HEC Paris EMBA just on the horizon, this will mark the next chapter in her new life as an entrepreneur as she focuses her efforts on growing her business. Her goal is to make Dolipharm available across the entire country. It’s a big journey ahead, but one that she feels excited and prepared for thanks to everything she has learned over the past 18 months.

“I remain convinced that any entrepreneur, or any executive in general, must cultivate the desire to learn.”

You can learn more about Dolipharm here.

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