ESSEC Executive MBA – A Different Day, A Different Pair of Shoes
Julien Bofill and Bruno Thiellement decided to launch their own business together, Pop Your Shoes, a start-up selling women’s shoes and accompanying accessories.
Julien Bofill and Bruno Thiellement are two men making the dreams of women come true… by focusing on their feet. Having met in 2006 when Julien was Bruno’s manager at KYU Consulting, a friendship quickly grew from their professional relationship and in 2013, they decided to launch their own business together, Pop Your Shoes, a start-up selling women’s shoes and accompanying accessories.
Pop Your Shoes: Idea to Reality
During his honeymoon in Vietnam in 2004, Julien discovered an"incredible" shop: a store that custom manufactures shoes of any size on demand. “A customer can choose any type of shoe with any finish and order a pair on a moment’s notice", said Julien. Not the type of person to let go of a fledging idea, the INSA Lyon graduate let the idea simmer and develop in the back of his mind. From 2010 to 2012, while continuing his professional activity, Julien self-financed the ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA, 18 months of continuous training on evenings and weekends during which he put together his project. The business plan was drawn-up and the only step left to take was... the plunge.
During this time he got back in touch with Bruno Thiellement, 31, a friend and a graduate of Arts et Métiers, who had an important asset to bring to the table: “the ability to take risks". Julien, who describes himself as “a thinker and a perfectionist, capable of rechecking a document 36 times and able to come up with a great idea but without ever getting it off the paper", found a partner who complemented his own strengths.
Bruno resigned from his job in November 2012 and sold the apartment he had bought three years earlier in the tenth arrondissement. Julien resigned from his job in January 2013 and started living on his savings. The company was launched, without debt and without outside investors and with equal financial participation by the two founders: "50,001 % for Julien and 49.999% for Bruno".
A Shoe Brand Unlike Any Other
The unique selling point of Pop Your Shoes is that customers are able to purchase one base pair of shoes and buy a variety of accessories to change the look:
But this is not the only novelty of Pop Your Shoes. In addition to web sales, the shoes will be sold at sales parties, much like Tupperware, lingerie or organic cosmetics parties which until now, had never existed in France. You only have to imagine the difficulty of a salesperson carrying around scores of models of shoes in different sizes and colors to understand why. Whereas Pop Your Shoes offers a single shoe model, in a variety of sizes and colors with hundreds of accessories. This certainly makes the job easier.
Bruno and Julien made a conscious decision not to skimp on quality and chose to have everything made in Europe. "We wanted a product that we would be proud of", said Julien. Design, prototyping and the development of products are done in France, and the manufacturing is done in Portugal in São João da Madeira, south of Porto, a region renowned for its expertise in the shoe industry. All components, including the Italian full grain leather, come exclusively from European countries: Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Portugal. "Even the packaging is quality”, adds Bruno.
Why not do all manufacturing in France? As Julien explains, it would have been a far too expensive choice: "We tried. We asked French manufacturers, but their prices would have put us on the luxury product level with a retail price of around 500 euros. We wanted something more fun and more affordable without being low cost. The boots we sell for 209 euros at parties, and 229 euros on the website. The ankle-high boots are sold at 159 euros at parties and 175 euros on the website".
Women, with Pop Your Shoes, for once you really can have quantity and quality.
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