Winning the Lépine competition is not necessary to create a viable business. Without revolutionizing their universe from A to Z, a designer can also be inventive, pragmatic and flexible in the way he does business. “An innovative business model has just as much potential as a technological innovation. For example, adapting the way a sector is managed to one’s own domain can be profitable,” assures Matthieu Somekh, the director of the ZeBox incubator in Marseille.
Accommodating a model is exactly the strategy that Jean-Baptiste Massif follows. Three years ago, this 41-year-old former asset manager, with a hipster look, created Quasiaqui, a real estate platform based on the principle of rental with option to buy (LOA), very common in the real estate industry. The tenant of the apartment can, at the end of the contract, acquire the property or return it to the owner. “We give people who are solvent, but who don’t fit into the rosters of traditional banks, such as freelancers, access to real estate.” The 10-person start-up is paid by agencies (499 euros to access the service and 12% commission on the fees collected) and targets 500 referred agencies and about 400 transactions in 2020.
think outside the box
Another example with IconoClass. Marie Taquet, 25, has handed over the famous “Satisfaction or your money back” guarantee to her sales school, founded in 2018. With the slogan “Hire or your money back”, IconoClass is committed to donating tuition fees to students who cannot find work in the six months following the end of their education. And if they wish, students can pay their tuition fees after signing their CDI. A valid principle for the 20 new students who started classes at the beginning of the year. Relying on the ability of good salespeople to find a job, Marie Taquet, a former headhunter, counts on “the reservoir of talent waiting to come out and the SMEs or start-ups that ask for it”.
Iconoclast, Antoine Huvé is also one in his own way. This 37-year-old real estate specialist created recherchemonnid.com in 2015. A company that reverses the traditional pattern of real estate on the internet. Instead of posting ads online, the site asks individuals for specific information about the property they are looking for. Customer records are then forwarded to agents located in the appropriate geographic area. If one of them has an offer that “matches”, he suggests it. The start-up (10 people) is compensated by means of a commission. According to the founder, who has raised 3 million euros since its launch, this inverted model fits in well with the evolution of the market. “Nowadays, every ad evokes dozens of reactions, not always serious. Thanks to our system, the broker has the security to deal with customers who have a real purchase project.” It claims that 6,000 professionals are registered on its platform.
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Ignoring everything about the industry one is in is also sometimes the best way to be inventive. “I wasn’t immersed in the restaurant business and was thinking out-of-the-box and innovating in a niche where not much had happened in years,” says Maxim Simon, 38, co-founder of the crêperies. Mardi (two restaurants in Paris) and ex-financial specialist.
Together with his partner, they developed a machine to bake pancakes. “We had to save time. We didn’t realize that under the pancakes it is forbidden to make pancakes on anything other than a bilig. That’s why we did it,” he explains. Patented, perfectly working, simple and automatic, their device increases productivity. They plan to sell it to other professionals in hospitality, leisure parks, hotels and events.
Flexibility and ask questions
Thinking outside the box also means agreeing to sell to professionals. Especially if they come to your flowerbeds. Laurence Le Clerc, the founder of the Grimel hat shop in Clisson, near Nantes, focuses primarily on the general public. At the same time, she works as a subcontractor for major hat brands, which could theoretically overshadow her.
In reality, it interests competitors much bigger than themselves and who lack the know-how, as well as general fashion brands looking to diversify into the world of hats. The two activities feed each other. “B to B ensures a regular cash flow so that I can create calmly. B to C gives me feedback from individuals, which is helpful in encouraging my professional clients to think about their own collections.”
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Finally, being flexible also means questioning yourself. And to change certain parameters of the model to revive a shrinking company. On the ashes of his previous company, Gilles Gallo relaunched his solar-powered barbecue business in 2016. Solar Brother, the name of the new entity, is abandoning bulky models to focus on small formats: lighters or mini-barbecues, which are much cheaper to buy.
Production has been outsourced to one of its former competitors and thanks to a design based on the principles of frugal innovation, its costs have fallen, allowing it to charge much more affordable public prices (from 9 to 69 euros). Result of these adjustments: sales are on the rise again. Distributed in supermarkets (for example at Nature & Découvertes) and at independent retailers, the products generated 310,000 euros in turnover last year. Like what, flexibility pays off.
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