Generate has some big news… We have a new Entrepreneur-in-Residence, read all about him here!
The growth of Generate and our student engagement has been really exciting to watch, and we realised a number of students could benefit with having an experienced entrepreneur on hand to provide them with one-on-one mentoring sessions here at LSE. Excitingly, we are now collaborating with the co-founder MADE.com, Julien Callede, who has agreed to become our Entrepreneur-in-Residence! MADE is a multi-million pound e-commerce furniture company which currently trades in six countries.
Julien has already run a successful master-class for us on creating a scalable business, and he will sit as a judge on our funding competition final this Friday. Next term you’ll have the opportunity to meet with him one-on-one and ask any questions you might have, no matter what point your business is at. We’re so excited to be working with Julien to provide you with this opportunity, this is a really fantastic chance to learn from someone who has a huge amount of experience in the industry! Read below to learn more about MADE.com and Julien himself.
In the meantime, you can contact Julien on his new Entrepreneur-in-Residence email address here: email@example.com
What was the original inspiration behind the creation of Made.com?
The whole idea came from our very own frustration of not being able to find good quality original furniture items out there, at a decent price. Everything was either very cheap and mainstream or much too expensive! Working closely with a network of designers, and getting feedback from some really good factories, we figured out that there was a way of tweaking the way the industry was working. To put it simply, we re-engineered the way furniture items are designed and developed with factory, and the way they’re sold and purchased. A very exciting challenge.
You’re a co-founder with two other partners, how did you meet them and what do you think are the most important qualities a team should have?
Ning is an old friend, we met in business school and had been brainstorming on what to work on for a few years already. Chloé was working with Brent Hoberman, our non-exec co-founder and chairman for the first years of the business. The fit was there from the beginning. In the long run though, starting a company with your co-founder(s) is a bit like a marriage. It’s going to go up and down and that’s normal, however there is a way of making it work that will make the whole group much more powerful than a single individual. Your values, the core reason why you’ve started that company, as well as your ultimate company goals and vision, should always be in your mind, as well as they do need to be common to all of you. When things go wrong, they’ll help you make the right decisions.
Made describes itself as a “pan-European” company, how do you see Brexit affecting Made.com specifically, but also the business environment in general?
Made.com is already delivering in 8 countries (UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Austria and Switzerland), where we do have local operations as well as local teams. Our European footprint and the fact that all markets are performing equally well are a real strength for us, and I don’t see Brexit affecting us too much. Even though it does make me sad on a personal level, and I don’t see the UK business environment benefiting from it in the long run.
You’ve said before that you experienced problems when launching in Italy, what would you say are the most important things to research when you’re launching a business?
The problems we encountered in Italy were linked to the maturity and specificities of the Italian online market (lower e-commerce penetration and conversion rate, as well as complex payment methods). Better planning and anticipation would have saved us a lot of time. These two things are key when you expand into new markets. When launching your business from scratch, the priority is slightly different, and my very first advice would be to ensure that you are solving a problem that exists, a problem that your customers are aware of. Don’t try to guess and invent issues to solve that are just in your mind, just look around you for where you can make people’s life better.
Which research techniques have you found to be the most effective?
Listen to your customers. When they don’t talk to you, ask them. Listen. And act on it. Really act on it. No feedback is worthless. Feedback is the one big part of creating a business that everybody knows is important but too few really take into account. I’ll keep the answer short because this is by far the biggest thing to focus on.
Your website includes a page with the ‘Made Modern Slavery Act Statement 2016’. Could you tell us a bit more about this and how ethics are integrated into your brand?
Ethics should be a crucial concern of every single enterprise and brand out there. Not only in how brands deal with their partners and suppliers, or in how they treat their customers, but also in their interactions with their employees. All the inevitable debates about growth, profits, market share and any kind of definition of success; tend to make us forget that companies are, above all, built for a purpose. A need they are trying to answer, or something they are trying to improve. We should never forget it, and it should drive every of our decisions. Purpose, that’s also what will drive entrepreneurs through their hard times in growing their company. At Made.com, our customers are our purpose, our designers are our purpose, and the makers we’re helping grow and who’ve always helped us serve our customers are our purpose. Being a retail company, an international company, and above all a company working closely with manufacturers in the UK, in Europe, and in the world, modern slavery is of course a topic we need to be concerned about. And something we need to stand against very strongly, and very openly. We’ve always done it. We’ll always do it.
What attracted you to working with LSE?
Two things mainly: a personal interest in the educational sector, and the opportunity of working with students. They are usually extremely dynamic, curious, and eager, and I’ve always been surprised by how concerned and mature even young students may be today. I’ve done quite a few talks or workshops in schools in the past, and always remember I wasn’t personally that curious when I was younger. That’s very refreshing. Also, it’s good to give back, and they are willing to learn. You’re never too young to start taking good habits.
What do you do to relax?!
I swim. I used to also run and ride my bike, but I think I overdid it quite a bit in the last years, so I slowed down but I keep swimming. It’s the kind of activity where your brain is so focused on your movements that you forget about everything else. Plus it’s tiring. Definitely very relaxing. And whenever you find it boring, a good outdoor swim in winter in very good for the brain!
And finally… What is one word which encapsulates the life of an entrepreneur?
Full. Definitely. Full of purpose, full of challenges, full of people, full of pains but full of smiles. Full of life. Definitely worth it 🙂