Claire, can you tell us about you, and what did you do before creating graines d’Horizons?
Before creating graines d’Horizons, I was exploring different parts of the world. Indeed, I’ve always been attracted to other cultures and lifestyles. Few years ago, when I made the decision to leave France, during my engineering studies, I first lived in countries around, namely the UK and Belgium, each one over a semester. In 2008-09, I was also hearing more and more about Asia, and though I can’t really explain why, I knew I did want to go and live there ! At the end of my studies, I was lucky to find a job in the energy sector, covering strategic marketing over South-East Asia, but also Australia and North-East Asia, from Singapore. Thus, I settled there for more than 3 years, and I travelled extensively in this amazing region. During each trip, I lived beautiful moments but also, noticed more and more evidences of the limits reached due to a rapid economic development.
What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
First of all, becoming an entrepreneur was my « one day dream » because, I’ve always seen the achievements made by my great grand-mother who, herself, was an entrepreneur in the early 20th century ! Even tough I never had the chance to know her, she inspired me through her bold entrepreneurship move. Many ideas came to me over time, to start my business, but this « one day dream » seemed to be out of my reach, for a long time.
As I stated previously, during my trips and life abroad, I became more and more aware of the negative impacts caused by a fast development of our economies. In Asia, and in other parts of the world, many cases of air, water and soil pollution were, and still are, reported, impacting worldwide citizen’s health altogether.
In addition, as I care a lot about nature, I reached a state of mind in which I couldn’t stand and see any longer how fast we destroy earth’s natural resources, and pollute : what kind of legacy do I want to give to our children ? Certainly not a legacy of problems to solve all by themselves.
At that moment, this « one day dream », starting my own business, could no longer be something that I would reschedule for later : it was now, or now. Indeed, based on one of Gandhi’s thoughts : « Be the change that you wish to see in the world », to me, the only way to contribute and change things is entrepreneurship. Therefore, in a quest for sense, and so as to contribute and bring sustainable alternatives for consumption, few months later, I launched myself in this amazing adventure of starting a business !
How would you define graines d’Horizons’s mission in a few sentences? What has been its impact so far?
graines d’Horizons was born in my mind to bring a sustainable and creative alternative for consumption in the fashion and clothing industry. First, I optimized the design of each dress, in order to provide a smart consumption of textiles, as well as providing more flexibility and customization to our wardrobes. Second, I sourced some of my textiles based on green innovations : one is made of a yarn arising from recycled plastic bottles, knitted with long-lasting coton fibers ; the other one is based on an innovative techno-fiber, similar to coton, to minimize the impact of natural coton on water resources. Last but not least, I decided to build a local value chain, so as to reduce its carbon footprint.
The impacts so far, thanks to my first collection, is an equivalent of 325 plastic bottles of water recycled into the textile used for one of the modules of my dresses, among others. I’ll keep scaling, so as to increase this volume. Also, by producing in a local area, graines d’Horizons contributes to the preservation of french know-how and employment, as well as to the spread of innovative moves made by the french textile industry.
What is graines d’Horizons’s business model? (How do you generate revenues ?)
Basically, all the dresses developed by graines d’Horizons are sold online through my e-commerce, as well as in some shops, in Marseille, and from time to time, in Paris.
How much did you need to invest to create graines d’Horizons, and how long did it take to become financially sustainable?
The initial investment, when it comes to product development, increases, of course, with the complexity of the product you aim at developing. In order to start a fashion brand, most people will tell you, as I was told in the beginning, that you need at least 200,000 euros. However, you don’t need that much to start with. Money is not what starting a business is all about. You can invest millions in creating your company and end up with no buyer at all, and then ? Then, nothing. If you don’t have millions, nor thousands, that’s fine, one of the very first steps being to listen to the needs of the market. Thus, you’ll develop and be able to sell a concept that brings added-value, as well as generating the required revenues to grow up and scale when your proof-of-concept is checked. And, in many sectors, a proof-of-concept doesn’t require a large upfront investment.
As for becoming financially sustainable, it is a lifetime challenge !
Today, what do you enjoy the most in your entrepreneurial journey?
Entrepreneurship is, to me, an amazing human journey. This is what I enjoy the most !
If you had to give 1 advise (and 1 only!) to people reading this interview, who find your story inspiring and dream to create their own world-changing business one day: what would it be?
One day, I read a book which states that we tend to be absorbed by many things in life, that are not always what truly matters to us. When we come to realize this, that is to say usually when we are old and most of our life is behind us, then it’s too late. We never know how long we will live, but we do know what matters most to us. All we have to do, according to me, is listening to ourselves so as to seize our dreams, through creating the circumstances that will enable us to make them come true.
- Learn more about graines d’Horizon: grainesdhorizons.fr
- Check out graines d’Horizion upcoming event here: Les réinVENTES, March 18 2015, Paris
Solène is the Chief Empowerment Officer of Creators for Good.
She developed a methodology that allows Global Citizen to start and grow their own impactful businesses from anywhere in the world – and with no need for investors or government support.