I’m definitely more of a “buy local” than “buy Walmart” kind of girl. I love quirky, one-of-a-kind stuff that makes me stand out in a crowd and I’m willing to pay a lot more for products that do just that. Unfortunately, I know from firsthand experience that being an independent fashion designer can be really, really hard, which means that my options can be really limited sometimes.
That’s why I love startups like Now In Store, which provides designers with the tools they need to easily take care of all the other stuff that’s involved in running your own business so that they can focus on creating. Co-founder Charles Brun took some time to chat with me recently. This Montrealer’s enthusiasm for entrepreneurship is totally contagious. Check it out!
What’s your elevator pitch for Now In Store?
Now In Store is a cloud-based business solution that helps fashion designers manage their business and build their brand.
What’s your background? Have you always been in the fashion industry?
My background is originally in food and retail. I co-founded a chocolate chain called Juliette et Chocolat, which serves crepes and all sorts of mouth watering chocolate treats. We now have four successful locations here in Montreal and we’re still expanding!
But my passion really lies in launching new ventures. I get a kick during the first five years of a business when everything is still chaotic and new. After eight years with Juliette et Chocolat I had all sorts of ideas and projects. I started working on Now In Store because one of my friends who was a designer had a hard time selling online.
Who does Now In Store serve?
Now In Store serves fashion designers who need help managing their operations and promoting their collections. We offer a suite of tools to help them easily run their business and so that they can focus on what they do best: designing awesome products!
Now In Store’s most popular tool is an app which allows designers to import their creations from existing platforms such as Etsy and then automatically generate look books which can be fully customized according to their clients needs. It saves designers a lot of time because they can generate several versions of their portfolio and keep the quantities updated in real-time!
What’s the major pain point you’re addressing?
Fashion designers don’t have the right tools to manage and grow their business. When fashion designers create new collections, they need to update their portfolio, send it to their clients, take orders, manage their inventories, send invoices and promote their collection across their personal network of buyers and blogs. This is still done with excel spreadsheets in a disorganized and time time-consuming way.
What’s your favorite product on Now In Store right now?
It’s hard to say! I don’t necessarily have a favorite product but I am particularly fond of the work of several of our designers. Andy Collins is one of the designers that I really like. She creates modern industrial jewelry that has a very minimalist style. She is really super talented and makes amazing products!
And your favorite designer?
Apart from Andy Collins I would have to say Amy Lehfeldt who makes really stunning hats! But I’m biased because I personally have a weakness for hats.
How’s the startup scene in Montreal?
The Montreal startup scene is actually really dynamic. Because there a so many great universities, there’s a huge pool of fresh blood entering the startup scene on a regular basis. There’s also great places like Notman House which is Montreal’s tech hub. Anyone can go there to work for free and you get to meet great entrepreneurs from all stages and backgrounds.
There are also great events happening every month to meet entrepreneurs and get feedback on new ideas. Two events I highly recommend are Montreal NewTech and Startup Drinks. I also host the MTL eCommerce meetup for those interested in eCommerce specifically.
Montreal is also a great scene because there are quite a few early stage VCs to pick from. Of course there’s FounderFuel (Real Ventures), which we were part of, but there’s also iNovia Capital, Rho Ventures and Anges Quebec.
Who’s on your team?
We’re three co-founders. Kwaku, our CTO, started his career working for Fortune 500 companies and decided to move towards startups because he loves being nimble and lean. Adrien – the Chief Product Officer – is the third co-founder. He’s the design thinker and has a strong passion for optimizing user experiences. He’s also a big startup lover as he co-founded another startup that was part of the Communitech Hyperdrive Incubator.
Since we entered FounderFuel we also added three more people on our team. Aurelie Bordonnat who has been instrumental in driving our sales, Coralie Iroudayassamy who is in charge of Marketing and Social Media and David Lejeune who takes care of all the front-end web development.
How did you meet?
I met Kwaku 3 ½ years ago through a friend. He had just arrived from France and I decided to welcome him by inviting him to the chocolate chain I co-founded. We hit it off right away and started working on our first startup together one month later! We later met Adrien at Notman House, the home tech entrepreneurship in Montreal. He had just arrived from Toronto and we loved his energy and passion for entrepreneurship!
What gave you the courage to quit the 9-5 and start your own business?
I was lucky to experience the startup life while I was still in University. I co-founded the chocolate chain with my sister and was literally making hot chocolate and desserts after class. So I never really got a taste of what it’s like to have a 9 to 5 job!
Starting early is one of the best pieces of advice I would give. Start young because when you’re young you don’t have any liabilities and you’re not afraid or destroying your reputation if you fail. You don’t have anything to loose!
I have many friends who have mortgages and huge debt and don’t go into entrepreneurship because of the opportunity cost for them. Avoid that trap!
What’s the number one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were first starting out?
Don’t be ashamed of what you’re building! Many awesome companies started with an embarrassingly simple product/service but learned a lot from launching early. Seek feedback as much as possible and don’t get stuck on the first idea you come up with. This is very much what the Lean Startup movement is all about and your readers should definitely check out Eric Ries’ book for an introduction to lean methodology.
Where can our readers find you?
Anything else you want to add?
Our community is growing and Now In Store is always looking for talented designers! If you make awesome products and want to grow your brand and sell in more stores we want to hear from you!
Now In Store is also fundraising, so contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to take part in disrupting the $140 billion wholesale fashion market!
Now In Store | Courtesy of startup founder