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jerome maitre
Jérôme Maître

Founder of Pied de Biche

<h2>Joining a student association to gain skills</h2>

<p>I did my first two years on the Caen campus. At the end of my first year, I said to myself that I had to build something with Matthieu, my friend whom I met at the school and who is my partner at Pied de Biche and Maradji.</p>

<p>On the first day of school, I arrived a little late. On the forecourt of the School, many circles of people were already starting to form. I couldn't see myself joining one of these groups and introducing myself spontaneously. I had noticed Matthieu in the distance talking with 2-3 people. I went to join them to discuss with them. It was finally with this group that we applied to the Students' Office&nbsp;in the second year.</p>

<p>This experience was really great even if it may seem a bit trivial from the outside. Joining a Students' Office involves a lot of event management, budget and team management. You must also learn how to communicate about the events. We were 8 students in this association.</p>

<p class="accroche-temoignage-emn">As president of the Students' Office, I learned a lot about managing a small team.</p>

<p>My friend Matthieu was in charge of communication. I learned to work with him in this way. Basically, we are totally different but very complementary. That's what makes us strong! We are aware of these differences and know each other very well.</p>

<p>In the second year, we also took part in the 4L Trophy, an event that seems like a holiday camp. In reality, we had to find funding. We managed to raise 8,000 euros, a huge sum for two students. We had to sell advertising space to companies in the Caen region to put on our car. This meant managing our studies and all the preparations for the event at the same time. I had so much to handle that I had to take a make-up exam that semester.</p>

<h2>Expatriation to immerse oneself in a country</h2>

<p>I had different expatriation choices in my Erasmus zone. England and its prestigious universities were among them, but they didn't appeal to me. I had the impression that I was going to find half of my class in these destinations.</p>

<p class="accroche-temoignage-emn">It was the first year when the School had just opened an expatriation in Budapest. I could really see myself going to this country.</p>

<p>There were five of us adventurers who made this choice of destination. I eventually became friends with the other four students but chose not to meet them until the second semester. I needed to immerse myself alone at the beginning.</p>

<p>Coming back from this Erasmus year, I worked a lot in the weeks before the exams. These are quite intense moments when we spend our evenings revising together in a student room. I have very good memories of these periods.</p>

<h2>Work-study to explore the company from the inside</h2>

<p>I decided to do my last two years&nbsp;in work-study. I motivated all my friends to choose this path. We all ended up in the same class. The fact that you can work in a company allows you to become professional and at the same time finance your studies, which is not negligible.</p>

<p>These two years of work experience enabled me to analyse everything that happens in the business world.</p>

<p>I thought it was great to see all the people who were setting up their own businesses. With Matthieu, we had an idea every day! During all my breaks in the work-study period, I phoned him to discuss our ideas. We decided to put 50 euros aside each month to launch our project, without knowing yet what it would be.</p>

<h2>Starting a business</h2>

<p>At that time, I had no idea that I would have my own shoe brand three years later. I expected to be the best man at Matthieu's wedding and vice versa! On the other hand, to create our own company and to be in charge of thirty people after 5 years, I would probably have found it harder to believe.</p>

<p>After our studies, we went to visit several countries in South East Asia and came back without a penny. It was an incredible experience! We were unemployed because we had a good idea to refuse the job offer from our company. We had to find solutions. With Matthieu, we explored thousands of ideas.</p>

<p class="accroche-temoignage-emn">We said to ourselves that we had nothing to lose by leaving school, that it was the moment to launch ourselves.</p>

<p>If we waited a few years, we would have more obligations like a bank loan and/or a girlfriend. People told us to get experience in a big company before we started our own business. Matthieu and I said that once we were in a comfortable position, we would be much more reluctant to give up everything for an idea that wasn't necessarily going to work.&nbsp;</p>

<h2>The choice of the footwear sector</h2>

<p>We chose the field of footwear because it seemed to us to be a "consumer good". Everyone wears shoes. Also, it was a more concrete product than launching an app that requires building a large community. That requires big budgets and time to gather so many people. We didn't have that kind of time because we had set ourselves a deadline of one year to launch our business.</p>

<p class="accroche-temoignage-emn">I remember at Christmas I told my whole family that we were going to start a shoe brand.</p>

<p>They all looked at me with wide eyes. They didn't really seem to understand the choice but supported me in this project.</p>

<p>We studied the market with Matthieu and found that there were no quality shoes with excellent finish that were not expensive. At the time, we had little money. It seemed unthinkable to spend 200 euros on a pair of average quality shoes.</p>

<h2>Finding a supplier to get started</h2>

<p>Our biggest challenge was to find a supplier. We realised that we had to break free from the traditional distribution system and cut out the middleman. This reduces costs and increases quality.</p>

<p class="accroche-temoignage-emn">We spotted real know-how in Portugal with much better prices than in France.</p>

<p>In December 2014, we met Fernando at a shoe fair in Milan, which is the biggest European fair. He was able to make a prototype based on our technical data sheets.</p>

<p>In September 2015, we launched our first crowdfunding campaign. We had received our first prototypes in the spring. During this whole project start-up phase, we set ourselves deadlines, which helps to motivate us in the short term.</p>

<h2>A well-established brand</h2>

<p>The brand has been around for five years. We have just opened our third shop in Bordeaux and have two shops in Paris, which makes a total of five shops. We have about thirty people in total, which may seem like a lot. In reality, we have integrated a second brand called Maradji which makes leather goods and accessories for women.</p>

<p class="accroche-temoignage-emn">When you work with such a team, you have to rely on the skills of each person around you.</p>

<p>If I had listened to all the advice I was given, I would never have started! I received some very discouraging comments. Some people from another sphere are not able to understand my project.&nbsp;</p>

<p>You can't start something perfect from the beginning. The first shoe we marketed was far from perfect but thankfully we decided to launch it. Making mistakes allows you to improve and grow. I thank all the customers who believed in us and came back to us because we wouldn't exist without them.<br />

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