““Entrepreneurship” let’s you take a concept you are passionate about and turn it into a viable business.” -- Beatrice Amblard,April In Paris
Beatrice Amblard April In Paris
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
“Entrepreneurship” let’s you take a concept you are passionate about and turn it into a viable business. Every step of the way has to be identified and followed through, with an intriguing story to tell and a beautiful product that speaks for itself. For me, the word “no” does not exist, and every obstacle can be overcome. It takes discipline, and determination to succeed in the long term, as well as embracing failures in order to grow.
How did your business come to be? (e.g. What sparked the idea? How did you decide to take the leap?)
I worked at Hèrmes of Paris for 14 years (split between Paris and San Francisco locations), and clients kept asking me to do custom work, which was not being done at the San Francisco shop. This lead me to believe there was a need for custom accessories, of the highest quality. Once I came to the realization that my growth at Hèrmes was at a halt, I left to start my own business. After many years of research, I decided to create April in Paris in 1998. I started small, tested the market, and very quickly found my niche. In 2000, I opened my first retail store, taking a huge leap of faith, keeping the quality of my work with the highest integrity and craftsmanship. Today, I have clients all over the world, who trust me to create unique products for them.
What is the biggest experience or lesson gained on your journey so far?
The biggest learning experience was the moment when I was asked to cover 1,400 square feet of walls in leather, and realized that if I was able to complete that project (on my own), there was nothing I couldn’t do. Every day in the studio is so different. I am constantly being faced with new designs to execute, rarely simple, and have to adapt to each item and their challenges to create something beautiful and functional. My motto is, “when there’s a will, there’s a way.”
How is your company changing the landscape
There are a lot of leather goods available from across the world. At April in Paris, products aim to change consumers mind sets. Too often, designer labels are manufactured at scale in another country. Here, you can get to know who is making the product, and get exactly what you want out of whatever you can dream up — also becoming a part of the design process! By manufacturing everything by hand, we go against the grain of mass production, and are able to revitalize a traditional art form that has been lost in this technology driven era.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
I wish I had a little more experience in the business and marketing world when I started. I didn’t go to college, let alone finished high school, so when I started my business, I had no prior knowledge to even know where to begin. It started with establishing what I wanted to do, and I went from there, step by step, with a little help on the way. Of course there are things I would do differently, but if I had, I wouldn’t be where I am today, which I’m very proud of. I learned a lot on my own and adapted to every situation to be able to grow.
What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business? What is your professional and personal mission statement?
My advice is to always keep the integrity of a product and believe that everything is possible. I have always been very careful in considering new opportunities, making sure that they are aligned with my thinking. I take my time in making new decisions. My mission statement is to always deliver the highest quality product, using the best materials, and never compromise. My clients always come first, and I will do anything to satisfy their needs.
What’s it like to work alone/with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
I have always kept my business small, with minimal employees. I surround myself with people I trust, that are willing to grow with me, and treat them as partners. I am not afraid to listen to my peers, and believe that working as a team and gaining their trust is essential for success. I love the creative process of everyone surrounding me, which leads to new ideas and designs all the time. Know what you want, and communicate your needs with the team. Listen to their input and creativity, as well as lead with honesty, openness and trust.
Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
When faced with challenges, I take a step back and look at the whole situation. I know there’s always a solution to a problem, and that keeping an open mind will always lead to new doors. I
am a firm believer that when you ask for something, you receive it. I always think that if someone else can do it, I can do it too.
What does “success” mean to you?
I define success by the fact that I wake up everyday happy to go to work and working with people I care about. When a client is happy with the work we’ve produced, for me, that’s success. When my employees are happy to come to work, and happy to create with me, it’s success. The well-being of my team and myself is the most important to me, and my success depends on that.
What’s the dream for your business? What has helped/will help you achieve it?
The dream for April in Paris is to be able to expand by opening other free standing stores, grow my team for production and educate people on the craft. 6 years ago I decided to pass on the trade, by teaching traditional leather making techniques. Today I teach between 30 and 40 students a week. All of them have been trained as I was in Paris, and can start their own business if they wish to do so. Not only am I encouraging new entrepreneurs to take the leap, but I can hire them for my personal expansion if they were interested in continuing to learn.
What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
Let's start with my proudest moment: I’d have to say, hands down, when my daughter Amelie decided to learn the trade and join the April in Paris team. Never in a million years did I expect her to take an interest in what I do. Now, she has started taking everything I’ve taught her, and putting her own twist on it. I have a very classic look, and she’s pushing the business to go a little more modern with younger looks and new styles. Now for my darkest moment. It started with the market crash in 2008, where business practically disappeared. It was incredibly stressful not knowing if I was going to stay in business, but the light at the end of the tunnel was when I landed the biggest job I ever had in 2009. In all darkness there is light…. I never gave up, and always kept that in mind.
What is it like being a mother/daughter duo?
We love it! We’ve always had a stellar dynamic. It took a little time to adjust in separating our family relationship to our office relationship. The trust between us is of course unique and we
bounce off each other for ideas. Great minds think alike. We respect each other and give each other the freedom we need to grow and express ourselves. We never leave any situations unresolved, and are never afraid to express our opinions. Working with Amelie is my biggest accomplishment.
What lesson did 2017 have for you? What do you look forward to in 2018?
2017 brought me to the conclusion that I have to keep going every day with an open mind, embrace new opportunities and seek advice to grow my business. I look forward to working with some familiar faces, but excited to see who stumbles on in in 2018. Since growing both my businesses this year is a priority, I will do everything I can to steer my business in a successful direction.
Nasdaq's Education Foundation helped launch The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center in the fall of 2015. Located in San Francisco, it has quickly become the go to destination for the next generation of risk takers and idea makers who take the plunge into entrepreneurship.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.