Antoine Loredo of Kipli tells us about sustainable bed furniture.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Kipli.
Antoine Loredo: I graduated from Kedge Business School. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. My parents and grandparents had all launched their businesses. So I tried to have the broadest possible experiences to have a global vision before starting. I remember very well when I had to choose my studies. I did not want to do what we call in French “Prépa,” nor to continue the subjects that one learns in high school, which I found impractical and useless for the projects I dreamt of. So I studied eco-management at University. Then I integrated the Kedge Business School in Bordeaux. I started my career with financial auditing; then, I worked in the Supply Chain for the Nutergia Laboratory (natural food supplements). I was also the deputy of BMI SYSTEM (pharmaceutical transparency) before joining the management board. I then met Davide, who offered to become my partner in founding Kipli, a brand specializing in sustainable bed furniture whose flagship product is the 100% natural latex mattress.
How does Kipli innovate?
Antoine Loredo: Innovation is at the heart of Kipli’s business.
Through the raw materials that we use, in particular, ecological and sustainable materials, are the reverse of what we find in the “mainstream” products found in large furniture stores. The natural latex that makes up our mattress is obviously one of them. It is this which allows our mattresses to be biodegradable and not to pollute the floors at the end of their life, unlike synthetic mattresses. It is also what allows our mattresses to last twice as long as that of traditional mattresses. Lyocell is another innovative material that we have to use in our duvet this time. It is a plant material made from wood pulp. It replaces plastic microfiber, a material mainly used today in duvets.
Also, through our economic model. We offer fair prices without making promotions, allowing us to realize the true value of the products and correctly compensate the employees involved in the production chain. We sell direct (on our e-commerce site or in our own store), without intermediaries, and practice a low margin.
Finally, through our operation. We want to be consistent in our approach, and to offer an eco-friendly product is good; doing this personally is even better. We did our carbon footprint at the start of the year: we are proud to know that the operation of the company represents only 3% of our overall carbon footprint! We use refurbished computers to work, green energy to light our premises, and we come to the office (or shop) by bicycle or by public transport.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Antoine Loredo: On the retail side, the store was closed several times, which had an impact on the turnover generated. But otherwise, the crisis has rather boosted our e-commerce.
We had a loss in the very first months of the first lockdown, but it was quickly compensated by the following months, which were very good months.
During the 2nd lockdown, there was no such catch-up phase: our sales were directly boosted. In fact, the increase in e-commerce activity is understandable since more than 80% of bedding purchases are normally made in physical stores.
Did you have to make a change regarding human resources?
Antoine Loredo: We did not have to lay off people as some companies were unfortunately forced to do, but regardless of the Covid crisis, we have entered a phase of structuring. To accelerate our development, this phase has led us to separate ourselves from certain employees and turn to more specialized people. Recruitment is not difficult; there are more people in the job market. But some positions remain difficult to find, such as the Dev and UX part in particular.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Antoine Loredo: We still encountered some logistical, delivery, and transport problems due to the health crisis. These issues have generated an increase in customer complaints. Fortunately, the biggest problems came around the time of the downturn, the first months of the first lockdown. So ultimately, we did not need any reinforcement on the after-sales service, despite the fact that everyone ended up ordering online, especially in our sector, that of bedding.
We use Gmelius to manage tickets by email, Ring over, and telephone services (our team is available 6 days a week to answer our customers by phone). On the other hand, we went from Talk to Crisp for the Live chat part. Above all, this new tool has enabled us to significantly improve the management of the knowledge base (FAQ) and to make our customers more independent in finding answers to their questions. This is the trend anyway; we had to improve this point.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Antoine Loredo: We have benefited from government grants (PGE). Also, regarding our store, we were fortunate to have a sympathetic owner who canceled all rents during lockdowns 1 and 2.
We are in the process of signing a new lease at the moment for another boutique project, and this peculiarity has been taken into account, namely that during the months of confinement, the rents can be canceled.
Your final thoughts?
Antoine Loredo: Many businesses have suffered from Covid. Fortunately for us, we survived and even, unbelievably, benefited from the context. We, of course, hope that businesses and retail will quickly resume their activity in order to generate as few bankruptcies as possible.
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