Discover the story of Mikael Leo, co-founder at Belledonne - a direct-to-consumer French sneakers brand selling high end quality products, 100% made of European materials, at the fairest price.
Mika is a product person at heart and incredible to work with. He's part of our early adopter brands and has played a massive role in shaping Prediko.
We're so proud to save him time and improve his inventory planning decisions to make Belledonne a more efficient company.
Enjoy the convo!
Please give us an overview of your background (studies, early career)
My Background is pretty classic, as I graduated from a French Business School with a major in Marketing and Product Development.
Right after in 2014, I joined Groupe SEB, the #1 in small and domestic appliances as a product manager for new garment care solutions. After 4 years of developing new products, I moved to Milano where I became Marketing Manager Italy for Food Preparation Categories.
In parallel, the idea of Belledonne emerged in 2016 and we started to work on it as a side project first. My partner Antonin left his previous job right after the official launch of the website at the end of 2018, and I finally joined him full time in April 2020.
What influenced you to create and launch your own shoe brand and how did you get started?
At the beginning, it was just a fun discussion between friends saying that we should create something together. As we are passionate about fashion, the idea of doing something in this industry quickly arrived on the table.
At that time (2016), the trend of DNVBs was just starting to emerge but you didn’t have in France some brands that were proposing high end qualitative sneakers at an affordable price : Belledonne was born.
As it was a side project at the beginning, we took our time to really think and imagine our first pair and the branding associated behind it. We officially launched the project through a crowdfunding campaign in June 2018, where we were able to sell approximately 600 pairs in 20 days, which encouraged us to continue as we believed there was a real appeal for the product and concept.
At €139-179 your product prices are very good value for money. Can you talk more about how you manage to get attractive prices while maintaining great product quality.
By Cutting intermediaries.
This is one of the reasons we created Belledonne. We were frustrated to see that you couldn’t find on the market a nice pair of sneakers, entirely made in Europe, at an affordable price.
The main reason behind this is the margin that intermediaries such as wholesalers or retailers can take to distribute your product. Selling our products directly to our customers through our website allows us to cut this margin and thus, the final price.
What’s your best memory at Belledonne? Can you also recall a challenging one?
For the best, I would definitely say the first time I saw a total stranger in Paris wearing one of our models. We were so pleased that we stopped him to thank him for buying a pair during the crowdfunding campaign.
Regarding a challenging issue, I would say July 2019, when we decided to send back all our stock to our supplier as there was a quality issue on the pairs. We had to deal with no sales for practically 2 months, but it was the right decision to make and we finally managed to catch back all the loss in 10 days.
When it comes to Inventory - monitoring, planning, and ordering - you’re in charge. Can you walk us through your day-to-day and the complexities related to the task?
As we are growing, we are developing and launching more and more products, which increase the level of complexity regarding SKU’s management.
As of today, we are dealing with more than 700 Sku’s and this number will increase by 50% next year. As the number grows, the task of monitoring, forecasting and ordering becomes really complex as everything was managed through excel. On top of that, shoes can be quite complex as you need to be accurate with 11 sizes for each model, and then try to be accurate also on the weight of each model depending on the period…
You’ve been using Prediko recently. Can you share your experience with Prediko so far and how you interact with the platform?
Prediko has been a game changer for us !
Instead of spending too much time on your excel trying to check if your data is correctly set up, you can just spend some time on analyzing and making the right decisions regarding your inventory / forecasting.
The fact that the platform is directly synchronized with our shopify helps us have the right information in no time and also have a nice vision of the situation thanks to the interface. Finally, the tool is easy to use and is constantly evolving in order to answer the business need.
Finally, where do you see yourself and the brand in the next 5 years?
If we manage to put Belledonne as one of the main actors when it comes to high end quality sneakers in France and why not, to a certain extent, in some other countries, I will already be more than happy :)