In­ter­na­tional Women's Day 2018

Cel­e­brat­ing fe­male in­ge­nu­ity in busi­ness

EME Outlook - - Contents - Writer: Phoebe Calver

Ac­cord­ing to the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum’s 2017 Global Gen­der Gap Re­port, now more than ever is the time to push for­ward for progress in gen­der par­ity, with a pre­dicted 200 years to go be­fore we see true equal­ity.

Dur­ing the past year in par­tic­u­lar we have wit­nessed the united strength of women all over the world, from many var­ied walks of life through cam­paigns such as #Metoo, #Time­sup and now #Press­for­progress for the 2018 In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day (IWD) move­ment.

On 8 March, 2018, IWD kicked off an­other year of cam­paign­ing, pro­vid­ing in­di­vid­u­als, busi­nesses and or­gan­i­sa­tions all over the world with a uni­fied di­rec­tion for pos­i­tive change. It is im­por­tant to recog­nise that IWD is not an or­gan­i­sa­tion, but in­stead a day that be­longs to everyone glob­ally - an act to unite and cel­e­brate.

Since the early 1900s when it was started by the Suf­fragettes, the event has been recog­nised and is grow­ing in strength yearly, en­cour­ag­ing men and women to join the con­tin­ued move­ment for em­pow­er­ment and equal­ity.

This year EME Out­look wanted to cel­e­brate true fe­male in­ge­nu­ity in busi­ness, which we found in the ef­fer­ves­cent Au­drey-laure Ber­gen­thal, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of Eu­veka, and de­signer of the first French smart man­nequin dummy.

Orig­i­nally trained as an IP lawyer, Ber­gen­thal’s mul­ti­ple award-win­ning idea stemmed from a need to change the way gar­ments were made for women.

“Ev­ery day in the law firm I worked for in Paris, I would no­tice the in­cred­i­ble in­no­va­tion hap­pen­ing with en­gi­neer­ing in a wide range of in­dus­tries,” ex­plains Ber­gen­thal. “When I be­gan to put some re­search into my idea, I quickly dis­cov­ered that ev­ery gar­ment was be­ing de­signed on a wooden man­nequin which I found to be very un­re­al­is­tic for a real woman. Sub­se­quently I started to work on the au­to­mated doll idea and from that emerged the man­nequin we see to­day.”

The En­tre­pre­neur and CEO dis­cusses the jour­ney she has been on with the Com­pany and her hopes for the fu­ture for both Eu­veka and women in busi­ness as a whole.

Q Europe & Mid­dle East Out­look (EME): Can you in­tro­duce me to Eu­veka, pro­vid­ing a his­tory of the Com­pany and how it has evolved over the years? Au­drey-laure Ber­gen­thal (AB): Af­ter com­ing up with my ini­tial idea and sub­se­quent busi­ness plan, I went to study pat­tern mak­ing and fash­ion de­sign in a fash­ion school. My par­ents were so mad at me be­cause I wasn’t a lawyer any­more, but I still started all over again and I got my de­gree as a pat­tern maker.

For five years I worked as a pat­tern maker in haute cou­ture and in the ready-to-wear in­dus­try with some big brands that have fac­to­ries over­seas, there­fore I was able to see the whole process from de­sign to re­tail.

When you make sin­gle gar­ments for made-to-mea­sure projects or the ready-to-wear in­dus­try and had to launch a mil­lion pieces of the same model, so I quickly re­alised that hav­ing ac­cess to a man­nequin that could be quickly al­tered and con­nected to soft­ware would help to achieve this. I had a com­pre­hen­sive knowl­edge of the mar­ket and the users, so I de­cided to start the Com­pany and fi­nanced it on my own for four years while work­ing full time. I did ev­ery­thing I could and there was a lot of sac­ri­fice, work­ing seven days a week while try­ing to get all of the knowl­edge I needed in or­der to im­prove my skills. So I led some in­no­va­tion mis­sions for ma­jor groups un­til I felt con­fi­dent and I had the patent and I had po­ten­tial clients in France and I had a blue­print for a

"It took me more time to con­vince my first in­vestors than it did to raise my first mil­lion, and I'd imag­ine that was harder than it would have been for a man"

ro­bot that could re­ally work, as well as con­fi­dence in my abil­ity. In 2015 I closed my first fundrais­ing and a year-and-a-half later, we had the first in­dus­trial ver­sion of the man­nequin. Fol­low­ing on from that, our first fash­ion show was amaz­ing and many brands went crazy for our prod­uct, say­ing they needed it and

wanted it now. I had ini­tially thought we would de­sign one man­nequin and move slowly, but the pres­sure was re­ally in­tense in Europe and also from the Amer­i­can and Asian mar­kets, so I de­cided to re­ally civilise the prod­uct and hire even more peo­ple so we would have the best ser­vice and could be close to the cus­tomers and help them utilise our in­no­va­tions in seren­ity.

Now we have al­most 30 peo­ple in the Com­pany and I re­ally like to do things right for them and the Com­pany, I have a lawyer mind and when you are a lawyer, you pro­tect your client and I wanted to do the same for the fash­ion in­dus­try and its ma­jor brands, pro­tect­ing their in­ter­ests.

EME: What have been the main strug­gles you have en­coun­tered in your role as CEO, and how have you over­come them?

AB: Over the years the main is­sues I had to face were with my­self and the abil­ity to trust in my judge­ment. When you are a woman work­ing in this in­dus­try and specif­i­cally the me­chan­ics and en­gi­neer­ing sec­tor, it is re­ally hard at first to trust your­self be­cause I’m not an en­gi­neer and it took me years to be able to say I am go­ing to do this and it is go­ing to work and it is go­ing to be a suc­cess.

It is hard at first to give oth­ers con­fi­dence, as they are not used to see­ing a woman ar­rive in the me­chanic sec­tor and they would ques­tion if I was re­ally able to do it. It took me more time to con­vince my first in­vestors than it did to raise my first mil­lion, and I’d imag­ine that was harder than it would have been for a man. As ev­ery woman who has man­aged to do things right in busi­ness will know, it is be­cause I have had to work dou­ble and I con­trol ev­ery strate­gic de­ci­sion we make.

Then we had to deal with the lack of money, due pre­dom­i­nantly to the im­me­di­ate ex­pen­di­tures we were re­quired to make. We are still very dili­gent when it comes to the money we are spend­ing, as the de­vel­op­ments we re­quire cost a lot of money to achieve, as well as tak­ing into ac­count the fact that our prod­uct is a mix­ture be­tween me­chanic and elec­tronic soft­ware.

EME: In the past six years, how would you say the busi­ness world has changed for fe­males in lead­er­ship roles and how do you see it chang­ing in the fu­ture?

AB: I think it has been about two years now since the vi­sion of women in busi­ness has re­ally changed, and now it is the sub­ject of the mo­ment with the var­i­ous cam­paigns and I think it is great. Seven years ago I felt so lonely, and now I feel more con­nected to the other women who are striv­ing to feed their own am­bi­tion.

It is tra­di­tion­ally eas­ier for a man to em­power them­selves and when it comes to fe­male em­pow­er­ment, I feel that the past year in par­tic­u­lar I have been sur­rounded by amaz­ing busi­ness women and they are giv­ing their time to me. Now things are chang­ing for the bet­ter; I mean it couldn’t be worse any­way.

EME: On a gen­eral note, what would you say de­fines Eu­veka and dif­fer­en­ti­ates it from oth­ers within the sec­tor?

AB: We are proud of be­ing the leader in our field. We have just one or two very small com­peti­tors in Asia, we want to make sure that we can do in Europe the best pos­si­ble tech­nol­ogy, and we are work­ing with the most fa­mous brands in the US. We want to be an in­ter­na­tional leader and I want to show that a woman in tech, start­ing from scratch can make it and I want the big­gest brand ever! I love a chal­lenge and we are very dif­fer­ent in terms of our men­tal­ity and it is the per­fect time for us, with women be­ing wel­comed into the in­dus­try.

Be­fore it was a hin­drance to be a woman, now it is an ad­van­tage. I want to grow and be a leader now.

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