International Women's Day 2018
Celebrating female ingenuity in business
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.