15 Dec [Interview] Ines Sánchez-Castillo – Head of International Expansion – Kymono
Andrea Bauer-Vaugan and Felix Nuebold met Kymono, a French start-up specialized in identity creation. Kymono delivers for companies a customized clothing offer. The European Champions Alliance was particularly interested in Kymono’s internationalisation process.
What is Kymono?
European Champions Alliance (ECA): Inès, can you tell us about yourself and summarize Kymono in a few words?
Ines Sánchez-Castillo: I am Ines, Head of International Expansion at Kymono. We offer several types of customization for companies. We help companies to create and share a brand image through personnalised clothing, objects and office design.
The creation of Kymono and its prospects for development in Europe
ECA: Can you summarize the creation of Kymono and tell us what motivated the founders?
ISC: Kymono was launched in 2017 by 3 partners (Olivier Ramel our CEO, Hugo Bentz our production manager and The Family). We created Kymono because we felt a real need. The market for personalized clothing has been around for a long time. But this market was suffering from an outdated image, with large margins of progress in terms of quality, customer care and support.
ECA: What are Kymono’s key figures, and what are your plans for development?
ISC: Since our creation in March 2017, we have opened offices in London and Berlin and already cover more than 1,700 companies with a wide geographical coverage. Far from a simple client/supplier relationship, we position ourselves as a true partner in the creation and development of our clients’ culture. As a result, our loyalty rate is very good.
ECA: Can you describe what made you decide to initiate international development?
ISC: Our position on the French market was good, and the market prospects were encouraging. Nevertheless, the need is everywhere, and we received requests from abroad very early on. The nature of our product also made things a little easier for us because it is easily exportable. Our premium positioning also requires us to have several showrooms throughout Europe to expose our corporate culture. Our showrooms are our “temples of culture”, and are fully part of our branding.
ECA: What type of company represents your main target?
ISC: We address any company that is sensitive to corporate culture. However, we work a lot with startups, which are the companies that are the most (culturally sensitive). We are gradually broadening our target group by addressing different segments as well as larger companies.
The challenges of internationalisation
ECA: In addition to Paris, today you have 3 showrooms in London, Berlin and Madrid. What are the most important obstacles you have encountered?
ISC: The first obstacle was the first actor syndrome. Our offer being new, we had to do the work of educating the market.
Then, recruiting international profiles that corresponded to our expectations was a real difficulty. The roles of “first employees” in international offices imply strong expectations in terms of entrepreneurial temperament, resourcefulness and language skills (English and local language, French ideally).
ECA: What are your international prospects in the very short term?
ISC: In the coming months we wish to capitalize on our already initiated development actions. We want to take a step back, digest our experiences and structure the countries we have already opened in order to improve our capacity to open new countries in the future. The first openings were real experiences for us as a young company. Now that we are a little less so, it is time to learn from these experiences and adapt our strategy to go faster and in a more scalable way. This also helps us to refine the quality of our research for future markets.
ECA: How did you perceive the international reception as a French company?
ISC: We are fortunate to operate in the fashion market, which strongly recognises French know-how. Moreover, we differentiate ourselves from our competitors by the quality of our products, and their eco-responsible and ethical character. We also take great care in the quality of our service, customer care and our flexibility to meet our customers’ demands. In fact, we have been very well received in our new markets.
ECA: In view of your international development in the next 12 months, what are the main obstacles you have identified? What would enable you to accelerate your development?
ISC: The first point is market education, because we provide a truly differentiating offer. This maturity of the market in relation to the corporate culture is an element that is not easy to assess. But it is a point that has a great impact on our ability to establish ourselves. One of the experiences we have gained from our first international developments is not to neglect these non-measurable characteristics of foreign markets. We had analyzed the market metrics that would have an impact on our sales (such as the size of the custom textile market, or the size of the promotional products market) but we had neglected the analysis of the cultural dimension in order to better understand the why and how of our market.
How can we advance European technology?
ECA: Kymono evolves in the ecosystem of European technology companies. What would you like to see evolve in the coming year to advance European technology as a whole?
ISC: European tech companies are too focused on creating competitive offers for established US players. I think we should focus our efforts on developing really new offerings that are not necessarily already covered by US companies. If we look at the United States straight away, we often ignore the real problem, which is often not comparable.
ECA: What do you need most to accelerate your international development?
ISC: Our first need is to find talent with the right skill set and the right mindset. We rely heavily on our country managers internationally.
ECA: What will Kymono look like in Europe in 3 years time?
ISC: We have given ourselves three missions: to become the European leader in customised textile/objects, to accelerate on our recent Office design offer and to develop our products while expanding into new segments. As far as office openings are concerned, our research points towards Benelux and Scandinavia, but nothing is confirmed.
ECA: Nice ambition! We hope that Kymono will become a true European champion! Thank you very much Inès for your participation.
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Article written by Andrea Bauer-Vaugan, , Executive Director of ECA, Co-founder of Wyngs, President of the Franco-German Digital Club and Vice President of the Cluny Forum and Felix Nuebold,Partner at Wyngs