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Hélène Depraetere (Escolys): Innovating 'exponentially' requires openness & guts.

31-05-2017 in Connect

Like many of her peers, Hélène did not initially want to follow in her father’s footsteps. She decided to study Applied Economics at the Ghent University followed by Financial Management at the Vlerick Business School.

Her diplomas opened the doors at Deloitte and she seemed to be well on track for a bright career in consultancy. But the family business kept beckoning. And much quicker than anticipated, Hélène made a radical career change: "rather to specialise in one sector than to have limited access in different industries," she thought. Three years and a whole bunch of experience later, she admits: "I knew this was going to happen at some point. I always had an interest in decoration and beautiful fabrics. It just all happened a lot quicker than I expected."

Your generation handles things differently from the older generations. How do you deal with that?

"I’m lucky, because my dad is open to new ideas. More so, he even comes up with them himself. At times he is trendier than his own children. Of course we have different opinions, for example when it concerns the use of images. I believe pictures are very important for marketing and sales purposes, while the older generation might be more hesitant out of fear of getting copied.

Are you interested in new business models?

"Absolutely. That is very typical to my generation. We dare to challenge everything. We also did that at Escolys. We recently started something new. The result of a thorough analysis and out of the box thinking. In short it boils down to the fact we do not want to be exclusively active in the middle segment. A year ago we launched a collection for the higher segment. That sounds a lot simpler than it actually is. It requires a completely different approach. We want to innovate 'exponentially', which requires openness and guts."

Can companies that are firmly rooted in the industry also go directly to consumers?

"Everything is possible nowadays. Consumers are easier to reach than before, but you don’t want to underestimate the efforts. Anybody that takes that path must reinvent their entire business process and seriously invest in marketing, sales succession and logistics. I’m curious to see who will take this step in the future.

What dream do you want to realise in, say, 5 years time?

"Five years is a long time. First I hope to get to know the industry and the company even better, in order to further optimize our way of working. I’m also eager to pay more attention to sales and marketing.

But I’m no longer on my own. My brother Louis started in the company last week. Together we are happy to take on the challenge.

What are your views on the balance between your work and private life?

"I believe in having a good balance. Properly dividing the work and managing people is the solution to having some time for yourself. I live in Brussels and work in Anzegem, so the traffic jams are already a challenge to this balance. Luckily, I can easily work from home.

Hélène recently became a member of a club for young textile entrepreneurs at the request of Fedustria. Its purpose is to organise activities and create a support network with other young people. "We want to organise three to four big activities each year. Our working name is “Jongerenclub XYZ”." she adds quickly.

You can visit Hélène Depraetere and Escolys at MoOD in shed 3, from Wednesday 6 until Friday 8 September at Tour & Taxis.

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