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Solios stands apart with ecoresponsible watches

Entrepreneur’s corner | August 17 2021

Two young entrepreneurs from Montréal are revolutionizing the watch industry with their products that combine contemporary design, advanced technology and ecoresponsibility. The experts from PME MTL Grand Sud-Ouest have been by their side since the beginning.

A few years ago, Alexandre Desabrais and Samuel G. Leroux, both recent graduates of HEC Montréal, wanted to start a business, but they didn’t know where to begin. After seeing a documentary about the environmental challenges facing the planet, they decided that their business would “make the world of tomorrow a better place in a tangible way”.

So what cutting-edge market niche did they choose? Watches powered by solar energy. What was their reasoning? If all of the watches the currently run on batteries (quartz) were powered in a different way, the global production of more than 300 million batteries per year could be avoided.

Prove the need, don’t cause the need

Based on this approach, Solios Watches received financing from PME MTL’s Fund to support the commercialization of innovations. Anne-Laure Boutouiller, Business Advisor at PME MTL Grand Sud-Ouest, recalls: “It was more than just the umpteenth luxury watch. This product is unique and embraces the concept of ecoresponsibility, and it is definitely innovative.”

Even before it was launched, the business demonstrated – not once, but twice – that there was a desire for its products among consumers. A launch party with 600 guests that was held in October 2018 resulted in sales in excess of $65,000 worth of prototypes in only 30 minutes. Alexandre Desabrais explains: “Many people came out of friendship for us. However, at an average sale price of $250, they voted with their wallets after falling in love with our watches.”

That evening also marked the beginning of a month-long crowdfunding campaign on the Kickstarter platform. The initial objective was to generate $25,000 in pre-sales, but the result was an avalanche of sales valued at more than $100,000. “Not only did the results exceed expectations by a large margin, but the two entrepreneurs also demonstrated an impressive ability to move beyond their immediate network to generate sales,” Anne-Laure Boutouiller remarks.

Rapid reaction

The interest that Solios Watches was already attracting was doubtlessly due to the fact that its eco-friendly vocation is confirmed in every component: solar technology to avoid the production of batteries, waste-free metal colouring, recycled plastic, cork inlays instead of rubber, silicone-based leather straps, certified recycled steel cases, locally designed packaging using 100% recycled and recyclable cardboard, etc.

For the two founders, the initial popularity was all the more satisfying because it wasn’t produced through marketing efforts. “It was important to us that the interest was generated organically right from the start, without artificially stimulating demand,” Samuel G. Leroux points out.

In September 2020, Solios became the very first watch to receive B Corp certification, which added to its credibility. “This is one of our greatest accomplishments! It certifies that we use the brand as a catalyst for positive change, and that we meet the strictest standards in terms of environmental and social impact.”

Success at home and abroad

The liquid capital generated by the pre-sales enabled the Company to manufacture its first products. PME MTL then provided financial assistance to support the commercialization of the products and to help grow the brand, both at the local and international levels. The consumer response was immediate, and despite the pandemic, Solios generated sales in excess of $700,000 over the past year in some forty countries. In fact, nearly two-thirds of its orders already come from outside of Québec – and exclusively online.

In addition, local sales more than doubled following the appearance of Alexandre Desabrais and Samuel G. Leroux on the entrepreneurial television show Dans l’œil du dragon (French version of Dragon’s Den). Two dragons agreed to invest $180,000, while a third wanted to invest $160,000.

Reinvestment for innovation

In this vein, Anne-Laure Boutouiller commends the business savvy of the two entrepreneurs, along with their aptitude for networking, which was first proven during the pre-sale stage. “It’s always satisfying to finance entrepreneurs who understand the importance of having the right people around them, and to reach out to external expertise when needed.”

In terms of networking, Alexandre Desabrais and Samuel G. Leroux have solicited “thousands of suppliers” in the area of research and development, which is an integral component in their business model. In fact, their goal is to constantly reinvest to ensure the evolution of their products and to stand apart with an offer that combines future thinking and design.

“The giants in our industry are interested in solar energy products, but for them, it represents only one category among many. For us, we remain steadfast in terms of both performance and style. For example, our solar panel must be both effective and invisible, because it cannot be allowed to impact the final design.”

For Solios, this commitment to innovation and refusal to compromise has attracted large players, including Desjardins and Rogers, who are now among the Company’s business clients. In addition, the two young entrepreneurs have been thrust into the spotlight by Volvo, the automobile manufacturer, in a video that holds them up as a role model for ecoresponsibility.

An impressive ability to move beyond their immediate network to generate sales.

Interest was generated organically right from the start, without artificially stimulating demand.

Solios is supported by PME MTL Grand Sud-Ouest

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