At the headquarters in Saint-Denis, photographers are busy unfolding clothes. In five studios, flashes crackle to feed the online catalog of the Paris Fashion Shops marketplace, under the keen eye of Jacky Chang, the president and founder. On the ground floor, in a warehouse, 3,000 packages are patiently waiting to be shipped to 150 countries. Dresses, jackets, sweaters or T-shirts from 1200 Parisian wholesalers pile up in these boxes.
Jacky Chang doesn’t hide his pride. With 60 employees, the company he founded in 2016 connects Parisian wholesalers and independent fashion boutiques around the world. With casually a 10% commission and customer service, his company generates 8.2 million euros in revenue and brews 50 million euros in financial flows per year, a figure that grows by 50% each year.
The entrepreneur has just taken a new step. In early March, Jacky Chang launched Bonjour Shops, a tool that allows stores to create their own e-commerce site for initially 20 of its customers.
It was not won. Because Jacky Chang, himself a former wholesaler in Aubervilliers, has come a long way. And nothing stopped this 48-year-old man, with no digital education, from leading a start-up.
He was barely 10 years old when he arrived in France with his parents, fishmongers from Zhejiang Province in China. In Paris it will be leather workers. After school, their son helps them cut the bags in the family workshop. But just before the baccalaureate, he dropped out of his studies. “We are a family of entrepreneurs. Since my management teacher was absent, I decided that life would teach me more than school,” he smiles.
With his wife Rebecca, also the daughter of a wholesaler, and the 100,000 francs his parents had saved for him, he founded his first leather goods company… starting with ready-to-wear and soon creating his own collections. “The strength of my parents, the first generation of immigrants, was the courage to work tirelessly. My generation’s is to improve it through creativity,” he says.
Jacky Chang was a textile wholesaler in Aubervilliers for over twenty years. But faced with the big brands of fast fashion, the workshops supplying the independent stores are quickly out of breath. Its turnover is declining, just like that of its competitors… and its cousin, also in the sector.
He then came up with the idea of Paris Fashion Shops. “Jacky came up to me and explained the concept to me,” recalls Johnny Chang, now a partner and chief operating officer of the company. It was a huge risk because we had to let go of our respective companies, the ones that paid our bills…. But I shared his observation, I know he has a nice nose, and then we don’t say no to Uncle! “Working as a family is sometimes complicated, but it is also our strength. Because we can talk candidly with each other and… channel my uncle”.
The mechanics of the market
The general opinion is that Jacky is a go-getter. Maybe too much. “He has 10,000 ideas a minute, sometimes to the point of putting the cart before the horse,” laughs Didier Rosenberg, co-founder of the Datawords company and investor in Paris Fashion Shops alongside the Eurazeo fund. From our first meeting I saw that he had understood all the mechanisms of the market. He is concrete and pragmatic, because he has stood in the position of his clients. And the greatest successes of tech start-ups are achieved by those who come out of the business, not developers,” says the investor.
Despite his enthusiasm, Jacky Chang wants to develop step by step: “First we will consolidate our business in France. The 1,200 suppliers that go through us represent only 1.25% of the turnover of the Parisian wholesalers. He will then develop a model for high-end brands. Only then did he consider going international, setting up a Milano Fashion Shops, a London Fashion Shop or even a New York Fashion Shops…