“Ex-management controller, I set up my clothing brand in Senegal”

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Yoann Aboulkassimi partage sa vie entre Paris et Dakar, où les ateliers de confection de sa marque se trouvent.

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Posted on Jan 6, 2022, 12:58 PMUpdated Jan 6, 2022, 1:04 PM

“I saw my father founding his company, so I grew up in entrepreneurship and it has always fascinated me. My vision: it is through contact with the field that we learn the most. My father is of Moroccan origin, from a working-class background. My parents have always strived to instill in me the values ​​of work. The idea of ​​entrepreneurship attracted me, but I preferred to start my career as an employee.

After my high school diploma in Saint-Maur-des-Fossés (Val-de-Marne), I joined the ESG business school (now PSB London School of Business). I specialized in management control there, because it seemed to me to be a position that would allow me to touch everything. During this course, I did a two-year work-study program at La Poste, in Roissy. It was very rewarding, because my tutor quickly gave me responsibilities. When she wasn't there, I even managed the team.

A year of traveling

My work-study program ended, La Poste offered to stay, but I preferred to travel. I was lucky to have parents who allowed me to travel with them every year as a child, and I loved roaming around. So I flew to Australia, where I joined a friend who was finishing his studies.

We worked as bicycle taxis, a concept that did not yet exist in London, for four months. Thanks to this well-paid job, I was able to save money. Then, we bought a 4×4 that we equipped with some friends and we went along the coasts of Australia, taking people we met on the way. I loved the country a lot but I couldn't see myself spending my life there.

Following a technical problem with our 4×4, we decided to use our savings to roam South-East Asia for a month, then to take a road-trip for more than months from London to Agadir, in Morocco.

It had been a little over a year since I finished my work-study program, and I told myself that it was time to get back to work. Where ? I love London but I couldn't see myself going back there right away. For me, working there was going into a routine and I wasn't ready for that. I needed discovery, with an international position.

I inquired about the VIE offers (international volunteering in companies) in Africa, a continent that I wanted to discover. Three posts caught my attention: one in Senegal, one in Gabon, one in Morocco. Morocco, I already knew. After some research and discussions with those around me, and positive feedback on Senegal, I decided to apply there, at Servair, a subsidiary of the Air London-KLM group and gategroup, specializing in airline catering. The company was looking for a financial manager for a two-year assignment. My profile was selected and I moved to Dakar in January 2017. I liked the position straight away, I had responsibilities and my daily life was very dynamic.

Tailor-made clothing

I regularly went to have clothes made at the local tailor. Senegalese tailors are renowned for tailor-made. There are almost on every street corner. We buy the fabric in the market, then we go to one of them to show him what we want. We then agree on the price. Bargaining is deeply rooted in the local culture.

Many Muslim or Christian locals make outfits for the days of prayer. I often asked for reversible bombers, with fabric on each side.

I regularly returned to London to see my relatives. Each time, my entourage complimented me on my clothes made by the local tailor. Many asked me if I could bring them one on my next visit.

An entrepreneurial idea

Little by little, the idea of ​​making clothes in Senegal and reselling them in London seemed promising to me. With three friends sharing this opinion – my best friend who came to see me in Senegal and two friends I had met there (a Englishman and a Senegalese) – we organized clothing sales in London in the spring of 2018. I m I mainly took care of the production part in Senegal with one, and the other two sold in London.

Thanks to word of mouth, we participated in more and more events. In particular, we had a stand on the forecourt of La Défense and made sales in pop-up stores in London. We saw that our concept and the story of the clothes were popular, and we started to create a great community.

The project took up more and more of our time, and I spent most of my free time taking care of it. During my second year at Servair, there was a real enthusiasm for the project. So much so that I decided to devote myself fully to it. I negotiated a conventional break in August 2018, before the end of my VIE, and co-founded Le Petit Dakarois six months later.

Two workshops in Senegal

Since then, the company has grown. We now have two workshops in Dakar, we employ around fifteen people, sometimes more in times of peak activity. We manufacture several products. Our flagship piece? Reversible bombers. One side is made with a wax fabric with colorful patterns, the other is plain, with a reminder of the colored fabric on the pockets. We also make clean t-shirts, with a touch of pattern, for example on the pockets.

Offering a fair price is important to us: we agree on the price with the couturiers then we sell at a fixed price, we refuse to bargain and we never have sales. There is something for everyone: artisans, fabric suppliers, and us. Our bombers are sold for 89 Pounds. I am proud to work with more and more people. In Senegal, a job can support a whole family, and that motivates us a lot.

A voluntary project in parallel with the creation of a business

One of my co-founder friends of the club comes from Kiniabour, a small village 70 km south of Dakar, where there was no drinking water and only electricity when we met, in 2017. The school was dilapidated, the dispensary too. We wanted to improve local living conditions, with a social project. Since then, we have voluntarily renovated the dispensary.

We decided to go further in our support for the village, by donating part of the company's profits to this renovation. The next step, perhaps: renovating the school.

Today, I share my life between Dakar and London. We joined La Caserne in June 2021, the largest fashion and luxury ecological transition incubator in Europe, located in the heart of London. This will give us a lot of visibility and allow us to open a sales corner on site. This will allow people to see our work.

We will also be able to benefit from a large network, because La Caserne is home to many brands that help each other. This will potentially offer us new opportunities for collaboration with stores and suppliers. We also benefit from masterclasses organized free of charge, the most recent allowing us to know how to calculate and reduce our carbon footprint. An important point for us. “

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