Talking of an extraordinary woman, who knows what she wants and is not afraid of the unknown and taking the plunge. Eline De Munck sets the bar high and expects the same from others.
Can we all borrow a bit of that fierce-less attitude, please? Read along for the valuable learnings she encountered along the way.
1. Eline, can you tell us something about yourself?
Today I'm a 32 year old woman who feels a lot stronger than a couple of years ago. I come from the showbizz scene, where I was only a tiny part of a bigger picture. Now in my own company "Odette Lunettes" I am more in control of the chain and I feel more comfortable with having full impact.
Next to that, I definitely feel more balanced than a few years ago. However as an entrepreneur there are also many challenges coming your way. For example, I've dealt with a lot of disappointments in the past. Over the years I learned to deal with these better by trying to rationalise more and more, which is totally against my emotional nature, but hey, I'm still learning every day.
Furthermore people often describe me as a demanding person. Somehow I am indeed demanding, I put the bar high in everything I do, for myself, for my brand but also for the people around me. I firmly believe that if you're not demanding in life, you will not reach your goals. You have to fight for it, because it's not offered on a silver platter. Being demanding sometimes translates into the difficulty of letting go of control. I can only really let go of control when I know that I am in good hands and that there is a certain degree of trust. As I am a rather emotional person I always try to bring on a rational approach. So in all my work relations I try to communicate clearly about the KPI's which have to be met. In this way everybody knows what the goal is and on which parameters one has to steer. This also makes evaluation easy: which goals have been achieved, and which haven't?
2. At the moment you are in charge of Odette Lunettes, how did this business idea emerge?While working for Jim TV as a broadcaster years ago, at a certain moment my eyes were so bad I couldn't read the autodidact. I soon noticed it was super hard to find cool, fashionable glasses. My stylist and I started looking for a pair, and we found a nice selection which I wore on television and almost immediately I received tons of positive reactions. I was one of the first really young people on television wearing glasses, as a kind of role model.
However, I felt a bit embarrassed when I had to refer all the women to all those very expensive and exclusive brands. My lover at that time Bob and I saw this as an opportunity to bring the same cool, unique models on the market with good quality however in an affordable way. Enter: Odette Lunettes.
3. How did you effectively develop this idea into the reality it is today ?
Unfortunately, there are no tutorials on "how to create a business in eyewear" (laughs).
Everything starts with market research, which is of course very time consuming, but the insights you can gain are super valuable. For example, we went to the largest eyewear fair "Silmo" in Paris and arranged meetings with agents, opticians and manufacturers. Our goal was really to map out as much as possible, so that we really faced as few surprises as possible.
With that business plan and our own savings we started off. We literarily put everything we had into our first collection. After creating a marketing campaign around our first collection, we sold it in a temporary pop-up shop. In only two months time we were completely sold out. That gave us the signal to continue.
From the outset we invested in a real digital-first approach, and systems like our own CRM system, a stock management system and a B2B sales platform linked to it. These systems provide the right backbone, and still give us a certain agility.
4. Where would you like to go with Odette Lunettes in the future?
World domination, we dare to dream far too little in Belgium!
World domination can have a different meaning for everyone. At the moment we are sold in 16 countries, so for some people this could already be 'world domination'. The bottom line is that we want to grow and innovate the company continuously.
5. Were you ever afraid of making the wrong choice saying goodbye to your showbizz career to be able to focus more on Odette Lunettes?
It wasn't difficult for me at all, I have absolutely no fear of the unknown, somewhere it attracts me even more. I know myself well enough to surround myself with the right partners. When I jump Bob takes care of the parachute. We complement each other very well.
In addition, I had come to a certain point in my life where I could say of myself that I was not an exceptional actress or singing talent. Even though I was probably better than the average Belgian, I realized very well that my career would come to an end at a certain moment. Back then I was working so hard to constantly "market" myself: I had to maintain a high-profile and had to have coloured opinions on things so people would know who I was and people would talk about me. However, in the long run that game becomes very exhausting. In the long run you just get tired of people judging you 24/7. However, my strength of putting something on the market has been sharpened tremendously. I can now apply those capacities in Odette Lunettes.
I didn't think that taking ‘the jump’ was really brave of myself - if you don't jump you can't fall either. Simple as that. People shouldn't get stuck in that eternal uncertainty, there are so many opportunities when you open your eyes. We live in a country where you can really fall and stand up, all support measures are there, so for me the choice was quickly made.
6. How do you juggle all those responsibilities with your personal life?
My businessís my personal life - laughs. At the moment I have no children, no husband, and I try to make good use of the time I have to myself. I work out a lot in order to clear my head. I am a avid runner, 10 kilometres is about my daily breakfast ;-) I do this without music or other stimuli, to be fully immersed in the here and now, with a view to infinity. I really feel that this makes me feel much better mentally. It also helps me to start the day with a hell of a lot of energy.
7. What value do you deem most important? Can you see them in your entourage?
Individuality & authenticity are super important to me. My boyfriends have always been completely different types than myself. I'm always on the lookout for something new. The unknown attracts me. I also find it really inspiring to get to know people in their own uniqueness and to hear other ideas and broaden my view on the world.
I really appreciate that individuality in my staff as well. I try to support them as much as possible to let them blossom to full capacity, without thinking too much in boxes. I am always 100% myself, for some people that seems very strange in the beginning, since they already have a certain impression of me from television. However, I'm just myself and I expect people around me to be able to be themselves as well.
8. What's on your bucket list for the next 5 years?
I’m not a big fan of bucket lists, I have world domination, which in itself is quite a broad goal, but that's fine with me. I like to seize opportunities. I never fixate too much in advance on a certain goal or outcome, because I strongly believe that this narrows your vision. In addition, I am disappointed if I don't achieve something for whatever reason.
Look for example now with the COVID19 crisis, the retail world is upside down, we can be very agile as a company because we have never fixated ourselves too much in a certain direction.
9. If you could give a tip to other ambitious women, what would it be?
DO IT, you really just have to do it. I regularly hear that from other female entrepreneurs that they don't dare to jump as fast. If a man is 50% convinced of something, he goes all-in. Women have to be 170% convinced of something before they dare to jump. That's a pity, because if you have the ability and you believe in something and have done enough research, you just have to take the plunge!
I have also been the ambassador of Equal payday last year. This is an initiative that deals with the fact that today, in our current society, a woman chooses to work less. This is simply because it has grown so culturally. I really strive for equal rights for men and women. Don't get me wrong if a woman consciously chooses to do this, that's fine, but for me personally the man should also fall into this role more often.
10. Who can definitely not miss our Braavheart section to your opinion?
Dominique Temmerman is the owner of Flanelles.be. She started as a sales representative for Odette Lunettes and was always super ambitious. During the Covid pandemic in March we had to put her on temporary unemployment. In that period she started her own webshop, currently she combines this with a pop-up shop @ PAKT in Antwerp. I’m super proud of her, she handles everything in such a professional way and has a good vision on the future. I really wish her all the best!