From toys and cable to shoes

At 50, Stéphane Treppoz has already applied his business acumen to five different fields. The first, after business studies in his native France, was in the US, where he spent five years as head of the local subsidiary of toy manufacturer Meccano. Returning home, he developed high-speed cable for Vivendi before becoming the head of AOL France in 1998. Six years later he decided to invest in start-ups and became a consultant for investment fund Wendel.

When he took the reins of Sarenza, a French online shoe-shopping site, the challenge was major. “At that time, no one thought of the internet as a place to buy something that you like to try on before buying”, he says. “Our strategy was both simple and effective: huge supply combined with exemplary customer service.” That means an inventory of 55,000 items, with delivery in less than 24 hours and free returns within 100 days. Sarenza is available in 28 European countries, but its main market is France. “We hope to soon expand 24-hour shipping to other countries”, says Treppoz.