Developing Future Entrepreneurs - A Presentation From The Founder Of toucanBox

Virginie Charles Dear discussing the growth of toucanBox

Thursday 19th October 2017

To support the future business entrepreneurs in creating visionary new businesses and game-changing new products, toucanBox was the host to some of the top final year students from the EDHEC International Business School. The event was presented by Toucan Chief Virginie Charlés-Dear, who shared the toucanBox story, her inspiration, vision to disrupt the market and what it takes to make a great entrepreneur. The event culminated in an invigorating Q&A, where Virginie shared some great insight into her experiences. We’ve picked some of our highlights, and sat down to catch up with some of the young entrepreneurs in attendance.

Business school students attend future entrepreneurs presentation


A lively Q&A followed the main presentation, with lots of questions ranging from inspiration, development and handling growth. Here are just a few of our favourites.

At the beginning: Did you just start to create boxes or did you make sure that the organisation around it was built up at the same time?

“There was much less organisation at the beginning. It was basically three of us sitting on the same desk and doing every task. Now we’re much more organised: we plan each quarter with OKRs (Objectives & Key Results), to also measure how we performed against expectations. We’re now more process driven than we were at the beginning. Which doesn’t mean that you should start thinking or worrying about scaling a business straight from the beginning. It’s more important to act first instead of worrying what will happen if you are shipping thousands of boxes.”

When did you build your first boxes?

“That was when I was technically still with another start up, but on maternity leave. And basically when it was time to go back, I didn’t go back as I had something else. For me it was great as I could try something new but still had the safety of being able to go back if it doesn’t work. However going back after you have started a business would have been really hard.”

When did you decide to invest in tech?

“I remember this very well. In November 2012 there was an incident - the allocation employee mixed up lines in his excel sheet, which can happen, of course. The outcome was that a bunch of boxes was send out to names and addresses which didn’t match. At that point we only had one tech colleague, but I decided to make it a priority to get away from manual order processing.”

What are the core values of your company?

“It’s the love for toucanBox. I learn every day and I want everybody to learn everyday. Our other core values are ‘be genuine’, ‘be aware of yourself but be also aware of others’ and ‘give feedback so that everybody progresses’. Love what you do. We want passionate people who love to come to work and I think this is reflected in the people working for toucanBox.”

Our school teaches us to launch a company right after finishing the school. At the point where you are not used to earning a lot of money, you have no family to take care of, and so on. You did it completely differently. What’s your opinion on that?

“These are two different philosophies. I was about to say that the best time for you to do it is when you’re feeling ready. But actually, you will never really feel ready. A good time could be when you have the feeling that there’s nothing else out there right now for you. You have this amazing idea and you can’t imagine not doing it. If you’re not really passionate about doing it, there will be so many situations where you think about giving up. You need to be really committed. It also helps to have a co-founder. So was it hard? Yes, because I was losing a salary. But I received a salary before and saved some money that allowed me to start toucanBox. Me and my husband actually quit our jobs at the same time to start a company each and having a 3-year old and a newborn didn’t make things easier. But you can always go back.

“I think the biggest thing I learned is to not be scared to fail. It doesn’t matter if you fail, you just go and do something else.”

EDHEC students visiting toucanBox

A Sit Down With Future Entrepreneurs

After the event we sat down with a few students to discuss their learning, and how valuable it is to see a business in action.

How valuable is it to speak to someone leading a company like toucanBox?

“Inspiration was the biggest part for me. Virginie told us how she got started exactly as it was scripted in some of the books we’ve read. Like ‘The Lean Startup’. She showed us that the theory really works in practice. It’s inspiring that it really works.”

What did you find the most helpful advice/feedback?

“Hire people that are better than you. Spend time on the iteration process. Adapt your product. Get customer feedback. Build, measure, lear. Adjust adjust adjust.”

“Something that really jumped out to me was her perspective. Before you’re going to solve a problem, but find a problem that needs to be solved. But she took an even more narrow view - solve a problem that you have. That makes it even more efficient.”

“When she said she didn’t respect what the book said, and listened to her gut feeling, that’s something that resonates a lot with me. It’s cool to go with the books, but it’s much cooler to just go. Test right after the outcome, and fail fast.”

What differences do you see between studying in the classroom vs seeing a company in action?

“This kind of meeting has been great. We don’t have too much opportunity to collaborate, to bring community to a project. This is great to meet people, share ideas, experience the progress firsthand.”

What impact do you want to have as an entrepreneur in the future?

“We all have ideas for businesses.Personally when I came to this masters I had hundreds, but now I stick with one. It might work, it might not work, I don’t know, but I’m passionate about it and I’ll use all the resources I’ve got to make it happen.”

“Initially I think - if you like what you’re doing, you enjoy it, that’s success. But just because you’re working for yourself doesn’t mean it’s going to be great. For me, the drive starts from the self. Have the passion, have the people involved in it actually believe in it. I don’t have anything that specific with what I’m going to do. I just want to see what happens. I know I’m going to enjoy it, I know it’s going to matter to me.”

Insights Index