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Marie Philippe Lebel: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur

Today's Notable Young Entrepreneur is Marie-Philippe Lebel, whose company, VU sunglasses combines optometry services with a carefully curated selection of luxury sunglasses at attainable prices for savvy young professional customers

Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Marie-Philippe Lebel, whose company, VU sunglass combines optometry services with a carefully curated selection of luxury sunglasses at attainable prices for savvy young professional customers…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
VU sunglass provides access to a carefully curated selection of luxury sunglasses priced for style-conscious consumers. Each collection of sunglasses is handselected and illustrates an eclectic representation of the designer’s entire season.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
This career route was totally unexpected for me. From a young age, the fashion industry was my dream. My goal was to work in an international powerhouse such as Karla Otto, but after several internships within the industry my perspective on the fashion world changed. After graduation, I knew I wanted to have a career that would not only entail being savvy in business, but also where I could incorporate creativity. After living in Toronto for over four years, I moved back to Montreal and started working as an assistant marketing manager for a Canadian luxury brand. As much as I loved fashion, I thrived for more responsibility. The fashion industry is not how it is portrayed. After several years of interning across multiple different industry segments such as media, design, public relations in various countries, I started to seek a new challenge. I wanted to create something where I could be more involved from a brand’s starting point and build from the ground up. Not even one year into my new job, an opportunity to launch an e-commerce platform presented itself. I remember hearing this inner voice saying, “DO IT!” The next week I left my job and VU sunglass was born.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part? 
The best part of my job on a day-to-day basis is juggling different aspects of building a brand image that will work within my target market and also the market itself. Building an entire inventory of eclectic sunwear to a complement brand image, I get to work with some of the most talented people, from eyewear designers to web designers. It’s a very humbling experience to be able to exchange with such creators. The fact that I have personal connection to every aspect of my job makes every day and every experience better than the one before.

The most challenging part is most definitely building a brand image where people will hopefully relate as well as become loyal. These days, there is so much competition, and Generation Y, which happens to be our target market, are very savvy customers. They know what they want and most likely seek for exclusivity. 

Trying to also fit everything I need to do in a 24 -our window is tough. I say 24 hours because work doesn’t stop at 5pm… ever. Every day feels like Friday and Monday all at the same time. My girlfriend and I have a saying: A week should be 9 days; 7 work days and 2 for the weekend. That way you can truly appreciate the two days. 

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
I don’t know if I’ve truly found the perfect balance just yet…. starting this project from scratch is most definitely time consuming and you have to dedicate as much time as possible to ensure that everything will be perfect, but quality time with family and friends is just as important to me. At the end of the day, what’s the point of working hard if you have nobody to share it with?

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully within five years we will be expanding our e-commerce to an international level. Also, we would like to open small pop-up boutiques in specific segments of the world once we have launched internationally. A few cities that are currently on our minds are New York, Rio and Lisbon. Pop-ups are a great way to gain visibility within a market for a short amount of time, allowing you to move quickly and increase your visibility at a lower cost. Most people are seeking for tangibility in products, especially sunglasses. Having an online presence is great, but we believe that the experience is complementary when a brick and mortar shop is part of the service offering. I also hope to be travelling the world to find new and exciting brands !

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
The original opportunity to start VU sunglass was presented by my father ,who has been an optician for 30 years and is co-owner of the brick and mortar VU Optique Avant Gardistes.

For me, I believe it all had to do with trust. There’s a level of trust I don’t think you can have with anyone else besides a parent. It’s definitely not a traditional path to entrepreneurship, but it seemed as though teaming up would bring strong advantages on both ends of the spectrum. The challenge is to create the boundaries between personal and business and knowing when to let go. At the end of the day, I was fortunate enough to start a business with him. It’s taken some transitioning on both of our parts, but I wouldn’t see myself doing this with any one else but him; my father is my mentor.

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Success to me is the ability to live the life that you want for yourself regardless the limitations that society puts in front of you. It is to prove to those who say you can’t that you very well can. Happiness entails being happy with yourself at first and then sharing this happiness with those you’ve decided to surround yourself with; your support system, your loved ones. I wouldn’t say that money alone would truly make you happy because it isn’t real.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Every day that goes by, I find a more memorable moment than the last one. Presently, I would say the launch of VU sunglass.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Believe in yourself and your product/services.

Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
I live in little Italy so I am always up for a pizza or a plate of marubini! Gemma and Impsato is most definitely were you will find me throughout the week. I also have a slight addiction to the paella at Barroco… when I crave it, there is no stopping me. Without hesitation, my late afternoon snack would be the Halloum sandwich at Depanneur Le Pick.

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
I grew up in the Laurentides, so when I have any spare time I drive up to my family’s cottage for some peace and quiet. I’m the most content when I can throw in an afternoon of snowshoeing in the winter and paddle boarding in the summer.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
Places I’ve never travelled too. 

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Eclectic mornings.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Probably designing my own line of eyewear.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
We recently included Karen Walker in our offering. The designer did a collection called Visible, which is a collaboration with the United Nations ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative to create work in community groups and micro-artisans located in urban slums and disadvantage rural areas in Kenya. Inspired by their work, we are working towards collaborating with the initiative ourselves.

What to you is notable?
Innovation. Creation. Forthcoming

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