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The Universal Magazine

Interview with Brieuc Izenic and Michel de Vasselot, Successors of Le Petit Dormeur Travel Pillows

Brieuc Izenic and Michel de Vasselot de Régné, promoting their travel neck pillow

At the heart of the entrepreneurial adventure, Michel de Vasselot and Brieuc Izenic redefine the comfort of travelers with Le Petit Dormeur. From their passion for innovation to their dedication to Made in France, their story is a beautiful journey. Discover their quest for reinvented nomadic rest, where each eco-responsible travel pillow is a promise of escape. Considering that the future of the planet is essential, Pierre-Antoine Tsady, founder of Ecostylia, wanted to give them the floor.

Pierre-Antoine Tsady: Hello to both of you, our readers would like to know more about you. Tell us about your educational background and what led you to entrepreneurship.

Michel de Vasselot: Since the age of 14, I have wanted to start a business. I am interested in everything and find all professions fascinating. I first pursued a degree in biology, a field that I am passionate about. In parallel, in October 2018, I co-founded Movinov, a company that creates audiovisual content for businesses in Nantes. Strengthened by this experience, I decided to turn to a Master’s in Communication and Marketing Management. After this training, I was recruited as a communication manager at Aquila Data Enabler, a company specialized in R&D in Artificial Intelligence. Always having the desire to start a business, I regularly discuss this wish with Brieuc. Being in this dynamic, the day Aymeric [de Raguenel, founder of Le Petit Dormeur, ed.] expressed his desire to find buyers for the Le Petit Dormeur project on LinkedIn, I was particularly struck by his offer.

Brieuc Izenic: Not having a clear idea of what I wanted to do after high school, I headed towards a Degree in Economics and Business Management. Always with the aim of giving myself as much freedom as possible, I joined the Audencia business school in Nantes. Then, I specialized in corporate finance jobs with one certainty in me "One day, I will start my own business". Knowing Michel for a long time and strong in our great complementarity, it was obvious to me to seize the opportunity to take over Le Petit Dormeur together.

P.-A.T.: What motivated you to take over Le Petit Dormeur? Why do you think the travel pillow represents a market of the future?

M.d.V. and B.I.: Our personal experiences have made us both sensitive to the issue of comfort in transport. That’s why it seemed obvious to us that Le Petit Dormeur was addressing a real problem. Aymeric had developed a very good product that he had barely had time to make known. So we wanted to take over the concept with the desire to develop it and professionalize it. It was important for us to invest in a project that carried our values. Indeed, Le Petit Dormeur as Aymeric had created it, was compatible with our desire to develop Made in France, sustainable and eco-responsible products.

The travel pillow market and more broadly the travel accessories market represents a market of the future for several reasons: first, we are in an era where long-distance travel is multiplying – outside the COVID period. Logically, the travel accessories market is developing in parallel. That being said, the mentality related to mobility is evolving. It is becoming increasingly important for travelers to move while limiting their carbon footprint. This is how in several European countries, we can observe the return of the night train and the increase in rail traffic in general, for a greater offer of eco-responsible mobility. Most of the reopened lines are slower routes. These new offers therefore lead travelers to buy accessories that allow them better comfort in a night train or on a long train journey.

More and more people are sleeping in cars with a travel pillow, much like this young woman
More and more people are sleeping in cars with a travel pillow, much like this young woman

P.-A.T.: How did the process of taking over the company go? What are you most proud of since you took over?

M.d.V. and B.I.: When we got in touch with Aymeric in September 2022, we were not the only ones wanting to take over Le Petit Dormeur – more than a dozen projects. Before committing ourselves, we wanted to work on a market study and a forecast study to have a clearer idea of the company’s potential. This led us to make a financial proposal and present a development strategy to Aymeric. Following the presentation of our work, he chose to trust us. After several weeks dedicated to drafting the contract for the transfer of the brand, patent and company, we officially took it over on December 7, 2022.

From December 2022 to September 2023, we were not full time on the project. It was in September 2023 that we left our permanent contracts to dedicate ourselves 100% to the development of the project. Since then, growth has been very strong. Our greatest pride is the success we had at the Made in France fair. In 4 days, we sold all the stocks planned for November and December.

From left to right: Brieuc Izenic and Michel de Vasselot celebrating the first anniversary of the takeover of Le Petit Dormeur
From left to right: Brieuc Izenic and Michel de Vasselot celebrating the first anniversary of the takeover of Le Petit Dormeur

P.-A.T.: How did you collaborate with Aymeric de Raguenel during the transition phase?

M.d.V. and B.I.: During the transition phase, it was important for us to keep a link with Aymeric to understand why he had done things one way rather than another. The secret to a successful handover: a lot of communication, trust and transparency.

P.-A.T.: Why did you choose Made in France, as well as the Oeko-Tex label? Tell us more.

M.d.V. and B.I.: We wanted our products to be part of an approach and values that are dear to us. We chose Made in France for several reasons: to support the French industry, to value French know-how and short supply chains. As for the OEKO-TEX label, it reflects our desire to make products that respect the environment and the health of our consumers. We have developed a range of product — solid colors — made from upcycled fabrics. These are fabric scraps from major brands. Instead of being thrown away, we recover them to make our cushions.

The Petit Dormeur kit is probably the best travel pillow on the market
The Petit Dormeur kit is probably the best travel pillow on the market

P.-A.T.: You recently transitioned from another job to a full-time commitment with Le Petit Dormeur. Can you tell us about this decision and its impact on your career path and the company?

M.d.V. and B.I.: We both made this choice in September 2023. An entrepreneurial project cannot develop properly without putting a lot of energy into it. If we chose to embark on this adventure, it is to commit ourselves 100%, because we believe a lot in the potential of this project. This involvement has changed everything for the company. It is this energy that allowed us to have an excellent end of the year 2023, far exceeding the set sales target. Regarding the career, it is certain that it is not easy to go from the security of employment to the uncertainty of entrepreneurship. However, the adventure is really exciting and stimulating. The workdays pass at 1000 miles per hour and getting to work every morning is a real joy!

P.-A.T.: You are very responsive with your community on social media. Do you have any tips to share with our readers who want to start a business?

M.d.V. and B.I.: We choose to be close to our community, because we believe in the power of the network. First advice, do not underestimate the strength of your network and cultivate it to the maximum! Social networks are an effective means for this, even if they do not replace physical encounters. Set yourself goals — achievable — short, medium and long term. Looking at the top of the mountain to climb is much more discouraging than looking at the next step to take.

P.-A.T.: Tell us about your meeting with Valérie Pécresse.

M.d.V. and B.I.: Valérie Pécresse came to visit the 2023 edition of the Made in France fair. It turns out that before coming, she had traveled 12 hours by plane. We had the opportunity to give her a complete demonstration of our travel cushion. Apparently, she liked the concept since she became a customer.

Michel de Vasselot demonstrates his travel pillow for the neck
Michel de Vasselot demonstrates his travel pillow for the neck

P.-A.T.: You are brothers-in-law, is it complicated to work in the family in your case?

M.d.V. and B.I.: In our case, it goes very well. We have set several rules so that our collaboration does not weigh on our family life. First of all, not to talk about Le Petit Dormeur at family gatherings. Then, to ensure that our organization clearly separates professional life and personal life. This is a particularly difficult point in entrepreneurship.

P.-A.T.: Finally, what was your approach to developing and launching derivative products? What vision do you have for the future of the company, in terms of new products, innovations and market strategies?

M.d.V. and B.I.: To develop and launch our new products, we rely on our work of analysis and market watch. But also on the field feedback from all our customers and prospects. Today, Le Petit Dormeur, is already more than 1000 convinced customers who give us feedback on their thoughts, their needs, etc.

For the year 2024, we plan to develop our product range. In the short term, we will release a Le Petit Dormeur cushion for children and develop the designs — colors and patterns — of our adult cushions and sleep masks.