How Peru Inspired Three 23-Year Old Backpackers To Start a Socially-Conscious Business!

A Pair Of Peru Shoes

Updated August 28th, 2018.

When three 23-year old French backpackers travelled to Peru last year, they didn’t think that their journey would result in a life-changing project.

Wandering through the streets of Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire, they came across a pair of shoes, sneakers to be precise, with a textile pattern that was unique and eye-catching.

Enchanted, they bought a pair each and immediately started discussing how to create a wider market for the shoes. Why not bring this distinct design to Europe and the rest of the Western world?

Create something unique and fashionable? AND – at the same time, create a brand that would be beneficial to the local people of Peru… Here is their special story!

First of all, Tell us a Little About Yourselves

We are three: Armand, Henri and Nicolas all 23 years old. We just got out of University where we have studied Business & Marketing in Paris in France. We had been thinking of launching our own enterprise for a while. The timing of the project has fitted perfectly with our aspirations.

The Three Entrepreneurs Behind PerúsThe three young entrepreneurs!

Where did you get the inspiration to start Perús?

It’s during a backpacking trip in South America in July 2014 that we got the inspiration. We were walking around Cuzco streets and we saw some colorful sneakers. We bought them straight away and in the following minute, we were already discussing how we could bring these shoes to France and create a brand.

Rapidly we discussed how we could transform the product to fit the European market and become an elegant piece of streetwear. Our philosophy is to be a link between the authenticity of the Peruvian culture and the modernity of occidental and urban sneakers.

Why in Particular Did you Decide on Trainers and the Inca Pattern?

During the road trip, our admiration for Peruvian culture became important and we were thinking of several ways to promote this culture in the occidental world.

When we saw the trainers in Cuzco, we thought that it was the perfect ingredient to combine the two cultures. It was something we never saw before and looked so cool. It was a kind of a ‘eureka’ moment and it seemed completely obvious to start working 100% on this project.

When Was The Exact Point That You Decided to Create the Business?

It was completely spontaneous, at first it sounded a bit like some kind of joke but I think we were already quite serious about it in our mind. We didn’t have enough facts and ideas yet to sound too serious, that’s why we had this entertaining approach.

We really started working together on the business in September 2014 after the holidays, when we were all three together in Paris. In mid-September, we isolated ourselves during one entire week in a house in the countryside. We worked 16 hours a day and started defining all the different aspects of the project.

How and Where are the Shoes Designed and Manufactured?

We came back to Peru in November to meet Alexandra. We had contacted her and other suppliers via mail in September. Out of all of them, she was by far the most responsive and quick to understand our concerns.

The fit with Alexandra and Luis was perfect from the beginning. They treated us like family and did a lot of effort to help us discover the Peruvian culture with greater depth than during our first trip.

We started working on the prototypes together. We started looking for authentic and trendy Peruvian canvas in all the textile markets. We found two types of canvas that matched perfectly and that had never been used on shoes before. We then decided how to cut the canvas to get both a colorful and elegant product.

All the shoes are handmade and the fabrication process of each pair lasts 3 days, principally because of the canvas-drying period after being impregnated with a substance that makes it more resistant and shapeable.

Today the shoes are manufactured in Arequipa in Peru by Alexandra’s team and all the materials are sourced in Peru. Thanks to the success of the crowdfunding campaign, four full-time jobs have already been created and the team should keep on growing in the following weeks!

A Close-Up Of A Girls Feet, Wearing Pair Of PerúsAll materials are sourced and the shoes are handmade in Arequipa, Peru

Tell us About The ‘TwoShoesForSchool’ Program

When we started working on the project in September, the first thing we agreed on was trying to have a positive social impact. We wanted to create a virtuous circle where we would help local communities in the most beneficial way.

When we found out about Los Chicos de Cusco and how they support education in Peru, it was another obvious decision. When we came back to Peru to elaborate the prototypes, we’ve had the chance to visit the school during four days.

There was a great energy around the school; all the children, teachers, volunteers and administration were incredibly kind to us.

In The Classroom At The Chicos De Cusco SchoolLos Chicos de Cusco School supported by Perús

The TwoShoesForSchool project was born, for each pair of shoes sold, we finance one day of school at ASVIN. These donations contribute to paying for teachers’ salaries, uniform, schoolbooks and furniture.

Thanks to the incredible success of the launching campaign, more than 2000 days of school have now been financed. This represents one school year for 10 children. And it is only the beginning!

We are really proud to be part of that project and be able to help. But without the association, the members, volunteers and everyone who work at the school this project wouldn’t have been possible.

They’re doing an amazing job in San Jeronimo since 2007. They managed to build the ASVIN School and go from 4 children schooled to 92 today without any exterior help.

They deserve all the credit. So far we’re just the last arrival but we hope that we’ll be able to help more and more as our project grow.

Two Students At SchoolChildren supported through the TwoShoesForSchool project

Do You Think That There Are Many Opportunities For Socially Conscious Businesses To Be Created With Inspiration From South America?

They are so many opportunities to build socially conscious businesses all over the world! Our generation is really concerned about those challenges and the Internet enables small businesses that make a difference to reach their public way more easily than ever before.

Putting social responsibility at the center of the project is something we see more and more and it is a very good sign. It means that consumers are more empowered than ever before and understand that their purchasing decisions can make significant differences.

People want to get engaged with their favorite brands and they are their best advocates. They search on the Internet, follow on social networks etc… They are active in their relationship with brands as opposed to the time where we would only get advertisements on TV.

A Girl In A Hat At SchoolPutting people before profit is the new business model of the 21st century

All of this means there are many opportunities for socially conscious business, especially in fashion as clothing is an important part of our personality and how people see us. As a result, people pay attention to the image of the brands they wear, they want to have the same values.

Will You Create a Shop in France? How Can People Buy Your Product?

At the moment the Perús shoes are only available on our website: www.perus.co In a few months we hope that we will be able to sell our products in several shops in Paris and in others cities in Europe. Having our own high street shop is not in our short-term plans as it requires a lot of capital.

Three Pairs Of Girl's Legs Wearing Perus in ParisPerús hitting the shops in Paris

What’s Next for Perús?!

We are thinking of so many things but time is the limit! The very first goal is to deliver the shoes to all the people who have supported us over the last 2 months.

Over 2000 pairs have been pre-ordered since December and we are working to deliver them the best product as soon as possible. The first hundred supporters will receive their pair in two weeks. The others will follow soon after.

We have many ideas and projects for the future!

We have some new models in mind.

We want to improve the ecological impact of our shoes by using natural rubber and bio cotton for laces, it is our main challenge for the next months.

We also want to develop our social impact in the future. If our project is sustainable and that we are able to do it, we would like to partner with other education programs.

The objective would be to support both Education in Peru and in the country where the pair is being sold. This would strengthen the link between different cultures and participate in our effort to promote cultural openness, curiosity and empathy.

Nine Pairs Of Perús In A Circle

Thanks to Armand, Henri and Nicolas for the interview!

Check out Perús website and Facebook here.

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