The train ticket at 1.50 euro, retirement at 57, job security… At 18, Paul Morlet dreamed of a tidy career as a railway worker. Fourteen years later, he has become a shrewd entrepreneur who, over various adventures, launched the Sunglasses brand with Xavier Niel.
After having distributed 28 optical stores in 16 cities in France and employed 420 people for a turnover of 38 million euros, it has just set up its first point of sale in Brussels. Hit ! After ten days of activity, the store was already registering 1,000 entries per day.
“He’s an intelligent boy who surprised me with his audacity and then with his friendly loyalty,” confides Guillaume Sarkozy, former managing director of Malakoff Médéric, who serves as his entrepreneurial mentor. He has a disruptive and passionate approach to the business of opticians. As it teems with ideas, it is sometimes a bit messy. But that doesn’t stop him from succeeding.”
However, Paul Morlet, son of a trainer in the construction industry and a school secretary, came close to making his mark on the SNCF. It was with this idea in mind that he obtained his BEP as an electrician and spent two years restoring lines to the tracks. “Hard work,” he agrees. Especially when the power has to be restored after a suicide, which is quite common, especially on Monday winter mornings”.
Alas, the crisis helping, his contract did not succeed. And Paul Morlet went back to doing what he had always done during his youth in Lyon: getting by. Passionate about electronics, micro-welding and hacks of all kinds, the high school student made clandestine Canal+ decoders and pirated game consoles for his comrades. “I billed them. Money being scarce here, it gave me some pocket money,” he recalls. Enough to buy rollerblades and rise to the rank of vice-champion of France junior.
When he had just left the SNCF, Paul Morlet observed the window of a bus, covered with one of those large microperforated advertisements that allow you to see through. He reproduced this process on spectacle lenses: “I had 2,000 euros in savings. I bought for 1,000 euro glasses. I printed ads on microperforated paper and stuck them on the glasses… No one wanted them! »
Persevering, he printed, under the Lulu Frenchie brand, a series with the effigy of stars and sent them to personalities such as Lady Gaga, David Guetta or the rapper 50 Cent. Amused and flattered, the stars tweeted selfies, glasses on their noses. The effect was immediate in the world of goodies. “Paul Ricard, the Tour de France, the magazine ‘Vogue’ or even Ubisoft wanted it. I hired little hands in a hurry. Everything was homemade”, explains the creator, who one day sent an email to Xavier Niel, “simply to congratulate him on having created Ecole 42”, he said. They met. The current has passed.
In 2014, keen to “make eyeglasses accessible to everyone”, they opened their first store in Paris. “Thanks to our digital machines and the optometrists present in the stores, we can supply eyeglasses adapted to the customer’s vision in ten minutes,” sums up Paul Morlet.
Each boutique is a small factory all to itself where the glasses sold at the rate of around 250 pairs per day are scrupulously traced. Prices vary from 10 to 80 euros. “As with the majority of opticians, the lenses come from Essilor and the frames from China”, specifies the entrepreneur, who wants to tackle this last point.
At the end of 2022, it should open a manufacturing plant in Revin, in the Ardennes, on a former Electrolux site. “Since everything will be automated, our frames will not cost more to produce in France than in Asia,” he believes. Paul Morlet does not wear glasses. No need, he sees far.