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The following is a guest post by Tristan Nicolas, Co-Founder of Ben & Fakto, a French e-commerce startup to launch at a Startup Weekend in March 2011. 

My name is Tristan Nicolas, I used to be a Co-Founder of Ben & Fakto.

Ben & Fakto was an online store focused on “happy fashion.” The idea was that traditional ethical clothing did not work because it was mainly not fashionable. But times were changing and more and more small brands were launching with really cool clothes and a social or ecological concern. That’s what we called “happy fashion”.

Besides, we wanted to do more that just selling clothes. Every brands on Ben & Fakto had their own cause, we wanted to do something more than just selling them. We decided to support entrepreneurship in Asia and Africa through micro-credits. We partnered with a micro-credit lending platform connecting online lenders to entrepreneurs, Babyloan. 10 % of every purchase was used to finance the project that the customer had chosen. That was our little contribution trying to make the world a better place.

This was Ben & Fakto until a few months back when we decided to shut down the website (it is back online for a few weeks) and even if it did not turn out to be a success, it has been the best experience in my life so far. And I am thankful to Startup Weekend for that. Let me explain what role SW had in this.

This all started when the two other co-founders and I were still at school in Lille, in the north of France. I loved the Internet in many ways and started working from Lille in a start-up based in the Silicon Valley. But at that time, I never thought of startup my own startup.

Kevin had the idea when he was in Singapore during his gap year. He knew that when he was going back to France for his last year at school, he was going to launch a startup in fashion to help change what he saw during his travels in South East Asia. He then met Harold. Harold was studying entrepreneurship with and was seduced by the idea of starting a business in this domain.

I was Harold’s flatmate so I saw the first discussions, the very early beginning of the project. But it seemed too vague for me.

And then we went to a Startup Weekend.

It was in march 2011 (I remember blogging about it just before the final presentation). I went there to support my friends and had no idea to join afterwards but what seemed to me as just an idea became real. During this weekend, we found the name, the logo and defined more precisely the concept. We met people that knew more about eCommerce than we did, we met a great designer who did the first mock-up of what it could look like. We also met some advisers that we met long after the startup weekend. It also gave us the first press coverage. All of a sudden it was real and it was clear that I wanted to be a part of it.

We didn’t win this Startup Weekend and Ben & Fakto did not turn out a success. Like many startups we failed after our first year of existence. Why we failed is a completely different story  (you can read more about it on Kevin’s blog here) but we have learned so much during this year, met so many inspiring and interesting people that I don’t regret it for a minute.

Even if this weekend did not lead to the success we hoped, I know now what I want to do with my life. I know how hard it can be but how rewarding it is.

Claire Topalian Claire Topalian
(@clairetopalian) Blog, Professional Writing, Communications and PR Specialist. I craft compelling, mission-driven content for companies and individuals that amplifies brand awareness, fosters community, and drives engagement. My experience includes work with tech startups, major corporations, and international non-profits. @clairetopalian