Retraining is a difficult path. Aude Guéneau understood this. Especially since she left the comforts of public service for the uncertainty of entrepreneurship. Misunderstanding of relatives, leap into the void, lack of medium-term visibility… the first three years are risky.
Aude Guéneau gave up her job as a French teacher in a college in Yvelines in 2018. She had no business experience at the time. “My master’s thesis was on Stéphane Mallarmé. We are far from the world of start-ups”, jokes the 38-year-old entrepreneur.
Her idea, however, she draws from her 14 years of teaching. Annoyed by the level of her students in writing and overwhelmed by the diversity of their needs, she developed Plume, a software to give children a taste for writing. “Learning to write is undervalued, regrets Aude Guéneau. However, it has repercussions in all disciplines and throughout life. »
Eighteen months without income
The beginnings of Plume are Spartan. The entrepreneur refines the project in her free time, evenings and weekends. Aude Guéneau starts with a Facebook page where she presents her idea and offers to send stories to complete. It thus probes the interest of the parents of pupils. “I managed to collect 27 email addresses. It was really craftsmanship, ”smiles the startuper.
The big leap comes when the teacher becomes available. A hell of a financial risk since it then ceases to be paid. However, as a civil servant, she is not entitled to unemployment. For a year and a half, the entrepreneur pays herself no salary. “Sometimes my credit card was blocked at the checkout. I almost gave up,” confesses this young mother of two children, who will become her first users.
Worried, some relatives, friends or colleagues try to discourage her. “They told me that I didn’t know anything about entrepreneurship,” she recalls. Aude Guéneau does not listen to the Cassandres. She quickly realizes that her professional experience is a pool of invaluable skills and ideas. “Education and entrepreneurship have a lot in common. They need to constantly renew themselves, to adapt to their target, to fend for themselves. In both areas, I took blows, experienced traumatic things and situations of loneliness, ”analyzes the business manager.
Acceleration during lockdowns
The other strong point of Aude Guéneau is her knowledge of the education market, the needs of students and teachers. Plume offers schoolchildren exercises in literary creativity, but also fill-in-the-blank texts from classic works. As for teachers and parents, they have progress dashboards and benefit from advice for individualized follow-up.
The economic model is a mix of BtoB and BtoC, with a “phygital” version distributed in supermarkets. The first target is those of parents. 35,000 families are now subscribers. The second target is that of publishers of school books, including Nathan, which have a premium paid version, in particular to organize writing competitions. For their part, teachers have access to a free version with limited functions. Most often, these tools labeled “Digital Resource for Schools” come in addition to the class manual. Some 15,000 teachers are subscribed via this indirect sales system.
For Aude Guéneau, team management was another terra incognita, although she was a scout leader. “I’m very humble in this area and I assume I’m a beginner,” admits the entrepreneur. To train, she devours books on leadership and personal development. She also follows online training in digital marketing.
Boosted by the successive confinements linked to the health crisis, Plume achieved a turnover of 250,000 euros in 2020. Now supported by the Wilco accelerator, the start-up plans to reach one million euros in 2023. For finance its development, in particular by developing an artificial intelligence tool, Aude Guéneau raised 2.7 million euros in May 2021. The entrepreneur also dreams of going international and in particular of the United States, fertile ground for edtechs … between two thrillers that she writes when she has a little time left.