Previously an environmental engineer at VINCI, Héloïse de Bokay, VINCI SA, is behind La Ressourcerie du BTP project, a digital platform indexing reclaimed leftover building site materials, to make it easier to reuse, repurpose and recycle.
What inspired you and made you want to get into entrepreneurship?
As part of my old job as Environmental Officer, I looked for ways to reduce waste on our deconstruction sites within the group. This is when I realized that many other colleagues were also looking for a solution that didn’t yet exist to this problem. And so I teamed up with six other colleagues to create a working group for brainstorming ideas, which led us to put the project forward for the intrapreneur program.
So the bright idea came about from onsite reporting. I think it’s inconceivable to carry on throwing materials away in the skip without even considering giving them a new lease of life.
How was the program suited to your project?
The biggest advantage for my project is that it enabled me to carry out cross-organizational collaboration with different business units within the group – which is essential for a circular economy-based project. The whole process also taught me numerous ways of how to ask the right questions at the right time, by focusing on clients’ needs and not on a personal preconception of what would be the best solution to develop.
What is the next key step in your project?
The project is currently at the end of the acceleration stage, which basically means we’re looking for necessary investment for finding the right legal structure and deploying the Ressourcerie du BTP project on a larger scale. So the next step is to get funding in order to expand our team and increase the size of our reuse shop.
What was the most important moment during the support program?
I would say that the most important moment was when I received support from Franck Humblot, who is the head of NEOM. Because if I hadn’t been able to find a director ready to invest in project testing, then I wouldn’t have been able to show what I am capable of and obtain the time needed to find the right business model and the right value proposition.
What significant project developments took place during the program?
The biggest difficulty for a circular economy-based project is to find the business model which enables you to be profitable while also changing the market you’re trying to break into, by promoting new practices that are less destructive on resources and pollute less.
The design for my solution has changed dramatically over the months, following discussions with different interested parties. The biggest change also came when Sophia Aïssi arrived in July, helping me with the project development. Her arrival was indispensable for me, both in terms of motivation and organization.
What important questions has the program forced you to ask yourselves?
Who are our clients? What do they need? In what way are solutions currently on the market not adequate enough? What value can Ressourcerie du BTP create? The last question was the most decisive, because I believe that in a circular economy-based project, value creation goes beyond the economic aspect. The aim is to produce positive externalities, or rather, a solution that reduces landfill waste and creates new opportunities for accessing the labor market, for example.
What have you personally learned from the program?
I was 25 when I started the program. I had a strong conviction (and I still do, by the way) that we must urgently change the model if we want our activity to last and that the human race can evolve on a habitable planet from now until the end of the century, and I was afraid of not knowing where to start.
The program helped me bring an idea to life – that of combating waste by repurposing materials in a tangible and operational way. It’s been very fast paced, incredibly fulfilling, and I’ve had to go beyond some of my fears. When you’re an entrepreneur, you have no other choice but to look ahead and be ambitious!
What has the program done for the project?
The project would never have seen the light of day without Leonard, because success can only grow when many skillsets meet. We received support from various people with a diverse range of profiles, which is a real strength – especially when it comes to intrapreneurship, which is a dual space between the world of startups and that of a major group like VINCI. We thrive on this diversity in order to speak to as many people as possible, without losing our own vision. The program allows you to find this space conducive for creativity and business transformation.
The VINCI Group created Leonard to tackle the challenges posed by the transformation of regions and lifestyles. Our goal is to unite a community of key stakeholders in order to build the city of the future together.