FRANCHISEBIZ encountered this month Matteo Amatruda, a Franco-Italian entrepreneur with a portfolio of diverse ventures. From establishing a hotel chain in Madagascar to introducing innovative retail concepts in South Africa and France, his latest triumph with ‘Just in Case‘ is reshaping the tech accessory market. By merging high fashion with functional design, Matteo’s journey is nothing short of extraordinary.
Matteo, it’s great to meet you. You’ve had a really interesting journey to reach where you are today. Could you please tell our readers about it?
Thank you and good to meet you too! Well it’s a long story but I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life.
After spending three years in Italy working on a public owned company’s business evaluation and assisting startups in their early stages of growth and funding, I fell in love with entrepreneurship.
In 2001, I started my first consulting business offering training and other services.
Following that, my first significant venture involved investing in a startup in Madagascar, leading to the establishment of a small hotel chain owned by myself and five other people. After travelling back and forth from Madagascar to Mozambique, I fell in love with South Africa. We loved it so much my family and I sold everything we had including my house, business, everything to move there!
We loved Cape Town and tried lots of different stuff including selling Italian furniture, different retail businesses, an architecture firm, a mozzarella bar, all sorts!
Sadly, it turned out to be unsafe to live there with a young family so we moved instead to Europe, where I joined Flying Tiger, a fast-growing Danish retail chain. France was available as a territory, so I joined them in a joint venture and it was a nice successful project in the south of France and I was in charge of development of the whole chain.
Despite difficult times for France, we built 23 shops with a $16 million turnover until 2020 when the company took over my 50% and I sold my shares. Subsequently, I ventured into developing another retail chain, as a franchisee for the successful Italian brand Dan John. They’ve been opening shops since 2018 with over 100 shops in Italy. They’re a very interesting company, with the finish of a luxury brand, but the prices of a mass market shop, so they create a real wow effect from the prices.
I opened my second shop last month and I’m planning to open many more!
What an inspiring story! And this led you on to your ‘Just in Case’ brand. We love the concept, can you please give our readers an overview of what that’s all about?
Certainly! Just in Case (JIC) is a joint venture I’m involved in, founded in 2019. We’re aiming to become the leader in the segment, merging fashion and design with mobile phone accessories.
We offer personalised phone cases and other accessories, including licensed prints from popular franchises like Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. Almost all of the major football clubs like Inter Milan, AC Milan, Juventus FC, or Federation Française Rugby are tied into partnerships with us and our emphasis on local partnerships and highly sales-oriented teams really sets us apart. We are now also negotiating with other major French sport teams.
It sounds fantastic. How do you find such sales-oriented teams?
We prioritise behavioural traits over sales experience, seeking confidence and engagement. We have a unique approach to people development, in that we don’t hire any middle or higher management, we only promote internally.
Two great examples: one is an employee who was a part-time sales assistant for us two years ago who is now responsible for 100 shops. Another is an employee who started in a shop working just 20 hours per week and is now our Marketing Manager. The idea is for people to express themselves and if they have specific abilities to share, we try to bring them up the ladder. It’s fast growing so there is a lot of opportunity to move up quickly, which builds loyalty and attachment to the brand. It’s an exciting place to work!
Can you tell us about your franchise opportunities and your development plans for 2024 and beyond?
Our goal is ambitious. Starting with one JIC shop in May 2023, we aim to expand to 12 by the end of the year and open 50 shops by the following year. Our franchising model focuses on rapid growth, with no entry fees or royalties, allowing franchisees to invest and expand quickly.
We are in the early stages of seeking franchisees, emphasising experience in managing a company, retail or shop experience. We plan to explore franchise opportunities in 2024, especially in specific regions like areas far away from Paris like Bretagne, Occitanie, Corsica etc and Eastern Europe.
Our goal is not to make a lot of money straight away through the franchising model, it’s more to let the company grow fast. Our model has no entry fees and no royalty to pay. We simply provide the logo, the brand and the concept, arrange internal shop layout and setup etc. We provide access to our approved suppliers who provide signage, lighting etc, we then provide the products and that’s it, we let the franchisee do the rest.
What would you say to prospective candidates considering franchise opportunities with Just In Case in future?
We value qualities like confidence, engagement and retail experience in franchisees. Our unique franchising model, focusing on rapid growth with no entry fees, sets us apart. We want to ensure the franchisee can expand and open as many shops as possible, so the lack of fees makes it easier for them to get cash from the first shop and quickly proceed to expansion.
We want to open 50 shops per year and make some money from the product sales, but only a little, as our bigger goal is to be the leader in this sector.
It’s not a common approach, but we are an uncommon company. To be the biggest in the world, you have to think different and act fast. With the speed we are going, it will be difficult for competitors to reach us.
Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
Over the years, I’ve developed valuable know-how that aids foreign companies in establishing a solid retail structure in France. We are planning to offer a turnkey service, allowing external companies to fully own their business, pay on growth and reduce risks when they are new to enter the French market.
Looking ahead to 2025, we plan to exhibit and share this service more prominently at the Paris expo, showcasing our exciting journey and innovative retail concepts. Stay tuned for our upcoming brand partnerships and developments!
Thanks Matteo, it was great to meet you and to hear your inspiring story!
If you’re inspired by our interview with Matteo and you’d like to explore franchise opportunities, please get in touch with us for a chat today!
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