Meet the 30X30: Solios Founders Samuel Leroux and Alexandre Desabrais Have Created the World’s First B Corp Watch
Our sixth annual Bay Street Bull 30X30 guide showcases a group of incredible individuals who are redefining the way we do business, championing their communities, and cultivating entirely new industries. From tech and environmental pioneers to cryptocurrency entrepreneurs and media trailblazers, each of this year’s inductees is challenging Canadians to think (and work) differently for a brighter future.
In our series of one-on-one interviews, get to know each honouree a little better: their values, mission, lessons learned, and best advice.
Samuel Leroux and Alexandre Desabrais
What excites you most about the work that you are doing?
That we empower ourselves to have a positive impact on the planet and its people. We are deconstructing an industry to rethink its previous strategies and implement change. One watch at a time, we’re influencing each individual that wears them to improve their life habits.
Where do you think you have made the most impact in your community?
A watch is the strongest fashion accessory to make a statement. You can tell a lot about someone just by looking at their watch. When we built Solios, we wanted to influence people to improve their life habits and we believe it’s the people who have the greatest impact. On our side, we’re doing the groundwork to deliver the most sustainable watch ever built without compromising on style and accessibility.
How do you define sustainability?
For us, sustainability is a way to continue to do what we love, without doing so at the expense of our planet and its inhabitants. Together we must reduce our environmental impact, and to do so, we must rethink the way we consume and produce. Through Solios, we want to demonstrate that it is possible to create a product that we love, without destroying what surrounds us. We strongly believe in the B-Corp model where a company can be successful while positively impacting the parties involved.
Why do you think there is confusion about “sustainable” products? What can be done to guide consumers to make better, informed decisions?
We are proud to see that buying sustainable products is not a trend, but has become a necessity. The consumer is much more educated and requires more from brands in terms of social impact, ethical production process, and sustainable impacts. Being confronted by this, some companies started to greenwash their consumers to keep growing, rather than changing their production process.
Unfortunately, it is the consumers and the planet that are paying. Consumers are increasingly suspicious of companies that claim to be green. In addition, sustainable companies have to fight harder to eliminate the doubt that is creeping into the minds of buyers. But one thing is for sure, we will always encourage the consumer to continue to ask questions and do their homework before buying anything.
What are the biggest challenges that come with making a timepiece company meet the standards of B-Corp certification?
This is a huge challenge. The fashion industry is often referred to as the second most polluting industry. Fortunately, there is a lot of innovation in materials, and manufacturing processes, and there are even several B Corp companies in fashion. However, this is not the case in the watch industry. To this day, we are the only B-Corp watch company. Sustainability was a hostile word in the industry only three years ago. Yet, the watch industry can be extremely polluting. Whether it’s through over-consumption, the travel of parts, the staining of metals, or the use of billions of batteries.
For us, the challenge is on two fronts. Firstly, it is at the consumer level, where we want to demonstrate that there is no disadvantage to using solar technology. The product remains affordable, but it is no longer necessary to change the battery every two years as a standard quartz watch does. A dead watch is also the primary reason for watch overconsumption. So, there is a big communication and education challenge.
Secondly, of course, it’s about the production of the watch. Our mission is to create the most eco-friendly watch in the world, without ever sacrificing style and accessibility. We have to rethink the entire production chain because the industry was not designed to produce this type of watch. We are continuously improving our materials and processes to eventually create the first mass-produced and assembled watch in North America.
What is one lesson that you hope people will learn or walk away from your work?
Just because the experts tell you no, doesn’t mean it’s not possible. For us, it was a motivation. When we set out on the project, we quickly realized that the watch we had dreamt of was not going to be possible to create. That is if we had believed the industry experts. In fact, it proved to us that there was a real opportunity and a giant hole to fill in the industry. For us, our naivety was our best ally in getting Solios off the ground and creating our first solar watch.
What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur? Your biggest milestone?
When we decided to launch Solios, we wanted to validate with our audience that we were not the only ones who believed in this project and philosophy. So, we decided to launch Solios with no marketing budget and to validate organically whether or not we should launch Solios. We will always remember at our Kickstarter event launch party that we completed our entire campaign goal in just 15 minutes. We still had our jobs at the time, and it was our old bosses who came up to us and said “I guess this is it?” That was it. For us, that approval was all we needed to fully jump into the adventure.
Why does your work matter?
We want to demonstrate that it is possible to completely rethink everything we do. Before starting Solios, there was no watch that met our buying criteria. A watch that would last a lifetime, that was affordable, elegant, and above all designed in an eco-friendly way. By launching Solios, we wanted to offer everyone a watch that represented their personality, and we wanted to remind them that we can improve our lifestyle without sacrificing what we love. With Solios, we are able to have a direct and indirect positive impact through the wearer, and the influence it exudes on those around them.
What have you learned about yourself as you’ve built your company and raised your voice?
The more difficult the challenge, the more we want to accomplish it. We realize that there is so much to do that we have to deconstruct everything we know in order to better invent it. And often, the solution seems simply unattainable. But it is this sense of realization that is exciting and grants great opportunities. We have realized that a challenge could be overwhelming in the past, but today, it is exciting!
What is a major career goal that you have set your sights on and hope to accomplish in 2022?
With the help of numbers, we want to confirm that Solios is indeed the most sustainable watch, and we want to have a defined five-year plan to continue improving the product and reducing our environmental impact. Solios will become carbon neutral in 2022, but we want to go much further by rethinking the entire production process through better materials sourced and produced locally. Our goal is that anyone who thinks of an ecological watch thinks of Solios.