School Run I - A morning story with the Piers family

A school run is different in every household. Each morning, kitchens and living rooms around the world buzz with activity as Jeune Premier school bags are packed with books, lunch packages and drinking bottles. In this brand new series called ‘The School Run’, we dive into the lives of different families and learn about their homes, morning routines and habits. Starting off the series are none other than the founders of Jeune Premier themselves: Hélène Fransen and Bruno Piers, and their sons Ralph and Jack.Watch the full school run video with founders Hélène & Bruno here.

A very good morning! We have the honor to talk to the founders of Jeune Premier. Can you give us a short introduction about yourselves?
Hélène — I'm Hélène Fransen (45) and besides being a mother to my two sons, Ralph (14) and Jack (11), I'm also the co-founder and creative director of Jeune Premier.

Bruno — I'm Bruno Piers (45), husband of Hélène and proud father of our two sons. Together, my wife and I are the driving force behind Jeune Premier. Or, as I like to put it, Hélène handles everything you can see, feel, smell, and experience, while I take care of all things behind the scenes of the company.

How did you start your brand and why?
Hélène — I started the brand a little over twelve years ago, when I couldn't find the right school bag for my oldest son. I worked in accessories before and had a good connection with an atelier in Morocco that produced our jewelry and scarves. I decided to reach out to them and they ended up making Ralph's very first school bag: a small lambskin bag.

The bag was an instant hit. Several moms at school approached me about it, and even the principal praised the design. Encouraged by my husband, I decided to take a chance and create a small initial collection featuring around five different prints, which I began selling and here we are now.

Bruno — Originally, I worked as a pharmacist, but from the very beginning I jumped in to help Hélène with Jeune Premier after hours. As time went on, over the next three to four years, I shifted to working full-time for our brand and recruited others to bolster our team at the pharmacy, allowing me to step back gradually.

Hélène, you also became a new mom during that startup phase?
Hélène — Ralph was 2,5 years old when we began in 2012, and Jack was born the following year. So, yes, we were right in the middle of the startup / expansion phase. I still have photos of myself taking down our booth at a fair in Paris when I was seven months pregnant, and there are even moments I recall driving to customers with my car packed full of school bags, only to realize later that Jack was still in there too. It was chaotic at times, but surprisingly, I had thought it all through beforehand. It was like hitting two birds with one stone, you could say.

How do you feel about working together? Do you try to keep business and home life separate?
Hélène — Jeune Premier is our life, like a third child. The boundaries between work and personal life are blurred, but we don't mind because we're passionate about what we do and feel fortunate to do it. We don’t even try to keep work and life separate, it’s perfectly fine as it is. Thanks to Jeune Premier, we can enjoy the things we love. It also helps that we complement each other well.Jeune Premier School Run I - A morning story with the Piers familyBruno — Since I started at Jeune Premier, I haven't once felt like I had to go to work in the morning. And I truly mean that. Sure, there are tough days and we have our daily discussions, but these are necessary. You need some bumps in the road to iron things out. I strongly believe that complementing each other is essential. We never feel like we're alone in this. We ride out the highs and lows together, and that's what makes it fun.

Did it make a difference that the children were accustomed to the hustle and bustle right from the start?
Bruno — It certainly did. At times, we arrive home late in the evening, and we're regularly traveling abroad. This has been our reality for as long as they can remember, so the kids are used to not being picked up from school at 3 pm every day. In fact, it's a value we prioritize teaching them: if you want something, you have to put in the effort.

Hélène — Starting a business when they're young definitely has its advantages. You can drop them off at daycare or school, pick them back up and that's it. However, as they grow older, they develop their own personalities and desires to explore and unfold themselves. They want to join a basketball team or try horse riding. Ironically, our oldest son Ralph, who is like the ‘muse of our brand’, doesn't even want to be in the pictures or videos anymore. Nonetheless, he still has opinions about everything and isn't shy about letting us know what he likes and doesn't like.

Bruno — I enjoy watching our children grow older; they mean more and more to me as time goes on. Our bond is still growing every day, especially as we share common interests. It's been a different journey for Hélène; she formed a strong bond with them from a young age. But for me, that connection is really blossoming now. That's why I dedicate my weekends entirely to spending time with the children.Jeune Premier School Run I - A morning story with the Piers familyCan you tell us a little bit more about your home?
Hélène — When we bought the house, it was an old coastal villa in rough shape, but we loved its charm right away. Inside, we did a complete renovation, keeping only the walls. We raised the ceilings and kept the original beams, creating a mix of old and new. Our home has a cozy, modern feel with lots of earthy colors. We really wanted it to feel calm and peaceful. Since the four of us are lively and colorful individuals, it's essential for our home to be a place where we can unwind and relax.Bruno — Hélène has decorated about 95% of the house, entirely in her own style. I only had two requirements: I got to decide on the bar and the wine cellar. I wanted them to have a darker, more rock'n'roll vibe, and I'm pleased that I was able to achieve that and give them a touch of indulgence. The rest of the house, however, is more about aesthetics.

Hélène — This might sound strange, but eight years ago, we used microconcrete on our walls to create a more earthy and natural atmosphere. At the time, visitors didn't quite get it; they thought it looked unfinished. But now, you see that type of finish everywhere. I dare to say we are ahead of the curve, just like we are with our brand Jeune Premier. Sometimes we introduce our bags too early, and the idea still needs time to catch on with customers. They aren't always ready for it when we are.Can you tell me more about your family? You mentioned your two sons, Ralph and Jack. Do you have any pets as well?
Hélène — Our youngest son, Jack, is the one who enjoys horse riding, particularly jumping, as well as playing basketball. Both of our children are passionate about sports. Ralph is also involved in basketball and he’s very skilled at chess, often playing with his dad.

Bruno — For the past three months, I haven't even been able to beat him anymore.Do you have a connection to horse riding or basketball? Where do your sons get their interests from?
Hélène — I used to ride, but I never pressured Jack into it. One day, we booked a photo shoot for Jeune Premier at a stable, and Jack came along. After that, he began asking for riding lessons, and so we did!

Bruno — Their love for basketball comes from me. I grew up immersed in American basketball, and I'll admit, I'm quite passionate about it. However, I'm better at explaining the game than playing it myself. I take pleasure in being a psychological motivator for my children. I strongly believe that progress is vital for happiness, even though it can be tough and requires hard work. That's the lesson I aim to teach them. Jack dreams of the NBA, like most kids who love basketball. I'll never deter him from that dream; I'll always support and encourage him to believe in himself and work hard to make it come true.Hélène — You can likely guess how we spend our weekends. We're often either at a horse jumping event or a basketball game. Recently, I even bought a supporter's scarf, something I swore I would never do, but I absolutely love it now. It's important for me to grow with my children and support their interests. Despite our busy jobs, we make sure to be there for them. We're both entrepreneurs and parents, and it's all about finding the right balance.

Do you have time for your own hobbies?
Bruno — We love wine and good food, so to keep enjoying them, we work out with a personal trainer three times a week. In our School Run video, you can see Ralph playing the drums. I'm also a drummer in a rock/punk rock band, and we're releasing an album in October. Since the boys see how much I love music, they want to join in too, and I'm excited to share that musical journey with them.

Hélène — Interestingly, our marketing manager's husband is actually the singer. That's how she landed the job; we casually discussed it over a beer. Our home bar doubles as our family's unofficial job interview spot.Does your family have a morning routine? And if yes, what does it look like?
Hélène — Bruno wakes up at 6 am and begins working immediately, as the Asian market is in full swing at that time. I get out of bed at 7, take some time to get ready myself, and by a quarter past 7, I try to wake up Ralph first, although he's usually not up until half past 7. Then, the hustle and bustle begins. I have to ensure the kids shower, brush their teeth, and have breakfast before heading out.

Bruno — They're capable of getting ready on their own, but Hélène still enjoys pampering them, especially our youngest, Jack. It's like something out of a movie. The kids are old enough to handle things themselves, but moms find it hard to let go.Hélène — The boys and I are ready for breakfast at 8, and Bruno joins us after finishing work. We all eat together, having fresh fruit and smoothies. I make sure our meals are healthy and turn mealtime into family moments. I set the table nicely with a tablecloth and beautiful dishes, making it cozy for us to enjoy our food together. I'm willing to spend on these things to make everything perfect.

Bruno — We're fortunate to work together, allowing us to have these moments together in the morning.

Do you take away things for your brand, from these morning routines? Getting ready with the family, packing school bags and lunch boxes?
Hélène — Absolutely! Since we use our products ourselves, we understand what's essential and what's missing. I believe we were among the first to introduce a holder for a water bottle on the outside of the bag to prevent leaks, as well as reflective details on our school bags. Sometimes our boys ride their bikes to school and on dark winter mornings we suddenly realize the importance of such features. These experiences, drawn straight from our own morning routine, undoubtedly influence our product development.Bruno — The same goes for our magnetic locks. Many children struggle with their shoe laces and fastenings. We make it easier for them with our magnetic version — you just push to open and close. We definitely came up with that after observing our own sons.

How do the children look at your brand?
Hélène — Jack, our youngest, used to feel embarrassed when he gave a Jeune Premier pencil case as a gift at birthday parties. Sometimes, for convenience, we'd opt for something from our own brand. He even told us to "stop giving Jeune Premier gifts and go to Dreamland instead, like normal people." So it's definitely a mixed relationship for them, especially as they enter puberty. When Ralph started high school, he could choose his own school bag and went for a SpongeBob and Vans collaboration. After a few weeks already, it fell apart, so he grabbed a new one from our stock. That's also why we started making plain bags — teenagers don't want the prints anymore. They prefer blue or gray, something simple.

Do they have favorite items?
Hélène — Jack's taste is quite mainstream. He's currently using the Big Five backpack, which comes with plenty of zippers and extra compartments, and he really enjoys it. He particularly favors the basketball and football prints. As for school bags, both he and Ralph prefer backpacks, with Bobby and James being their top choices.And what about their friends? Do you find inspiration at the school gate as well?
Hélène — I noticed that many kids had lots of keychains on their bags. That's where I got the idea of making Jeune Premier keychains, and now our brand wouldn't be the same without them. All of our bags come with loops to attach them, and we offer keychains with initials. We even sell bags with multiple keychains already attached. It has truly become our signature.

To wrap up, is there anything else you'd like to share about yourselves or your brand?
Hélène — If there's one word that defines us, both in our work and in our home, it must be quality. We only use natural materials in our home, like stone or wood, and we avoid shopping at fast fashion retailers like Zara or H&M. The same goes for our bags. We are lucky enough to be able to prioritize quality over price. While others may focus on the price tag, we believe in investing in items that last longer. It’s like my mom always said, “the cheapest buy is the most expensive one”.

Watch the full school run video with founders Hélène & Bruno here.