They dropped everything to launch their box - Companies

They dropped everything to launch their box – Companies

From lawyer to shepherdess, from the Chamber of Commerce of Liège to a candy workshop, from a job at Easi to his own tech start-up: the changes of course of employees wishing to undertake are numerous. Boosted by the search for meaning, concreteness and the desire to act, many are those who gave up everything to launch their business. What motivates them and how do they cope?

In the entrance to their production workshop on the edge of Liège, Christophe Mausen and his wife Céline welcome visitors around a wooden table, in a setting… grandma’s way. “We have considerably reduced our lifestyle but are driven by the passion to develop Les Bonbons de Grand-Mère, to be concrete”, they explain.

In the entrance to their production workshop on the edge of Liège, Christophe Mausen and his wife Céline welcome visitors around a wooden table, in a setting… grandma’s way. “We have considerably reduced our lifestyle but are driven by the passion to develop Les Bonbons de Grand-Mère, to be concrete,” they explain. For a good year, the couple left the offices of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) of Liège-Verviers, after 28 years of seniority for him and 15 for her. Originally? Céline’s desire to completely change her professional orientation. She who managed the publications of the CCI wanted to carry out a project of her own. And when we told her about a confectionery business, she didn’t hesitate for long. However, she needed the support of her husband to fully launch herself and make Grandmother’s Sweets her main and priority project. Since then, the couple has learned confectionery recipes, invested in equipment, developed a distribution network and scoured the markets to promote their products. Their business occupies almost 100% of their time. “But we love it!”, They specify. Founding your business on the coast. The number of company creations in Belgium is up by 5% compared to the last year, according to the Federation of Notaries. “The trend is there: more and more citizens of all age groups want to be happy, have an impact and want their professional life to have meaning, analyzes Bruno Wattenbergh, professor of entrepreneurship at Solvay and ambassador of innovation at EY. In fact, the number of start-ups is increasing for the ninth year in a row. So this trend is not new. Covid has only amplified it.” It’s true that in the midst of the covid period, many employees felt the need to leave a job that no longer seemed to suit them and get started. “We are in a world where individuality increasingly takes precedence over community, continues the entrepreneurship professor. In this context, the desire to do what you want with your professional life, to have an impact visible and perceptible during working hours, to have a certain freedom and therefore to choose one’s own channels, to claim the social status of an entrepreneur…, all this pushes citizens to take action. ” The impression of having done the trick of its function. This is another reason that many neo-entrepreneurs give when they remember what made them take the plunge. Many employees indeed feel this feeling at one time or another in their career: a leader who does not leave room for initiative, ideas that are rarely welcomed or valued… and demotivation that takes over. Tired of his superior. Tired of the box where everything is decided “up to bottom” without taking into account the opinion of the collaborators. That’s all it takes for the most enterprising to consider leaving the liner and getting into their own boat. “And no longer compromise on my personality and my values, slips Alessandra Teston, who left her job in public relations to start distributing Italian wines. Because in large companies, flat structures are rare and one is generally driven to follow only the decisions that come from above.” Generally, however, this kind of frustration is not the main motivation for change. Only his spark. “The real motivation is often found in a form of personal achievement, observes Bruno Wattenbergh. To tackle something that offers meaning…” And the covid crisis seems to have only been an accelerator of this awareness, already initiated by some of the workers. Especially in this geopolitically and economically troubled period: there are many who want to do their part and improve, if not the world, at least the daily lives of the people around them, whether in terms of the environment, health, helping people… According to Louis Falisse, the founder of Chocolow, it was also “the feeling of having done the trick” that prompted him to leave advertising after eight years in an agency. “Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I always wanted to start a business. Advertising had worn me down a bit and I felt I had to move on,” he recalls. . But it was above all to reduce the sugar consumed by his children through chocolate spreads that Louis Falisse had the idea of ​​combining chocolate and… carrots. All organic, of course. Starting clientele? Just his offspring. Then he came up with the idea of ​​confronting his culinary innovation with the market and launching his company. The desire to develop a “real” and sometimes very down-to-earth activity is therefore often the starting point for a change of professional direction. This was also the case for Alessandra Teston, who admits “having needed concreteness and meaning” after 12 years in her sector: “I liked my job in public relations. But at one point, I wanted to feel that I had a grip on what I was doing, I needed direct and concrete results, to be as close as possible to people: to meet the winegrowers, to taste the wines, then to take charge of marketing them in Belgium.” Few, however, are those who throw themselves completely into the void, without a “plan B”. As eager as she is to set up her business, Alessandra Teston did not start overnight: “For a year, I did a few tests, as a complementary self-employed person. But after my maternity leave, I I really felt like I had to go.” Not necessarily with a lot of means, moreover: just enough to buy the first pallets of bottles and start the activity. Christophe Mausen, from Bonbons de Grand-Mère, also admits having thought about a plan B. “We sometimes say that if you believe in your project, you throw yourself into it completely. is for those who don’t believe in it enough. But we still thought about the scenarios where it wouldn’t have been. We knew we could bounce back, just in case…” Something to be reassured …because the risks are there. “You can’t just rely on your intuition, points out Bruno Wattenbergh. Believing just what you want to believe is a deleterious phenomenon that you have to be wary of. You have to learn to assess these risks, in order to know what “it is absolutely necessary to probe beforehand. Today, there are many relatively inexpensive ways to test the market, to observe the reactions of potential customers, to validate a price or a go to market.” Precautions taken by Martine Bayens, former director of companies like Truvo (Les Pages d’or) or Econocom. As she prepares to launch her kombucha business, she knows how important each step of an entrepreneurial project is and is not approached lightly. “My experience in management positions in large structures allows me to approach the entrepreneurial adventure in a more serene way, she explains. Moreover, even if I now have to touch everything, my new job is a little similar to the old one. I move forward as if I were carrying out a succession of small projects: first the market validation on this product, then the selection of tastes, then the brewing with a partner, etc. This does not is ultimately not so different from a big box where you manage several departments by understanding the reality of their different managers.” All these entrepreneurs who tackle an existing professional situation to start their business are not starting from nothing. “During a study carried out a few years ago, it was noted that the creators of more ‘mature’ businesses made little use of support services because they were already well established in their professional environment”, observes Bruno Wattenbergh. If they remain within their core competence, they benefit from their social capital and their expertise. If they change sector, they can rely on a network, on a professional experience that allows them to understand change and novelty. And the oldest among them, having reached their fifties, would even have a particular advantage: “that of being freed from the weight of family and a life to build, which is very heavy for young entrepreneurs”, replied Stéphane Soumier, another of these neo-entrepreneurs and former host of BFM TV in France, interviewed by BPI, the French public investment bank. Arrived at the end of their credit, with children old enough to fly on their own, and possibly equipped with some savings, older entrepreneurs would enter “a page of their life where they can take risks that are not not really, analyzes the former presenter. When they arrive in front of an investor, for example, they know that it does not matter whether they say yes or no. They also have nothing more to prove, they have lived a certain career and have very clear ideas about what to do and why.” It is therefore probably no coincidence “if this ‘grey-haired’ entrepreneurship continues to progress slowly but surely”, observes Bruno Wattenbergh: “In 2000, approximately 14% of creations were made by entrepreneurs belonging to the age of 45-60 years whereas today, we are surfing around 20%. Almost one in four self-employed people is in this bracket”. Dropping everything to start your own business? A fantasy that can come true at any age…

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