Based in Biot on the Coet dAzur, Suzanne co-runs La Tasse de Couleur, where children can paint their own ceramics and parents can enjoy the cafe. They offer birthday parties and various other activities
9 rue du Portugon, 06410 Biot, (+33) 04 93749716
"Personally I do not think France is sympathetic to entrepreneurs, which is ironic as the word ‘entrepreneur’ is a French word! We have not found anything to encourage anyone to start a business in France. It has been hard work and very expensive!" (SS, March 2011)
Why & when did you set up La Tasse de Couleur?
La Tasse de Couleur – Paint Your Own Ceramics & Café was set up in Feb 2010, but did not open until 6 July 2010 by myself, Suzanne Shields and my business partner Jacqui Napier. We are both ex-British Airways stewardess’s with Jacqui having left BA almost 3 years ago. I had just returned to France having spent 5 years in Singapore and we were both looking for something to do. Jacqui is the artistic, creative side of the business and I am officer in charge of the cakes and business side. As Jacqui lives in Biot and Biot is well-known as being a creative, artistic village, we felt it was a good place to be located. Also it meant my daughter could easily take the bus from school to Biot, if I was working late, which was important.
How has it grown and changed since its inception?
It has grown by becoming well known with an ever expanding client base but has not changed in its concept which is to encourage adults and children to come and paint ceramics.
What does La Tasse de Couleur offer?
La Tasse de Couleur offers a creative, relaxed space where both children and adults can paint already made ceramics and enjoy homemade cupcakes, cookies and beverages. We also offer birthday parties and birthday cakes at La Tasse de Couleur.
Where do most of your clients come from?
Our clients are both local French and English speaking adults and children along with tourists, of different nationalities.
How much research did you do into your market before establishing the business?
We were already familiar with the ceramic café concept, having visited many in the UK and the States. We knew that it was not well known in France but because of the many expats living in the Cote d’Azur we were convinced it would work. We also knew through having children in France that there is not much opportunity for children to express themselves through art or many places for children’s birthday parties.
What was the most challenging aspect of setting up a business in France?
The French bureaucracy!
What are the obvious pitfalls to avoid?
Not to overstretch oneself financially and to choose your business partner carefully.
How much help & advice were you given when you set up your business?
We were lucky to meet an English, French speaking business advisor who has been in France for many years; he led us through the various stages and helped us with the huge amount of paperwork.
We also did a ‘Setting Up Your Own Business’ course at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Nice, which was a 6 day course in French, which covered everything from Tax, Insurance etc.
What type of company are you registered as?
We are a SARL, as there are two of us and we are both GERANTES.
Are there any particular organizations that helped you when you set up your business?
Not really. Only the Business Advisor that we chose ourselves, having said that, the Mairie of Biot has been extremely helpful and generous in supporting us and including us in many village events.
What do you think have been the best ways of marketing your business?
We made a huge mistake in the first week we were open, by letting a very smooth talking advertising salesman convince us to spend a huge amount of money on a very small ad in a magazine, which we feel in retrospect was a waste of time!
The best way of marketing our business has been providing an excellent service, thus inspiring people to talk about us – word of mouth, is a very powerful advertising tool!
How important is it to speak and write French when setting up a business in France?
It has been extremely important for at least one of us to speak and write fluent French, especially when meeting the people who are going to sign all the important permission forms to start the business. It shows that we want to integrate in to the working society of France … the saying ‘When in Rome’ goes along way!
Do you think France is sympathetic to entrepreneurs?
Personally I do not think France is sympathetic to entrepreneurs, which is ironic as the word ‘entrepreneur’ is a French word! We have not found anything to encourage anyone to start a business in France. It has been hard work and very expensive!
How do you find juggling your business and looking after your children?
As we first opened last summer our children were on holiday, so there was a lot of juggling and time management, especially as we were unsure as to how the business would go and how busy we would be. I think this summer will be harder as we now know we will be very busy.
What advice would you give to women thinking of setting up their own business?
Starting a business in France as a ‘foreigner’ and as a woman is not easy! But if you have a brilliant idea or product, are determined, speak some French and smile a lot it is worth giving it a go.
What are your goals for the future?
Our goals include expanding our client base to include many more local French people, to keep our heads above water, financially, to remain friends as well as business partners and to understand more about how France does business!