Co-Founder of the Chambelland Bakery
Putting your passion for cinema to work in advertising
When I arrived at EM Normandie, I already had in mind the idea of working in the film industry, a field that is far removed from business.
With other students from the school, we formed a friendship around cinema and music. We shot the school's corporate films and presentation together.
I did my optional year in Chicago because I always wanted to have an experience in the United States, to be able to explore the downtown of a big American city. I was attracted to Chicago because of the blues, the house music... musical styles that make you dream. In addition, many films have been shot in this city. For me, it's a way to take flight, to go alone to the other side of the world and to have to prove myself. I was only supposed to leave for three months and in the end I stayed for the whole year.
I did my internship at Publicis, an advertising agency in Chicago. I worked on brands for which we did focus groups. I was not very interested in this field. Then I spotted a producer who was working on videos and I asked him what he was doing. He was collecting a lot of footage to imagine the advertisements of tomorrow for a brand. I thought it was very interesting to be able to watch films all day to project what tomorrow's brand will be in all their video campaigns.
I gradually got closer to this producer and started doing his video research for him as I had a big film culture.
My grandparents and parents are passionate about cinema. From the age of 2, I was in a cinema. I spent my childhood playing tennis and watching films.
With this culture, I advised the producer to go and look at this or that type of cinema depending on the theme he was looking for. He saw my motivation in this area and I gradually moved from the marketing department to the TV Production department where I spent the last six months of my internship. At that time, I was trying to link this agency experience in Chicago to my training at the School by combining film and advertising.
Starting out in a production company
When I graduated from EM Normandie, I had the opportunity to go back to an advertising agency to work for brands. I finally decided to work in a production company. I arrived in Paris where I knocked on the door of many production companies. It's a fairly closed environment and you need to have a bit of a network to get in.
I joined "Cake Films" where I was an actor's driver, stage manager trainee, assistant... I also worked with the electrician and machinist to better understand how a shoot works.
In one summer, I was totally immersed in a medium-length film, which was an ideal way to learn about this environment.
After my two-month internship, I ended up working for almost five years in this production company.
Turning the table over
After a while, I didn't understand what I was doing. I had to spend all day communicating for a brand that had values that were difficult for me to understand and accept as an individual, even as a citizen.
During this period, I met a young lady who would become my wife and the mother of my children. I had known her since secondary school but had not seen her for fifteen years.
We met by chance in Paris! I was working in advertising while she was part of the anti-advertising activists who were tagging in the Metro. This inevitably led to some heated discussions!
I was immersed in business throughout my studies, with an IUT in marketing techniques, then a business school and my experience in an advertising agency. After a while, I started to see things differently. A sort of maturation took place in the discussions with my partner until the day I shot a commercial for a Garnier shampoo.
For this shoot, the creative team asked us to make a butterfly fly towards a model who was coming down the stairs in an elegant way. It's really not easy to find a butterfly that hatches at the right time. You don't find chrysalises just anywhere! They had to be Fedexed in from Central America!
We had a lot of trouble finding these butterflies. However, one of the designers thought they didn't fit at all. He wanted to have them removed during the editing process. At that point, I thought we were in for a real treat!
I realised that we were mobilising teams and huge sums of money to sell a shampoo that was full of additives and that repeated the usual pattern of hundreds of spots that had already been made.
My wife and I set off on a cycling trip from Paris to Barcelona to try the experience of roaming. We then went to South East Asia for two months. Then we left for two years to go around the world, which was finally interrupted after 18 months by a pregnancy. This two-year break from work was life-saving, allowing me to build the life as a human being that we aspired to.
When we came back from this world tour, we were expecting our first child. It was a sort of return to reality. We had to find accommodation. We were hosted by several friends in about ten different places. I had many opportunities to find a job in the production field. I became a technician's agent, that is to say a chief operator's agent. This consists of defending the interests of people who make moving pictures in France.
After two years, I returned to the idea I had had before: to set up my own project because I am basically an entrepreneur.
Launching one's project
During the world tour, I was obsessed with two subjects: sleep and food. Basically, I thought that if you slept and ate well, you could be healthy. A friend of mine, seeing that I was bubbling over with ideas, suggested that I meet a baker who was a bit 'crazy' in the south of France. When I met him, I immediately felt a connection. It's quite difficult to describe, but we recognised each other without knowing each other.
With Thomas, we very quickly wanted to set up a joint bakery project.
At the beginning, we were a bit confused about our product range. I found that at that time (2012), there was little natural sourdough bread and even less organic bread, even in Paris. Thomas, for his part, thought of offering gluten-free recipes. By mixing our ideas for a few months, we ended up with a project that is not only a bakery but a chain. We looked at the rice fields in the Camargue and in Northern Italy. We visited the farmers to try to work directly with them.
We also decided to make our own flour and therefore to build a mill.
This requires a certain technical skill and a good understanding of the organoleptic aspects of food. We asked Stéphane Pichard to join us so that he could bring us his expertise as a miller. By taking care of the raw materials that make up a food, we can ensure their quality. At the end of the chain, this results in a very satisfied customer.
It's pretty cool to wake up in the morning and say to yourself that you're buying rice in Italy to make flour. I see this flour arriving every week from the south of France where the mill is located. My life is about going to the bakery and seeing the team of bakers, pastry chefs and salesmen. When I see the finished product in the shop window and the smile of the customer looking at it, our work takes on its full meaning.
You could almost say that our work is virtuous, or at least that it has a circular logic.
Customer satisfaction brings meaning to my daily life and keeps me going.
I am building a system to perpetuate an activity and to be able to live from it. My son comes to help me regularly at work. I like to give him a taste for this activity even if there is no idea of passing it on. I hope that when my children are 18 they will want to go and do their own thing!
We opened the mill and the bakery in 2014. We have about 20 employees divided between these two places.
Until 2019, we were getting close to two million euros in turnover.
A franchise partnership in Belgium would like us to open several bakeries in France, which we do not wish to do. Thomas and I are fathers with other activities. We don't want to spread ourselves too thin. We see ourselves as "slow entrepreneurs", like the slow food movement.
You can do all the training in the world, but nothing can replace the power of the five senses. Eating tasty food or watching a beautiful wave in the Cotentin region gives indescribable pleasure. I am a great believer in awakening the senses. When I was in Chicago, I spent a lot of time alone. When you travel, you often have to surrender to your body and sometimes to your survival instinct. Stimulating and sharpening your five senses is the secret!