Wondering why there has been no news from 1000 Flowers for quite some time? A consuming and exciting project has been in the works… The story of which I will share in this entry.
It’s been clear for some time now, that my dream has been to base my company here in the south of France; in the perfume capital of Grasse. For the last three years I have voyaged back and forth between here and Canada, stretching pennies, juggling apartment rentals, sublets, suitcases, storage lockers, raw materials, and all the myriad of details involved in attempting to make a new home in a foreign country. Not to mention all the work in building my company at the same time.
Ever since perfumery school back in 2007, I have felt strongly that my heart has belonged here. Sometimes I have cursed this feeling, since my life would be so much simpler, and so much easier if I could just feel the same deep sense of wonder and belonging in my own native country! Not that I don’t love Canada- I do, it’s just that, for me, there is a sense of magic in the Alpes-Maritimes region of France that has caught me inextricably in its lovely spell and refuses to let me go.
Not long after my arrival this time, I learned about a new organization here in Grasse, called the Pépinière d’Entreprises InnovaGrasse- which is a ‘business nursery’ or what we might call a business incubator. This one is geared specifically toward the perfume and cosmetic sector since it is located in the heart of the traditional French perfume region. It is housed in the newly renovated Roure Bertrand perfume factory. The inauguration for this organization was only September 2010- so it is brand new.
For the last 5 weeks or so, I have been working like mad to write a full business plan, and put together a presentation to showcase 1000 Flowers and my plans for the future. My deadline was March 9th. I worked right up until the last hour and then with powerpoint transferred from Mac to PC with some funny errors; I stood before a panel 12 people who came from various economic and business development positions for the Grasse and Nice regions. It was quite formal, as these things are in France- like one of those boardroom presentations that one sees in movies. It was rather surreal! Afterward, they had number of questions to ask me, before shooing me from the room to discuss and decide if they were going to accept me or not. About 20 min later, during which time I sat, barely breathing with anticipation, looking out a huge window with a perfect view of the old city of Grasse… and waited. When they called me back in- they immediately informed me that the answer was yes. A few more questions followed, then one of them, a man from the economic development sector- looked at me and said- “We are all here for you, so whatever you need, you tell us- we are here to help you.” At that point, I was practically exploding with happiness- and the realization, that finally, all the work, persistence and suffering of the past few years was finally made completely worthwhile.
SOME HISTORY– Roure Bertrand, established in 1820, was one of the very first companies in Grasse that was established to provide natural raw materials to the perfume industry. (Rose, jasmine and tuberose, etc). The industry at this time, was based on the perfuming of leather gloves, and Grasse was the centre for this art. The company went through various incarnations before eventually being absorbed into Givaudan- the Swiss giant perfume production house.
The large warehouse that now houses Pépinière used to be the enfleurage section of the factory- where mountains of flowers were made into absolutes in the now antiquated tradition of enfleurage– of laying fresh flowers in trays of fat to extract their sweetness.
A full history of Roure Bertrand can be found here. (in French) And a more general history of the Grasse perfume industry here.
This beautiful old structure (designed by Gustav Eiffel himself) has now been fully renovated and houses InnovaGrasse on the 2nd and 3rd floors and the University of the first. (including a full laboratory.)
There will be in total 27 offices opened to small business’ who qualify to be taken under the wing of this organization. I have the honour of being the eleventh member of the group.
And now- I must return to Canada once more; this time to apply for the correct visa to launch my company in France. With the acceptance letter in hand from the Pepiniere, I think this stage will be quite easy. As well, there are a lot of details still to work out as to how 1000 Flowers products will be produced in Canada so that they don’t have to be shipped from France. This will be an interesting and complex plan- but I know that things will continue to fall into place as they have so beautifully already.