Becoming French… (creating a French business)

Actually, I am joking a little when writing the first part of the title for this post. ¬† As much as France (and its culture) is charming and amazing in so many ways, ¬†I will always be la Canadienne! ¬†Integrated, yes- but comfortable with keeping¬†my own cultural identity. ¬† However, ¬†the same can not be said for my company. ¬†While strongly identified¬†with its roots, 1000 Flowers has officially made the transition to becoming French. ¬†Making this happen has been a challenging process in some ways (nothing is simple in France), and relatively easy in others. ¬†I decided to start small, and to begin in the category of ‘autoentrepreneur’. ¬†I attended the 3 hour training session at the Chambre des Metiers et des Artisanats, in order to fill in the registration form correctly, and then compiled the stack of documents that are required to complete the application. ¬†The first submission was rejected, due to several missing said documents, but round two, was accepted, and yesterday I received in the post, my certificate of inscription with the Repertoire des Entreprises¬†et des Etablissements. ¬†As such, I am the proud recipient of a ‘Identifiant SIREN et SIRET’.

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The journey to arrive to this point has been long, and has taken many steps to complete. ¬†Normally, for a foreigner to create a company in France, it is a complex and very expensive process. ¬†But since I entered on the ‘Talents et Competance’ Visa, after having been validated via the acceptance into a business incubator (Pepiniere), I was given permission to create my project in France under this particular visa. ¬†Having done my formal training here was also very helpful. ¬†I don’t have the right to work outside of my own field, ¬†and will submit my taxes here, plus qualify for the medical system. ¬†Technically at this point, (five years of living in France), I could also apply for citizenship….but this isn’t a priority at the moment.

Also, just as a follow up: I wanted to address the subject of the InnovaGrasse incubator.  As I had reported in a previous post (Grasse- Being in Perfume ), I worked for months to write a comprehensive business plan to be accepted into this program, and subsequently in 2011, I was accepted.  This was an incredibly exciting prospect, and a great experience in the process, but in the end- I did not enter the program, and decided to continue my project independently.  (Still adhering to the requirements of my visa in doing so).  The reasons for this were simple- cost, and practicality.  Primarily, it was only an office space, without the basic requirements of a lab- ie a sink with running water.  I had been told at the onset, that I would have access to a small lab on the main floor- but when I arrived back in France, this was not the case.  So all in all, I made the decision to create my own lab in a large and airy room in my apartment in the centre of the old city of Grasse.  This is where I have been happily working ever since.

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Return to the Perfumed Pilgrimage

I don’t know if I’m the only one who feels this way, but it seems like 2013 flew by in the blink of an eye! ¬† I had the strangest feeling the whole year that I was running behind, and it was with some horror today, when I checked into my blog, to see that the last entry was December, 2012!

Clearly, this is indicative of losing the rhythm of reporting on and sharing the ‘perfumed pilgrimage’ that has been my life here in Grasse! ¬†And a big part of the reason for writing less, is that life has a way of becoming ‘normal’ no matter where we are. ¬†Even life in the south of France takes on a certain normalcy after a few years, and reporting on the events that come and go becomes less motivating, since the events are less and less a novelty.

However, I am realizing (even just this week),  how important it is to look at life more objectively more often, to see how magical it really is, and to appreciate what a lot of hard work and sacrifice has been involved to arrive at the present moment. (and to be very grateful to be there)

So here is a first of more frequent reports to come… to once again share some stories of life here in the Alpes-Maritimes region, and specifically to fragrance related topics/events here in the Pays de Grasse.

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The Virgin and a Pilgrimage Grassoise

Today I thought I’d share a story that began via my meeting of a very interesting woman the other day here in the old city of Grasse. Her name is Ann Marie and she is about 72 years old. ¬†I met her while having lunch with friends at my favourite little restaurant in the centre of the city. ¬†(It’s the Cafe Oratorio, and may I recommend their Tirimisu sal√©- a cold glass of savoury marscapone and whipped egg whites layered with parmesan cheese and saut√©ed veges in olive oil….one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten… bit I digress.)

Ann Marie is blind- and a rather eccentric character with a strong sense of humour that rather takes you back with its boldness.  Before her retirement,  she worked for 40 years, at Robertet, one of the oldest Grassoise fragrance/raw material houses.  Her position was as a translator for the clients coming from Germany, Spain, and English-speaking countries.  She would translate the briefs into French for the perfumers, evaluators, etc.

She told me a very interesting story about a recent date- September 8th. ¬†This is the birthday of the Virgin Mary, and ever since the 17th century, up until more recent times- there was an annual pilgrimage √† pied¬†(on foot), from the city of Grasse to a nearby village called Valcluz- where there is a Catholic sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary, ¬†called the Sanctuaire Notre-Dame de Valcluse. ¬†Back in the day, September 8th was a major holiday in Grasse, and all the perfume factories would close, and all the workers would hoist their respective flags representing their companies, and walk to Valcluse. ¬† Part of the reason for the tradition of this pilgrimage, was to thank the Virgin Mary for her protection, since the Plague never touched Grasse. ¬† ¬†I decided to go there this morning to see the place for myself…

The sanctuary is about 10 min by bus from Grasse, and when I arrived to the shady green gorge where it is nestled, I found the most perfect feeling of peace surrounding the enclave. ¬† The chapel was lit only by many candles, with natural morning light filtering in through the stained glass. ¬† The place was silent and I thought it was empty, until I saw several white-robed nuns, perfectly still, deep in prayer. ¬†With representations of Mary everywhere, ¬†I was struck with how this place felt like a woman’s chapel. ¬†Slowly more women came in quietly, and settled in for their own personal communing with the spirit of the place. ¬†I sat for about an hour, lost in my own thoughts, prayers, dreams, and reflections.

Then, the bell tolled in the tower, and some priests came in, the lights came on, and I realized there was a general preparation underway for mass. ¬†I watched all this with interest, since I am not Catholic, and decided to stay for the service. ¬†About 30 people arrived for mass, and about 10 more nuns appeared, as well as 4 priests. ¬†As it was to turn out, there was a guest father…. a man from Gabon… a man as black as coal. ¬†He gave a moving sermon, interspersed with the most beautiful singing by the nuns. ¬†The vibrations of sound were simply amazing- and I had the feeling that one really doesn’t have to be religious, (or fluent in the language of delivery), to be deeply effected on many levels by the power of sound and devotion intertwined.

Later, when I spoke with one of the sisters, she explained to me about the guest priest from Africa, whose grandfather had been a sorcerer. ¬†This man had also been in training to become a sorcerer, but one day, he had an epiphany, and changed to Catholicism. ¬†He then went on to study in Rome, and as turned out, was here in Valcluse for 2 days to teach. ¬†Somehow, this felt auspicious for my visit today…to have such a rare event, and dare I say, one touched indirectly by just a hint of magic from another culture.

To add a little more history of the place-  the first records show that there was a sanctuary dedicated to Notre Dame on the left bank of a water source in this area, likely the same as now, in the 12th century- although the current chapel was constructed in 1650.   There is an Hermitage next to the chapel, which also used to house an olive oil press (a moulinРa wheel operated by the water from the river). At one time, and there was a hermit who lived there from about 1614 onward.

All in all, the place is peaceful, immersed in a green gorge of nature, with waterfalls, ¬†and benches everywhere to sit and take it all in. ¬†Plus, it’s 10 min from Grasse by the bus that runs every 30 minutes….

I have a feeling I’ll be going back.

One of the many plaques that decorate the walls of the main chapel, a mini-chapel inside the hermitage dedicated to Saint Rita, and also on the walls of a grotto beside the river. I thought this one rather sums it all up.

Ps- Here is the direct link to the Sanctuaire’s site. ¬†Sanctuaire Notre-Dame de Valcluse

In appreciation…

I am posting a little note to once again say thank you for so enthusiastically taking part in the Liquorice Dreams sale. ¬†With all your support, it appears that I will be able to keep going in realizing the dream of establishing my little company in Grasse! ¬†ūüôā

I honestly didn’t expect such a flood of response to the SOS post- and new systems have had to be created to manage it all. ¬†There have been a few hiccups while frantically sorting out supplier issues, as well as finding a printing company who could do the work I need for the outer packaging, plus other details to sort out. ¬†But all in all, everything is going smoothly, and it feels so good to begin sending out these little packages of perfume all over the world.

Today I had a lovely meeting with a very well-known perfumer and his colleague near Grasse.   The perfume concentrate for Reglisse Noire will soon be prepared in their lab- and with their expertise and with access to their storehouse of the best quality raw materials.  I am very excited about this- since it will free a lot of time for me to begin creating the new fragrance I have been dreaming of for a long time (with honey and Mediterranean sunshine).

However, in the meantime- in appreciation for all your support- although the sale officially ends tomorrow (the 13th)- I have decided to extend the event for anther 2 weeks.   This means that the 15ml Reglisse Noire will continue to be priced at $23 CAD (plus shipping/handling), until September 27th.   Also, as I have mentioned- 1% of sales will be paid forward to the Bees For Development Trust.

Much love!

Liquorice Dreams (s.o.s!)

Dear all,

As many of you know, I am an artisan perfumer, and the founder of 1000 Flowers. ¬†I’m known for having big dreams and a lot of courage.

Today I have a very humble and honest post to share with you.

I created this small business many years ago in the mountains of western Canada.  After much success, many hardships and a whole lot of determination, planning and dreaming,  I sold my house so as to attend a year of perfumery school in the south of France,  followed by some internships in a French company or two.

Since then, I’ve clung, ironclad, to my dream of creating a niche perfume house with a collection of perfumes based on naturals and with a green and ethical approach to both creation and business.

This Spring, I worked long hours to write a business plan and proposal to present to a business incubator here in Grasse- and I was accepted!

I then returned to Canada to apply for my 3 year visa, worked to attain new clients, and to launch a new perfume.  I spent 4 months working like mad, and returned to Grasse one month ago.

Since then, I have been biting my nails is regard to how to pay for this venture. ¬†I have looked at angel investors, applied for the Dragon’s Den, and other ideas too… but so far, no one is interested in such a ‘small fish’… they all want big and they want to charge a hefty fee to even orchestrate matching of investors with entrepreneurs. ¬†At this point, ¬†I am more idea and potential, then actual. ¬†Not everyone dares to dream as I do.

To get to the point- ¬†I have realized that I may have to pack up and give up….. I have exhausted myself, my resources (I have put about 60,000 Canadian dollars of my own money into this venture), and my nerves. ¬†There have been months where I had money for only one meal a day, ¬†since all possible funds have to go into developing the business. ¬†(raw materials, bottles, boxes etc.)

I have done everything myself by hand so far, created and launched two perfumes, designed and created the packaging, built the website, done all my own photography, packed my things back and forth between Grasse and Canada etc etc etc.

So…. for all of you who know me, and all of you who might not- I am making an appeal with all my heart. ¬† My first perfume, many of you know well- REGLISSE NOIRE- has been a great hit… much loved and appreciated by all ages, and men and women alike.

¬†To keep going, to grow my company here in Grasse by entering into this business development program- I can’t do it alone. ¬†I need your help!!
In exchange for your support,  for the next 2 weeks, I offer you Reglisse Noire at a greatly reduced price.
$23 each for the 15ml flacon.  (normally priced at $45)
The shipping is $8.50 to anywhere in the world.

$23 (about 18euro) (until Sept 13th)

The boutique is at www.1000flowers.ca

I thank you in advance for this and please know that you’re contributing to a dream that is pure and true. (plus receiving a fabulous perfume in exchange.)

With lots of love,
Jessica September Buchanan
nectar@1000flowers.ca

(ps I will also reduce Fleur N01 by 25% in honour of this occasion. )