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Why I decided to participate in Maison & Objet against all odds

Updated: Nov 23, 2022

Vue de luminaires interactifs au salon Maison & Objet

When you start a company, you are not at all sure to do things right. In my case, I’m even pretty sure that I’m doing them wrong, i.e. in the wrong way, not necessarily in the most appropriate way, or by making the right strategic decisions. As if there was an ideal way to start a business, by flying over the pitfalls, by making only the best possible decisions at the best possible time. Obviously, this is not true. Of course, there are opportunities that arise, and you can either seize them or not, but there is no magic recipe to launch your business, nor is there an ideal way to do it. At the risk of pushing open doors, each path depends on the entrepreneur. And I had idealized the launch of my business.

So, when it took me three months to collect signatures from my first artisan partners, I thought that was too long and I thought I was doing it wrong. When I hired a lawyer to guide me through the different possible structures, and to write the statutes of my company, I found that it was too long, too expensive, I said to myself that I had been tricked and that I was doing it wrong. When I asked for help from the local authorities, I found that it was too long, too complicated, I told myself that I would never be taken in again, because I was definitely doing it wrong.

GIF Barack Obama qui ne comprend pas

On the other hand, when I applied to present artisans from the West Indies on the CRAFT pavilion at Maison & Objet, I thought of nothing. I just tried my luck. When my application was rejected for administrative reasons, I moved heaven and earth to prove my competence to the fair’s organization. When parts, photos, letters of support were missing, I sent them in a hurry. You may think it was because of my fighting spirit? But now, looking back, I think I knew I had to participate.

Yet, logically, participating in a trade fair the first year of business, with no cash flow, and taking on all the expenses, is not a good calculation. I went into personal debt to participate. I applied for subsidies from the local authorities and the Chamber of Trade, organizations that are supposed to represent the interests and the economic actors of my island. But my requests went unheeded. For three months, I called them again without success. For three months, I called, wrote, called back… The coaches I met from the Anggels, Initiative Guadeloupe or Outremer Network programs all explained to me (rightly) that taking on such a financial responsibility, so early in the life of my company, without asking for any consideration from the artisans, was pure madness. But here’s the thing: I didn’t hear anything.

I must, for you to understand me properly, tell you my history with the Maison & Objet fair. In September 2016, when I had just left my job, a former colleague invited me to visit the fair (organized by SAFI, her employer). And I came with curiosity to visit one of the leading home fairs in the world. And there, it’s a shock. In each aisle, the shock. Refined, worked, imaginative pieces. Colorful, textured pieces. Pieces by craftsmen. Technological pieces. Gadgets and works of art. I get chills, I get tears in my eyes. And I wonder how I can make it my business to participate in these types of events.

My colleagues and I at the Maison & Objet show

A few years later, the Maison & Objet fair had faded from my mind a bit. I’m a marketing executive for a Danish electrical startup, I’m doing the second confinement in Guadeloupe rather than still being stuck in my Parisian apartment. And the desire to set up a project that would make sense for me, is growing progressively. Each day spent on my island makes me wonder why I work in electricity.

In short, at the beginning of 2021, I leave my job and go to register my company at the Commercial Court of the city of Pointe-à-Pitre. I took some information, ran into a few obstacles, and put my website online in May 2021. I even make a few sales on this momentum! Summer arrives, and the days are sometimes gloomy as I have the impression that nothing advances.

And then, in November, everything accelerated: I joined an incubation program, my loan application was approved, and my application for the Maison & Objet fair was finally accepted. I then began the long list of costs to be added to the stand’s price: electricity, wall covering, protective partitions, stand furniture, transport of the pieces, VAT to be paid, printing of brochures, and so on and so forth. I won’t draw you a picture, but I thought a lot about how to have a professional and affordable scenography (thanks Valérie, thanks Madeleine!). I spent an unimaginable amount of time talking to the business advisory unit of the customs to get the merchandise accepted without paying VAT in advance, but only in case of sale. I reiterated requests for support and gathered countless quotes to prove my good faith and the cost of the project. I resolicited my partner craftsmen to make sure I would receive the parts on time.

So much effort for 4 days on the fair. But even in the most complicated moments, when I woke up in the night writing down tasks to remember on my phone, when I asked the transporter to explain to me again what an RFS approval is, when I cried after hanging up with customs or an administration… even in those moments, I never considered giving up on the Salon. I felt in every fiber of my being that I had to go. If only as a reminder of that day in September 2016 when I dreamed that attending would be my job.

And the result you might ask? Well, it’s February 9 as I write this, I’ll see you at my booth on March 24 to see if I was right.

Vignette d'illustration de participation au salon Maison & Objet


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