Belle Roche Brocante

My new business is 5 weeks old today! The concept has been years in the โ€œwhat iffingโ€ and, back in October, I finally took the plunge and decided to give it a go. Iโ€™m now the proud online seller of authentic French vintage decorative items at ๐Ÿ˜€ Quite a change from a career in technology!

Itโ€™s been a huge learning curve….getting the website up and running was trickier than expected (my tech skills came in handy, but not as handy as you might expect!), but the end result looks pretty good, and Iโ€™ll continue to tweak it. Shopify tells me that Iโ€™m in the top 3 online stores that launched on their platform that week ๐Ÿ‘

Online marketing is something Iโ€™m still getting to grips with, getting good traffic from Google Ads and FaceBook, people are signing up to the newsletter, but SERIOUSLY need to lift my Instagram game and start reaching out to the interiors professions. So, lots to get stuck into in the coming weeks ๐Ÿ’ช

Wishing you all a happy, healthy & peaceful 2018 xx

So, what have I learned (so far)?

F19C2E4C-10C3-412F-903B-A93E823975B3First and foremost….yes, itโ€™s possible to source interesting, well-priced items in reasonable quantities. Yes, that involves a reasonable amount of digging around in manky cardboard boxes at the crack of dawn…..but thatโ€™s what those hand wipes are for! The best sources are the larger, regular markets which attract professional & semi-pro sellers. Yes, I had some lucky finds at some very dodgy markets, but need to consider time/effort trade-off. Have also got a much better idea now about how to identify the better markets (reading between the French lines, so to speak).

Lots of really funky mid-century stuff surfacing, gave me some new inspiration, and lots of slightly bigger pieces that I would have loved to have bought. Definitely need to sort out local transportation & storage….again, starting to refine my thinking ๐Ÿค” and btw how brilliant is the TGV?? Australia seriously needs one of those ๐Ÿš„ Sooo wanted to source some old French linen, but, the one time I found a promising seller, I had to leave early ๐Ÿ˜ this is definitely on the list for the next buying trip….

My accent and semi-mangled French are not a disadvantage, and led to lots of friendly banter with brocante sellers. It has also helped when asking for a discount, once youโ€™re polite and not taking the piss. Also, a smile goes a long way ๐Ÿ˜€ Over the entire trip, the vast majority of French people I met were friendly, helpful & interested, even when they were completed baffled by what I was doing! ๐Ÿค“ It was also interesting that older women, in particular, were incredibly supportive of my having a go at doing something completely different ๐Ÿ‘Š๐Ÿ’ช

Iโ€™m still not a morning person! Donโ€™t think thatโ€™s going to change…no matter how early I get to bed ๐Ÿ˜ด that said, even though the markets do start super-early, it wasnโ€™t unusual to see sellers pulling up in their vans at 9.30/10.00….so, all is not lost if I donโ€™t get there by 7.00 ๐Ÿ˜… also figured out that itโ€™s better to give myself more time (not just 24 hours) in a place. There are other sources besides the official markets, so best to have more time to explore up your sleeve. TBH thereโ€™s also a need for some time out….lots of travelling, early starts, carrying heavy loads around and speaking another language are pretty tiring (am sure it gets easier once you know where youโ€™re going).


Les Belles Parents

Today is my last day in France. I took my parents in law (“belles parents” in French, which I think sounds nicer ๐Ÿ˜€) out to lunch to say a huge “Thank You” for allowing me to camp out in their spare bedroom for 3 weeks (considering that my Mum used to say “visitors are like fish, after 3 days, they go off”!).

The talk of the town has been a new restaurant, ย L’or Q’idee, which is owned and run by a female chef, Naoelle d’Hainaut, who won France’s Top Chef (like Master Chef) TV show a few years ago. She also has many years of cooking at Le Bristol in Paris under her belt, and it showed. The food was top notch, though my father in law felt that the service was a little slow. This may or may not have had something to do with the fact that he sprung a surprise art auction on us shortly after we sat down, and was therefore in a hurry to get away to buy a painting he had his eye on. He was like a cat on a hot tin roof throughout lunch. When Naoelle walked the room to greet her diners, guess who told her that her food was deserving of a Michelin star, but that the service was too slow??!! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

My in laws are children of the war, and therefore, nothing is wasted. They especially don’t like to see food wasted (my father in law in particular). Thankfully, Hubby had regaled me with many, many stories of his Dad’s bargain food purchases over the years (for example, trays of fruit that are on life support!)….sell by and use by dates are considered to be interesting information, but not a consideration! When my father in law saw me put some leftover food (which had already been reheated once) into the compost tray, he pounced on it and put it back in the fridge! I had to have a lie down to recover ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ …..and, 3 days later, I removed it from the fridge and snuck it back into the bin ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ My mother in law explained the war time psychology to me, and now I know how to handle leftovers ๐Ÿ˜‰

That said, they still have the occasional “words” about using up stale bread. My father in law takes great pride in using up a baguette, even if it’s so stale, you could hammer in nails with it ๐Ÿ˜‚ This usually ends with my mother in law taking it off him, after he has negotiated for just one slice ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Both belles parents continue to contribute to their community through volunteer work (at their church, and, teaching French to new arrivals in France), and are very interested in, and support, the arts.

After 60 years of marriage, it is so lovely to see them be playful with each other, laugh together, share interests and comfort each other. Their energy and enthusiasm for life is remarkable, and no doubt, a key factor in their good health.

To wrap up, I am very grateful to my belle maman for the new Hubby handling strategies that I’ve learned by observing her interactions with my belle pere! ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ‘


The other Tour de France

Given that the purpose of this trip is to establish whether or not it’s possible to source sufficient objets to scale the business quickly, research has taken me to ย regional France, as well as Paris and its countryside surrounds.

Spent an interesting 2 days in Lyon, loved the place, and they run weekly, well-stocked “Puces” ๐Ÿ‘. Can’t say enough nice things about Lyon, and I look forward to more buying visits.

Next was 24 hours in Toulouse…..frankly, I hated the place (crowded, run down, claustrophobic, has clearly been badly managed by the local council), not helped by the fact that their weekly market (which was a handy 1km walk from where I was staying) had been moved due to renovation works (which were not visible….), no one recognised the alleged alternate location I’d read about & no one was answering the market contact number. All in all, a wasted 24 hours, but, at least I now know….which is the whole point of research, eh?

Final stop is Bordeaux, which is where I am tonight. So far, the buildings remind me a little of Edinburgh ๐Ÿ‘ Really looking forward to visiting their weekly market tomorrow, and, if I have time, a little street close by the market that has lots of small dealers’ stores. Then, back to Paris in the afternoon…..

Hand Wipes

Went to “fait les courses” (“run errands”….apologies right now for rusty French/dodgy spelling & grammar!) with my Mother-in-law. Maintaining my glorious track record of causing havoc in French supermarket checkouts (Hubby is still embarrassed about a certain exploding box incident in Burgundy this Summer….not to mention the new English swear words that the entire checkout line learned ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚), I was swiftly overtaken in bag packing by an elderly lady who MUST have been at least 90. Thankfully, French people don’t “tut” so I could only imagine the disapproving looks about the delay ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

Fresh from my latest international incident, visited a giant “depot” with my Father-in-law to check out lots of attic contents. Very happy to say that it’s official…..the first objets have been purchased (some pics above)! We managed to get a little discount (7%) but I learned that if it’s not an actual market, haggling isn’t really welcome ๐Ÿ˜ฌ Needless to say, also spotted lots of larger items that were interesting (my favourite was an enormous timber wardrobe, the size of 2 portaloos (seriously, you could walk around in it!), that would have made an awesome outdoor room), however, not quite in that space just yet ๐Ÿ˜‰ Second lesson of the day: bring hand wipes when digging around in old stuff!

The adventure begins….

Well, here I am, sitting in the first class lounge waiting for my flight to London…….aaaarrrrrggggghhhhh…..I’m really doing this!!

7 weeks ago, I was employed at B3 (Big Balls Bank) as a technology executive. I was working from home to review confidential proposals from our service partners, when I got a call requesting a face to face meeting, that day, with one of my 2 bosses (don’t you just love matrix reporting ๐Ÿ˜ฌ?) The urgency was a surprise, I jumped in a cab and raced into head office….where I was advised that, due to cost pressures, I was being laid off. Great……

Two truths: 1. even though it was a shock, it wasn’t a huge surprise, my team was small and niche, and a great candidate for consolidation….2. after two very successful, but hellish, years, I’d had enough and was ready to leave. So, my second reaction to the news was relief ๐Ÿ˜…

The following weeks were filled with a wiiiide spectrum of emotions, and some enthusiastic champagne drinking ๐Ÿฅ‚(if they ever make this an Olympic sport, I’m a shoe-in๐Ÿพ). However, the scary thing was that my usual clarity and focus about my career appeared to have disappeared…..I just didn’t care any more and had no interest in getting back into the corporate rat race…..WTF??!!

Which is why I now find myself heading to Europe to chase a business idea……