Every day after lunch, I used to walk over to a French bakery near my flat, order a Soy Chai Latte and write, write, write until they kicked me out. That’s where I met Claire. Standing behind the counter with a smile, she greeted me warmly.

It only took a couple of days for her to remember me and my complicated order. As time passed, we became friends. When I heard that the bakery was closing down, I was heartbroken for so many reasons. I thought of Claire and her colleagues right away.

But Claire had just launched her own business called La petite conserve – an online shop offering French products in Australia. She decided to focus on it wholeheartedly.

Having myself started the little venture that is Be Beyond Borders, I can confidently say that creating a cross-borders business is as fascinating as it is challenging which is why I am delighted to be sharing Claire’s experience and precious advice with you!

1. Tell us a bit about yourself…

Bonjour! My name is Claire. I grew up in France and I have been living in Australia for almost 5 years now. When I arrived, I had never worked in hospitality before… I started as a dishwasher and kitchen aid in a restaurant until one day my boss told me that I was going to learn how to make coffee.

Two weeks later, I was hired as a barista elsewhere. I kept both jobs and ended up making coffee 60 hours a week. Turned out I was pretty good at it and loved it too! Having spent almost two years in a small town in Western Australia, I needed a change of scenery so I decided to move to Melbourne. There, I eventually became the manager of a French Bakery in Elsternwick.

I also had the chance to travel a lot along the way whether it’d be around Australia, to Thailand, Bali, New York, and more. However, my love of travel has been pushed aside for now as I focus on my new career aspirations. But I’m sure I’ll be on the road again in no time!

2. What brought you to Australia? 

I first came to Australia to improve my English, travel around and if possible earn and save some money. I’d heard stories of people doing exactly that. But things don’t always (often!) happen as you plan them… So here I am, years down the line, still living in Australia with my partner who I met in Melbourne shortly after my arrival.

3. Why did you decide to start your own business? 

I had thought about starting my own business for a while. Being a barista is good fun but it wasn’t enough for me anymore.

When I started looking into things, I came across a very popular online French import company. Keen to keep a connexion with my homeland too, I did some research and realised that there was enough space in the market for two.

Being someone who loves new challenges, creating things from scratch and getting out of my comfort zone, I decided to set up my own cross-border business between France and Australia: La petite conserve!

4. What is ‘La petite conserve’ all about? 

La petite conserve is and always will be about food! It is an online platform through which you can order all of your favourite French delicacies.

To me, food is invaluable especially the culinary traditions each of us grew up with. They are linked to good memories, make us both happy and nostalgic and above all bring us together. With food comes community and that’s what I aim to create and be part of with La petite conserve.

5. What about you, what do you miss from France?

Let’s get straight to it… What I miss the most is cheese!!

On a more personal note, I miss La Plagne, a ski resort in the Alps where I lived for a long time. There, no two days were the same, there was always something new to do and new people to meet. It is and will always remain my happy place.

I also miss going to a real French market where you can wander around, buy fresh produce or just meet people for a chat. I haven’t found anything similar in Australia yet.

Finally, I miss the diversity of French’s culture and history. Each region is so unique and has so many things to see, small villages to visit and delicious food to try!

6. How did you go from ideation to implementation and how long did it take you?

At first, the idea of opening my own business seemed huge and impossible. I thought about it for a long time.

At a time when I was between jobs, I thought to myself… Why not give it a shot?! I started by learning how to create a website on my own. It wasn’t a big risk and required no investment. Plus, I got really passionate about it – just like every time I put myself into something.

I did a lot of research and kept progressing bit by bit. It took me a year to put together a website, set up an Instagram page, find suppliers, create flyers and business cards, put together my stock, etc.

As everything came together, I got excited and launched unexpectedly on 5 November 2018! Maybe it was the right time, maybe it wasn’t. Who knows… All I know is that La petite conserve is now live and I’m really enjoying the entrepreneur journey so far!

7. What are some of the challenges you faced setting up a cross-borders business?

Setting up a business in a country where the local language isn’t your mother tongue is very challenging. You don’t know the regulations and sometimes you don’t understand everything in detail. So you have to spend a lot of time reading and researching. The good thing about Australia is that you can find all the support you need.

Finding funding to get started was challenging too. Anything I had left from my salary would go towards my new business and no any longer towards my personal needs. It has been a huge sacrifice.

I also spent a lot of time after work, working on La petite conserve. My personal life has been impacted by it. Every bit of energy, time, and money – as tiny as it might be – has gone to the business and time management remains a real challenge.

As an entrepreneur, you also have to deal with the unknown. I mean you don’t know how long your business will exist, how profitable it could be, and if customers will like your products/services etc. You can’t have the answers to your questions until you actually try and go for it which can be pretty daunting.

Another thing I wasn’t prepared for is that being an entrepreneur can be lonely. Although I am naturally very independent, I find it difficult sometimes to work completely my own.

But when I think of it, all of these challenges are as rewarding as they are harsh.

8. Three years and a start-up in Australia later, where or what would you say is home to you?

I would say that Australia is home. But everyone has their own definition of home. To me, home is where it feels right to be.

To feel at home, you need to look after yourself and create an atmosphere around you that makes you feel good. I feel comfortable and relaxed in my everyday life here in Australia and so it does feel like home to me. It’s about the feeling, not the place.

9. Do you have any tips for other people who might like to start their own cross-borders business? 

If you want to start your own cross-borders business, I would first recommend that you start small to make it easier for yourself.

I would then suggest that you surround yourself with other entrepreneurs.

Finally, try to seek a balance between your personal life and your business and believe in yourself. If you want it to happen, you can make it happen!

10. How can we find out more and order French delicacies from you? 

To find out more about La petite conserve, you can like our Facebook page, follow la_petite_conserve on Instagram and/or simply visit our website http://www.lapetiteconserve.com. If you subscribe to the newsletter, you will know when I launch awesome new products!

You can order everything you like online and choose the free pick up option at checkout if you live around Sandringham. That way, you will avoid shipping costs.

I always love being in contact with my customers so feel free to send me an email and tell me what you miss from France and would like to find on my website!

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I don’t know about you but this interview made my mouth water. I’m off to cook some French food for dinner now… Bon apétit!

But first tell me, dear reader… What is your favourite French speciality?

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