It’s never easy to take the first step. Especially when you don’t know in which direction you’re supposed to go… As I had no experience in the matter, I decided to follow my instinct. First of all, call Maxime to discover more about the fragrance project. He was a little taken back by my questions but, gradually, he warmed to the idea and told me most of what I wanted to know. It’s true that my father’s intuition was excellent, a little ahead of its time, perhaps. Modern technology could give another dimension to his original idea. I hung up and quickly summarized my thoughts in a notebook: “a customizable fragrance. Customers buy a main bottle of perfume and then another, complementary one, to compose their own personal fragrance. A major step requiring unique, biological expertise. Almost high-tech. For the customers, possibility to visit a website to select their range of complementary scents. Possibility to find tips on the site. Then launch of the app to see what’s new, to order additional fragrances.”
The ideas kept on coming. In the space of a single morning, I had covered twenty pages, written a draft schedule.
Time had flown, so much for my classes! I got back to work after a sandwich. There remained the problem of choosing a name. An important point… I had a number of initial ideas: Customized, Personal… My perfume? A little too traditional, not very attractive. I opened the window and looked out to take a break. It was lunchtime, people leaving their offices, groups going into restaurants… At the corner of the street, a mother was trying to reason with her sulky child, without much success.
— You have to share your toys, Tim!
— No! It’s mine! said the boy, his arms crossed across his chest.
— Don’t be selfish!
— It’s mine!
It’s mine… Mine for him and Mine for her… No, too long… Why not use French? Mien for men and Mienne for women! Each time, a single word. Simple, easy to remember. I picked up a magazine lying on the coffee table to write down these ideas as quickly as possible, just like Langley leaving his messages. Mien and Mienne. Never before had I felt that incomparable thrill, that enthusiasm inspiring the first steps in a new venture.
After a day working, I stopped to take stock of my progress. A project, a “specialist” partner with Maxime, a name, a draft marketing plan… Now I needed advice, an outsider’s point of view. Who could I talk to? Perhaps one of my marketing lecturers? Or Florian, who’s more experienced than I am? Unless… a simpler solution, more natural and more efficient… Yes, that’s it…
The morning sunlight poured in between the posters on the windows. I took it to be a good sign. The stylized profile of a squirrel was silhouetted on the floor. As I waited for my appointment, I flicked through the pages of the brochures on the table. The advisor arrived a few minutes later. I sat down in his office and drew out of my folder the document I had written the previous night.
He listened to my presentation, asked several questions about the perfume, the different steps, Maxime’s experience. When I reached the last page of my document, I fell silent.
— It’s an… impressive project! Amazing even! he said, glancing through the presentation.
— Thanks. I feel the idea is good but… I’m worried about…
— Being alone?
— That’s it exactly. I lack experience. I’ll certainly feel lost at times.
— Not necessarily! To start with, the Caisse d’Epargne has designed several tools you could find useful.
He told me, in particular, about the DiagEntrepreneur diagnostic tool making performance comparisons. I took notes.
— For an innovative project like yours, you should also consider the Seventure Partners fund.
— What is it?
— It’s a set of venture capital funds investing in innovative companies. There’s also Néo Business. It would be a perfect match…
When I left the branch, I couldn’t wait a moment longer to call Maxime. After a few minutes, I’d told him everything! My ideas for the names, the appointment at the bank… Several times, he asked me to slow down, to explain again. At the end of the conversation, he seemed a little overwhelmed but I noted a hint of excitement in his voice. “Continue working on Yves’ perfume… that would be fantastic!” Florian’s phone number popped up on my phone but I didn’t answer. Too much to tell him, too much to do… I preferred to wait for the next time I’d see him and go back to the flat to review the different problems in the right order. It would be better to keep a cool head in the coming days.
When I arrived in the lobby of my building, I stopped in front of my letterbox. An envelope was poking out. I pulled it straight out, without bothering to take the key from my bag. No stamp, but Langley’s violet ink. What was he thinking? Did he regret his offer? Nothing is stronger than anxiety: it has the power to quench the enthusiasm felt just a moment before. With Langley, anything was possible. My father had paid to find out. I ripped open the white paper; the cover of a book appeared: The Backpacker’s Guide to Funding. A calling card dropped from between the pages: “A guide is always helpful when you set out on a long journey, wouldn’t you say? You won’t be hearing from me again, Eva. Good luck.”
Illustrations: Karolis Strautniekas/Agent 002; Yann Le Bec/Illustrissimo
Photos: Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac ©Luc Boegly, Yvan Zedda/BPCE, Banque Populaire, Stéphane de Bourgies, CASDEN Banque Populaire, Caisse d’Epargne, Julien Crosnier/KMSP/DPPI, BPCE, DPPI/BPCE, Le Pot Commun, Neustockimages, Fidor Bank.
Getty Images: Btrenkel, picturegarden, Inimma-IS, Koraysa, Moodboard, Rachel Dewis, Peter Carlsson, Clu, Twohumans, Donal Husni-EyeEm, Nikada, egafoldo, Oscar Wong, Alija Izetbegovic, Uschools, Westend61, Bloom, milazvereva.
Shutterstock: Jacob Lund, EQRoy, Prostock, Diego Cervo, GaudiLab, Monkey Business Images, Travel Stock, Zhu Difeng.
Design and production: Havas Paris
Groupe BPCE, Corporate Communications Department.
Author of the short story: Jean-Pierre Montal.
Editorial consultants and drafting of the “Clues” pages: Information & Conseil.