“After four years in consulting in London, I now make kombucha in the Basque Country”

Alexandre Fillon produit du kombucha bio à Anglet, dans le Pays basque, avec ses deux associés et amis.

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“I am very sensitive to the ecological cause. I often listen to talks by Jean-Marc Jancovici, an engineer specializing in energy and climate, and the astrophysicist Aurélien Barrau, I read the IPCC reports, I hardly eat meat anymore, I try to eat as much as possible organic and seasonal, I fly as little as possible…

In 2021, I am starting to seriously question myself about the meaning of my job. I tell myself that it could be more in line with my ecological convictions. At that time, I have been working since 2017 at Nova Consulting, a consulting firm in London.

Logical sequence: advice, good salary

I chose this path after my master's degree at EM Lyon because it seemed to me to be the logical continuation of my course. I did like many of my comrades: opt for consulting or finance, with the key to openings and a good salary.

On a daily basis, the pace is quite intense, we often finish late at night. But I learn a lot, the atmosphere is nice, the team close-knit, and I make very good friends. I support two major clients: a dairy products group that wants to seek growth in new markets in Asia and a car manufacturer, which I advise on selling more new vehicles, especially SUVs.

A market with potential

During my experience in this firm, I became very good friends with Grégoire Collet-Mojaïsky, a colleague who left the company in 2021. He and his friend Clément Lemoine, met during their studies at Audencia, began to make kombucha for their personal consumption. . This sparkling and tangy drink is the result of a fermentation process and made from tea, sugar, filtered water, and a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria.

Clément is a great cooking enthusiast: after a preparation, a master's degree in business school and some experience in start-ups, he converted by doing a CAP in cooking. At that time, he was a cook at the Garance, a gourmet restaurant in London.

One day, Grégoire makes me taste their drink. I do not know at all and am pleasantly surprised by these flavors. Since we've been talking about doing business together for a while, I researched the market… and discovered that there was real potential! Kombucha can be drunk to enhance a dish, a dessert, instead of a wine. It has a refreshing side ideal for the summer period or to be drunk after a sports session. Not very sweet and slightly acidic, it can also be used in cocktails. In addition to its taste, it has interesting virtues for health, in particular antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

We think that the three of us could put our skills to good use around a project that brings together our passions: indulgence, well-being and sustainability. We ended up taking the plunge, creating our company, Datxa, at the end of 2021. To devote myself to this activity, I left the consulting firm in which I have worked for more than four years at the beginning of 2022.

Get to know the drink

Farewell London, we put our suitcases in the Basque Country. A region that we like for several reasons: it allows us to source local products for our production and to have an incredible quality of life, close to the ocean and the mountains. It's also a homecoming for Grégoire and I, who have roots there.

From now on, Clément is responsible for production and R&D, while Grégoire takes care of the commercial aspect and is finishing a CAP in cooking. Me, I work more on marketing and financing. We rent a room of 160 m2 in an industrial zone in Anglet, near Biarritz, where we carry out all the production: infusion, fermentation, bottling, labelling, etc.

Our activity is a challenge because kombucha is still unknown in London. You have to convince those who don't know to taste it… but also those who have drunk it in the past and didn't like it, because the flavors vary a lot from one producer to another!

In our flavored kombuchas, we try as much as possible to use seasonal fruits and vegetables sourced in the region: rhubarb, fig leaf, blackcurrant leaf, citrus… As for our teas, they come mainly from China and India. We are aware that this is not optimal in terms of carbon footprint but unfortunately, there are no such quality teas in closer countries. We still offer a 100% local kombucha, the buckwheat one from Lot-et-Garonne, and all our drinks are organic.

Increase production to earn money

Since February 2022, the month when we released our first bottles, our beverages have been sold locally in markets and on the menu of around thirty bars and restaurants in the region. Objectives by the end of the year: launch our e-commerce site for individuals and market our products throughout London, in grocery stores and organic stores.

We are not yet clearing a salary. If we can devote ourselves to this activity, it is thanks to our unemployment benefits, because the three of us have obtained a contractual termination. To live from our project, we need to gain market share and increase our production. With shortages of materials, the installations in our premises have been delayed, but this summer we should be able to go from 4,500 bottles produced per month to 10,000.

Our days are dense but what we appreciate is the possibility of organizing ourselves as we see fit. You can decide to give yourself some time for hiking or surfing if you see good waves in the morning, and finish later in the evening.

I don't regret my consulting experience at all. It allowed me to learn many things, and I think it gave us credibility with our interlocutors, in particular with our bank.

A dacha, the dream

We would like to hire at least three people on permanent contracts over the next three years for the commercial and administrative parts. This would free up time for us to diversify, in particular by launching other projects around fermentation as well as a zero-waste kombucha, concocted from ginger and lemon peelings.

Our dream ? Acquire a large house, our dacha (from Russian, meaning country house), in the hinterland, where we would set up our laboratory. On the ground, we could grow fruits and vegetables that would be used to make our kombucha. And open a beautiful table and guest rooms! »

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