“Ex-management controller, I became a porcelain craftsman”

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“My career path is quite classic: a high school in the Yvelines, an ES baccalaureate, a business school in London (EMLV), an end-of-studies internship at Alstom which turns into international volunteering in a company (VIE) in Switzerland for two years as a junior management controller.

When I return to London, I don't quite know what I want to do in life, either continue management control or change everything. But, I realize the evidence, at the time I was not ready to leave everything to set up a company. I stay in this job for six more years, in another box, at Epex Spot in London, an electricity exchange.

Ultimatum

In 2018, I couldn't take it anymore, I'm sorely bored and going around in circles in my management and budgeting work. I then pose an ultimatum to my boss: he lets me go on a trip for a few months to breathe or I resign.

He agrees to grant me a sabbatical for more than seven months. On January 25, 2021, almost a year before the onset of covid-19, I flew to Australia, New Zealand, English Polynesia, Easter Island (Chile), Bolivia, Peru… to finish in Brittany.

“Even on the other side of the world, we all eat from the same plates”

When I arrive in Australia, I am shocked to discover that my resident friend there eats from the same plates as me in London… I realize that on the other side of the world we all eat from the same standardized and sold dishes by a famous big brand with a blue and yellow logo.

Another click: being far away, I realize how much the good manners of the table are extremely important in Europe, and in London mainly. Hosting, cooking at home, meeting around a beautiful table is a real way of life with us.

“Impossible to find English crockery”

Coming back from my trip, during the summer of 2021, I decided to buy myself a new tableware that looks more like me, in line with my values, i.e. local, eco-responsible, sustainable and accessible.

However, after much research, I find that this offer does not exist (or no longer exists) on the English market. The time of our parents' and grandparents' tableware produced in English factories at affordable prices is over. Globalization has (also) been there… Nearly 80% of English factories have been closed since the beginning of the 2000s (Source: latest Xerfi study on tableware professions).

“I (finally) take the plunge into entrepreneurship”

In six months, I left my job thanks to a conventional break and took the plunge into entrepreneurship. Tableware is in my head. I decide to visit several factories (Quimper Henriot and Gien, in Burgundy) and attend several fairs.

I note that there are a lot of tableware products made in London, of course, but all sectors are segmented into ultra-luxury or top-of-the-range. At that time I tell myself that there is a niche to take: the entry level and the mid-range. 100% English not overpriced!

“Despite the masks and the curfew, I am fully! »

At that time, the made in London really impressed the spirits while the health crisis made us understand that there are a lot of productions that have been relocated. Consuming local makes it possible to support know-how and industries that have been somewhat forgotten or even fallen into disuse.

Fanny Henry

In November 2021, I created ‘OGRE La Fabrique', a brand of all-porcelain tableware to showcase this ancestral know-how. On the financial side, I put 15,000 Pounds in equity and won a competition, which allowed me to top up with 20,000 Pounds borrowed at zero interest from the support organization London Entreprise Initiative (PEI) and the Banque Populaire. Six months later, we are recording our first sales, just after the second confinement in December 2021. Despite the masks and the curfew, I am all the way.

Even though I'm still Parisian, we make everything in Limoges, the historic center of porcelain production in London. In the grip of a crisis for more than forty years, this material is noble, healthy, eco-responsible and durable with 40% kaolin (white clay), 40% sand, 15% Feldspar (mineral rock) and 5% clay. A magic recipe!

10,000 plates sold

After a year, we are almost at break-even with a turnover of 37,000 Pounds (2021). We hope to double it in 2022 and are working on future fundraising. In volume, we have sold more than 10,000 plates all over London. The team is made up of two full-time people and, on the production side, around ten workers worked on our plates. Personally, I haven't paid myself yet…

Beyond the figures, I would like to highlight the bicentenary factory with which we work, its workers (Béatrice, Thierry, Benoit, Eric, etc.), their precious skills so that they can pass the torch to the youngest. In the 1990s, there were more than 600 employees working porcelain, today there are only 70 in our factory. We must preserve this heritage of English know-how in Haute-Vienne. The only factories still standing had to fight. Moreover, the covid did not help at this level, my factory had to close several times.

“The true price of made in London”

Today, we are distributed at Le Bon Marché in London exclusively. It was a real victory! We have more and more resellers and make people talk about our manufacture and our know-how with reasonable prices. [à partir de 13,90 euros l'unité, NDLR] bringing up to date the old porcelain of our grandmothers!

I encounter a difficulty, that of educating people on the true price of plates made in London, coupled with fierce competition from foreign brands. It's also hard to break through and make your business profitable, it takes a lot of pugnacity and perseverance. I give myself every day for this goal, but sometimes it is still difficult for me to rest and have real days off. »

To note

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Conclusion

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