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Julien Clérot
Julien Clérot

Co-founder of Jules et Jean

I wasn't really attracted to large groups. I was more interested in joining a small organisation where the pace is generally faster.

I had operational predispositions. That's why, during my gap year, I joined 10-vins in Nantes, a start-up created in 2012.

There was a team of ten of us, including the three founders and a number of interns and work-study track students. Their target market is BtoC.

I joined as a finance trainee. It was really interesting. I was able to take part in raising equity capital and crowdfunding with the Ulule platform.

It was an extremely enriching experience. The three founders had extremely solid backgrounds and I learnt a lot from these very diverse profiles.

I also learnt the basics of corporate finance. I quickly realised that I wasn't really interested in this field. However, I was attracted to the wine sector.

Taking a step back from your desires

I always knew I wanted to set up a business. But it doesn't happen overnight.

While I was waiting for something to click, I wanted to move forward in my career. So I continued in the wine sector, which is part of food tech, an area I enjoy.

I've always loved eating well and cooking. But I'd never thought of making a career out of it. Covid-19 was the turning point.

After four and a half years with the same company, I had reached the position of purchasing and logistics manager. I also set up a warehouse detached from the head office with a team of 2 to 5 people under my supervision.

At that time, 10-vins' clientele came mainly from the hotel and restaurant industry, one of the sectors hardest hit by the crisis.

As a result of the crisis, the number of orders obviously dropped and we experienced a lot of end-of-term exams. I was working remotely, managing a single operator who had stayed on site.

I ended up working from my flat, like a lot of people. At first, I was very productive. Then, after a few weeks, I started to think about my future.

During the pandemic, I asked myself a lot of questions about how I wanted to develop professionally over the next few years.

Getting started in entrepreneurship

I'm originally from La Manche and I'd never imagined returning to my region so quickly. I still thought I was going to conquer other countries and new cultures.

The pandemic has put a huge brake on foreign travel. So I started thinking about several career plans. Above all, I wanted to draw inspiration from the 10-vins concept to set up a business in La Manche.

There weren't any services offering home delivery of good products in this sector. So this was an opportunity we had to seize.

One of my best friends worked in the fruit and vegetable sector at Rungis. The Covid period had also led him to rethink his future. And as I'm the son of a farmer, we thought there must be something we could create together.

Adapting to customers outside mainland France

We created a market for fresh local produce aimed at the general public. We wanted to simplify access to local produce for as many people as possible.
We had two types of customer: those who were already consuming local produce but who had to go to different producers to do their shopping.
Our other target was customers who wanted to get started with local consumption but didn't have the time to travel to the markets to do their shopping.

With our company, we provide these customers with a turnkey solution for supplying themselves with local, quality produce. All they had to do was collect their basket of fresh produce from one of our collection points.

Testing and learning

At the start of our business, we used to deliver by lorry, meaning that we rented a public space from the town hall to park for a few hours.
We set up stalls to make it look like a market. This required a lot of energy. There were a lot of products to put online and a website to reference.

We launched the Jules et Jean brand, which didn't necessarily reflect the nature of our business. So we had to create a whole brand universe and make ourselves known.

At the start, we were just two partners. It was a very intense period, because we had to manage everything ourselves. We had to collect the products from the producers, prepare the orders and deliver them.

We each had our own lorry. We left at 3.30pm to go to our respective collection points. We had to load our lorries, transport the products and put them on the shelves.

The first few months were tiring, but we were highly motivated. We realised that this activity didn't generate much money and that it wasn't part of the local culture to come and buy supplies from a roadside vendor.

In the middle of winter, the rain and cold don't make for a particularly pleasant customer experience. That's why we had to think again.

Since the end of 2021, we have been working with partner retailers who share our approach. They offer customers the possibility of picking up their orders during longer periods.

Defending its raison d'être

Our vehicle for growth is to enable people to consume locally. Our aim is to encourage and democratise this type of consumption.

We also wanted to be able to make a living from our work and recruit people to develop our business: logistics, marketing, purchasing, accounts, etc.

Our operational workload was very heavy and we had to find the level of activity needed to recruit these 5 or 6 people.

My advice: you have to follow your dreams and go for what you want without putting up any barriers. The most important thing is to be motivated and have the desire. You mustn't restrict yourself in terms of the perimeter and the glass ceiling you can set yourself.

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