Interview: Marie Luquet from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Lyon


Beyond microcredit, the starting up of new businesses is booming in France. A recent law, which came into force last January 1st, facilitates the administrative set up for individual entrepreneurs, also called “self-starting entrepreneurs”. It’s the Chambers of Commerce and Industry which welcome and which register these new businesses. Marie Luquet is responsible for business start-ups at the Chamber of Commerce in Lyon.

“We reached a record-level of business start-ups in 2007 with 320,000, more than 320,000 start-ups, and since the launch of the self-starting entrepreneur statute at the beginning of 2009, for us, we’re witnessing in Lyon-and a bit everywhere in France-an explosion of movement at the entry point. Here, we registered 26% more in the month of January compared to last January, of start-up businesspeople who introduce themselves by saying, “I have a business idea.” It’s true that start-up businesses are somewhat back in style. Previously, it was a lot more secure and attractive to spend one’s entire career at one company, and if possible, a big one, particularly in the 80s with the American model. Nowadays, the start-up business is more attractive. There are huge efforts of communication and awareness among young people, particularly in the schools in order to promote start-up businesses and then, well, we, in fact, we’re somewhat… our flow is the opposite of the economic crisis, that is, unfortunately, the less well-off the economy, the more unemployment rises, and for us, the more people we have coming, thinking about a start-up business as an alternative to a salaried job, often because they don’t have a choice.”

– Is it equally balanced? Is it 50-50 men and women?

– No. Men remain the majority. Overall, women represent 30% of business start-ups. Only.

– Why, in your opinion?

– What we often see, it’s that women-well, they have the same chance as anyone to succeed-often they are more cautious, which is good and not good. They secure their plan well, but on the other hand, they don’t risk, so they’re going to…it’s not a criticism…but perhaps lack ambition by having the tendency to invest less, take less risks, put less money down, and uh, well, a start-up business is also about taking risks.

– Would there be advice like that, which you would have to give to people who are thinking about this possibility?

– The first tip to offer is to make a plan. In the Rhône-Alpres region, for example, at three years old, 62% of businesses are still in existence. So, to play on this rate of stability, you need to make your plan. So the idea is that a consultation is helpful because of course, we’re going to give advice, expertise. We’re going to help the project creator, but also quite simply, help the project creator from the moment he is willing to be advised, counselled. It’s that he accepts that he has to spend time to prepare his project. The day when he starts his…his business, so when he registers it, straight away he has tunnel vision*, and he must expand, and he no longer has the time to think about everything. That is, if he hasn’t thought about how he’s going to tackle his market, it’s too late. He will do it head-on, but perhaps that-and this is often the problem, besides-the time he’ll spend to find his first clients, well, he may not have the sufficient funds to keep going up until then. And then, following, another tip is to launch out into a business sector in which one has experience, that one knows. The business owner, he therefore wears a lot of hats: commercial, technical, managerial, and he mustn’t have to learn the job he’s doing on top of it. So, it’s true that to set up in a domaine that one knows because one is trained, because one is an experience professional, because one has a network, well, that is still very, very, very important. Often, people ask us what are the booming sectors. There are niches, but the sector which is booming the most is the one which is mastered by the person who has his plan.

*”avoir la tête dans le guidon” literally means “to have one’s head in the handlebars”.

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