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Proud of energy saving designs

Everyone remembers their first year of business. In our regular feature, independent business people tell their story

CAROLINE and Paul Sinnet, 52 and 45, run a building business, Arc-en-Ciel Sud-Ouest, having previously been involved in buying houses at auction and renovating them. The couple, from the Haute-Vienne, aim to build low-energy homes.

When did you set up?

We started in 2006, taking on small general building jobs to get us up and running. This gave us the time we needed to get a team of suppliers together we could trust and depend on. The first year was a massive learning curve - hours on the internet and days on the road - but worth it.

Why did you choose this?

This had always been a dream of ours, designing and building homes from the foundation up, but it could never have been realised in the UK because of the cost of building land. Here it is much more in the culture to have a house built rather than buy from a selection of three models on a housing estate.

What is your business type and its set-up costs?

We registered as a sarl which we decided on after the options were explained on a course with the Cité des Métiers et des Arts in Limoges. Notaire fees were €2,000 and we had to decide what capital guarantee to attach to the business. It was possible to put up a very small amount, but we felt we needed to be taken seriously, so we chose €15,000. On top of that was assurance décennale and other obligatory insurances, which were a costly €3,500.

What was your expected income?

We came here for a better quality of life rather than huge financial rewards. Our accountants worked out that if we took a large amount out of the business we would automatically pay 46% social security cotisations, so it was kept to a minimum but livable amount. We see it as creating a long-term pension policy we have control over.

What were the hurdles?

Understanding the administration and a different business ethic. Employing the right accountants helped. We struggled with other businesses preparing estimates in weeks rather than days and the fact we are bringing new techniques and concepts into a traditional marketplace.

What would you have done differently?

We should have made our presence better known through well-targeted marketing and advertising. We are proud of what we have achieved and love the reaction when people visit our existing sites - but we need to spread the word.

This year we are planning a website, we aim to participate in regional salons d’habitat [building shows] and have open days to show our concept and the quality of our work.

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