EVERYONE remembers their first year of business. In our regular feature, independent business people tell how they set up in France.
John Carden and Bobbi Black (soon to be Carden as they are getting married this month) are builders in Glenac in Brittany. John has been a master craftsman builder and registered stonemason for 30 years while Bobbi has been a plumbing and heating engineer for six years.
How long have you been in business?
We started RenoBuild Brittany Builders in June, although it has taken a while to set everything up. I (Bobbi) had to design and build the website and having my plumbing qualifications translated to register as an artisan has been a bit fraught to say the least.
Why did you choose to do it?
We knew quite a few people who own property in Brittany who have struggled to find qualified, registered and insured builders with a proven track record. Both John and I have worked for ourselves separately back in England and we have lots of customers who happily recommend us which is invaluable.
What type of business are you (Sarl, micro etc) and how much did it cost to set up?
We are both auto-entrepreneurs which makes sense when you are starting out but I think we will become SARL soon.
What was your expected income?
We didn't really have an expected income as such, having done a fair amount of research, we were fairly sure of our market. I think we were more concerned not to exceed the tax threshold allowed for auto-entrepreneurs.
What were the hurdles?
Understanding the French system of tax, contributions and health insurance and the cost of assurance décennale is extortionate. Neither of us have a great command of the language yet but we do manage to understand most things and we can usually get our point across. We have encountered a fair amount of prejudice from people who have had bad experiences with unregistered British cowboy builders who have done the odd project at home and then set themselves up as trade with dire consequences.
What would you have done differently?
A more in-depth knowledge of the system and possibly a better command of the language. We are exploring the possibility of setting up in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. We both ski and I'm a keen sailor so it would be perfect for us but cutting ties with Brittany would be almost impossible, lots of our customers have become really good friends.