I've just graduated. What now?
Maxime has been passionate about watchmaking since he was a child, not through his family and friends but through a traditional watchmaker in the city of Marseille. In fact, as a child, he often went to this man's house who shared all his know-how with him. This fascinated him and he developed a real passion for watchmaking as well as the desire to launch a business in this field. Maxime's been interested in watchmaking for 10 years now and is also a collector. He had very much wanted to become a watchmaker, but in the end decided to take the preparatory classes for the Grandes Ecoles instead, followed by a master's degree specialising in the luxury sector at KEDGE Business School. His goal was not to repair or manufacture watches, but rather to sell them.
Maxime loves to learn on his own and considers himself to be rather self-taught. After doing an internship with a sub-contractor of the Richemont group as a sales representative for luxury watches, which ranged in price from 50 to 500,000 euros, Maxime decided to travel around the globe. This made him realise that the looks of a timepiece were much less important than its history and origins. As the world of luxury was founded on a product’s image, he decided to redirect his studies towards entrepreneurship. On the advice of a friend, Maxime applied to the Business Nursery while at KEDGE and, as a result of his well-constructed pitch and his strong motivation, he was accepted into the incubation programme.
THE BUSINESS NURSERY - A SPRINGBOARD FOR CAFÉ NOIR
Thanks to the support he received at the Business Nursery - especially the advice of his coaches - Maxime was able to launch his start-up: Café Noir. More than just the guidance provided, the fact that he was surrounded by people who believed in his project really boosted him! That pushed him towards developing his start-up rapidly. Café Noir has been in existence for two and a half years now. It’s located in the corner of a shop on rue Sainte in Marseille, and there are Café Noir shops in Calvi, Paris, and Marseille. He also has a website.
TELL US MORE ABOUT CAFÉ NOIR
Café Noir is about vintage watches that have a story to tell. In effect, it is a watchmaking workshop located in Marseille that employs a watchmaker with traditional know-how. Maxime does not deal with the technical side but rather deals with sourcing, marketing, sales, etc.
The concept is to sell watches, mainly from lesser-known brands, with an antique and/or automatic mechanism. These watches are systematically reconditioned and sold with a warranty. Each watch has a unique story to tell, which is presented to customers in a booklet.
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For example, watches might be military watches from the Second World War, Soviet watches from the 1960s, French dress watches, Spanish divers' watches from the 1980s, etc.
The idea is to explain why a Café Noir watch is interesting and unique from both the collector's and non-collector's point of view. The booklets provide information on the origin of the watches in an educational manner to attract the interest of non-collectors. And the watches are affordably priced so everyone can become interested in watchmaking.
A HELPING HAND FROM THE FONDATION LE ROCH LES MOUSQUETAIRES
Maxime was the third winner of the third edition of the "Coup de pouce" (helping hand) competition in 2020. Thanks to the prize money of 4000 euros, he was able to purchase photography equipment and develop his website.
The members of the jury were not only supportive but also caring, and always wanted to give their support to the candidates. The impact and CSR aspects of projects are very important to the LE ROCH LES MOUSQUETAIRES Foundation jurors, who make it a matter of principle to choose projects that are in line with the Foundation's values. In fact, the upcycling aspect of the watches as well as the cultural dimension of Maxime's project really appealed to them.
Maxime told us that joining the Intermarché Foundation was a great opportunity for him and his project.
THE ENTREPRENEURS' CLUB OF THE LE ROCH LES MOUSQUETAIRES FOUNDATION - BUILDING A PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL NETWORK
Maxime also joined the Le Roch les Mousquetaires Foundation entrepreneurs' club free of charge thanks to Nathalie Moock, a jury member of the "Coup de Pouce" competition and General Delegate of the Le Roch les Mousquetaires Foundation. His application was one of the seven selected from more than 100 other projects.
His inclusion into the Foundation's Entrepreneurs Club was complementary to the assistance he received at the Business Nursery due to the various boot camps it organised. The pragmatic aspect of the club’s activities helped Maxime greatly in the development of his project. For example, a photographer was available to take photos for his website, journalists wrote some dozen articles about him, specialist speakers led three-hour sessions on specific topics, etc.
The group dynamics and the relationships he forged with other entrepreneurs also provided a lot of motivation.
ANY ADVICE FOR FUTURE APPLICANTS TO THE "COUP DE POUCE" COMPETITION?
"Be confident in your project and most importantly, know exactly what you will use the prize money for if you win the competition, as well as what the immediate returns will be. The jury makes it a point of principle to provide assistance to projects that really need it. They will choose the one that needs the most help at the time.”