Expat Entrepreneur: Michel Caes in Rijswijk
French artisanal baker Michel Caes found it very easy to start his business in the Netherlands, and is now opening his fourth location in the Hague.
Name: Michel Caes
City of Residence: Rijswijk
Name of Company: Michel Food Consulting
Date of Company Launch: April 2008
Brief description of your business and how it is going:
Michel is a genuine artisanal French boulangerie pâtisserie (bakery) which offers hand-crafted breads, sweet and savory baked products and sandwiches to individuals and companies. Some of our breads are made with organic flour and our own levain (raising agent), and we use no food additives, nor artificial ingredients. Our tarts contain no meat by-products and just like our quiches, they are based on organic fresh farm milk, eggs and butter. We are proud of our wide assortment of vegetarian-friendly products.
We employ many dynamic young French bakersand enthusiastic sales staff members in our three current locations in the Hague and Delft. We are opening a fourth location in Breitnerlaan 2, at the limit of Wassenaarand in the Hague in early November.
What do you like about doing business in the Netherlands?
I love the fact that I am allowed to share my values with my clients and I enjoy interacting with them. I like how direct and honest Dutch people are. I feel that my clients respect me as a connoisseur in my field. I love the fact that the Dutch culture is open to other languages, thanks to their history of trade abroad. You can hear many languages spoken in my bakeries: people switch languages according to whom is in line or behind the counter. I felt welcome in this country right away.
What do you find the most frustrating about doing business in the Netherlands?
Paying taxes and "parkeerwachters" ... but it isn't the same everywhere?
What hurdles did you encounter when setting up?
It is actually very easy to start a business here. I received very clear instructions from the municipality of the Hague on what we could and could not do as a bakery. The real challenge was for clients to find us. It took three months to get enough clients until someone praised us on a local French-speaking forum. Word-of-mouth did wonders, whereas our flyer campaign did not work the way we had expected. Our original bakery on the border of Rijswijk and the Hague has been ideal as a production site but it is not in a neighborhood where a lot of residents share our lifestyle values.
How has the economic crisis affected your business?
I have noticed that in the last two years, people consume less in general but are more selective in what they do purchase. Thankfully my business has been spared.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs setting up a business in the Netherlands?
Go for quality in your services and products to set yourself apart from the competition, whether it is producing a good book or serving a good meal! There is a new trend among Dutch consumers to go for better ingredients such as high quality bread, tarts, etc. My work is a real labor of love, and my staff share my passion.
How does running a business in your current country compare to other countries where you have lived in?
I tried setting up businesses in France but encountered many administrative hurdles such as the slow processing of endless paperwork. I was disappointed by the existing support for young entrepreneurs: they were not as helpful as claimed on paper. In Mexico where I set up the first French bakery of the country, one could not start without bringing significant capital.
Michel is open from Tuesday through Sunday. Come to our bakeries in The Hague around 8:00 in the morning to be guaranteed bread still warm from the oven. Baguettes are meant to be eaten the day they were baked. Our pain campagne, pain bucheron and pain multicéréales keep nicely for a couple of days and are really tasty when toasted.
For further information, you are very welcome at www.michelfood.nl
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