We talk to Véronique Mangin and Sarah Pradel of Piccadilly Time, a new online business based in Grenoble selling British goodies.
Grenoble Life: What is Piccadilly Time and what services do you offer?
Piccadilly Time: Piccadilly Time is a mainly online shop for English groceries, gifts and accessories. We also sell our products directly to our customers in and around Grenoble at regular sales events organized within companies, with our business partners, with English or French social groups or associations as well as on a party-plan type basis.
Piccadilly Time also offers tailor-made English lessons at all levels for children and adults in one-to-one or group classes.
GL: What kind of clientele do you have?
Piccadilly Time: For the groceries, some of our customers are British people living anywhere in France who are delighted to find they can buy the English food products they miss. Others are people interested in Britain and British culture and may already have an idea of some of the more popular foods; some have travelled to Britain and remember things they enjoyed there and others are simply happy to try something new.
For the English lessons, our clientele is based in and around Grenoble. The young children’s lessons are fun and mostly in small groups. Some older children come along for conversation practice; others may need help with their school English or extra practice before exams. Adults have lessons for both personal and professional reasons. Lessons take place in a student’s home or at a company’s premises.
GL: Who are Piccadilly Time – what are your backgrounds?
Piccadilly Time: Véronique Mangin and Sarah Pradel are Piccadilly Time. Véronique, who is French, used to work in an international environment as an information technology engineer. Sarah, who is English, came to Grenoble in 2000 and has been teaching English as a second language for many years.
GL: When and why did you set up the business?
Piccadilly Time: Piccadilly Time was set up in January 2012, after almost two years of thought and planning. We initially wanted to open an English tea shop selling groceries and accessories with a room for English classes, but over a period of many months finding suitable premises proved too difficult. However, instead of giving up, we changed tack and decided to start an online and direct sales business and that’s how Piccadilly Time came about! It won’t be for the near future but we haven’t totally abandoned our original tea shop idea.
GL: What in particular do you like or miss about British groceries?
Sarah: I miss lots of things! If I had to choose the ones I miss most, I’d list tea, lemon curd, chutneys and Indian curry sauces – I like making my own but they’re so good and quick out of a jar! My children would add crisps, sweets and Shreddies to the list and my husband English beer!
Véronique: As a French person, I can’t say I miss things like Sarah does, but I have tried lots of different foods in England and in Ireland where I spent several months as a student. I love the huge variety of groceries we just can’t get in France. I really like the combination of flavours in pickles and chutneys, and I’m a big fan of ginger, mint and liquorice which are so well used in English foods. I’d also put crackers and pickled onions on my list of favourites and my children have discovered jelly and custard! My husband would pick beer too!
GL: What local organizations did you find useful when setting up your business?
Piccadilly Time: The MCAE Isère Active in Grenoble gave us lots of information and advice and also helped us financially with a grant. Since setting up, we’ve been along to a social function organized by MCAE for up-and-running businesses which was a great opportunity to network and discuss some of the questions we all face.
Another organization we came across once we’d set up is Inform’elles, for women entrepreneurs. It’s a great network for information and support both during and after the setting-up stages and they’ve got a very active social network too.
GL: What advice would you give to other English-speaking entrepreneurs in France?
Piccadilly Time: We had to set up an SARL company with a lot of paperwork and many official channels to go through so help from professionals like lawyers and accountants was invaluable (It may be a bit less complicated setting up as an auto-entrepreneur). Being able to speak at least some French is essential. There are many groups willing to give help and guidance and our advice would be not to try to go it alone, we were learning about new things from people all the time and we still are!
GL: What’s next for Piccadilly Time?
Piccadilly Time: We’ve got plenty of ideas and hope there’ll be many opportunities to develop. Short to medium term, we plan to contact more businesses and groups in the Grenoble area, promoting our ideas for corporate gift hampers too. We plan to expand our range of food products, using feedback from our customers as they let us know what they would like, and we hope to start selling a bigger selection of accessories including cards and textiles. We’ve got some sales events lined up, including a European day in Lyon. Long term, you never know, maybe the tea shop we originally hoped to open?
GL: How can people find out more information or get in touch?