When expats Aparna and Gabrielle first met each other, dropping their children off at a sports activity, little did they know a business would flourish from their encounter. Gabrielle moved to the same village as Aparna and they became good friends, getting dogs at around the same time. It was on one of their shared dog walks that a business idea Aparna had, started making its first tiny steps towards what has now become their concièrge service company, ‘Time4UNow’.
Why did you want to create a concierge service company?
- Aparna: The actual idea of launching this business came about when I met an expat mum at my daughter’s school. She was distraught as she had a leak in her house, but she was too nervous to call the plumber and speak in French. It reminded me of how stressful it was when I first arrived and had to arrange all kinds of services in my broken French. Once, I tried to arrange a telephone line with France Telecom (yes, I have been here that long), and I nearly ended up with 2 telephone lines and an enormous bill! I realized that there are many people who battle with the stress of making routine arrangements in a foreign language and that my experience of having lived here for a fair number of years could possibly be put to good use.
- Gabrielle: Aparna came to me with this great idea and asked if I wanted to be her partner in launching the company. I immediately liked the idea, because when I arrived here 10 years ago, I experienced a lot of difficulties through not having the right contacts or knowing where to turn for advice. I would have loved to contact a company like Time4UNow back then. That’s why I thought the idea was so good, I could really see the need for it!
Tell us about the services you offer.
- Aparna: Our main service is to help clients find the appropriate service provider they are looking for – whether it’s a plumber, dog walker, party planner or whatever – from our expansive address book and network.
- Gabrielle: We do all the scanning and prework, to make sure the client contacts the right person right away and avoids all the hassle of looking for a reliable service provider. We can also act as a sort of project manager, handling all the contacts between the client and the service provider, booking appointments, making changes etc., basically handling all the communication, if for example, the client doesn’t speak French.
You’ve just finished your first year in business, what were the challenges you faced?
- Gabrielle: We have learned a lot during this first year. First of all the whole process of setting up a business in France and all the issues dealing with the government administration etc. which is quite challenging in any country, but especially in France.
- Aparna: Businesswise we have learned a lot too of course. We have had a steady stream of clients throughout the year, with very different needs and demands. We’ve met some fantastic people, both on the service side as well as our clients, and we have understood the importance of networking to set up partnerships, and the importance of social media to reach out to people. It is a lot of hard work and dedication, but we also had a lot of fun this past year.
What was your biggest achievement?
- Aparna: We launched a collective project to encourage people to renovate their roofs and redo their insulation in order to be more energy efficient.
What do you plan for 2019?
- Gabrielle: Our plan is to continue finding the best service providers for our clients of course, to expand our address book with new, reliable contacts, to be more accessible to potential clients and to find new, interesting partners to work with. There are also some more collective projects on the horizon!