Rising from unemployment to entrepreneurship

A growing number of unemployed people are thinking of starting their own businesses. Some 25% of those out of work have this in mind – compared with 12.5% of French people generally. But starting your own business can be complicated - from finding finance, to the complicated red-tape involved, to running your own accounts.


A growing number of unemployed people are thinking about starting their own business. Some 25% of those out of work have this in mind – compared with 12.5% of French people generally. But starting your own business can be complicated - from finding finance, to the complicated red-tape involved, to running your own accounts.

“They do nothing to help you get on your feet”

Sergio Isgro found himself on the dole at the age of 57. So he started his own business as a sales agent last July. Since then, he feels he has spent his whole time paying invoices.

Since I registered I seem to spend my whole time paying bills. There are huge administrative constraints and costs in running your own business. Between the chamber of commerce, URSSAF (social security collections organisation) and income tax, I have the impression that I work hard simply so as to give them all my money. The say "we are here to help you" - but above all it's to help you give them your money!

Yes, I have benefitted from some state aid. But as a sales agent I am paid commission-only, around 7% to 10% on what I sell. I have to cover my expenses with everything else, travel, petrol and hotels. I get about 1,700 Euros a month, and then I'm billed 1,400 Euros. The maths is straightforward. Starting your own business is an uphill struggle.

Being unemployed, I'm not supposed to work more than 79 hours per month in order to keep receiving my benefits. But for the year that I have been signing on for benefits, the unemployment services have proposed nothing to me. Not even a meeting.

I'm trying to close my business down, but there does not seem to be any help for me in getting this done. For the moment I'm OK, but in a few months the bills for social charges are going to land on my doorstep... But I am a dynamic person. I have 40 years experience in this type of work. I know that the vast majority of businesses fail in the first year.

I would advise young people who are unemployed to get some serious advice before launching their own businesses - and certainly not with their regional chamber of commerce. Once you get involved with them, all you seem to do is give them money".

“Starting your own business is freedom”

Ariane Boucher was unemployed for four years before opening a private nursery "Le Jardin de Zebulon" on the French-Swiss border. She has no regrets.

I opened my bilingual nursery school in October 2008. I now have five qualified staff and we look after 22 children. I am still not earning as much as when I was in salaried employment, but the nursery is all mine - it's my own business.

I decided to start the business after having a baby of my own. I found that the childcare systems already in place were desperately outdated - so I set about starting my own private nursery.

I had been made redundant from my former job and I did not want to go back into salaried employment.

I spent two years preparing the concept of my nursery before launching it as a business. Starting a business is very hard work, especially nurseries. There are strict laws regarding security and hygiene.

It was essential to find a way of making the business stand out, to give it a unique selling point.  I have always worked in high-end luxury, having been in charge of a five-star hotel. I decided that this would be my quality benchmark and that my nursery would be bilingual.

If I have succeeded, it's because I had a sound business plan. I have a qualification in business management. I knew that I was opening a crèche in an area where there are many foreigners who work for international organizations.

I wanted to help English-speaking children to adapt to their new surroundings while learning French. French children can take advantage of this kind of environment to learn English.

The nursery is a private business and I have not benefitted from any public financial help. I had to approach banks for financial support and in this respect I am glad I had my husband's support.

Some people have called saying they want to get involved in the project, but many have abandoned the idea.

I have had to be extremely tenacious in getting this project off the ground and I have fought to get it working. People say ‘no' one day, then ‘yes', then ‘maybe' - you really have to get stuck in and work around all the myriad problems that crop up. It is hard work.

But I'm very happy because of what I have chosen to pursue as a way of life. Because I am my own boss I know I can go and pick up my son from school, or go out to eat with my friends when I want to. I don't need to ask anyone's permission when I want to do something. That's happiness these days - freedom".