“I woke up this morning, I didn’t have any appointments. I didn’t even know I was going to do this interview,” Antoine Boileau, Gerant of Delicassie.
Had I heard this second hand, I would have pooh-poohed and said the guy was impulsive and had no idea what he wanted to do in life. But talking to Antoine Boileau had me alternately nodding and shaking my head.
I saw his post on one of the Facebook forum asking for a recommendation for retailers and wholesalers of his gingerbread products. The post intrigued me. This guy couldn’t possibly be in Singapore without knowing anyone and trying to find vendors, could he? A few messages later and we were at the Food Court of Marina Bay Square. It was the only place I could think of where I could set up my tripods. *Note: I’ll never do my interviews at Food Courts again.
The 25-year-old Gerant of Delicassie epitomized the gung-ho attitude of modern entrepreneurs. His appetite for risk is admirable, some would even say, foolish. When he was given the opportunity to work in Australia, he chose to go to Malaysia instead – “”for adventure”.
“It was in the middle of the jungle,” he mused. He stayed in Malaysia for 6 months, returned to his native France, then went back to Asia, this time to the Philippines for a 10-month internship.
This sense of adventure translated to business. Instead of pursuing a career in Information Technology, for which he earned a Bachelor’s degree, he set up a gingerbread retail store based in his hometown of Loray, France where he applied his Masters in Business Innovation, Creation, and Entrepreneurship.
No, he didn’t know how to bake but that didn’t stop him from pursuing it. Using an old gingerbread recipe, dating back from the time of the Reign of Terror, and assisted by his 87-year-old grandmother, Antoine proceeded to reintroduce the Loray gingerbread to the world.
Antoine set up his shop on the ground floor of his grandparents’ place and Delicassie was born. While starting entrepreneurs would have turned to his family for help in labor and finances, Antoine chose to do it on his own with the exception of his grandmother.
“I wanted to say, I did it on my own,” Delicassie’s manager said.
Rather than being foolhardy, he was clear in his vision and his business strategy. Delicassie had to be B2B and he needed to control the product. Though he travels to different countries looking for resellers, the gingerbreads themselves would be made in Loray and would be shipped to the different countries.
“We don’t use preservatives,” Antoine emphatically stated. Instead, the plastic wrappers preserve the Delicassie biscuits having found plastics that uses oxygen absorbers to prevent the development of fungus.
This inclination toward business developed when he was 14 years old. He started out as a DJ. Overtime, the party gig developed and turned into an event management company he co-founded with his best friend when people started asking him if he knew any waitstaff, then flower vendors, etc.
In fact, Delicassie was his third business. The second business was a 24-hour fast food delivery business – the only one in Loray. All three are still existing.
Though he is driven by adventure, it was also clear that he had strong feelings for his place of birth. He wants Loray to become as famous as other places in France, like Paris, Versailles, and Provence. The 400-year-old modernized gingerbread would be his vehicle for it.
One of his biggest and riskiest promotion was going for a Guinness Book of World Record for the longest gingerbread train. Delicassie partnered with Telethon, a humanitarian organization that helps in researching neuro-muscular diseases. Delicassie baked the 300-metre gingerbread train and asked children to decorate – all the while holding his breath in case the trains get damaged before the actual inspection and measurement by the Guinness Book of Records representatives. Half were sold, and the money went to Telethon while the other half were given to a charity, Les Restos du Cœur. The results are currently being processed.
Before we parted, Antoine told me he was off to Vietnam. And no, he didn’t have any appointments lined up there either. He gave me a bright smile, his confidence coming true and I found myself cheering him on.
Here’s the video interview. You’ll hear crying babies, chattering, and metal scraping on the ground.