Émeric Couasnon

Émeric Couasnon

Master in Management
Founder of Alpha Spirit

After having gone through eventful schooling, Émeric comes back on his years in the army, his passage through the EM Normandie, and Alpha Spirit's creation. He explains how, thanks to self-sacrifice, he is now able to live from his passion. He also comes back on the role of the entrepreneur: entrepreneurship is a state of mind, it means starting small and going as fast as possible.

A chaotic end to high school

I was a model student until the fourth grade with good results. Then I met a group of friends and went into a tailspin. I went to high school a year early but I realised quite quickly that school was not for me.

I repeated my second and third year and didn't finish my second year. So I decided to leave school at 16 because it was not an environment that interested me at all. I wanted to find my independence by having my own salary and accommodation.

So I got a job and left home with the desire to be an entrepreneur. From a very young age, entrepreneurship seemed to me to be a good way to gain independence. At that age, I knew nothing and had a completely false image of the world. If I failed, the army was the last resort for me.

The army experience

This idea was brought to me by my parents and family who thought that this experience could be beneficial. At the age of 19, I had nothing to lose and went for it. It was certainly the most important experience of my life. It gave me the opportunity to bounce back personally and professionally.

The idea of entrepreneurship was always part of me. During the army, you develop your soft skills, especially the ability to surpass yourself. When you find yourself in the bush with a 20 kg rucksack, you have already walked 40 km and there is still half the way to go, you think you cannot do it. Finally, when you get to the end, you tell yourself that you could go even further. You realise that you often put up barriers. I think they are cultural.

Thanks to this experience, I have grown a lot and become more mature. At times, authority is difficult to bear, but you evolve within a group that faces the same difficulties as you. You learn to accept that others take a place around you. It becomes natural because a group spirit is established.

Within a group, leadership can pass from one person to another depending on the situation and the difficulties of each person. I learned to gain self-confidence, to settle down and to develop my ambitions. This difficult experience made me realise that I could even go beyond my desires. Before, I thought that my capacities were limited and that I would not be able to achieve my ambitions. I really learnt how to go beyond myself.

Resuming my studies

I left the army at the end of 2009 to resume my studies in 2010 with a 2-year degree in sales. I wanted to take the competitive exams to enter a business school but my degree was not yet validated, so I had to do a Bachelor's degree first. I then took the Passerelle 2 exam to join EM Normandie in the Master's programme.

It was a challenge for me to go back to school to get a Master's degree, especially in a business school. Before the army, I tended to start a lot of things without finishing them. When I joined this programme, I was determined to see it through. I graduated and now I am a speaker at this school. I am even open to the possibility of going on to a doctorate.

Mixing parenthood and studies

I did these five years of work-linked studies because I had left high school very early to become independent. I therefore chose a work-study course to be able to pay for the accommodation I shared with my girlfriend. During my undergraduate year, I had my first child, and what's more, during a period of graduation.

Then I had my second child, just before the exams for my second year of my Master's degree. As an anecdote, I even had to leave my course on the Le Havre campus to attend my child's birth in Évreux! It's not incompatible to study and have children, especially as I have a strong paternal streak.

The first job
I graduate in 2016 and have to get my first job. I still have the desire to be an entrepreneur but I don't know yet in which field.

I first wanted to find a job in a company to gain experience in the field. I found a job as a performance indicator manager for a logistics platform near Louviers. I managed a team of 7 people for about 2 years. The atmosphere was quite nice but the company was not very stable because it was bought out several times.

One day, an opportunity for economic redundancy arose. This was the starting point for a new life.

Starting up a business

I had wanted to start my own business for a long time. I set out with the idea that there would be no plan B and that I had to attack hard from the start.

I'm really going for it from the start, well surrounded by my family and friends. In 2018, I'm building the whole administrative side of a distillery business that produces spirits, especially gin. Together with my partner, we used to collect rare whiskies and rums by visiting spirits fairs and distilleries.

By combining this passion for spirits with my entrepreneurial drive, I was going to get up in the morning and never work again in my life. I was going to be able to do what I love most, and do it daily. 

We launched the first product in 2019 which is called Alpha Spirit, a gin that is in a niche but very competitive market. A lot of gin distilleries were developing in France at that time. But when you work in a field you are passionate about, you don't necessarily see the barriers in front of you.

Inventing yourself as a distiller

After visiting many distilleries, we had developed a very thorough theoretical knowledge. It was time for us to put it into practice. So I bought a one-litre still and started distilling in my kitchen 2-3 times a week for a year to start developing this recipe.

Neither my partner nor I come from a background where there is transmission between generations. This is also the philosophy of Alpha Spirit, "alpha" means the beginning and spirit represents spirits. You have to start things at some point. I am managing this company today but if there is a possibility of passing it on to our children we will be very happy.

A vision of entrepreneurship

For me, starting a company does not mean making a lot of money and having a great organisation from the start. Entrepreneurship is the art of getting by from day to day, starting small and trying to improve every day.

We often think of entrepreneurship as a start-up that exploded overnight, as Netflix did. Yet, when you look at their beginnings, they started with DVD rentals on an ugly platform. It took them 10 to 15 years to really break through and find their business model. That's what entrepreneurship is all about, trying new things all the time.