Hello, I'm Guillaume Roy, a graduate of the class of 2006. I'm going to tell you what led me to become co-founder of Gallia beers.
I am originally from Normandy but had never lived in the region before joining EM Normandie on the Caen campus. It was a sort of return to my roots and a real excitement to discover the School, to become independent and to make new friends, including Jacques, who is now one of them.
We did our four years of study together and at the end of the course, we set up Gallia. We both felt the need to create a project through entrepreneurship. This business creation was a kind of "crash test" because we didn't know if it would work.
Discovering beer and using its history
We were beer lovers, but what appealed to us most about this project was the revival of an old Parisian brewery. Beer remains a friendly and fun product to work with.
We started with the idea of relaunching this brewery because there were none in Paris at the time. We discovered the product over the years and followed training courses on brewing beer in the north of France.
We quickly realised that we needed to partner with a brewer who could share his experience with us. We also hired engineers who had studied chemistry and who mastered the product better than we did.
The interest in relaunching a brand was something that animated us both. It no longer belonged to anyone, as it had fallen into legal disuse over 30 years ago. When we studied the heritage of Parisian breweries, we came across this brand and found that it was no longer registered with the French National Institute of Industrial Property.
We therefore reappropriated this brand after requesting a moral right from the descendant family even though they no longer owned it. They gave us their blessing and were delighted that two young people were relaunching the brand of their ancestors.
They even offered to bequeath us some elements to help us in this project. This made us feel legitimate to tell this story which dates back to 1890. If today you want to create a company and you have no idea, it can be interesting to relaunch an old brand to have a base of history and storytelling on which to build.
With Gallia, we inherited this good-sounding name and a logo with the rooster that symbolises France very well. It was really ideal!
Being ahead of your market
The beginnings were a bit difficult because we were ahead of the demand for beer locally. The simple idea came from the observation of what exists abroad and does not exist in Paris. In 2010, there was still no local beer in Paris, which seems like an aberration today when consumers are increasingly turning to local products, especially since the pandemic.
In 2010, we were still finding it difficult to sell our beers to distributors and bars. They said they didn't need it and that their customers didn't want it. However, we were getting some interest from the media, which was quite reassuring. We had articles in the press and were invited on the radio. This meant that the subject was interesting after all.
You can gradually feel that doors are opening and that we are developing our expertise in brewing. The real trigger came from the market in 2015. Many of our fellow brewers were starting to make local beer and were pushing us along with them. We were already ready, knew the market well and didn't make the rookie mistakes that some people made at the start.
We progressed with a head start and we are trying to keep it today with the objective of becoming the leader in craft beer in the Paris region and why not tomorrow in France. Perseverance paid off and there were many signs on a daily basis that this project was worthwhile.
Growing while keeping our craft values
Our ambition is to become a large French craft brewery. The "craft" aspect will depend on the guarantee that we will bring to the consumer by using excellent raw materials and by mastering the beer brewing process as well as possible.
We are committed to quality: giving the beer time to develop its flavours and rigorously selecting the raw materials (hops and malt). This is how we remain craftsmen at heart, but I don't know if we can still use this term with this growth. That's why I often use the word "craft", an anglicism to talk about craftsmanship, and which claims a modern vision of beer.
To become the favourite beer of the French, you have to invest massively in distribution and production. Heineken offered to help us in this process, while respecting the DNA of our brand. Their capacities in terms of distribution are enormous. Instead of having a team of about fifteen people in total, we had the support of a dozen or even a hundred salespeople on the ground. It would have taken us years to set up this network independently.
Taking the time to undertake
We often have the image in our heads of the very fractious, late-night entrepreneur. This was not our case because we wanted to take the time to tell our story and not put too much stress on ourselves.
This approach has allowed us to build a calm environment for our employees and for our investors. We have always been cool, caring entrepreneurs. This does not mean that we have not experienced periods of doubt, especially during the first five years.
Since 2015, we have been quite serene in our development, especially since the arrival of Heineken, which has really allowed us to deploy more resources. I realise that all the decisions flowed naturally, especially as we made them together.
Being confident in your decisions allows you to take full responsibility and not have any regrets afterwards.