My name is Vincent Porquet, I am the co-founder of Fizzer. I have one goal in life: to never be bored. I need to learn new things all the time to grow. This is very important to me. When I think back to my years at EM Normandie, I have excellent memories. It was a very rich experience, anchored, which will never change. I'll tell you how I became an entrepreneur after a trip to the mountains.
Co-founder of the startup Fizzer
Tell us about your beginnings in the retail sector after you left the School?
When I entered EM Normandie, I didn't have a precise idea of what I wanted to do later. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I was attracted by the retail sector. All my classmates tried to dissuade me from joining this sector because of the working hours and the relationship with the hierarchy. Maybe they were right, but in any case, I wanted to see for myself.
I first joined Carrefour as a floor manager in the fish and fruit and vegetable departments. I knew absolutely nothing about fresh produce, neither how to scale fish nor about the seasonality of fruit and vegetables. Two days after leaving school, I was thrown into the deep end in a 10,000 m² hypermarket. I really enjoyed this job and meet a lot of great people.
However, I quickly became bored. As a floor manager, at the very bottom of the pyramid, you're just an executor. There were no major stakes or particular challenges. My job was to carry out the directives. I realised that this did not fit in with my ambitions and I wanted to change direction to find interest in my work. At that time, I didn't think I would find this ideal in the retail sector, which is why I left that company.
What job did you find afterwards?
EM Normandie organises an international sales competition in Deauville every year. In the household appliances section, the company Whirlpool came to present a product project. There were about fifteen students competing and I came out the winner of this competition.
I subsequently contacted the HR manager I had met at the event to see whether the company had any vacancies. Indeed, there was one in Mulhouse and another in Nantes. I chose the position in Nantes which I liked straight away because you had to be a good salesman: place your products, demonstrate them, sell quickly, create a close relationship with your customers... I had this feeling of pride and belonging because there was a specific product to promote.
So you remained mobile during your professional career?
Yes, when you leave the School, you shouldn't remain attached to your hometown. I studied in Caen and Le Havre and I didn't hesitate to go and work in Nantes knowing that I could return to Normandy later on.
I then had a career opportunity at the head office of the same company in Suresnes, for the position of key account whose role was to negotiate with major household appliance brands on the terms of sale of the product I was responsible for.
This position was a new challenge for me. I left Nantes for Paris with Marie, who is now my wife and a graduate of the School. We found many EM Normandie graduates who had moved to the capital immediately after their studies.
What have you gained from all these experiences?
Ten years have passed since I left the School. These experiences have forged the person I am today and have allowed me to draw on as many skills as possible in order to evolve.
When I think back on my years at EM Normandie, I am moved because there is obviously the academic side but also all the relationships that are created. I still see many of the friends I knew at the School on a regular basis. These links are very strong and will remain so.
How did you leave everything behind to get started?
When I was doing this specialisation in entrepreneurship, I had this desire deep inside me to set up my own business. I didn't yet know when or with what idea I was going to do it. During my studies, I had studied a project and had finally decided not to launch it because I didn't have the trigger or the resources to do it.
Then everything changed when I went on holiday to the winter sports during New Year's Eve with a close friend I knew in Caen. We had the idea of launching Fizzer at that time. Why did we do it? Because we were staying in a flat and we wanted to send postcards to all our family but we didn't want to go out because of the cold. We had to buy them, then come back home to write them and then go out again to post them. Often we write the same thing on each card. When you are on holiday you want to enjoy yourself and not spend your time writing cards. We had taken a lot of beautiful photos during our stay and couldn't even send them to our loved ones.
How did you create Fizzer?
During this vacation, we worked on a business plan to set up this project. We spent a good part of the night on it. The next morning, we realised that this was an emerging market and that there were already players in this sector that we did not know about. We gave ourselves three weeks to think about it before taking the plunge and leaving our jobs.
We came up with the name of the company "Fizzer" because it's a mountain range "Fiz" in the Alps. And the verb "fizz" in English means "to sparkle": we bring a sparkling side to the postcard. Even though there were competitors in this segment, we were already convinced of our project and really wanted to launch ourselves.
I had already formed my idea by analysing the market, the number of cards sent each year, the players on the market, our possibilities of setting up, etc. I had also thought about how to leave my company. I never regretted leaving Whirlpool, even though the start was more difficult than I expected.
We started with 10 cards, 100 cards sent per day... then the numbers dropped. We had to be resilient at that point, to continue with our idea. We had to borrow money from our relatives to support ourselves after the period when we were receiving unemployment benefits.
In 2015, after the first summer, we set ourselves the target of making at least €50K in turnover to continue. We achieved this and even managed to grow the business. Since the beginning, we have never doubted our project or had any regrets about leaving our jobs.
How is the company doing to date?
Today, more than 5 million items have been sent from Dives-sur-Mer. When Fizzer was launched, we only had one product called "the postcard". There were only two of us, whereas today the team has 22 members. We had our record during lockdown with over 68,000 cards sent in one day. We didn't think we would ever reach those numbers.
At the beginning, we were in 31m² premises in La Courneuve which quickly became too small. The growth was such that we couldn't store everything there, nor could we recruit staff. At that time, we were wondering whether we should leave the Paris region and move to Normandy. An opportunity arose in Dives-sur-Mer with 90 m² of premises. I am very happy to have made this choice today.
The size of the premises allowed us to go from two to four people, to have bigger machines and to store more. The following year, the premises became too small. Our business became partly industrialised and we had to take over a 300 m² room. When you're an entrepreneur, you have to deal with a lot of constraints, but it's so nice to see your business grow.
The final word
I learn so much every day from my team members and from my mentors. As an entrepreneur, you have to deal with everything: community management, finance, accounting, dealing with service providers, managing growth, etc. This thirst to learn and grow is very present. You learn much faster when you are an entrepreneur.