Founder Interview: La Belle Assiette’s Stephen Leguillon on using August to “take a step back”

Aug 19, 2013
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Throughout the month of August, the Rude Baguette will be running a series of interviews with some of France’s top and rising entrepreneurs, where they’ll share their reflections on their year thus far, their plans through the end of the year and how they manage their businesses through the August down period. In this installment, we talk with La Belle Assiette cofounder Stephen Leguillon.

France has its share of rising stars in the sharing economy space, including the number one marketplace in Europe between Chefs and customers, La Belle Assiette. La Belle Assiette, which started only a little over a year ago by Stephen Leguillon and Giorgio Riccò, is already a runaway success which is available in 7 cities across France and hundreds of corporate and individual customers.  I recently asked Leguillon to share his reflections on La Belle Assiette’s big growth year, future plans and tips for other burgeoning entrepreneurs.

Stephen LeguillonWhat have been the big accomplishments for La Belle Assiette since the beginning of the year?

La Belle Assiette was only founded last year and at the time, we simply knew we wanted to help independent Chefs show their talent to the world. But we didn’t really know how we were going to help them. It was only by Novembre/Decembre 2012, after a lot of testing, that we truly started to understand our company’s product/market fit. We determined our strategy and since then, we’ve been executing it. So since the beginning of the year, it’s really been about building the business. I’d say our key accomplishment is the growing Chef community (50+ in 7 cities) who now receive bookings for all their services (private chef dining, cocktails, classes, brunches etc…) from hundreds of customers, both consumer and corporate !

What are your goals for the end of the year?

By the end of the year, La Belle Assiette will enable everyone in France to pick a Chef and book great culinary experiences online. That implies growing the Chef community fast. To cater for all the different types of experiences the Chefs have to offer, our website’s functionality is going to improve considerably over the next 6 months.

What have you learned this year that you think every entrepreneur should know?

At the start, spend all of your time testing out your idea and have concrete proof you are matching a market’s needs. Then, spend at least 30-40% of your time recruiting the right people, because those first team members are those that will make it all possible.

How does your company handle vacation & the August down period?

The month of August in France is pretty simple: the entire country is on holiday the 2nd and 3rd weeks. As I answer these questions, I am the only person I know who is still in Paris and not on holiday.

But there’s a lot of upside to it. It gives you time to take a step back and work on key items. I’ve spent some time working on the company’s culture and our growing team’s organisation. It’s also the ideal time for your team to be on vacation as there is a general understanding that the entire country goes offline at the same time. So this year I made sure all my team takes some time off, at least the week around the 15th August. My co-founder, Giorgio Riccò, and I made sure to be away at different times. He’s in Italy right now and I’ll be away at the end of the month.

In terms of sales, there isn’t much of a down period. A lot of corporate clients prepare their September retreats (“séminaires”) in August and people on holiday generally love the idea of letting a Chef look after the shopping and the kitchen!