Global Observer

Young entrepreneur lets France eat cake

Young entrepreneur lets France eat cake

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PARIS -- Young expat turned entrepreneur launches baking boutique in Paris to fill a niche in the French culinary market.

PARIS – The city’s first Anglo-American specialty baking shop opens this month spearheaded by one of Paris’s youngest entrepreneurs.  At 19, Brit expat Paul Waters is launching his Cake & Bake store in the French capital while many of his peers are still adjusting to adulthood.

Baking is a respected French tradition ever since Italian desserts came to the French court in the 16th century.  Today, France is synonymous with pastries and desserts.  Cooking shops in France, however, cater more often to professional bakers specializing in French cuisine.  Obtaining international products is about as rare as finding an authentic cupcake or brownie in a French bakery.

Waters hopes that Cake & Bake will help change all of that.  Rather than challenging traditional French baking, he is hoping to capitalize off a niche that has yet to be filled.  “My aim is not to change French culture but to add something else,” he said.

After receiving a family inheritance, Waters decided to marry his love of baking and business.  Several years working and studying in London and Grenoble prepared him to face the challenge of opening up his own boutique in Paris, a city he loves.

With his 20th birthday next month, his youth is a blessing and a curse.  While struggling for a month to find the right place, finally settling in Paris's tenth arrondissement, he ran the gauntlet of French administration.  Landlords, providers, and other officials either treated him as a mature businessman or a child.  “People were either really helpful or really horrible,” he said, “and every day is like a battlefield.”

Waters admitted to not really thinking about his age during the process.  “You get so invested in it and you don’t see the big picture,” he said, “but yes, it’s amazing.”

Opening a small business in France, however, is no small quibble.  French unemployment rates are hitting their highest levels since 1999, set to surpass 10%.  Entrepreneurs readily attempt new ventures, but many stories end within a year.  Waters remains hopeful that by filling an increasingly popular niche, Cake & Bake will endure.  “If you dominate the market you can make a lot of money,” he said.

More importantly, he is offering something that is increasingly in demand, yet scarcely available.  “This industry doesn’t exist in France, he said, adding, “I can create the industry I want.”

The question remains whether or not this industry will run its course or meld with existing French culture.  With cupcake shops still popping up and American-style cookies still a novelty, Waters’ products, which are sourced from British and American brands, are hot items.  While a small selection of these brands, like Wilton, is available at the French cookware shops, Waters said that those stores are too professional and too intimidating for amateur bakers.  “I want my store to be open to everyone,” he said.

A mix of rock n’ roll décor, colorful products, and helpful customer service, Cake & Bake is set to become a destination for Parisians looking for whimsical birthday candles, oddball cookie cutters, and Waters’ favorite, edible glitter.  “I want to inspire people to create and bake, to make baking young, fresh and fun,” Waters said.

With two weeks to go before opening, Waters still has to finish putting the touches on displays and incorporating his stock, having renovated the majority of the store on his own.  Still, he is already thinking about franchising and creating a European, if not global, brand if all goes well.  “I want Cake & Bake to be big,” he said, and at 19, he still has plenty of time to make it happen.

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Bryan Pirolli

Correspondent (Paris)

Bryan Pirolli has worked for Conde Nast and Travel+Leisure and has written for EuroCheapo.com and Concierge.com. He holds a degree from New York University and is currently studying at the Sorbonne. He is based in Paris, France. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure