Esther is an executive in the marketing department of Campari Group and has a fulfilling professional life. Nevertheless, she has a project to take over the family wine business in the Bordeaux region and has participated in the Hectar Entrepreneur program. Between fears, doubts and ambitions, she confides in us about this life project that will shake up her daily life and that of her family.
While you have a professional experience as an executive at the international level, why undertake today a wine project in the Bordeaux region?
This desire was born from the meeting of an opportunity - the takeover of my parents' farm - and an awareness - that of the heavy deficit in the transmission of farms in France today.
Of course there is a part of affection, because it is the framework in which I grew up; but there is especially a will to get involved, to try, very humbly and at my level, to move the lines; to participate in stopping this massive disengagement of our generations for the agricultural world.
In this same will to act, there is also the environmental aspect; to pass from a purely passive behavior, limited to my consumption choices, to an active approach. With this project, I have the opportunity to act, admittedly on a small scale, but I have the chance to be part of the cogs of the transition: if I decide to let go of what I am doing to get involved, others can do it too, and our actions put together will be as many cogs of change.
What does this life project correspond to?
This project is the first one that I would really call a life project. On the one hand because it does not only involve me, but also my family. On the other hand, because for the first time, I am making the choice to engage in a professional activity without any notion of time, an activity that will perhaps occupy me until the end of my professional life. When you sign a new contract, you have more or less your career plan in mind; you know that you are going to do this job for 2 years, 3 years, then evolve...
What is the most difficult part of developing this project?
The most difficult thing is... to start! I have been thinking about taking over the family business for a long time - I am still thinking about it! When I take a step back, I think that behind this long period of reflection, there is a real reality: it is scary! We know exactly what we are losing, but we only know vaguely what we are getting back. The agricultural sector is beginning to be attractive in the collective imagination through stories of return to the land, of sustainability, but when we confront it, it can be intimidating because of the magnitude of the task that awaits us, and especially because of the uncertainty.
This fear of jumping is fed by two elements. First of all, for people like me, who were brought up with the idea that you have to make a career, and that a career is made up of stages between evolving positions and changing companies in a never-ending cycle, going into agriculture is like opening a door, sitting down and staying in the same seat all your life. It's deconstructing the idea of a career; there's a single position and it's sometimes hard to accept that, even though of course a farm business is evolving. We always say to ourselves that we will stay in a position for 2 years, 3 years, 5 years... but if I am asked this question for my farm business, well... once I am there, I am there! And that's thesecond thing: going into agriculture means putting aside a part of my freedom. I know that my choice involves more than a 2 or 3 year commitment, but is it a lifetime commitment? Honestly, it's still hard to say.
It is a change of profession that requires adaptation, how do you plan to organize your working time?
I am currently in a profession that is very demanding, but above all, in which I am not in control of my schedule. From this point of view, becoming an agricultural entrepreneur seems to me to guarantee more flexibility: it means accepting a wider range of hours and a rhythm that is sometimes upset by unforeseeable events, but it also means gaining more freedom to organize my time.
How will you approach this project, how will your current experience feed it?
Thanks to Hectar, I understood that the key was not to approach this project as a takeover of a farm, but as a takeover and transformation. This point of transformation was the driving force behind my decision; it allowed me to see further, to want to take part in this agricultural transition, to encourage other project leaders to launch themselves. I no longer see this takeover project as a relay race, where the baton should be handed over to the next buyer in the same way, but as a real evolution project.
Moreover, I approach this project with a certain amount of idealism: until now, my professional life has taught me that one can be happy in one's work, so for me agriculture is not only a commitment, it is also a profession that must be socially fulfilling and rich.
Beyond the skills - especially marketing and management - it is above all this state of mind that my current experience brings me. I believe in this balance, in this sustainability, not only environmental but also social. And to have some keys to try to implement this balance.
In a new project, it is not uncommon to make mistakes: did you make any?
I haven't had time to make too many mistakes yet, but I might make some soon! The first one is not to dare to confront myself with the people already settled, and to want to initiate my project too individually. Beyond the learning that such discussions can bring, it is also a question of integration within an already well established ecosystem.
The second mistake would be a sin of pride! To approach the project with too much confidence, without having first built my credibility in the field, nor having understood all the mechanisms. This is a project that requires a great deal of humility and, once again, the active involvement of the profession.
The other mistake, for my kind of profile, would be to underestimate the change in scale between my old life and this new life. Scale of means, share of voice, attention... I think I underestimate the number of closed doors I will have to face.
Since the Hectar Entrepreneur program, how have you evolved?
I remember on the train back with my sister after the defense of our project at Hectar, I told her "We have something, we're not stopping, I know we're going to go back, and that life is going to take us back, that we're not going to be able to free up time to really move this project forward; let's make a promise to each other not to give up, a promise to go." And then, no matter how much we made the promise, we didn't go. Out of fear, I think. And out of a need to take time, to understand our brakes, and to neutralize them, gradually. It is a turning point that deserves to be matured; the impact is not only professional, but also personal. It is a life project; part instinct, part reflection. And one day, you just have to go for it!