Living the Dream: Five Business Ideas You Can Start in Rural France 

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The idea of settling down deep in the French countryside is, for many people, an alluring one. Romantic novels like Joanne Harris’s Chocolat and aspirational TV programs such as Escape to the Chateau have built an evocative picture for countryside-loving Brits and Americans alike, and with property in many stunning areas in France surprisingly affordable, the fantasy can feel tantalisingly within reach. 

For those who have made the jump from idle daydreams to actively planning to relocate, the question of how to maintain an income can be a sticking point. But for the entrepreneurial of spirit, starting a business in France can facilitate a new life in la République, and achieve the complete lifestyle change many envisage from a move to a pastoral setting. 

Unfortunately, Brexit and other global factors have left many aspiring emigres confused and discouraged, with some fearing that they will no longer be able to live in France. While the rules have changed, however, it is still entirely possible to live and start a business in France, and if this is your dream you shouldn’t be put off. 

With some guidance, research and passion, you can forge a countryside-based business – drawing up your business plan, navigating the quirks of French bureaucracy and settling into your new life. Here is some inspiration for rural business ideas that will help you make the dream a reality. 

Working with Wine 

Wine is integral to French culture, with almost every region of France producing wine and many varieties having become synonymous with sophistication and quality. If you are a wine lover, are extremely knowledgeable about wines or have a driving ambition to learn more, then you can enter the wine business in a variety of ways. 

If you have agricultural experience or the capital to hire employees with the expertise you need, the most direct way to start a wine business is to buy a vineyard. Producing and selling wine can be extremely lucrative, especially if you can diversify into other services such as providing wine “experiences” such as tours and holidays – you can even provide training courses for aspiring sommeliers. 

This isn’t the only way to enter the wine industry, however, and you could consider creating a business as a wine merchant or online seller. Touring vineyards to source excellent yet underrepresented wines is for many a dream job, and by setting up an online store or supplying UK or European wine shops, you can make it a reality. 

Opening a Restaurant or Food Van

With world-famous cuisine, some of the biggest names in cookery and the “gastronomic meal of the French” inscribed by UNESCO on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, it may seem that France has restaurants well covered. However, it is still possible to spot a gap in the market in this nation of foodies, and if food is your passion, there’s no reason not to pursue that passion here. 

You could consider opening a food van and becoming familiar with the local roster of events and festivals you could serve, or choose to put down more permanent roots with a restaurant, cafe or bistro. Food vans have the advantage of allowing you to bring your business to the customer rather than having them come to you, although buying and fitting out your vehicle may result in higher start-up costs than renting an existing property. 

France is a global leader when it comes to cuisine, but you may be able to bring something unique to the industry which helps you stand out. While few other cuisines are as revered as the French, there could be opportunities hiding in plain sight. For example, one enterprising expat managed to change hearts and minds through his gourmet burger business – shaking the commonly-held perception that burgers belong within the confines of low quality fast food. 

Becoming a Food Producer

France’s reputation for beautiful cookery is built on a bedrock on fantastic ingredients, where everything from their cheeses to their pastries are internationally renowned. With the “Made in France” label an instant indicator of authenticity and excellence, any company that produces food for distribution will benefit from being based here. 

You may consider buying land to grow fruit and vegetables or raise livestock, or forging relationships with the local farmers to source produce and create cheese, jams, chutneys, deli items, liqueurs or any number of items. Whether you supply restaurants or shops or run your own store, joining the French food economy will make you a part of one of their most successful industries.

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Running a Holiday Business 

Helping other people to discover and enjoy the rural idyll you have relocated to is perhaps one of the most accessible ways of launching a new business venture in France. The kind of business you create will be dependent on the kind of property you own, how much land you have and your location. But whether you buy a grand chateau or tumbledown cottage, there are plenty of opportunities to be found. These include:  

  • Running a gîte or holiday cottage.
  • Having a Bed and Breakfast.
  • Managing a campsite or glamping business. 
  • Providing activity holidays, such as kayaking, climbing or hiking. 
  • Running writers, yoga or wellness retreats. 
  • Opening a high-end hotel for weddings and events.

Starting a Tutoring or Educational Business 

According to the Eurobarometer report 2012, 39% of the French population can speak English to some degree, and bilinguists are especially common in metropolitan and tourist areas. Those in the countryside, however, are likely to have less call to speak English on a regular basis even if they would like to, and may welcome the opportunity for extra tutoring (for themselves or their children) from a native speaker. And also, see more information at math tutor for kids.

You could even consider opening an educational facility to provide to schools looking for destinations for school trips. Recruiting TEFL teachers who want to spend some time teaching in the beautiful French countryside and setting up a school of English could help you attract trips from French schools, or you could aim to provide an immersive French-speaking experience for English students. 

Despite the pervasive myth that France is a difficult place to run a business, opportunities abound for those who choose to live and work here. With the right advice and plenty of determination, you can forge a new life in rural France, and make your business a success. 

Katya Puyraud is the co-owner of Euro Start Entreprises, and an expert in helping entrepreneurs to start a business in France. Euro Start Entreprises have 15 years’ experience helping to start and expand businesses in over 30 countries worldwide.

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