Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mr Biznuz March 2010

Space was tight in the March issue of the Central Brittany Journal, so the editor suggested that I put this month's column on the blog, which is perhaps fortuitous because the subject that has been occupying my thoughts may be of interest to people who do not normally read the Journal.
Timing is critical to success in business – it is not so much a matter of having a good idea, it is whether or not you choose the right time to implement your idea, and this concept is of even more importance in a developing market, such as Brittany, than in a relatively saturated market, such as in the UK.
Many thousands of businesses have started up in Brittany over past twenty years, only to fail within the first two years of their existence. Many of them were quite visionary and specifically designed to serve the needs of people moving to the area and / or bring new technologies or local products to the local population. They have included food outlets, web-design companies, computer sales and repair businesses, businesses specialising in sales and repairs of imported cars, paint retailers, estate agents, holiday companies, equestrian-businesses, and transport companies: it is almost certain that at some point in the near future, ther will be a huge market for all these services, and it is also true that any business that manages to get established now, will be in an ideal position to make a lot of money when the market takes off. The problem is, that if a business is just a little ahead of its time, it will run out of cash before it becomes profitable – and someone else moves in to reap the benefit of their hard work. This has been the fate of hundreds of innovative businesses in Brittany in the recent past, and it is something that has to be taken seriously by anyone who is planning to set up in the region.

If this sounds a little depressing, there is another side to the story: people have been moving to Brittany, particularly from the UK, in small numbers for at least twenty years, but around six or seven years ago, an exceptionally large number of people moved at around the sound time – something in the order of ten thousand households – and it is estimated that between them they injected between one and two billion euros into the local economy. At the time, hardly anyone was prepared for this windfall, and very few local businesses managed to take advantage of it. The process of migration is cyclical, and even though relatively few people have moved to Brittany over the past couple of years, at some point in the not too distant future, perhaps another ten, twenty, or thirty thousand households will suddenly decide to make the move, bringing many more billions of euros to a region that is still not economically geared up to take advantage of this sort good fortune.

It is all a matter of timing, but anyone who can set up in business now, and survive for a while in difficult trading conditions, could find themselves in a position to make a lot of money in the not-too-distant future.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fest Jazz 2010 - 30th, 31st July, 1st August

I took a trip over to Chateauneuf du Faou yesterday to meet the organisers of Fest Jazz 2010. Trevor Stent of Good Time Jazz, and Regis Garnier of the Ragamuffins laid out the plans for this years festival, which they are confident will be the best so far - extra facilities are being laid on to ensure so that all the events can go on uninterrupted whatever the weather, and the growing international reputation of the festival has made it possible attract some outstanding musicians - this year, the bill is headed by Florin Niculescu, the outstanding jazz violinist (see video below).

The organisers would like everyone to make a note of the festival dates for their diaries, and hope that that, as usual the festival will be well-supported by local residents as well as by jazz enthusiasts from abroard.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Building with Straw

Last week, I had a chance to visit the headquarters of of 'Pig Shed Records' an independent recording label, run by James Hofmeister, outside Moncontour.

The reason for my visit was that I am researching an article on the use of straw as a building material. The Pig Shed recording studio has been built out of straw bales inside an old pig shed and James reports that the straw was not only cost-effective but also provides sound and thermal insulation properties comparable to, or better than, any material available.

I have long held the belief that there must be better ways for providing housing for people than the current methods: wood, straw, earth, stones, etc. could be used much more widely and creatively than at present to build homes, workshops, and other buildings, probably at a fraction of the cost of current building methods. One of my ambitions is to compile of directory of suppliers of 'natural' building materials in Brittany.

Below is the latest video from Pig Shed records - sound and video editing done in the new studio:
Lads 'O' the Fair - Kincardine Lads.