Antoine Michelet has now been heading up a small business with a staff of 50

Should you create a company or buy an existing one? Many businesspeople ask themselves this question. At the age of 46 and with a successful career behind him, Antoine Michelet opted for the second strategy to optimize and sustain a going concern. He received assistance from Provence Promotion under the auspices of its “Go Between in Provence” program, spending two years on the lookout for the perfect situation. He ultimately took over L’Igloo, a small business specialized in the automated distribution of food and beverages. 

The deed of transfer was signed in March 2017, making Antoine Michelet the official owner of L’Igloo, a company based in Saint Victoret near Marseilles, the birthplace of Orangina, its former parent company. The purchase of L’Igloo marked the end of a long, two-year process during which Antoine Michelet embarked on a quest for his ideal company. His decision was prompted by his wife’s career move. “My wife had been contacted by headhunters to become the Director of Sales for Editions Actes Sud in Arles. I simply followed her,” explains the former climate engineering specialist.

With the security afforded by his spouse’s job, he took time to develop his plans and work with a team of bankers, institutional advisers (Arles and Marseilles-Provence chambers of commerce) and finance and M&A experts so that he would be ready when the right opportunity came along.

He also knocked on the door of Provence Promotion and got involved with “Go Between in Provence”, the regional economic development agency’s program for business acquisitions. The agency helped him take the first steps, such as market research, profile analysis and business introductions. He studied a portfolio of nearly 50 companies of various sizes in every business sector. “Taking over an existing business requires a sense of openness. It is also a way to save development time. I wanted an organized company in one of about 10 different industries. While there are a lot of businesses for sale, the reality is that very few are EURLs [one-person limited companies]. I wanted a sound business, which meant absolutely none under court-supervised reorganization,” he stressed.

“We help create a good working environment in companies”

Of the 50 companies he considered in the Bouches du Rhône area, five stood out, but only two held real appeal. His acquisition of L’Igloo happened very fast. “I was competing against an industrial group and I only had two weeks to make an offer,” he recalls. Support from Bpifrance and BNP Paribas played a decisive role in the negotiations.

Antoine Michelet has now been heading up a small business with a staff of 50 for less than a year. He is getting to know the world of automated food and beverage distribution. “Our product is in lounge areas and break rooms. We help create a good working environment in companies. The French automated distribution market is worth two billion Euro and the PACA region accounts for €101 million. We are among the top three in the region with a 7% market share and a fleet of 3,000 distributors located in businesses and institutions,” notes Antoine Michelet, who plans to modernize his equipment as machines become increasingly connected.

The industry is evolving and becoming more professional. To stay in the race, L’Igloo is a member of Prodia Plus, the network of independent entrepreneurs in his line of work. “The network gives us buying power and framework contracts with major buyers,” reports Antoine Michelet. This is no time for a coffee break!