Business in France: Micro entrepreneurs need your love, especially at Christmas!

Help the ‘small guys’

It’s part of the dream - move to La Belle France, leave the stressful job behind, enjoy the relaxed lifestyle and follow your dreams; work for yourself. You won’t be rich, but you’ll be happy!

I’m sharing my experience to explain why I ask you to support small businesses this Christmas - be they on line or physical shops.

In France, it’s essential that you make sure you are properly and legally registered and all the paperwork is complete. There is paperwork you wouldn’t have imagined existed and you have to register for exactly the right business operation to be compliant, and know your restraints!

The bureaucracy in France is legendary, all the stories you hear, sadly, are true.

But of all the paperwork marathons I have completed, the administrative procedure to start a new business is probably one of the most stressful things I have ever done! (My first career was in business banking, so helped many startups!)

The publicity tells you how the ‘Micro Entrepreneur’ regime is simple. Hmmm!

March: I submit my forms to URSAFF (this faceless acronym are one of the key players - apparently I’m linked to them as as my profession is ‘Liberale’)

The months tick by. Nothing. Chase it. Nothing. Keep chasing. Nothing. Clearly my application has fallen into a black hole. Reapply and within a week I have my business registered! My SIRET (business registration) number - happy day!

Celebrated too soon.

The grand plan - as part of my French dream, I not only want to teach English - and I am a qualified and experienced teacher (2nd career!) - I wanted to sell French vintage and antiques (my passion).

Really, becoming a brocanteuse is just a way of justifying my trips to the local vide greniers and brocantes - wondrous places where a jewel lurks beneath the baby clothes, broken plates, and grime of decades - if only you look hard enough! Furthermore it allows me to neatly sidestep the regular complaints of my husband that I’m spending all our renovation budget on pretty things and I’ll have a beautifully styled house while we sit under a leaky roof! At least he likes my taste!

The paperwork for this goes off the scale! If you don’t get it right, fulfil the many demands for this or that and complete attestations with names that are untranslatable and you wouldn’t know what to do anyway ... and then send them to the right place for an official stamp and then send their response back to the Greffe ...

GIN! Lots of it! ...

This takes another 3 months before I can present myself at the Mairie to have my ‘Livre de Police’ ceremonially signed. This has to be filled out diligently and available at any time for inspection - again huge fines for non-compliance. Hundreds of euros spent, still not able to earn any money and nearly lost the will to live!

I still haven’t worked out what the Greffe are, other then they are very scary as they can strike you off their register, never to brocante again if you don’t comply with their many unfathomable demands in a tight timeframe.

The consolation is I now have a piece of paper saying I am a moral person (!) and a lasting image of the Greffe as a bit like the Gruffalo (with me as the mouse) and equally terrifying!

Hoping I haven’t missed anything ... oh yes I have to register for CFE, as I work from home I have to pay extra tax on top of the Taxe d’Habitation I already pay for sitting in the same house on a computer at my kitchen table! What next?!

Of course when you are working as an entrepreneur you are entitled to French healthcare (after all I do pay 25% plus of my turnover - yes TURNOVER with no expenses off set) to the state.

Great! Once registered with URSAFF (keep up!) they register you with the SSI, RSI or whatever TLA it is and then CPAM (these cheery guys administer healthcare entitlements and payments) issue you with an Attestation des Droits (other wise known as the Holy Grail).

Great? No! The system is new, apparently was rolled out by the state with no checks that the great organisations’ computer systems talked to each other, and it seems, no staff training (I gave up trying to explain to the CPAM office near me how the new system worked).

Finally after 9 months I now have the Grail in my hand, I have all the bits of paper to apply for right to remain when the dreaded B word happens. If I can make enough money not to be a burden to the state. A champagne cork was popped that evening!

Please be nice to small businesses, we pay high social contributions and tax, we pay them even on the high postage rates we already pay to send our merchandise to you - we work hard and want to stay in our beloved country and keep our dream alive.

Buy from a small business, not a giant multinational, there are reasons we are sometimes more expensive but we put love into what we sell, contribute much ... and do a little happy dance every time you buy from us!


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