Months after Audrey Leclercq moved from France to Sweden in January 2016, she confronted Francophiles in the unlikeliest of places: her son’s preschool.
At a preschool meeting in summer 2016, the preschool’s staff and parents started to share with her their love for France and the French Riviera more specifically. Others shared that they had learned French in high school.
And when the parents later in the year organized an event to get to know each other better, they ultimately decided on a theme of France.
"So during the evening there was charcuterie, French cheeses, some baguettes and good breads and great wines also. France is well known for its gastronomy and the good quality of products. Everyone enjoyed the degustation," the entrepreneur remembers.
But as much as Leclercq appreciated the fondness of her culture, she felt that there was an opportunity for people to get to know about her country beyond its food and famous landmarks.
"When you Google "France' or when you search for some French products, it’s always about French wine, maybe French cheese or pastries, or the French baguette or French bread and so on. So often it’s all about drink and something to eat," she tells The Local.
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Leclercq and her husband. The couple and their children moved to Stockholm in January 2016 because of her husband's job. Photo: Private.
There was more to the French culture than this, Leclerq thought, and she wanted to showcase it to the Swedish people. She thought of the spirit of entrepreneurism in French culture, and wanted to bring attention to designers who had gone unnoticed.
This spark of inspiration, coupled with a desire to create something of her own and enter the job market, led her to create ShopFrenchy, an online boutique selling French-made products, from wine holders to purses.
When starting her company, Leclerq made it a goal of hers to also put a representation of herself and her French background on the Swedish market.
"I really wanted to see if I could find a job or maybe create something because I knew that in Sweden it was not so difficult to create your own company, to create your own business at the beginning."
"I want[ed] to create something, to do business, but also to tell a story, to say OK, this is me. I’m Audrey Leclercq. I’m French. What can I tell to the Swedish market, or to the English speaking people in Sweden?" she added.
After establishing her purpose, Leclerq then needed to handle the administrative side of her business, and approached Verksamt and Skatteverket, the Swedish state agencies tasked with helping individuals register their companies.
Although the information was all in Swedish, she was able to rely on her knowledge of the language from SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) classes, and on the assistance of a Swedish friend who had already gone through the process of starting her own company.
At first, Leclercq was asked to develop her idea further, and had to show them proof that her business was underway through an established business plan. She then took the opportunity to seek out vendors and create her website, and in November, recontacted them with her updated information. The turnaround was surprisingly quick, she says: around ten days.
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Leclerq and her two kids. Photo: Private.
Although Leclerq’s business is still relatively young and her website was just recently launched in January, she ultimately hopes that her business will change the discourse surrounding France in Sweden and add nuance to the image people have of her homeland.
"We can speak about other things [when we talk] about France, and for example, the innovation that we can find in France through the companies that want to create high quality products with passion. All the brands really want to tell a story," she explains.