Portrait Brice Chambard ENG
Brice Chambard (MBA 2003): "An entrepreneur must persevere under any circumstances!"
Obiz (a play on the word “hobbies”) sells transferable discount cards called “Obiz Pass”, entitling holders to discounted rates on a number of sport, health and wellness activities. The cards sold by the company, which began operating in 2010, give customers access to over 10,000 special offers on local facilities and services in these fields. Early this year, Obiz co-founder, Brice Chambard, received the “Coup de cœur” trophy at the 8th edition of the Fête de l'Entreprise, organised by the group Le Progrès and the Rhône General Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises (GCPME). Proof, if any were needed, that the budding company holds all the cards to take on an international market that it sees as an increasingly attractive prospect.
How did the idea for Obiz take shape?
- After 18 years spent working as an employee for large international companies, and I don't know how many redundancy plans, I needed to give my professional and personal life a new direction. As a former athlete, state-qualified coach in physical activity and sport for all, chairman of several associations, and well aware of how exercise is beneficial to the health, I wanted to concentrate my efforts on promoting it in an innovative manner. And that is how the “Obiz” concept was born.
What were the main difficulties you faced in setting up your project?
- Before arriving at these figures, I spent a great deal of time trying to convince the various players that it would be in their interest to join the Obiz adventure. And I had to secure the first business contracts at a time when the offering was still limited and our customer references were non-existent. We started off with a blank slate and did what we could to find the necessary innovation in what we were proposing. In this respect, we succeeded in protecting Obiz against economic parasitism and unfair competition, thanks in particular to sound advice from Aklea, a law firm which partners EMLYON's business incubator, of which Obiz is a member under its Premium Scheme. The “proof of concept” stage actually took longer than expected insofar as the initial business plan was concerned because we spent a great deal of time explaining the innovation and were often compared to group purchasing sites and/or gift packages. We were expecting this and were ready for it.
Over a million Obiz cards have been distributed in France since your platform was launched. Where do you want to go from here?
- We are aiming for a maximum of three to four million beneficiaries in France per year in order to maintain a “premium” service. Our international roll-out is at the seed stage and we are pursuing new partnerships with the aim of being co-creators of value with our partners and customers by constantly proposing innovative services. We want to pursue growth by respecting a simple motto: “Say what we do, do what we say and prove what we have done”.
Would you say that your desire to be an entrepreneur emerged “late in the day” or is it something that has always been in the back of your mind?
- Throughout my time as an employee, I was already a fan of intrapreneurship. Whenever something new needed to be tested, my hand would always be in the air... From another perspective, if you consider a sports association to be a kind of entrepreneurial venture, then this desire became apparent fairly early on. That said, I really took the plunge into entrepreneurship late in the day. I wanted to be better equipped, to obtain quality education and training (MBA EMLYON in 2003), a denser network to activate and enough funds of my own to be able to set up my enterprise while keeping risks low.
- My goal was to reduce the risk for the people who had put their trust in me. I am talking about my family, of course, but also my friend and associate, Christophe Labare, General Director of Obiz, who agreed from the outset to share the adventure at my side.
What advice would you give young (and not so young) people hoping to set out on their own entrepreneurial adventure?
- Essentially, three things:
- Choose an activity that you are likely to enjoy. As an entrepreneur you are probably going to spend a lot of time developing your business rather than doing something else. So it's best that you take pleasure in what you are doing.
- Use your network to enlist help and trust in people who share your goals. And beware too of the initial intention of others to form partnerships which, with time, can fizzle out and compromise the business project.
- Go into your project with your eyes wide open, believe in your success, dare to move forward, prove your courage and persevere no matter what happens. Communicate while protecting your interests and fight for your cause since there is no gain without pain. And, above all, create value.