Nicolas Vivin, founder of the VIVIN brand, comes from the small but renowned town of Roanne, France, famous for the restaurant Maison Troisgros.
The idyllic rural town that has surprised and delighted “bon vivant” (those that know the good life) with it’s pioneering approach to nouvelle cuisine. Maison Troisgros, the three star Michellin restaurant was where Nicolas Vivin began to trade as an apprentice cook.
Like many French food connoisseurs, Nicolas developed his love of local cuisine from family gatherings. Neighbors and local society would come to appreciate home cooked dinners, cooked the classic French way. The heart and soul of these famed feastings came from ‘Mamia Vivin’, the Grand Matriarch of the family and Nicolas’ Grandmother.
As Nicolas grew, so did his desires to pursue the fine food and service industry. This lead to moving to Switzerland where he studied at the prestigious ‘Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne’.
Next, Nicolas ventures abroad to the Oriental Hotel in Thailand for his traineeship. Yet always hungry to learn more and aim higher, he returned to work at the Montreux Palace in Switzerland and the to serve under Chef Paul Bocuse in Lyon France.
Nicolas, now culturally enriched by his Asian adventures combined with very French artisan trained skills under his belt, decided to return to Thailand to develop his own brand of fine grocers. The first product on the line was the Natural Foie Gras. Cooked to his family’s secret recipe but with Nicolas’ own modern twist. Not long after, did it appear that taking the bold step and sharing his passion to a shy foie gras market was proven the right choice.
The VIVIN brand has now blossomed to an entire range of foie gras, such as the classic Natural foie gras, the premium Black Truffle and now introducing an exotic range of real Mango, real Tamarind and Chalong Bay Rum Foie Gras. VIVIN new range Duck Breast with flavours including Natural, Black Pepper, Thyme, Paprika and Pong Curry have also become a quick best seller.
VIVIN fine products are now supplied at some of the finest city restaurants and boutique retailers around the city ans it won’t be long before the rest of the world will have VIVIN on their top range shelved and fine table tops.
VIVIN raw duck livers are imported from France and produced locally without artificial ingredients, colours or preservatives. This means that the fine taste of France is now available to those who come to try us.
In your own words what is Vivin?
VIVIN is a fine food & fine grocery supplier for both final customers and professionals
How did you come up with the idea of Vivin?
I wanted to share my passion for gourmet delicacies with the idea of offering an outstanding service in the retail market. Using my French and Swiss education to become a reference of luxurious food in Asia.
Could you walk us through the process of starting up Vivin
I started this project initially for the passion and for fun, with no idea of it developing further. We began with 2 flavours of foie gras terrine selling at a farmers’ market. It was received by the public very well, selling out over the weekend and the next few weekends after. We were surprised at how, not only Expatriates but also local Thais were enjoying the products and were happy to pay for it. From then on we decided to turn the project into a full fledged business and continued to expand our product range.
Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup and how did you overcome it?
We encountered many difficulties as many startups will discover in the development steps. In our particular business, the certification, hygiene and legal aspects of food production was a constant challenge. We overcame this by experimenting with different processes of cooking, packing and factory organisation. We also had to do a lot of research and self-teaching and we owe a lot to the help of professional friends and consulting company.
How have you been developing Vivin since startup (i.e. what’s the developmental direction)?
We have been developing VIVIN with perfecting our recipes, cooking practices, packaging and marketing. We understand that luxury food brands must offer the best flavours with the best ingredients and with outstanding packaging to target clients with discerning tastes and worldly experience.
Our first step was to guarantee top and constant quality of product by strengthening out our production behaviors. Second step was to create perfect packaging insuring hygiene & long shelf life as much as being distinctive from other brands and matching our customer target.
Then, we could start developing other products, make better sourcing and employing more qualified individuals.
What kind of feedback did you get for Vivin so far?
We received many positive feedback from both clients and professionals. We are introducing relatively unseen products to the local market, products which are artisanal and of high quality, rivaling the industry gourmet products readily available in supermarkets. Therefore education and tastings are a large part of our activity to engage curious clients and gain new regular high-end customers.
Do you face a lot of competition in this industry especially from companies like Vivin?
We are offering a unique products using many locally made quality ingredients and produce. So there is not that much competition on our gourmet niche of the market, but this also makes it very challenging to capture the commercial market.
Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?
We’ve learned in the industry to always listen to different advise and from all different people. It could be from friends, associates, staff and customers, but trust your own instincts, there are people out there who would love to see you succeed and others who would welcome your demise. Never put your trust on spoken promises, only until the contract is signed or monies are received.
What is the future of the industry and how do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?
Future of the industry is looking promising; more and more of the public are becoming aware of gourmet products are curious to try. Staying relevant means continuing to offer a range of tasty and interesting products, heavy marketing, both online and offline, such as events and collaborations.
Were there anything that disappointed you initially?
Initial disappointment would come from unreliability, there are many obstacles in this country where situations, processes and people will become unreliable. It’s part of the relaxed and care-free charming culture but it’s also frustrating at times. The lesson is always to plan ahead for any mishaps and have back up.
What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?
It’s hard like anywhere I guess but I would say especially in Thailand because of the unstable and ever-changing political situation and climate.
What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?
“Same Same but Different” (a little joke)
What is your definition of success?
Being happy in everyday life by doing what you enjoy.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I always dreamed to become an entrepreneur but I felt I was lacking experience, then I realized, the lack of experience is what makes you an entrepreneur. Making mistakes and learning from them is what puts you ahead of the crowd. I’ve discovered from being an entrepreneur that by starting from scratch, from the ground level, being among the real consumers and ahead of trends is what will give you the competitive edge.
In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?
The key to entrepreneurial success will very depend on your product/service, industry and situation. But as an entrepreneur who is basically doing everything on their own, is to be able to withstand working days and nights, without rest or holiday and to put your trust in certain individuals in your team who can help delegate the work, so you can learn, eventually to let go of the smaller tasks and concentrate on running the company and growing it successfully. As a successful entrepreneur you will start alone but you wont end up alone.
Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”.-Mahatma Gandhi