But these were just a selection of the small businesses that pitched up at an English language trade fair taking place in Eymet, in the south of the Dordogne.
Event organisers Melanie Chipperfield and Amanda Smith were the driving force behind the event through their company Angel Traders, with the idea coming from a similar meeting they went to in Deux-Sevres.
“Our friend organised a networking opportunity for businesses, and whilst it proved to be a success it was a lot of work and so our friend decided not to run another one,” said Amanda.
“But we thought there was a need for both business owners and potential customers to meet face-to-face and so we organised a similar event in Brantome.
“This is our third fair and the mairie at Eymet were very supportive with promotion of the event.
“Because we want to ensure that business owners get value for money, but also help them develop opportunities and just have the chance to meet others running a business.”
Promotional support also came from The Connexion newspaper and the Anglo Info Dordogne website, whose owner Martin Swanson explained how he had come to hear about the event.
“Melanie and Amanda were promoting the fair on the forum of the site and I thought it looked like a good idea, so I helped with some advertising on the site and hopefully it is a worthwhile way for people to spend their Saturday and will draw in potential new customers,” Martin said.
Just under 40 stalls were set up in the salle polyvalente just off the main road through Eymet, with more than 100 people dropping in during the morning to chat with business owners.
And it was this opportunity to chat and share ideas that appealed to business consultant Claire Le Monnier (email), who had seen the importance of mutual support during her time heading up the Chamber of Commerce in Jersey.
“It is sometimes difficult for business owners to come together especially if you are busy building up the business, so something like this allows you to discuss ideas and projects,” said Claire.
A number of business owners were keen to see the trade fair progress, with financial consultant David Hadland-Cole seeing it as an effective way to help him and others succeed.
“I have been to all three fairs and Melanie and Amanda have listened to the feedback and thoughts of people which is great to see,” David said.
“And whilst some people might say you should use French businesses, everyone here is properly registered and faces the same challenges as anyone else.
“This morning has gone really well, there has been a bit of a buzz and I know I’ll be heading along to future fairs.”
With lunchtime upon us the smells and flavours of local Indian restaurant Eymet Tandoori (map) began to drift through the hall offering people the chance to try onion bhajis, spring rolls or spicy chicken.
As exhibitors enjoyed a quiet few minutes, and Eymet itself settled down for lunch, Amanda said that future plans for the fair will see them head to other corners of France.
“We are hoping to hold another event in the north of the Dordogne in September, but longer term we plan to hold similar networking opportunities for business owners elsewhere in France, because meeting someone face-to-face can’t be beat,” Amanda said.
Update 18/08/09: English language business fair in Riberac
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