Money makers: Chasing the dream

Clara Delétraz and Béatrice Moulin
Clara Delétraz and Béatrice Moulin, founders of Switch Collective

In the basement of a Haussmann-style building close to Paris’s Saint-Lazare station, 40 people are determined to switch careers, says Zosia Wasik in the Financial Times. One by one, lawyers, journalists and civil servants climb on stage and tell the others what they really want to do: open a bakery, work in a start-up, direct a musical – and how they are going to achieve it.

They are the latest cohort of the Switch Collective, a Parisian start-up in a country where – according to a 2014 Gallup poll – 91% of employees are not committed to their jobs.

“We both felt that we needed something more out of our work,” says Clara Delétraz (on the left in our picture), who went on to found Switch with Béatrice Moulin (on the right). “We try to create a new mindset… and this is what we want to teach people.”

Courses costs from €177 online to €597 for a six-week classroom course, which draws on sociological, philosophical, entrepreneurial and collaborative “tools”. After 18 months, Switch had 800 alumni, while in its first year it racked up €107,000 in revenues and €20,000 in net profits. The next step, says Delétraz, is to tailor its courses to big companies.

Art in the blood

Art is in Mark Cass’s blood, says Matthew Caines in The Daily Telegraph. In 1984, Cass opened his first art supply shop – the eponymously named Cass Art – on London’s Charing Cross Road, as a side business, before giving it his full attention in 2001 after the family photo library business was sold to Getty Images.

The shop site had already existed as an art store for 100 years, counting Claude Monet and Winston Churchill as customers. “It’s located at the back of the National Gallery, so footfall was great, but it was a secretive, almost exclusive business”, says Cass, who wanted to branch out and bring art supplies to a wider audience.

“Cass Art believes in art. We know the freedom and creative pleasure that it brings, so we want everyone to realise that they can do it – and afford it,” he says. Today, he employs 185 “artist-staffers” across 12 branches, and the business turned over £18.5m this year. Cass believes in helping students, whether staff or customers. “If Cass Art can help these young creatives become successful,” he says, “they will hopefully go on to great things – and come back.”

Workouts for new mums

Breaking into the market for new gyms in London is tough. “To an inexpert observer like myself,” says Josie Cox in The Independent, “the competition seems more brutal than the toughest pre-dawn boot camp on a rainy day in the depths of wintry London.” Yet Joan Murphy and Pip Black, two former marketers, set up their first Frame gym ten years ago, after snatching a loan on the cusp of the financial crisis. Since then it’s attracted a cult following, especially among young women.

A “feisty Kiwi”, Murphy isn’t, in her own words, a “girl-boss-hear-me-roar type person”. But there’s something to be said for having a team of women managing a business, says Cox. One of Frame’s fitness programmes is called MumHood. “Mothers come to our studios just to hang out,” says Murphy. “We’re giving them a place to feel great about themselves and get reacquainted with exercise.

Often that’s exactly what you need when you’ve had a baby.” Other classes include “Bend it like Barbie”, “Get Leggy” and “Rebounding”, taught on trampolines. Around 10,000 “Framers” visit the three studios a week across the capital. Two more will open shortly in Hammersmith and Fitzrovia.

The taxi-hailing app giving Uber a run for its money

“We’re woke. Our community is woke, and the US population is woke,” said John Zimmer, president and co-founder of Lyft in a March interview with Time, using an American slang term for “being aware of social injustice”. The taxi-hailing app likes to score points off its main rival, Uber, in the media.

When news broke last Friday that Transport for London (TfL) would not renew Uber’s operating licence, online searches for “Lyft UK” skyrocketed, says news site Gizmodo. Lyft exploits Uber’s none-too-delicate approach to breaking into new markets, says Olivia Solon in The Guardian, and it wants to be first in line when Uber’s customers look for an alternative. “We’re a better boyfriend,” says Zimmer.

For now, Lyft only operates in the US, but it is exploring other markets – it has held five conversations with TfL staff since January 2015. Uber is right to be concerned: “expansion in the UK by Lyft would raise the stakes for Uber in its largest European market”, says the Financial Times. Lyft has already eaten into Uber’s home market, raising its share from 16% at the start of the year to 25% by August. It doesn’t want to see the pattern repeated abroad, nor for competitors to join the party.

This week, says the Financial Times, Estonian rival Taxify also “made progress” in having its London operating licence reinstated, after it was banned earlier this month.

Uber’s Lyft problem doesn’t end in London. Last Wednesday, Lyft signed a deal with Ford to develop self-driving cars, while the venture-capital arm of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has discussed a $1bn investment, Bloomberg revealed. Alphabet is also a shareholder in Uber, but its self-driving car unit, Waymo, is suing the company over autonomous car technology. And while informal talks last year over a buyout of Lyft by Alphabet failed to get off the ground, “some investors have suggested Alphabet would be a natural home”. For now, Uber is still way ahead in the taxi-hailing stakes. But as Lyft plays catch-up, Uber will be watching its rearview mirror.