Money makers: Africa's first Cognac maker

After hanging up his foots, former Birmingham City footballer Olivier Tebily turned his hand to a whole new occupation.


Former Birmingham City footballer Olivier Tebily has carved out a new career

Footballers have long relied on the terraces for inspiration,says the BBC's Piers Edwards. But for former Ivorianinternational, Celtic and Birmingham City footballer OlivierTebily, those terraces now sport rows of vines, not fans.Having grown up in France, Tebily, 41, bought his firstcouple of hectares in the Cognac region in his late teens assomething to fall back on if his footballing career was cutshort through injury. After hanging up his boots, Tebily hadtrouble buying more land, which is expensive and in shortsupply, since only brandy made in the region can be calledCognac.

Then a death in the family prompted a neighbouringwinemaker to sell his property to Tebily. Following the deal,the first African maker of Cognac who says he was initiallytreated like "a Martian" became the proud owner of 22hectares in a prime location. Ninety per cent of his crop goesto bigger companies as is common in the region, but he keepsthe rest for his own eponymous range, selling to restaurantsin Africa. The work is hard, but Tebily is determined: "I trybecause I am passionate. I love this like I loved football".

Bringing gaming to the valleys

David Banner had a hand in launching the Tomb Raider series of computer games in the 1990s while working at Eidos International, but he wanted to start his own firm, says Matthew Caines in The Daily Telegraph. Together with Gordon Ross, a former colleague, he founded Genuine Games in 1998. "We were an indie games developer before it was a thing. We had no business skills. We were just young, driven lads who could make games."

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Despite struggles with disaster, particularly when when Ross was diagnosed with leukaemia, the whole experience was "a good first taste of running my own business", says Banner. In 2014, while guest lecturing at the University of South Wales, Banner founded Wales Interactive with Richard Pring, a student. Their aim was to help graduates get into the games sector and promote the industry in Wales. "We wanted to prove that you didn't have to be in London or Los Angeles to develop great games." Wales Interactive has sold 1.5 million titles, won over 40 industry awards most recently a Wales Technology Award for innovation and turned over £300,000 last year.


Doodle shoemaker to the stars

Jordana Schrager became an entrepreneur while a school girl, grounded one night at her home in Florida, says Tanya Klich in Forbes. Bored, she doodled on a pair of shoes, which proved a hit at school. Schrager (pictured) then created a website and social media account, and began to take orders, buying white-canvas shoes for $50 and charging $280 or more for the redecorated pairs.

In 2015, while she was at university, US fast-food chain Taco Bell spotted her social media account and ordered two themed pairs for a giveaway. Then a New York concert venue placed an order for the shoes, giving them to singers, such as Selena Gomez and Pink. Miley Cyrus even showed off the shoes during an interview with music channel MTV. On graduating last year, Schrager set out to scale up her business, which was now called By Jordana. With a $100,000 grant from her university and a contract with a Chinese manufacturer, the 23-year-old is on course to double revenues this year to $60,000, and now has the big retailers in her sights.

Entrepreneur? "Never forget it's a French word"

Station F, a vast project in the heart of Paris, is a symbol of France's ambitions to be "the start-up capital of Europe", says The New York Times. The world's biggest start-up campus, which is as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall, is housed in an old 1920s freight railway station. It's the €250m brainchild of French technology billionaire Xavier Niel, who is "bent on transforming the French start-up scene". Rooms are "scattered with Lego and beanbag chairs", while graffitied railway cars have been transformed into cafs.

It provides 3,000 desks to up to 1,000 fledging companies, along with chill-out zones, meeting spaces, and a "massive" restaurant set to open later this year. Tech giants, including Facebook, Microsoft, and French computer-games maker Ubisoft, have already moved in to offer a guiding hand.

The creation of this tech playground is long overdue, says Frdric Mazzella, the founder of ride-sharing app BlaBlaCar. In France, "entrepreneurs used to be seen as people with nothing left to lose" in other words, you had to be desperate to go it alone. That rather negative perception prompted the government to launch a campaign to persuade people that it was OK to take risks in a country where failure is often stigmatised. "Now it's become acceptable, even desirable, to be a start-up," says Mazzella.

Venture-capital deals in France surpassed those in Germany last year, making the country second only to Britain within Europe for investment activity. Can the French maintain this new-found enthusiasm for small business? "After the Brexit referendum and with renewed American isolationism is Station F part of a strategy to attract talent that no longer feels welcomed in London and in America?" asks Wired.

"Definitely," replies Roxanne Varza, the 32-year-old Silicon Valley expatriate hired by Niel as Station F's director. "We've actually had a lot of start-ups contact us telling us that Brexit, Donald Trump and high Silicon Valley prices are what encouraged them to look at Paris." That is exactly what President Emmanuel Macron wants to hear. At the opening of Station F last month, Macron "showed his smiling steel", notes The Sunday Times, reminding his audience: "What you have in common here is the spirit of this word entrepreneur. Never forget it's a French word, truly French, that the Anglo-Saxons stole from us."

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

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