Four months after her baby went bankrupt, the entrepreneur behind Juliette & Chocolat is back with a vengeance

She fell, got back up and immediately started running again. Juliette Brun went bankrupt in August, but her company Juliette & Chocolat is already preparing to open a new restaurant.

• Also read: Juliette & Chocolat: Restaurants closed

• Also read: Falling under the weight of pandemic debt

“Bankruptcy is a black hole. “I should be able to breathe again within a year,” says the ball of energy at the head of the over 20-year-old company.

The 42-year-old chocolate entrepreneur closed her eight restaurants overnight on August 7th. The 16,000 square meter factory was also swept away by the flood disaster, which is known as bankruptcy.

“I was a victim of rising interest rates,” she says bluntly and without embarrassment.

ARG JULIETTE CHOCOLATE

Juliette Brun is 42 years old and has five children, which doesn’t stop her from running her company. Photo agency QMI, JOEL LEMAY

To survive COVID, she took out one loan per restaurant, plus a ninth for the factory. She owed the bank $2.4 million. In the 12 months before bankruptcy, the company paid $1 million in interest alone, without touching the principal.

“Business loans have a variable interest rate, we don’t talk about it enough,” she warns all entrepreneurs.

But on August 8, the mother of five went back to work to better rebuild her business. She wouldn’t let 20 years of hard work go by without trying something.

“I took a lease to open a factory. I took over the production. Of 350 employees, only 4 were left, including 2 part-time accountants,” she says, referring to her “red hats,” her employees.

ARG JULIETTE CHOCOLATE

The team behind the new restaurant: Midean Mhmod, Juliette Brun, Mohamad Saleh Abodan and Afif Abodan. Photo agency QMI, JOEL LEMAY

Franchise to breathe better

Juliette Brun is used to putting out 25 fires a day and dividing her time between her eight restaurants and her factory. Now she is turning to a new model: franchising.

Because the new restaurant on Rue Sauvé Ouest in Montreal doesn’t belong to her, but to four Syrians of origin.

“We trust Juliette, despite the bankruptcy. She has a unique personality and we want to get started with her,” emphasizes Mohamad Saleh Abodan, 42 years old.

He came to Canada from his native Syria in 2009. He married a woman from Quebec with whom he has three children. He is a real estate agent and now a restaurateur.

“When I met my wife, we often went to Juliette & Chocolat, it was her favorite place,” he remembers.

Mr. Abodan starts his career in the catering industry with good support. He is surrounded by his brother Afif, who arrived in the country in 2013, his cousin Mohamad Abodan – yes, they have almost the same name – and his friend Midean Mhmod.

ARG JULIETTE CHOCOLATE

The new restaurant is scheduled to open in the first week of December. It is located on Sauvé Street West in Montreal, very close to the original Adonis. Photo agency QMI, JOEL LEMAY

And Juliette will also be there in the first few months of the opening. She, who already takes care of the factory, will work extra hard for as long as necessary, even if that means working 20 hours a day. She’s used to it.

“We are already in discussions with other potential franchisees. The bankruptcy didn’t hurt this level, if you can believe me,” she wonders.

At Sauvé Ouest, Midean, who arrived in Canada 18 months ago, will be the boss.

“I became the best manager of Juliette & Chocolat in the world,” says the man with a laugh, who completed numerous internships in the company before the bankruptcy in order to get to know all the processes.

The restaurant is scheduled to open the first week of December. For the rest, you have to follow Juliette. And for that you have to be able to walk.

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