Behind the scenes of an industrial start-up

Behind URBAN CUISINE, there is the story of a company. There is also the story of a duo convinced that in the city, you can produce and consume quality fruit and vegetables. Meeting with Joséphine and Antoine, the founders of URBAN CUISINE, behind the scenes of their industrial start-up.

Good vegetables at home

To go back to the origins of URBAN CUISINE, we have to go back to the summer of 2018. Joséphine and Antoine , friends for a few years, are on vacation in a group in Puglia, in the south of Italy. Here, we eat generous dishes, based on good fruits and vegetables grown in the surrounding vegetable gardens. During a fiery discussion, the group of friends wonders: what if we could access such good products while being in town? Bringing the place of production back to the place of consumption?

“At that time, we had this somewhat vague project, this idea of ​​growing at home to avoid going to the supermarket to buy aromatic herbs sold in plastic wraps.”

Back in France, the group of friends get caught up in the game, do research on the web, inquire about the advantages and disadvantages of an indoor vegetable garden . Joséphine, a handyman, designs the first prototype in the courtyard of her building. “I spent my time chatting with the manager of a weed store, who had a good knowledge of hydroponics,” she recalls. The first prototype is conclusive. Radish, lettuce and chives, the vegetables grow quickly, thanks to the liquid nutrients added in the water. “At that time, we thought we had something. No vegetable garden on the market offered this level of performance. It was crazy this idea of ​​contributing to your own food, from home, even while being in Paris!”

If several friends of the troop were interested in the project, Joséphine and Antoine are the only ones to feel ready to leave their respective jobs to embark on this industrial adventure .

Two Bretons exiled in Paris

But who are these entrepreneurs at heart? First of all, both are from Brittany . “I lived in a hamlet of four houses in the Gulf of Morbihan, says Joséphine. We went to the beach every day. I grew up barefoot, in the open air.” Antoine spent his childhood in Brest, less in nature, but very active in the vegetable garden with his parents. “I remember planting tomatoes in May, and also weeding!

At the age of 9, Joséphine left Brittany for Paris. A shock. "I cried seeing the size of the playground." Here, she feels oppressed. After his schooling, his course at IPAG offered him the opportunity to leave the capital . She went to Rome, San Francisco, Edinburgh, Toronto… For her first professional experience , Joséphine embarked on entrepreneurship. “My father, a navigator, crossed the oceans with a boat on foils. It made us want to use this technology to transport Parisians and tourists.” For 3 and a half years, she set up her hardware start-up , before selling her shares once the project stabilized. And begins to rediscover the taste of Paris .

For his part, Antoine continued his studies in Nantes, before settling in Paris for work .

“I was hired by an investment fund that financed capital transactions with agribusiness entrepreneurs. It was a fulfilling job, I learned a little more every day about what we eat, where the seeds come from, the logistics of the agro-business chain.”

The beginnings of the project

Back in 2018. In the fall, the first prototype of a functional indoor vegetable garden, the two young entrepreneurs embarked 100% on their project .

A few months later, they joined the Parisian incubator Station F. “It was reassuring to find ourselves in this ecosystem, surrounded by people who set up their company. It made things very concrete.”

To compose the recipe for their Motte de Cultivation (and prevent gardeners from turning into apprentice chemists), Joséphine and Antoine contact the best interlocutor there is: INRAE ​​. “I simply picked up the phone, dialed the number and explained our project, recalls Joséphine. A few days later, Christine Aubry, a research expert, called us back to tell us that she loved our concept and to give us all the right contacts.” One thing leading to another, the team interacted with many specialists in urban agriculture , each one more benevolent than the other.

In September 2019, the research and development phase can finally start. March 2020, the team builds a new, more elaborate prototype with the help of a fablab , a kind of collaborative laboratory. But the health crisis is coming and with it its share of uncertainties. “At that time, we had the idea of ​​launching a crowdfunding campaign to democratize the use of Mottes de Culture . The feedback has been very good!” At the same time, they decided to launch two other products: cork pots and flower boxes.

The industrialization phase

Then starts the industrialization phase . We are in September 2020. “On the 5th page of Google, I found a service provider who could transform our prototype into an industrial version, recalls Joséphine. This mechanical engineer was just launching his workshop to produce objects in small series.” Since then, the man has taken his own life. Tragic news for the team, who worked with him 2 to 3 days a week. “It took us months to get back on track.”

For several months, the team set out to find the best craftsmen and manufacturers to shape the product, but also to create the packaging and manage the logistics.

“We traveled the four corners of the country to find the right partners. Finally, we focused on the Great West. It was important for us to be close to people, and to be able to be present in a few hours of travel.”

Version 0 of the Potager will be delivered to the first buyers in May 2021. “We traveled around France by truck to ensure the delivery ourselves. From Auxerre to Quimper via Mérignac, we discovered the diversity of our customers, from gardening novices to the most seasoned.”

Since then, URBAN CUISINE has reviewed all of its communication, launched its application and acquired a new version of its vegetable garden , called Liv.

Order the Vegetable Garden Liv

From friends to co-founders of an industrial start-up

One might wonder how one goes from friends to co-founders of an industrial start-up . For Joséphine and Antoine, things happened naturally: they have very complementary characters and skills .

She, very playful, is also a mania for rigor and organization. He, more rational, but also full of humor, knows how to listen to people and be on the lookout for developments in the sector. The two friends move forward in confidence, without asking too many questions. “We love working together!”

When asked if they've always wanted to start their own business , the response is mixed. Antoine, who considers himself a "risk aphobe", did not think of starting one day. And yet, by rubbing shoulders with entrepreneurs, visiting industrial sites (and having done the rounds of his job), he felt ready to cross over to the other side.

“Josephine's experience in the hardware industry confirmed my choice. I wanted to give more meaning to my professional life, to do something with my hands. I feel more of an entrepreneur today than 4 years ago, even if I would define myself more as a manager.”

A human adventure

During these 4 years, Joséphine and Antoine have been marked by many moments , especially at each stage of product creation.

“I remember one day, we were in the factory that produces the compact and the metalwork. Our partners have started assembling the vegetable garden. They were proud, they thought he was handsome. It moved me to see that other people shared our enthusiasm,” says Joséphine.

If they set up the URBAN CUISINE project together, they were supported and accompanied by dozens of partners . “It takes a whole village to set up such a project. We were lucky to be accompanied by extraordinary people.”

In 2022, the duo grew to welcome Audrey, artistic director, and Hugo, sales manager. "It is a source of pride for us to have been able to recruit" says Joséphine. Satisfied with the progress made, both are eager to deliver the 300 models of Potager Liv and flood the market, so that everyone can grow their own fruits and vegetables.

“We don't know where all this will take us, there is a mixture of stress and excitement. One thing is certain, we want to see URBAN CUISINE grow and continue the adventure."

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