Furniture Making - Small Business Startup


This is a very specific posting for my first post on these forums, but I need to clarify the position here, before my dreams run away with me. I'm a self-taught woodworker one day dreaming of leaving the rat-race to adopt a slower pace of life and start a small business in France making furniture and other wooden items for sale locally and on the Internet (globally or just in the Eurozone). That's not any time soon, so I have plenty of time to prepare and research. That said, I do need to be crystal clear on the position so I'm prepared.

I'm trying to get my head around company law and tax rules. Most likely I'd be self-employed, at least to start with, so it seems the auto-entrepeneur category seems to be almost ideal but for one catch: It seems to be a requirement to provide some form of accreditation (like UK's NVQ qualification I suppose). There seems to be something called CAP and BTM - what's the difference between those? A 'CAP ébéniste' qualification takes 2 or 3 years so that would be an expensive and time-consuming route for me to go through. I would learn a few things I'm sure (particularly a lot of specific French terminology to wood craft which would be potentially useful), but to be honest the essentials would not bring anything new to me. Have a read the rules correctly in this area? Would some photographs of finished items of furniture I have made suffice? I have a few certificates of the odd course I've done - but nothing like a full 2 year diploma or equivalent. Perhaps the chambre de metiers vary from one region to another? Is France really so strict in this area? No chair-maker in the UK would be required to provide certificates - at least not to the tax man! Perhaps it's something to do with union rules?

Alternatively, if I were to set up a company (or buy an existing one), would I then be free to employ whoever I liked (including, of course, myself) irrespective of their qualifications?

Many thanks,

Amazon is now under attack from our dear President.


Many thanks for all your replies. I seemed to have opened a can of worms!!

For me it's not an urgent change I want to bring about and basically I'd want to be almost self-sufficient anyway (practically semi-retired, although not officially in that category), so the idea of facing difficulties in making money doesn't worry me too much as I'd be just looking for supplementary income from my pensions and savings. It would be more for something to do, like doing a little TEFL teaching as well (which I'm also considering) whilst earning a little. I'm 45 now and I don't see this happening until I'm about 50 or beyond so a lot can change in that time with economics and tax rules.

What my OP was really concerned about was the qualifications necessary to start a business and I think I misread something in the auto-entrepreneur blurb;

This document classifies 'artisans' into two groups - one which us Brits would call 'craftsmen' of which things like cabinet maker belong and another as 'Qualification personelle' covering car-mechanics, medics and (a little oddly to my mind) hair-dressers. The latter need 'être exercées ou placées sous le contrôle effectif et permanent d’une personne titulaire d'uncertificat d'aptitude professionnelle' whereas the former need only;

A) effectuer le stage préalable à l’installation (SPI),

B) s’inscrire au répertoire des métiers (RM). Suite à l'inscription sur, il doit prendre contact avec sa
Chambre de métiers pour effectuer cette formalité. Il est toutefois exonéré des frais d’immatriculation

I had mis-read A) to mean that this was a general condition, or rather a condition which applied specifically to each craft - e.g. the requirement to have a CAP qualification. However it seems that this SPI is actually a particular 5-day course covering all the ins and outs of being an AE. The form for the declaration d'activite looks like this;

Section 6, just looks to me like self-attestation.

The notes on Section 6 in the supporting document seem to back this up, saying that qualifications are required for electricians and so on, but nothing about the crafty-ones.

Appreciate all the warnings about business in France. Can't say I'm surprised really, but there's only one constant and that's change! Things can only get better!

Postage shouldn't be too much of an issue. I won't be posting beds and tables - I would hand deliver them!

I have some English friends who live in the Alps and they reckon the distribution thing has been cracked in France a long time ago by people like Amazon. Yeah, how does Amazon make a buck in France? I suppose it takes some luck to become one of their partners...

Best wishes,

one day soon the french government may decide it is better to have a lot of self employed people paying a little tax than having a lot of people unemployed or working for the government, remember what the uk was like 30-40 years ago when all industry was owned by the government, look at it now, it is all small business generating their own wealth and an income for the government via taxes.

BUT the french government will not adopt this regime as it is too westernised ie British or American based and means it is not the french way. France is a slow moving nation and change takes time, so you have to be patient.


Not sure if this is of any interest?

Peter Trivett & his partner, Katie, live in St. Marcel du Perigord.

He is a woodworker.

I know that they are trying to sell their house, maybe you could negotiate some wood-working machinery, & advise.

I do not see them on a regular basis, so leave it to you to find out:


Best wishes, Peter

And people gave me stick for starting a topic entitled "The French Don't have a word for entrepreneur" ?!?!?

second jobs aren't a "no no", Tim, that's what the auto entrepreneur régime was set up for ;-)

Hmmm...interesting. I have come to the same conclusion about running a business in France.

I am currently in the UK and will be asking about the possibility of having a business registered here and trading in France. I'm hoping that not being registered as living in France will make this possible? We'll see.

By the way David, what you propose to do is exactly what I am aiming for...bon courage ;o)

In the mean time, unemployment is high and the government doesn't know what to do.


And yes, as a qualified fitness instructor from the UK I am certainly more dangerous to the public than a brain surgeon (who has can practice in France without issue.)

And second jobs are a no no as you would be taking a job from someone else.

The cost of carriage and postage is prohibitive in France. I remember seeing something about a lady who has been driven out of her handicrafts business by the new cost of postage.

France would be the last country in Europe I would set up a business in David, Prohibitively expensive postage for your items and daft tax rules for small business's which change so you may start off ok but then the state will virtually put you out of business with another odious regime change.

Operate your business from the UK and enjoy france for what it is, less crowded holiday bolt hole.

Thanks Jane, helps explain what I was getting at for David to know.

We know a cabinet maker in the next village. If he wants to undertake repairs he would have to set up another company. He is only allowed to make furniture under his existing set up.

The same applies to our Mercedes garage in Macon, his customers waiting for repairs have to be kept separate from his showroom or he will be fined 30,000 euros!

As Brian says the French are very reluctant to recognise other countries' qualifications and they are very hot on only allowing people to do what they are qualified to do, or you will not get the tax breaks.

Sorry to be so pessimistic, but you do need to know how difficult it is here in France for small businesses.

I am not in the same boat but hear it very often. France is unique in Europe in that it does not recognise other countries' qualifications straightforwardly. They may validate them but then 'downgrade' them, which they tried with my wife's Francophone doctorate, published in France, but at a Swiss university. Only the same as a French masters they claim. The artisan and crafts trades are all qualification domains here. The English plumber we have used a bit has a degree in metallurgy and whatever in plumbing but to start a firm and employ people they demanded he does a course to get a French qualification. His point was, what is the point over 50 with 20 odd years experience? So he is an AE and works alone officially and has the occasional French 'casual' working with him. So, go for AE and see how it goes from there, all new AEs are required to join a chambre de métiers anyway, since about 15 December I think, so it may be a way in. Best of luck with it.