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Banque Populaire Corporate Foundation: interview with Marie Grillo, stained glass artist

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ of the Banque Populaire Foundation, Groupe BPCE interviewed one of the winners

Where did your passion for stained glass come from? 

I discovered glass when I was very young, in Murano. At the time, I was fascinated by glass blowing and the transparency of the material. Later, when I had started the highly academic study of foreign languages, I met a glassmaker, a stained glass designer. His lifestyle and his way of talking about his job convinced me to change my path and devote myself to stained glass. The desire to set up my own workshop came into being at the same time as my professional project. I have never considered salaried employment as anything other than a way to improve myself before starting my own business.

How did you discover the Banque Populaire Corporate Foundation?

Au moment de monter mon atelier, je me suis mise à fureter sur internet, pour troWhen I was setting up my workshop, I started browsing the Internet to find a way to grow faster despite my limited resources. It is very difficult to make a living from stained glass and start a workshop, so I was looking for foundations that could give me a loan at zero interest or more specific assistance for the arts and crafts. It was during this research that I discovered the Banque Populaire Corporate Foundation. I had created my workshop the previous year, thanks to a subcontracting contract that guaranteed me a few months of work, and I was coming to the end of this big contract, with the objective of finding my own customers. The project I presented to the Foundation was to participate in my first exhibition, to make myself known.

How did your relationship with the Foundation go?

I find the Foundation very human. This is certainly due to the personality of Martine Tremblay, Director of the Foundation, who is very attentive when we have questions. At the moment, I am preparing for the exhibition for which the Foundation has agreed to give me support. It will take place in February 2018. Next year, I know that I will find an attentive and benevolent interlocutor for the rest of my project.

What has the Banque Populaire Corporate Foundation brought you?

First of all, financial assistance without which I could not, today, consider presenting my work at a Parisian decoration show. It's a huge advantage, even if it's then up to me to propose a top-of-the-range stand to interest decorators. 

Then, boldness: the Foundation's support is spread over three years. This makes it possible to have a vision and a medium-term development strategy, and to dare to consider investments that I could never have made alone. For example, next year, I will have to increase my visibility on the Internet where I am almost non-existent today. I can dare to use a professional (something I would never have dared to do without the Foundation's support) and gain in efficiency. 

But I think the most important thing, although it is not quantifiable, is the psychological impact of being a prizewinner. To run a stained glass workshop, you have to be highly motivated and do your utmost to find collaborators. There are sometimes moments of doubt, when you feel a little down. The fact that I am supported by the Foundation confirms my professional choice and the trust I have been given deeply touches me.

What have you learned from this experience with the Foundation?

I would say that the Foundation is able to provide decisive support when you are at a professional turning point. As for those who may be discouraged by the rather technical nature of some elements of the selection file, I would say that they are useful elements for reflection on how to start a business.

  • Banque Populaire
  • Corporate philanthopy and partnership