Oxford Executive MBA
MyPanier is a start-up that connects artisan food producers from all over the world to a global market place of discerning customers. Founder, CEO and Oxford Executive MBA alumnus Christopher Boyac has built the company on four founding principles: fairness, transparency, authenticity and community.
A Frenchman who now lives in Orange County California, Christophe was born into a family of grocers. ‘My upbringing taught me the importance of the transactional relationship between the buyer and the producer,’ he said. ‘When a buyer approaches a producer for some fruit or vegetables, the profit from a one off purchase is so small that there is no incentive to treat them unfairly. It is a relationship that must last and grow, so you can continue to satisfy your customers with good products that are fairly priced.’
Christophe never forgot these lessons, but as his career progressed he found himself pulled into the world of large scale, industrial grocers. As a self confessed Star Wars fan, Christophe refers to this sector as the dark side. ‘It is a totally different spirit,’ he said ‘you buy low to sell low, and the story of the product becomes irrelevant. Essentially, you become a financier, not a merchant.’
Frustrated with what he saw as an unethical and ineffective way of doing business, Christophe applied to the Executive MBA at Saïd Business School. ‘What I said to Kathy Harvey (Associate Dean, MBA and Executive Degrees) was that I wanted to take my career to a second level. I wanted the opportunity to allow myself time to foster ideas, and to create a new network of contacts,’ he said.
A pivotal moment for Christophe came during his journey from the airport to the School. ‘I was in a taxi reading a paper for our strategy class called Understanding New Power by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms. I realised that the current distribution system for grocers has not changed in over sixty years, and what the authors call a “new power,” based on crowd and transparency, could disrupt this behemoth industry.’
One of the most important aspects of MyPanier’s approach to selling is its focus on the story behind the products. ‘Buying an artisan product, like a bottle of wine for example, is not a rational decision. There is not just one perfect wine,’ explained Christophe. ‘So as customers, we look for ways to justify our decision.’
‘One day a wine maker told me he wanted to sell more of his product,’ recalled Christophe. ‘He was selling just twelve bottles a year. The conversation lasted a long time, and we drank many coffees. In the end, I told him this: you can spend money on advertising and marketing, but it is likely you will not cover the expenses. Or, you can come here in person and tell your story. He came into the store with a pallet of 300 bottles, told the customers who he was and why he made wine, and by 4pm he had sold every single bottle. That is the power of a good story, and MyPanier can bring this authenticity to the online market place.’
With a busy Christmas period now behind them, Christophe intends to scale up MyPanier. ‘There might be an unfortunate rise in populism and nationalism, but cities are becoming more international. Each city has a community of people from all over the world, and many would like to buy their home country's local produce. I believe we are perfectly positioned for this growing market of global citizens.’
Christophe has two words of advice for anyone with an ambition to start their own company: ‘passion and resilience. Yes, connections matter, your networks matter, but it is a bumpy road and you need to stay focused and committed every day. Your passion can provide you with ideas, but it is your resilience that will help you achieve your aims.’