RWC Member Spotlight : Willy Raoul of Art de Vie Boutique

Here we go again with our Member Spotlight column! To introduce you to our diverse member base and allow you to get to know each other better, we decided to do a series of small interviews within the RWC community. Our member in the spotlight this time is Willy Raoul, from Art de Vie Boutique.

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Royal Work Club : Where did you live before coming to Abidjan? What was your academic and professional background?

Willy Raoul : I grew up and lived between Paris and all the countries in Africa and Asia in which my father was assigned for his professional career. In Africa, I got to live in Douala, Kinshasa, Bangui, Dakar and Johannesburg.
After attending WITS Business School in South Africa, I returned to Paris and studied at ICD business school where I did a Master in Business Development.
I have 20 years of professional experience in wines and spirits and worked for several reputable companies in that industry, namely Diageo, Bean Suntory, Advini and Nicolas.

RWC : Why did you decide to come back and build your life in Côte d’Ivoire?

W.R. : In my opinion, out of the 14 former French colonies, Côte d'Ivoire is the country with the least "frictions": the infrastructure, the easy access and connectidness (5 flights per day for Paris), the macroeconomic indicators, but also the warm, welcoming and enterpeneurialy minded Ivorians are important elements that must be taken into account in my line of work.

RWC : Tell us more about your activity and your motivation to open Art de Vie boutique back in October 2018.

W.R. : Art de vie is a specialty boutique located on Rue du Canal in zone 4 where we can find a selection of exceptional products: wines, spirits and tobaccos. The shop is specialized in consulting, tasting workshops and wine tourism in France, South Africa and England.
My motivation for launching Art de Vie was simple: after 20 years of career in wines and spirits, I followed a training of wine merchant at Nicolas. The next logical step would have been to create a Nicolas franchise in Africa; however, I chose to open my own shop and Art de Vie was born! This is a project that is really close to my heart since the beginning of my professional career because I love my job and I like tailored service; that’s why you can find all of this in the DNA of Art de Vie! After being solicited and recommended to various contacts and friends in the purchase of wine and spirtis, I decided that it was going to be my job. What motivates me is the experience and the passion; I wanted to make people in Abidjan discover something different than the usual, generic brands by sharing my knowledge and my know-how and by educating people to appreciate and recognize the quality of the products they consume.

RWC : What were the main challenges you faced when opening this business and how did you overcome them?

W.R. : Like any innovative startup, funding is the least easy part and financial institutions are still timid on showing support to entrepreneurs. Then comes the challenge of gaining new customers while keeping the cost per aquisition at a minimum. The solution for me is to always stay true to my passion and never stop believing in it.
Today, we are working on the second shop which is supposed to open this coming October in Riviera M'badon.

RWC : What would you like Art de Vie to grow into in the next 2 years?

W.R. : Soon, the second workshop will allow customers to experience Art de Vie in a different setting. From September, our online store will also be operational with a delivery service in Abidjan. In the medium term, we will offer our services throughout the region and in the long term we will be present in 10 African countries.

We hope these small interviews will inspire you to start a conversation or even begin a new collaboration. Make sure you go and check out Art de Vie boutique to get amazing and unique bottles with the precious help of our fellow member Willy (preferred prices upon showing your RWC member card)!
We are looking forward to introducing you to more of our great members and their exciting projects!

Martina Culjak