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Alice's Sweet Wonderland - MLUX-RETAIL'2013

Interview

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04.08.2015

The sweetest thing
 
You might not expect a Masters to come in handy making cupcakes but for Alice Andrusca, it’s been invaluable.
 
Romanian-born Alice did a Masters in Luxury Retail Management at the International University of Monaco, because, she says, “It’s the centre of luxury!” She adds, “I intended to go and work in London but it didn’t really happen because I stayed here.” She opened her café, Aquarelle (which is French for watercolor) two years ago. “The design is very colorful and friendly,” she says, “and the concept was created to have the home comforts in your neighbourhood café. I didn’t want it to be the same as home but something with comfortable seats, friendly people serving you and good quality products.”
 
Alice has always loved to bake and cook so combining this with business was the obvious choice.
 
Fingers in the mix
 
Far from being the office-based mastermind, Alice makes her own cakes and when she’s finished cooking she helps the girls in the shop and chats with the clients. She says she’s got the routine down to a fine art, waking at around 7.30 and baking fast. “At the beginning,” she laughs, “it was hard but in two hours now I get it all done. It’s all down to experience and timing.” Cupcakes include a Nutella-based one called Dynamite and a banana one called Batman.
 
 
But she wasn’t always going to open a café. She did an internship as a logistics assistant and worked in recruitment while studying foreign languages. “I wanted to work for a consulate so I started learning Hebrew and Arabic,” she says. “I was working for the consulate in Israel but didn’t know what my tack was at that point. I had a lot of ideas.” She liked fashion but didn’t like how things worked there. So, as cooking was her passion, opening her own café made sense. Tea and cupcakes is not a new concept in Nice but Aquarelle is the third biggest of its kind. “We have a lot of customers coming from the other shops but they stay with us,” she says with a smile.
 
Cash for cakes
Funding wasn’t easy for a young woman from Romania and it wasn’t possible to get a loan from a bank so Alice’s parents helped her out on the understanding she would pay it back once the “journey was over”. And things are going well. The major challenges are mainly bureaucratic, she says. “There were a lot of documents and laws I didn’t know about or expect to exist,” she says, “and the culture is very different here so I had to adapt to a new customer service culture. Other issues included getting a work permit at the start. “The beginning was tough,” she admits, and says she wants to make this café work before opening another one.
 
The Monaco Masters, says Alice, taught her a lot. “It was really helpful for my purpose here. I met a lot of interesting people with different backgrounds and cultures. We had a lot of opportunities to share experiences and we learned a lot from each other. I didn’t know a lot about management and logistics before so it did help me in that respect.”
 
Favorite book:
“I am reading “Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business” by Danny Meyer (Marshall Cavendish), owner of restaurants in New York. His restaurants are famous and it’s all about the hospitality industry.”
 
Motivations:
“I don’t have a favourite quote but what really inspires me are cultures. I like Eastern and Asian culture. I get inspired by people, languages and cultures. I do get many nationalities coming here; Russians, Polish, Brazilians, Argentinians, Americans, Australians, a lot of Asians.”
 
Productivity tool:
“I do use Facebook a lot. I think it’s really useful and I see the customers react positively about it. Instagram is a big hit but Pinterest not so much.”
 
To find out more about Alice’s delicious cupcakes, visit www.aquarelle-cafe.com
 

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