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Empowering Impact: Aligning Personal Values with Purposeful Careers in Low-tech Entrepreneurship

An interview with Paul Mouraz, Founder of L’Avant D’Après.


Author: Natalia Vasnier


It is early in the morning, under a soft drizzly rain that I am greeted with warm smiles from Paul Mouraz and his associate Zoé Colley-Meyer at their workshop in St Nazaire, France. After a tour of the premise and seeing the Low-tech products created by Paul, we dive into an insightful discussion about Low-techs, personal values and entrepreneurship.

Low-tech

Aligning your personal values with your career can be challenging for some people. As younger generations are becoming more and more aware of climate change, there is a growing will for people to build a career with a positive impact on society and the environment.


This is exactly what Paul Mouraz did. He studied engineering at ICAM, a French Engineering school, while working for an aeronautics company. During his time, he had the opportunity to travel for 3 months to Russia in one the offices of the company he worked for. He also went to Sweden for 6 months to work for a company that researched heat flows in data centres.


This was when he first learned about the term ‘Low-tech’ from his friends, he says, “I was immediately hooked as it intertwined engineering and having a positive impact on the planet. Which is better than making airplane engines”. The low-tech approach is about creating alternatives to existing products with less investment in materials and energy while having a low environmental impact. At the end of Covid, after working for a subcontractor of Airbus he decided to take the leap and pursue a project in Low-tech.


The trigger moment


Paul’s interest in the environment started through conversations he had with people and understanding that at his own personal level he could have an impact. He adds, “I realised that I have power over what I can do, whether it’s eating less meat or cycling instead of using the car. That was when I started to really become invested and aware of my personal values”.

It was in fact a movie that pushed him to take the leap into entrepreneurship , En Quête de Sense by Nathanaël Coste and Marc de la Ménardière which came out in 2015. After watching this documentary, he said to himself “all right, let’s go, I’ll get started” and started L’Avant D’Après.

 

The Entrepreneurship Journey with L’Avant D’Après


In his own words, Paul did not find starting his own business that much of a challenge, “I really like adventures and new challenges. More importantly, I had saved some money from my previous jobs as a safety net in case anything went wrong, and I had my engineering degree. These were all good conditions for me to start my own project”.


His journey then started with a vague idea of “wanting to live off Low-tech, maybe from building Norwegian thermal cookers”. He was accompanied by the BGE, a French structure that supports start-ups and entrepreneurs, in St Nazaire, France.


He tired different business models to see what would best suit the supply and demand of his idea. His decision to implant within this region on the West Coast of France is explained by the fact that this region “is a huge industrial area and therefore a very interesting playground for finding raw materials that are thrown away by Airbus or the Chantiers de l’Atlantique”.


Today, L’Avant D’Après offers two types of services, the products they manufacture such as the Norwegian thermal cooker or the rotary sieve. The second service they offer, is the discovery of Low-tech for the general public, with the organisation of workshops in schools for example. Today, the project has grown and Paul was joined by Zoé Colley-Meyer in early 2024.

Low-tech

The conception and manufacturing cycle


One of the main products Paul Mouraz creates is the 'Marmite Norvégienne' also known as the Norwegian thermal cooker. Upon doing market research, he realised that there was no thermal cooker that existed in the market. He adds, “I decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign because there were no products like this made out of wood. This campaign worked really well and so I decided to launch”.


For the conception phase, the Founder of L’Avant D’Après adds that “people come up to us with ideas for new products. We then make a prototype to test out the concept”.


For the manufacturing cycle Paul explains, “I really wanted to reuse materials in everything we make. For the Norwegian thermal cooker for example, the wood is taken from IDEA a company that makes boxes for exports, and we take their scraps. For the insulation, we help a local home insulator by taking the excess materials that he would otherwise throw. That way we get our raw materials for free, even if we have to put in extra work to adapt these materials for production.”


From A to Z, by blocs of 10 pots it takes around 2 – 3 weeks to manufacture a cooker. There are various advantages of owning a Norwegian thermal cooker, such as economic energy savings, health benefits, better environmental impact and using upcycled materials.

 

Companies’ clients and values


The customers of the thermal cooker are individuals mostly above 40 years old, he informs. For the rotative sieve, the clients are mainly local community services, or small gardening companies. The smoothie table is more geared to companies within the event sector. Most of their client are based in France.

“I think it would be interesting to expand our reach into Luxembourg, Switzerland, Belgium and Germany.”

In the near future, L’Avant D’Après will launch a new product: a Low-tech beer dispenser. Moreover, to make his business more inclusive and align with their values, Paul and his team wishes to bring an ESAT to the team, which is a disabled worker, to support with the manufacturing of the Norwegian thermal cooker.

 

Vision of the planet and it’s future


When it comes to the question of whether he is an optimist or a pessimist about the future, he replies, “I like to keep myself informed about the news, I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot. I think it’s human nature that we are going to go straight into a wall and my opinion changes from day to day”.


He adds, that in Low-tech there are two main school of thought, one that believes Low-techs will help to respond to this excess consumption that currently exists in the world today. The other thought states that whatever we do there will be a collapse and Low tech will help people, post-collapse, to better survive.


To entrepreneurs, his advice would be to “have the will and the right moment”, it is also crucial to have the right people around you and build a network. If you want to build a mission-based start-up, Paul explains, “You need to find the right balance between the positive impact your company and generating revenue.”


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Paul Mouraz interviewed by Natalia Vasnier for The Conference Corner. Featured images provided by Paul Mouraz.

 

 

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