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Over 300 graduate students attended the Bachelor-degree graduation ceremony for NEOMA Business School on Saturday, January 20, 2018 in Rouen. We followed Jules Bernard, a young graduate of the Global BBA programme all day long.

It was a big day. A few minutes before the ceremony began, stress started to build up in 21 year-old Jules Bernard, who on Saturday, January 20, 2018, participated in the Bachelor-degree graduation ceremony for NEOMA Business School. This year the event was put on at the Kindarena in Rouen and it marked the academic completion for some 380 students.

It was a much more unique day for Jules, a young graduate of the Global BBA programme, who had to give a speech to all those in attendance. He planned to share with the audience his experience with the upcoming launch of Alavance, the start-up that he had been working on for the past year as a part of the NEOMA BS incubator.

Stress, emotion and “immense pride”

A bit before going up on stage, Jules was given his entry ticket, and surrounded by his family, a large smile spread across his face as he tried not to show his nerves. “I left my speech back at the house,” he confessed. “It was only a small sheet of notes, but it would have given me much more confidence!” “Well, the most stressed-out person in this story is me,” his mother, Nathalie, joked.

For his parents, participating in this graduation ceremony was “a point of pride. It’s both the end of his studies and his entrance into professional life. It’s an important step.”

While his family took their place in the stands, Jules, surrounded by his fellow students from the graduating class, put on his cap and gown. Amid the commotion of the gathered students, he tried to go over his speech in his head while a friend reassured him. In the event hall, the lively atmosphere started to build even more.

“Jules is someone with a lot of ambition”

After the official speeches, it was Jules’ turn. After a few more stressful seconds, the young man began. “If I have one piece of advice to give, it is to persevere,” he shared with the graduates. “Never back down. Be yourself and accept the challenges that come your way while still keeping your dreams in front of you.”

Once his speech was finished, Jules felt relieved: “I feel so much better! I wanted to give a better speech, but it’s all over and I feel free!”

“We just couldn’t wait to hear him give his speech,” his fiancée, Manon, said. “Jules is someone who is always going full-steam ahead. I try to support him in everything that he does.” His mother added: “It’s a bit frightening to see all the risks that he takes, but he’s someone with a lot of ambition. You’ve just got to get behind him!”

And now? An entrepreneurial adventure…

Now that he is a graduate, the young business leader is eager to commit fully to his entrepreneurial adventure and develop his start-up, Alavance. “With that kind of name, you could say that I’m no longer allowed to show up late,” he joked while glancing at his watch.

“The basic idea was to create a marketplace for reserving, ordering and paying for food in restaurants and small eateries in France,” he explained. At the beginning, Alavance was going to be “just another app” that helped clients reserve the restaurant tables they wanted, select their meal items in advance and pay through the platform.

But the concept expanded and now it has a much farther reach since there is the tentative plan to install public kiosks in shopping centres in city centres, airports and trains, or even in amusement parks that offer the same service.

Revolutionising the food service market

“Imagine that you are going to the Docks 76 in Rouen for a day of shopping,” Jules said. “You know that you are going to eat around midday. Rather than waste time, you can reserve the restaurant, choose your meal and pay the bill at the kiosk as soon as you get to the shopping centre. Once you’re at the restaurant, all you need to do is sit down at your table.”

And if you’re in a rush, you can even indicate the time that you’re going to leave. Effective and fast! It was because of (or thanks to) a bad experience Jules had that the idea popped into his mind.

“We had planned a restaurant-cinema evening for the family. We reserved the film showing ahead of time and we thought that we had time to eat. Except it took us 45 minutes for our meal to arrive! It was impossible to cancel the cinema reservations, so we had to pay to go to the following film showing. In short, the evening was pretty much ruined.”

Today the Alavance application is ready and the provider of the public kiosks has been selected. “Now all that remains is convincing shopping centres to install our kiosks and restaurant managers to register on our application,” Jules explained. We wish him the best of luck!

From a science and tech management diploma to entrepreneurship

While looking back on his educational journey, Jules has nothing to be ashamed about. After receiving a secondary school diploma in science and tech management in Elbeuf, France, he entered a Parisian preparatory course with his sights set on one of the major business schools in Paris. But he did not feel comfortable in that environment, so in the end he filled out an application to enrol in NEOMA BS during the school year. After taking written his entrance exams and having a motivation interview, he started the Global BBA in December 2014. “I immediately felt great in the small family of NEOMA BS, “ he said. With courses on the Rouen campus, a six-month exchange in Spain and a block-release position with an organiser of in real estate and retail trade fairs, Jules was able to benefit from his years studying before finally entering the NEOMA BS incubator to work on his start-up Alavance. One year later, with his degree in his pocket, he has launched straight into the entrepreneurial life, followed closely by his father who worked for 19 years in the restaurant business.