Cocorico is 8 months old and closes its first year. Open-hearted, I decided to share with you what an emotional rollercoaster that year has been for me. Be it a self therapy or a way to bring people up, this is what happened in 2022 broken down month by month. It’s a bit deep, a bit long, so it looks like the perfect read to kill time at the airport or in the train.
The year starts in Normandie and it has everything one could hope for. I’m with my old friends and my girlfriend. We’re staying in a fantastic house, the weather is outstanding and we are going to the beach to eat mussels, fries. It’s great but my mind is somewhere else. I know that I’ll have to go back to work, creative in advertising, to go back to endless meetings on a very simple project that got out of hand. That thought takes every little bit of my energy and scares the shit out of me. I'm tired, I feel I'm not armed for that. I want to sleep but can't close my eyes. The only thing I can do is to watch Family Guy until exhaustion.
1st day at work and just as expected, the project just gets messier and messier. No need to get in details, because that doesn’t really matter, but after a few 14 hours long days, I feel burnt, ashamed, like a piece of shit.
I’m scared to lose that assignment I've been working on since September. I'm scared to lose my job but I decide to talk to the Human Ressources to request a break. They are nice. They understand. They give me a break and tell me that they are here for me. I cry over the phone. First time in … decades.
Since July I have been working on a side project. Always pessimistic, I tell myself that it’s going to stay a side project, but deep down I hope that this little thing called Cocorico can be my exit door. I decide to spend that break in Southern France at my mum’s. I ask my brother to join me to visit winemakers. We have the best of times, we meet Wilfried from La Nouvelle Don(n)e, we meet Vincent from Les Salicaires, Serge from Agarrus and more. Each of them brings a new perspective on life. Wilfried tells me “I don’t care you don’t know shit about wine importing, I care about your passion”. Vincent is a natural optimistic, and Serge, as the dad I never had, told me to go for it as he did when he went from Postman to winemaker.
Being in Southern France also allows me to spend more time with my mum that I don’t see often. She speaks too much, ah ah, but what I get from her is unconditional love. It’s great, I feel recharged, but I go to sleep everyday with the thought that the ad agency might have given my assignment to someone else and that I won’t have anything to put in my portfolio.
I’m back for a few weeks already and the project is going well. It feels like my break made people realize that bigger things are at stake than just an ad campaign. People are less demanding, more realistic and kind. Clients are happy, we are moving towards the production stage. We have challenges everyday but we have a good spirit and it’s a pleasure. I feel good and I take it day by day. I feel safe.
In the meantime my friend Guillaume makes me a logo. Cocorico is taking shape.
I see a meeting with my new boss popping in my calendar. I’m far away from thinking that this is THE call. I’m told a whole lot of things on Google Meet. It doesn’t matter what it is. My contract is not renewed after 3 years of duty. They give me 3 weeks of notice. I’ve worked 3 years for them. I feel the ground falling from under my feet.
I'm fairly down, I tell myself that I didn’t work enough, that I should have seen this coming. I hit rock bottom. I pretend I don’t want to tell it to my colleagues because that’s my business but in reality, I’m just full of shame, I feel alone and not part of the “cool kids” club anymore.
But I still have three weeks to go and I want to prove that I’m a good worker to them (to me?), so I work as much as I did in the past and I have a great time. I fly to Bulgaria for a shoot, super ambitious. We are in the middle of the Bulgarian Hollywood. We hear that the singer Angèle was there few days ago, and before Orelsan and VALD.
It’s great, it’s hands-on and I don’t really have the time to think about Gilles being jobless, worthless, social status-less. The 23rd arrives, last day of my contract, and Cocorico is about to receive its first palette of wine from La Nouvelle Donne. I see this coincidence as a sign from the Cosmos, really, and decide to give it a serious shot. Literally everybody tells me I can find another job, that I can do freelance, and that they don’t worry for me. ‘You’ll figure it out”. I know they want to help, but it's calling my insecure inner voice that reminds me that I'm taking too much financial risks. These days I spend tons of my time on the phone with my brother. He tells me that he can come if I need him. With no hesitation, I am booking him a one-way ticket from Carcassonne. No need to mention that my girlfriend has been a massive help since day 1 too.
The business starts slow, very slow, I am scared but I have to start somewhere. Friends get me started. Joris, Bernard, Jordan, Amandine, Kasper, Rowan, Masaya, Julie, Jan, Rémi, Blaz, Tu Linh, Eddy... to name a few, place an order. Marnix from Daxivin gets a box from me. I do my first invoice on Google Doc. Follows an order from Wijnhuis Amsterdam. These guys tell me that I’m onto something promising. Chenin Chenin too, La Dilettante too, Linda and Goran from Craft Wine too. Bruno too. I start to “trust the process” and work my ass off to make my dream happen. I don’t have 4 levels of management above my head. I don’t have meetings and emails that interrupt my thoughts. I feel free but the downside of that is that I have tons of time to think about what can go wrong and about all that money I’m not making and that putain de mortgage that won’t pay itself. My brother tells me: “my cure to kill anxiety is to just fucking do”. So I set out to fucking do. It matches with what a restaurant owner called Jeroen tells me:
"You can't expect to get a successful business if you don't give it 100%"
Despite all that stress, all that anxiety, I love what I do and people see it. It’s communicative. I meet a French guy on a boat. He’s about to take a similar leap as mine. His name is Arty and we tell each other that we have to stay in touch.
The wine from Vincent Lafage touches down in Amsterdam and I feel I have enough wine now to knock at doors.
“Avec ma bite et mon couteau” as we say in French (I let you translate that one), I just go out on my bike with my wine on the back. To shut all these negative thoughts down, I push doors. Door after door, encounter after encounter, talks after talks, something happens. I meet people who understand what I’m trying to do and genuinely want to help. Be it Renata at a dinner who tells me “I’ll help you” just like this. Be it Giuseppe who connects me with the team at De Parel. Be it Lucile who vouches for my wines without having tried them. Be it Guilherme that gives me all tons of advices about entrepreneurship. All of these unexpected events make me understand that I’m not in control in a positive way. At first it’s scary but then I understand that it also means that I don’t control the good things that are going to happen to me. It’s relieving. I get COVID for two weeks, I freak out a bit because I can't taste new stuff. This month has to end ^^.
I eat, sleep and breathe Cocorico. I almost don’t have wine anymore. I work now with Foer, La Dilettante, Sissi’s, De Parel, Public Space, Bambino, Five Ways, Vanderveen, FC Hyena and a few wine shops. While at first my fear was to not sell anything, I find myself having a new fear. The one to not have wine anymore. I decide to kill two birds with one rock by going to Southern France to find more wines and to do a road trip with my girlfriend and my brother. To be away from Amsterdam stresses me out because I know I’m not going to make any euro. I see everyday as a waste of money and thus I don’t really enjoy the summer. Logically, so do not my brother and my girlfriend. I’m obsessed with not making mistake, with meeting as many people as I can, with tasting as much as I can. Besides meeting Wilfried and Vincent again, I meet David from Mas Castello. I fell instantly in love with his Orange Alexandra d’Alexandrie. It has no label. We make one in a day.
I meet Paul Old from Les Clos Perdus and I’m blown away by his story as a former International Ballet Dancer, as a man who fell in love with wine and who decided to turn it into his job at the age of 37. I'm almost 36. It gives me hope.
I meet Serge again, we taste the new vintage and OMG that’s so good, even better than expected.
Few days later, Mohamed from Vanderveen calls me. It’s the first time that one of my clients calls me as opposed as me harassing them. It’s a small step but I appreciate it. I understand that I bring something different to the market and that some people are responding positively to it. I decide to unfold the second part of the brand. I talk to a guy called Sven. I like his style. I like one of his characters. It’s a blue guy that makes me laugh, that makes me happy. I decide to work with him to create an avatar called Coco.
It’s not a logo. It’s a sort of emoji, it’s a tiny chicken that is stupid and fearless. Why a chicken? Cocorico is the crow of the french emblem, the rooster. It also means " Three cheers for France". When I’m down I look at it and it makes me smile. No matter if people like him or not, I love him.
I also meet a few more winemakers which I told them that I’m going to work with them. For various reasons, it doesn’t happen. I start to understand that I have to be careful about what I buy to not be my own competition. Too much Syrah, too much Carignan, too much Grenache. I can’t keep my promise with one winemaker in particular. Je sais que tu sais l’ami, et je veux toujours taffer avec toi.
After 2 solid weeks in the south, I’m back in Amsterdam. I have more wine. The wines taste good. I’m hopeful. I only have 11 orders in that month but I feel like something is happening. I start to understand that we never work for today, always for tomorrow.
I listen to a track from Ólafur Arnalds on repeat. The lyrics inspire me to keep moving forward. https://open.spotify.com/track/58sa3HUZL71gpMB6XvhaUo?si=_9Ecyae2Q96jS0dmIzt4IA&nd=1
August was slow, people were on holidays, but they are back. September is clearly the first month of Cocorico where I’m thinking “this wine thingy might work”. All the things I did until now and which didn’t seem to pay off are paying now. People seem to know Cocorico, they have heard about it at least, and my message of “Natural Wine that don’t stink” seems to stick and resonate. The only thing I have to do now is to push. September is also the month of one inevitable realization. I need wines from other regions. I start looking for my next winemaker.
I follow my guts instead of trying to guess what people want. I decide to do Vouvray and Loire. Two of the winemakers I like are living close from each other. In parallel, I started to see a specialist to understand why I am so anxious about everything. We go back to my childhood, we talk about my dad for hours, about that “do or die '' lower class way to raise children. We’re onto something.
2 weeks later the palette is here and it’s an instant win for the Vouvray from the young Jérémy Lajoux. I feel like I’ve reached another milestone. If before I thought I had luck with my previous finds, now I know that it’s not luck. It’s work. I trust my palate, my flair. I still do door to door to keep my brain busy but my phone starts to ring. Thanks to Mohamed, the people from De Kas got to taste my wine at Vanderveen and sent me a text on insta. I can’t believe it. I meet Dean and this turns into a fruitful collaboration.
Not only is it good for the business, but it’s crazy good for my self confidence. I see people liking the wine I love. Validation feels good. I start to work with Jean & Marie, The Hoxton, Klein Breda, Sushi Fanatics, Café Modern… and remember that French guy on the boat? He calls me and wants to give me a shot. He tells me about Café Bleu. I tell him about Serge the Postman, about Valérie and her bumpy roads, about “16 year old Jérémy“… He’s sold and we start small. It turns out that Den Haag instantly adopts the Café as the new hottest place in town. I learned a lesson. To never underestimate a moment. I remember what the butterfly effect is and start to picture Ashton Kutcher in That 70’s show. IYKYK.
but I’m drifting away.
The month of October is glorious, but still not enough to feel free. To this point, all my customers have asked me to have dinner at their place. I still can’t afford it. I don’t want to spend money that I don’t make. The reality is that I barely spend money on myself. I want this to work. It has to work.
I’m still talking to my specialist. We talk about Coco and I understand more why I wanted him to look stupid. It’s because I’ve been told many times that I’m stupid, more of cheerleader than a leader. I realize that I made Coco look stupid as a defensive mechanism. If I say that Coco (me) is stupid first, no one can say it. I acknowledge how sad it is. But we have no time for that. A good night of sleep later and here we go.
The momentum is on and it feels like a superior power is helping me out. I don’t believe in God but there’s something in the air. Somehow planets are aligning and I start to work with VRR, Hotel de Goudfazant, Europizza and Gertrude. A lot of other things happen. I meet people like Kyle. First as a customer, Kyle becomes a friend that shares his past as an entrepreneur. “The first years were shit” he says but clearly he made it to today. It’s soothing to hear and witness that. I feel like that emotional rollercoaster I’m in is totally normal. Other people such as Lois, Sander, Myriam, Arianna, Lau, Connie, Amra, Max, Myriam, Joris (again), Andrea, Yannick, Florijn, Eelke, Norman, Charlotte, Rose, Ben, Paul, Thomas, Laura, Chris, Lukas, Duncan, Olivier, Raquel, Sven and many more are giving me energy.
The month of November is Epic. More than a business, I understand that starting Cocorico is probably the best therapy I could have done to understand the world and who I am. I am almost done with the specialist and after a test, she announces to me that there is a big reason why I’m always on, I’m a HPI, in English HIP, a high intellectual potential. For someone who thought that he was stupid, like a kid living in a world of adults, it’s an eye opener. Instead of listening 90% to my negative inner voice, I tend to listen a bit more to the calm positive voice saying “it’s all gonna be ok matey”. I follow my guts. I start to do private tastings for groups and companies and tried to expand out of Amsterdam.
It’s the first week of December and I have high expectations which ultimately results into disappointments. November was so intense that December seems flat. I’ve been told that this is THE month but not so much is happening for me. Something is happening actually,
But going from November to December feels like going from Coke to Coke Zero. I decide to move up a gear. Tomorrow is done today and I set out to find my next winemaker. I taste stuff with my girlfriend. Although she’s not a somm, a pro who defines a wine with clear description, she gives clear Yes or No. She has been 90% right so far.
Thanks for reading. I really wanted to share that story to lift you up for the new year.
To you who see yourself in a dead end street.
To you who wait for the right time to start your thing.
To you who think that people are fake.
To you who think that this was personal.
To you who think that there is no process to trust and that’s bull crap.
If this all helped you out, share it. And if you feel like supporting my little business, get yourself some good wine.
See you soon and have great time with your beloves ones.