Gwenola Hanaut (H.97)
Feel the Wave
Sydney. Gwenola is French and Australian at the same time. She left to Australia in 1999, only two years after her graduation. She is Australian and so are his husband and her children. Why did she go “Down Under”? Because Sydney is just a paradise for this 100% pure Breton and the sea, the sun and the wind are available 365 days a year. Her job consists in creating new wines and she owns two breton Crêperies in Sydney. The circle is complete.
Read full transcript…
HU: Hi Gwenola, thank you very much for welcoming us in the offices of Pernod Ricard here in Sydney. Let’s start with our little Chinese portrait. If you were a color, what color would you be?
G: Blue. Blue ocean, blue sky, blue eyes… Blue.
HU: An animal?
G: I would be a dolphin, because a dolphin lives in the ocean and I love the sea.
HU: A meal?
G: Des crêpes! French crêpes.
HU: A song?
G: I think I would be the Australian anthem. It sounds weird, but I took the citizenship 10 years ago and each time I hear it I am very teary.
HU: a movie?
G: Guess what: the Blue Ocean, Le Grand Bleu.
HU: A sin?
G: I think I would be lust.
HU: An object?
G: A sail.
HU: A sport or a game?
HU: A book?
G: Ah! (showing the book) Chérie, on s’expatrie! It’s a book a friend of mine from HEC just wrote last month. It’s great and I think it’s linked to what you are doing anyway, so Chérie on s’expatrie, de Alix Carnot.
HU: Can you tell us a bit more about this book?
G: It’s about the challenges expatriate couples face, like “you got a job, I don’t!” and it’s quite funny.
HU: If you were a (super)hero?
G: I would be Shackelton. He’s an explorer and you need to read the book or to see the movie about his Antarctica expedition at the beginning of the 20th century, during which they got lost. They disappeared and he managed to save everybody.
“All in all, it takes between 12 and 18 months to develop a new wine.”
HU: Now, can you try to sum up your professional background in just 30 seconds?
G: After HEC I spent one year doing charity work in the Philippines and then I moved across to Australia, so technically I have been working mostly in Australia, occupying different marketing positions in international French companies: Club Med, Louis Vuitton and now Pernod Ricard. Currently I am Innovation Director for Pernod Ricard Winemakers, making new wines in a global business.
HU: What is Pernod Ricard Winemakers?
G: Pernod Ricard Winemakers is part of Pernod Ricard group, which is mostly known for its spirit business but it also has a wine portfolio. We have wines from Jacob’s Creek in Australia, from New Zealand, Argentina, the USA and from Spain.
Our job is to lead wine innovation and as Innovation Director, my job is pretty much to deliver new products to the world. We work very closely with our wine makers and with our brand teams to ensure that we have the right product for the consumer.
“When you innovate, sometimes you fail and you have to accept it, because it’s part of the journey! It’s always a little bit of test and learn.”
HU: More concretely, what are your usual tasks?
G: Managing my team is important and it takes me a lot of time to look after my team. Out of that I am doing a lot of project management. On a daily basis, I really look a lot at timelines to make sure that we deliver the products on time and on budget to the market. So I look at timelines and I look at P&Ls, because we have to make sure, when we create a new product, that it generates money. Finally, I taste wines, which is the fun part of it!
HU: What is it exactly to create new wines?
G: Yes, it sounds crazy! The first part is to understand what you can do differently, so you start by looking at the market and at what the competition is doing and you collect consumer insights: are they looking for something lighter? Something sweeter? More expensive? Then, you check what you can do on a winemaking perspective and you put the two together. This requires many processes along the way but we do a lot of research and we develop many products from a liquid point of view but also from a packaging point of view. All in all, it takes between 12 and 18 months to develop a new product.
But at the end of the journey, you need to make sure that you have a market to sell this new wine to! Pernod Ricard Winemakers is selling its products in about 75 markets around the globe, so we always find a market to sell a new wine and then we roll it out to other markets.
It’s quite fascinating, because you are not only creating a new product, you are also creating all the tools going with it, like the above the line marketing campaign. You prepare the full package.
To sum it up, it’s 1) the product and 2) the marketing mix which goes around it.
“When I was working at Club Med, the marketing budget was pretty tight so I was playing Sophie from Club Med in the radio advertisements we did at the time.”
HU: What are the new tastes currently?
G: There are many new tastes, but I can talk to you about one massive success to give you an example. I brought a bottle. It’s called Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel and it was hard to produce because it pushes the boundaries of winemaking. This wine has first been aged in normal wine barrels, before being finished in whiskey barrels.
We have leveraged the competitive advantage of being part of the Pernod Ricard Group, because we have access to some whiskey barrels obviously, to smooth the wine a little bit and to change a little bit the taste. The taste is amazing, we did a lot of sensory research before launching it, the consumers who tasted it were rating it very highly, and now that it’s on shelves, it’s selling like hot cakes, around the world. It doubled the forecasts, even if it’s an expensive product.
HU: Great story!
G: Positive story. Because when you innovate, sometimes you fail and you have to accept it, because it’s part of the journey! It’s always a little bit of test and learn.
HU: What makes you happy to go to work every morning?
G: The people. My team is great, it’s a diverse team, a bit like Benetton: we have Germans, Canadians, Australians, Chinese and French. They make me smile. I also like the products. Working with wines is very exciting!
“We always had this idea with my husband to open a “crêperie”. It became like a joke with other friends but one day we found a chef who was a real “crêpier”
HU: Have you coped with a difficult choice during your career? What have you learnt from it?
G: I have difficult choices to make everyday in my current role, because creating new wines is very complex. Wine is quite a traditional business and you have to shake up the tree a little bit to make new wines.
But as I know that you are making those interviews for the young HEC, I would like to talk about being a female at work, which is not easy. I have kids and I think that, as a woman, you have to make tough choices to run a career and to have a family, which means that I had to find someone to take care of my kids. In Australia, the system is not geared to working females, because kids start going to school when they are 5, the school starts at 9:20am and ends at 3:20pm, which means that you cannot work full time and take care of your children. You need to find the right person to look after your kids before and after school.
HU: Do you have extra-professional activities?
G: Actually I do. I have 2.
I am a voice-over artist. When I was working at Club Med, the marketing budget was pretty tight so I was playing Sophie from Club Med in the radio advertisements we did at the time. That way we didn’t have to pay for a voice-over. I am not Sophie from Club Med anymore but I help friends and I do a little of radio voice-over, which is fun.
The other extra-professional activity I have, which is more an investment actually, is the French “crêperie” we created with some friends in Australia. It is called “Four Frogs” and we have 2 restaurants in Sydney. We opened the first one 3 years ago and the second 2 years ago and we are going to open a third on in September. It’s quite a success story, because it’s working well: we got 30 people in the staff and we open 7 days a week. As we have invested in it, we just need to look after it, so I go and eat “crêpes” pretty much everyday and I speak about “crêpes”… a lot! (laughs)
“People in Sydney are laid back. There have this no-stress-no-worries attitude that is very cool and they love to be outdoor.”
HU: We are going to give you a good occasion to talk about crêpes a bit more! How did it all start?
G: I am from Brittany as you can guess from my name, Gwenola, which is 100% “Breton”. I was born in Brest and I have always loved “crêpes” and cider. It’s part of my diet and we couldn’t find any in Australia. There are “crêperies” in Melbourne, but no one in Sydney and we always had this idea with my husband to open a “crêperie”. It became like a joke with other friends but one day we found a chef who was a real “crêpier”. Thanks to his expertise and his skills, we opened it! It’s fun!
HU: Let’s talk about Sydney now. Since when have you been living here?
G: I arrived in 1999 so I have been living here for 17 years.
HU: Where do you hang out on Sunday afternoons?
G: I live in Manly, that is to say in the northern part of the city and there is a beautiful beach there. I do kite surfing, so when there is wind, we do kite surfing in Long Reef Beach, so you can fin me on the sea or in the sea on windy Sunday afternoons.
HU: Do you do kite surfing only on weekends?
G: Only during weekends when there is wind, yes. But I swim a lot, during the week as well. In Manly, where I live, there is a little group of people called “Bold and Beautiful” – I know, strange name, but that’s the name – which swims from Manly Beach to Shelly Beach and then back to Manly Beach everyday at 7:00am. It’s about 1.5 km.
Pitifully I don’t do it everyday because I have a long commute from manly to work here, but when I can, I swim. I just love it.
“Sydney became a very expensive city to live in. the property prices have rocketed and the daily life is quite expensive too. Outdoor is free, but that’s the only thing!”
HU: If you had only 24h left in Sydney before leaving forever, what would you do?
G: Money is not issue?
G: I think I would take the seaplane that goes from the center of the city to the northern beaches. When you arrive there, you are in a beautiful spot where you have an amazing view on the ocean. There is restaurant called Jonah’s, on the beach, where I would have dinner after watching the sunset. You can sleep there as well; there are 7 rooms available. I would take the breakfast there and take the seaplane back to Sydney. I think I would do that.
HU: What are your favorite places in Sydney?
G: There are a lot of amazing walks you can do in the city, but my favorite is the Manly to Spit walk. It takes about 3 hours and if the weather is nice you can have pick nick there.
“When we arrived in Australia 17 years ago my husband and I, it was supposed to last 6 months. We decided to stay a little bit longer, and a little bit longer and then we took the citizenship, and then we bought a house and 17 years later we are still here!”
HU: What do you like most about people from Sydney?
G: There laid back. There have this no-stress-no-worries attitude that is very cool and they love to be outdoor. They would wake up very early to have an outdoor activity (surfing, swimming, running…) before going to work.
HU: Have you seen Sydney change over the past 17 years you spent here?
G: Yes. On the one hand, the major change I regret is that there are now traffic jams. It started recently because there are more and more people coming to Sydney and it has become an issue.
On the other hand, Sydney became more and more modern and there are now many more fancy restaurants and places. It was modern 17 years ago but they weren’t so many shopping options. Today Sydney is on the top of modernity.
HU: Do you regret that?
G: No the only thing I don’t like in Sydney’s evolution is the traffic! I just hate spending so much time in my car and I think the city could organize the traffic a bit better.
When I was working for Louis Vuitton, I could take the Manly ferry to go to work, which was great! Now I have to drive and it’s not as fun!
HU: Out of traffic, what is Sydney’s challenge today in your opinion?
G: The big challenge is the cost of living. Sydney became a very expensive city to live in. the property prices have rocketed and the daily life is quite expensive too. Outdoor is free, but that’s the only thing! (laughs)
HU: And what is Australia’s main challenge in your opinion?
G: It’s about getting independent from the mining activities. Not so long ago, Australia just had to dig, find something and sell it to grow, but now that the demand is shrinking, Australia needs to find something else and to create what they used to import because they could easily afford it. Australia needs to be more innovative. I hope they will and I think they can.
HU: You are Australian, right? After 5 years living legally in Australia, everyone becomes Australian so you have had this double nationality for more than 10 years now. So do your kids. Do you feel like you are really part of this country?
G: When we arrived in Australia 17 years ago my husband and I, it was supposed to last 6 months. We decided to stay a little bit longer, and a little bit longer and then we took the citizenship, and then we bought a house and 17 years later we are still here! Becoming Australian was important for us because the kids can go to the Australian school and things are way easier from an administrative point of view when you are Australian.
That being said, I also feel part of this country, really, but I remain French. My accent says it all! (laughs)
“We did 10 days regattas two years in a row with Franck Cammas, who was our age at the time and who was at the early stage of his sailing career. He is a friend now.”
HU: Let’s about HEC now and we have to share with our readers what you told us before the interview started, because we are talking to a former “Miss promo”, “Mister promo” being Ludovic Guilcher (H.97), who is now the HR group Deputy Executive Vice President of Orange and who has been a great support in our project. We had to share this.
G: Don’t mention it! Everyone is going to think I talk about it all the time!
HU: No, we collected the information.
So let’s go back in time and talk about HEC. What was your favorite place on the HEC campus?
G: The Bâtiment D, I think. The one where I was living at HEC. We had a corridor full of friends and there was always something happening.
HU: D1? D2? D3? D4?
G: I think it was D2. I should check with my friends but I think it was D2.
HU: What students associations were you involved in?
G: I was in the sailing club and all my best memories are around the sailing club. We managed to do the “Trophée des Caraïbes”. I think it’s gone now, but it was an amazing week in the Caribbean Sea, where you could do regattas with very famous sailors. We did 10 days regattas two years in a row with Franck Cammas, who was our age at the time and who was at the early stage of his sailing career. He is a friend now.
This regatta on the splendid Caribbean Sea is for sure my best memory with HEC. We even managed to find sponsors to go there, which is incredible.
HU: How did you get in contact with Franck Camas?
G: The school ESC Rouen was organizing this “Trophée des Caraïbes” and they were dealing with all the sailors. They had a pool of sailors and they invited them to spend 10 days with students, who were paying for it. At the time the total was 70,000 French francs we were asked to find. And we did, two years in a row.
HU: Would you advise someone to go to HEC today? And if yes, why?
G: I went through the preparatory classes in Ginette and it was a great experience to work very hard for 2 years there. But today I see more and more young students entering HEC through other ways. I am actually officially interviewing those who are not able to leave Australia to attend recruitment interviews, and I see young women and men who have very rich and diverse experiences before entering HEC. I would recommend studying abroad and having those experiences before going to HEC. I really don’t think preparatory classes are mandatory. In my opinion you should go abroad and come to HEC directly in the 2nd year because that’s when you are really going to benefit from HEC.
When you went through preparatory classes and you get in, you don’t study and you have fun. It was the best 3 years of my life, it was fantastic, but it is not the best way to prepare for your working life. You only take the most of HEC when you worked or studied abroad before.
HU: You also are the president of the HEC alumni Australian chapter. How many HEC graduates are living in Australia?
G: I have the privilege to be in charge of the HEC alumni “Down Under” community, as we call it. We are about 120 and it’s a quite active group. We do networking events within our HEC community but we also organize events with other French schools’ alumni. It can be after works, lectures… There are a few people who have been living here for a very long time here, longer than me.
Additionally, I receive a lot of requests coming from young graduates or students for internships and jobs. The number of people who want to come to Australia has increased over the past few years and I receive one or two requests on a weekly basis.
HU: What would be your advice for people who want to come to Australia?
G: I don’t mind being contacted, but I think people need to understand that you need to have a visa to come working in Australia. The young people often come with a working holiday visa, allowing you to work for one year in Australia but your company needs to change this into a temporary working visa and to act as your sponsor if you want to stay longer. It’s really important to do your homework on these administrative issues before coming to Australia.
People also need to understand that the cost of living is quite high here, it’s not Asia.
That being said, don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to come Down Under! But you are not going to be the only one!
HU: If there were anyone making good “crêpes”, would you be interested?
G: Yes! We are always looking for “crêpiers”!
HU: Last question. HEC’s motto is: “The more you know, the more you dare.” What would be your own question?
G: It’s a quote from Nelson Mandela, I use it all the time: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” I like that quote.
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