Was it George Bush who lamented that there is no word for entrepreneur in French? Languages were maybe not his strong point but it is sometimes easy to see where he was coming from as many people in rural France much prefer the idea of someone else paying for their long lunch break and cannot really understand the appeal of setting up a business or becoming self-employed. This leaves a perfect opening for outsiders to come along and fill that gap, especially here in the Ariège and Haute Garonne which offer so many opportunities for anyone prepared to give it a go.

In addition, the profile of people moving to France is changing; a few years ago, it was mainly retirees but now there are many young couples, often with children, looking to create a new life out here which means finding a way to earn a living at the same time as enjoying the quality of life that this region offers.

Moreover, this is a very ‘real’ place to live; it is not just a region where people come to holiday. Thanks to the proximity to Toulouse, there is employment available at all levels for locals and foreigners and, equally, because of the accessibility to the Pyrenees, there is a thriving, year-round tourism industry providing yet more employment and ensuring that the villages and towns are very much living communities all year long. So, while other parts of France turn into ghost towns out of the summer months, here there is still plenty of life; and full-time work opportunities.

The perfect work-life balance is one thing but acquiring it comes first; finding the right location, environment and property to start your new life and business is the most difficult part. It is rare to find an up and running business for sale here; often it is just a business for sale with no accommodation or vice versa but just recently I have viewed a couple of interesting opportunities that offer a business, a home and a lifestyle:

Café Société

Ever dreamed of running a popular café and bar in the heart of a typical, pretty, French town? If you are looking for a classic French house, a new start, an exciting project and the perfect work/life balance all rolled into one, this might just be the property for you. It is unusual for a ready-made and thriving business to come on the market that also includes the freehold of the building, beautifully renovated accommodation and an independent apartment, all right in the middle of one of the most popular market towns in the Haute Garonne.

There is also lots of potential to grow the business; it would be ideal for a luxury bed and breakfast or small boutique hotel as there is currently no other accommodation right in the centre of this popular tourist town and the licence also allows for a restaurant or other commercial enterprise such as a small shop or delicatessen; whatever your dream business, there is the space and potential to create it here, based at the very heart of the community: http://www.maisonsetmanoirs.com/immobilier/maison-bourgeoise-bagneres-de-luchon-vente-fr_VM1486.htm

Artist’s retreat – Bordeneuve

Noelle Thompson runs what must be one of the loveliest artist’s retreats; secluded in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, at the end of an ancient stone track. She says of her retreat; ‘Bordeneuve offers a unique and exceptional way for artists to advance their projects while reconnecting with nature and simplicity.’ Multi-skilled, a highly talented musician and fantastic cook, Noelle has managed to combine her passions for music, art and food with a successful business that she runs according to her organic and ecological principles.

The property is actually two houses so could offer the perfect place to both live and work and it is now for sale as Noelle is off to set up another business in the region: http://bordeneuveretreat.com/

Micro-Brewery

This one is not for sale but it must be the perfect example of living the dream; combining pleasure and business in France; a thriving micro-brewery in your backyard; especially when that backyard happens to be located in a lovely market town in South West France with a climate to match and a view of the Pyrenees. Aurignac Ale, situated in the popular town of Aurignac, just 50 mins south west of Toulouse, is the first serious micro-brewery to be set up in the region and is already proving hugely popular. The brainchild of Jonathan Benn and Nathan Gross, they decided to set up the business having spent too many evenings drinking bad beer in local bars, convinced that they must be able to produce better. They were right and business is already booming so if you are thinking along similar lines, take a look at: https://www.facebook.com/aurignacale/

  • Nadia has been living in the Ariège, Southwest France, with her husband and four children since 2003. She runs property search agency www.foothillsoffrance.com

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