Thomas, tell us about yourself
I’m Thomas Lebreton and newly exiled. I love working.
Where do you live?
I live in Amsterdam, Holland in the museum district. It’s a very central district close to Vondelpark and not too touristy.
How did you come to be here?
We came here through personal choice. We were living in Paris and, as our family was growing up and we had our third child, we realised we were suffocating: the infamous metro, work, then to bed. I wasn’t expanding my business so, when my wife was offered a post in Amsterdam, we instantly made the decision to come here.
Had you already lived abroad?
Yes. I was born in central Africa and have lived almost half my life in foreign countries: Chad, Gabon, Syria, Bahrain and now the Netherlands.
How long have you been living here?
We came to Amsterdam in the summer of 2015. We have three children who are 8, 6 and 3.5 years. Amsterdam is the ideal city for family life. I would say that we didn’t really have to adapt much. Life is easy here. I think the only “issue” is learning to speak Dutch, which I don’t find a very easy language. However, everyone speaks English in the Netherlands and the Dutch speak it really well. Also, Amsterdam is a very international city.
You’ve embarked on a project: Where did you get the idea from? Why did you choose a theme like this?
I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur but this would have been difficult if not impossible had I stayed in Paris with my work and managing the children. I’d been making beer as an amateur for nearly 10 years. The beer business is undergoing something of a revolution. Through my passion and a promising market, I decided to launch a business in this area as I could outsource many processes, remain flexible and concentrate purely on sales. Making beer is really exciting. It’s a process that takes time and knowledge to get the product you’re happy with. I think of it as an art and there’s an infinite number of ingredients you can use.
Tell us how you organise your time between your business and personal life?
I work four and a half days a week and look after my family on Wednesday afternoons.
So, you’re a very busy “Dadpreneur”?
I start work after dropping the children off at school and continue until 6.00pm. We have the help of a baby-sitter so I can have more free time to get my business established.
Tell us about a sudden inspirational moment of happiness.
My inspirational moments of happiness come when I can share my passion.
You spend a lot of time with your children, can you share a little home-made recipe with us?
La pâte à sel (Salt dough)
As well as being a “Dadpreneur”, what do you like to go out and do in terms of culture at the moment, either on your own or with your family?
With the family, it’s the Némo Science Museum. There are lots of interactive science exhibits there for the children. It’s a mine of information! You can find out how solar panels work, how to build a bridge, how water circulates and comes through our taps “clean” … On my own, I like to find all the free culture in the city, such as street art. Go through a winding passageway or a street and you can uncover some wonderful works of art with a beautiful mix of architecture and contemporary art.
Time for a bit of culture: Can you quote one of your favourite books or paintings?
I love books by James A Michene. Find out more here
Is there a cultural event in your city or area at the moment that you can recommend?
I love going to look at the tulip fields and, of course, there’s the “Keukenhof”, a wonderful park with tulips and hyacinths…but cycling through the tulip fields is really fantastic! I also like going to Paradisio, a church converted into a theatre!
Can you sum up the lifestyle in the country where you’re living as an expat?
Life it’s not too sophisticated. There’s time for everything, including the family, work and leisure time. Amsterdam is a great city to live in. You can get around it by bike, go places on a barge and go running on the various parks surrounding the city.
Thomas, can you tell me about your project?
De Brasserij is a company that was created in 2017. It’s a brewery brand that designs and markets different kinds of beer. The name comes from the word for “brewery” and we added some letters from Dutch. It tells my own story: a Frenchman who makes beer in the Netherlands. Although the sector is buoyant, it’s still competitive and finding your place takes a lot of effort.
How did you develop it?
I’ve got a mini brewery where I develop products by testing different combinations of malts, hops and yeasts. When I get the results I need, the recipe can go on to be produced industrially. Creating the brand took considerable time as it’s wasn’t an area I knew. Even though a micro-brewery is a cottage industry, branding is very important. I set up an organisation that almost entirely outsources so I can focus on sales. Setting up a business here is easy but developing it is something else. What matters most to me is quickly building a network of entrepreneurs so I can get myself known and not spend too much time asking questions or even making mistakes in terms of structure and organisation. To develop my project, I market my products through various sales channels like e-
commerce stores, specialty stores and direct marketing in the Horeca sector (for hotels, restaurants and cafés).
What do you gain from your experience on a professional level and settling into a country and also in terms of your family…?
The Dutch are very direct when doing business and they don’t beat around the bush. You have to be convincing and clear pretty quickly or you’ll lose the chance of doing business… Speaking Dutch is a real plus, people appreciate it when their language is used, even if a conversation then continues in English. I think that no matter what type of business you start with, it’s vital to have solid organisation as this helps your family life as well as your project.
Can you summarise your professional journey?
My background is in Industrial Engineering and I’ve mainly done project management in the energy and oil sectors in France and abroad.
Explore the De Brasserij shop here