Boss forced to live on streets starts new business
A successful businessman who fell on hard times and ended up homeless has been telling how he got back on his feet to start up a new enterprise.
Michel Deschamps set up a recruitment agency specialising in the retail business in 1996, which went well for several years.
He told regional newspaper Ouest France how he went from successful entrepreneur to living on benefits and sleeping in hostels.
A series of personal problems, including two divorces and separation from his three children, started to take their toll.
These were compounded with family arguments over money.
"Debts and all these other problems started to build up," he said.
Eventually, Michel went from successful company boss to life on the streets in just three years, from 2008 to 2011.
To stay afloat, Michel had to start selling his own possessions.
"The worst, although it's strange to say it, was having to give up my dog," he said.
The former executive eventually found himself with nowhere to live in the Brittany town of Saint-Brieuc, taking refuge in homeless shelters.
"It was extremely shocking," he said.
Michel's new partner, Marie-France, said he was a "broken" man.
"He had really hit rock bottom," she said. "But I know he's a fighter and someone with a lot of pride."
A meeting with another local businessman offered Michel the chance to rebuild his life.
Georges Delaunay introduced him to a business network of philanthropic executives.
"He slowly built up his confidence," said Delaunay. "With his experience, I advised him to start a business again."
Michel was still living on unemployment benefit, but created a business plan and approached a local charity that supports new start-ups, Armor Initiatives.
He received €4,000 ($5,334) in start-up cash and was able to add to this with a bank loan.
"I've been able to rent an office and buy a computer and printer," he said. "I've dusted off my contact book in retail."
This time, Michel plans to use his business skills to "help others who find themselves in trouble to find a job."
Local business leaders seem happy to have welcomed Michel back into their network.
"We've known each other for twenty years," said one, Jean-Loïc Guérin. "He knows he's made mistakes, but he knows retail really well. He's qualified and deserves a second chance. I'm certainly ready to work with him again."
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