Career Transition Success: from investment banking to bartending

Kai Nakamura followed the classic path of most academically gifted French kids – he did his baccalaureate in exact sciences. Seeing that the math and finance came easier to him, he went on to do a masters’ degree in finance. His first job was with a prestigious French investment bank in the City of London. “It was exciting. I liked the challenge of learning!” remembers Kai. Then in September 2008 Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy.  Kai’s bank downsized and sent him back to Paris. “The next two years I felt I was stagnating. I was bored. The mood in the office was heavy, full of insecurity. I knew I had to do something.”  The seed of desire for a change was planted then.

One warm September day Kai went to a village near Reims to visit his old friend, a producer of champagne. It was the harvest weekend. Kai discovered that not all work environments resembled his bank. “There was so much team spirit, so much passion. It was all genuine. The human element was very strong.”  Kai and his friend started brainstorming how they could partner. Kai identified at least two un-covered niches – small French champagne producers made champagne but they had no means to  distribute or market.  Kai also saw that there were no specialized champagne bars in Paris – only wine bars.  During the following year Kai did a lot of research, attracted another partner – a fellow banker from his bank – and finally decided to quit his job. He went to a sommelier school to educate himself further. He and his partners knocked on the doors of 12 banks asking for a credit to buy a small commercial space in the 9th arrondissement of Paris and got rejected.  But… the 13th bank agreed to give them a mortgage. Kai signed contracts with a dozen of small champagne producers.  He launched his bar last May and he is there every evening.

Kai meets customers with a big smile. His eyes sparkle as he shares the story behind each bottle. His job satisfaction at the bank was 2.  His job satisfaction as the owner of the champagne bar in Paris is 7. “I still have a lot to do. The work is harder than going to the bank 9 to 6. But it is more rewarding!” Kai says, his eyes shining. His case is about taking risks, courage, passion and self-belief.  It is also about the power of partnerships and thorough research of the marketplace.  Kai’s project has succeeded because of strong research that identified opportunity, a strong partnership and the awareness of his biggest values.

Bar Muselet: http://www.lemuselet-paris.com/

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