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Meet Estelle Dai

Only 21 years old and Estelle Dai has already opened her own tea house in the heart of the French capital: @unrêve. A dream that came true after completing Diplomas in Pâtisserie and Culinary Management. Her project came to fruition after 2 years of creation, and since the opening on December 21st, 2021, it is already a great success.

Between entrepreneurship and patisserie, Estelle is happy to describe her journey as a student, the creation of her life project and how she organises her daily life as a business manager.


 Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Estelle Dai, I am 21 years old, I was born in Paris and I am French of Chinese origin. I have made my passion my job.


What is @unrêve?

@unrêve is a café, brunch restaurant and pastry shop, located in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. It combines specialised coffees, brunch and French-Asian pastries.


Why did you start with the Pâtisserie Diploma and then continue with the Diploma in Culinary Management?

After a scientific baccalaureate and a few years of pastry making as an amateur, I decided to acquire the skills and knowledge of the profession in a school. The Pâtisserie Diploma provided me with the right techniques to become a professional pastry chef. I then needed management and marketing skills in entrepreneurship to be able to open my own shop, hence the Diploma in Culinary Management.


How did the Diploma in Culinary Management help you in the realisation of your project?

I was able to learn essential management skills, including the creation of my own business plan. Even though the project has evolved a little bit in two years, many points remain very similar. It is a programme that made me think a lot about concrete aspects that are essential to success. We had so much support from the Chef Instructors and speakers thanks to their sharing of knowledge and experience.


What were the steps in the creation of @unrêve?

Starting from a first business plan made at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, I readjusted the project by adding new ideas and ambitions. After two years and a health crisis, many things changed. The first step was to look for premises and finance. The second step was to select the different teams and partners who would support me, from architects to builders, including suppliers of crockery, furniture and raw materials. The building works and the administrative follow-up of the project took the longest. There was also the recruitment of the teams. Then we had to create the entire menu, from savoury dishes to various drinks, and of course pastries. I am still working on it today.



What is your daily routine like?

I am the first to arrive at the café every morning to open the doors and start the morning production with my pastry team. Then I dress the shop window and update the menus (paper menu, QR code, website). During the day, I am most often behind the counter at the till serving customers. I can also be at the bar, in the kitchen, in the dining room or in the pastry laboratory. I sometimes do photo shoots for social networks that I update every day. I have to create content, respond to customers, take orders and think about the various partnerships and collaborations possible for the future of @unrêve. It is also my role to meet all those offering various services. I take care of all communication and the development of the company.

After serving breakfast, brunch and snacks, I make a sales report and prepare the next day's production.

At 8pm it's time to close, clean up and check the till.

There are also a lot of on-going invoices and accounting that I sort out with my accountant.

Apart from all that, the menu has to be changed, new creations have to be made according to the different holiday periods, the seasons and the clientele, and I have to think about how to improve the service, the premises, the organisation and the products.


What challenges have you encountered in the development of your tearoom?

There have been many and there are new ones every day. From finding premises, to negotiations, to applying for a loan from the bank, all this during a pandemic. It certainly hasn’t been easy. There were also partner selections, which meant a lot of comparisons. Deadlines have also been very hard to meet. We thought we would open in September 2021, but in the end it was all done in a rush just before Christmas. I was actually writing the menus in the middle of the night before the pre-opening. There are a lot of uncontrollable factors that you don't always think about. Opening a shop does not only depend on yourself, but on all those giving you support in realising your project.


Any advice for people who want to start a business?

Passion, motivation, and perseverance are the watchwords. Be prepared, have a project that has been well thought out and worked on in its entirety. Choose your team and your partners for solid support. Know what you want.