Entrepreneurs Forever 2015 | Version française

Alexandra Isvarine

She transforms her experience as a biologist into the purest royal jelly.

« My career is anything but monotonous! » admits Alexandra Isvarine, Doctor in Biology and retrained in biological apiculture. Her professional journey has a certain element of mystery, just like that age-old secret of the flight of bees.

After her MBA, Alexandra Isvarine took her first steps in the pharmaceutical industry « Even though I was a "neither/nor": neither Pharmacist, nor Doctor! » Big health groups taught her the noise from the hive of matrix organisations, the buzzing of takeovers and mergers, the sting of regulatory constraints. « It's one of the most demanding sectors, in terms of quality, business model, communication. A good training ground for rigour and excellence. »

I have made extremely free professional choices, corresponding to my values, to live wherever I feel the best. Today my freedom consists of choosing the food for my bees in order to produce the best quality royal jelly. It’s not so easy, but being difficult wouldn’t stop me loving my life in the hills.

In 2005, she joined the executive committee of the French subsidiary of 3M Health, as Sales and Marketing support Manager. Organisational restructuring tolled out the end of her life as an executive. « I was encouraged at that time to start networking and create my own company, but I must say that I wasn't really prepared for that. I had a really difficult period, a whole calling into question both professionally and personally. »

Her friends encouraged her to follow an old dream, the sort of dream that you talk about without really believing in to overcome some fleeting frustrations. « I had nothing more to lose, I filled up my car, and I left for Athens, with the idea of opening a restaurant somewhere in Greece. » Upon arrival, she started an intensive course in Greek, and spent the whole tourist season in Crete, running an art gallery in a luxury hotel.

And that is where she met a Cretan apiculturer. « Understanding the life of the bee is a real job. I was once again in touch with a whole part of my life as a biologist, working with living things, observing. But the hardest part was to learn the whole job in Cretan! »

Her training lasted four years, after which Alexandra Isvarine decided to study methods for breeding Queens to produce royal jelly. « I came back to France for six months, without any contacts in the sector. It was really all or nothing. »

Whilst watching a television programme on the cultural channel, she noticed a researcher from the Department of Agriculture in Avignon who was specialised in bees … and she called him. « Thanks to him and to my background, I could network. I at last understood the meaning of the word: meeting people with the precise aim of moving your project forward! I slept on farm-house camp-sites; I would have stood on my head to be able to learn! »

After six months with the hives, she returned to Greece for a season, then, in 2012 finally decided to settle in the hills of the Drôme department.

Alexandra Isvarine really is a worker bee: fitting into the local environment, operations, Quality process, creation of her brand Goutte de Soleil, packaging, communication tools, innovation, sales etc., she manages everything.

In 2013, she won an Award for her business initiative. « It’s essential to feel that you are understood and have support. The team of EMLYON FOREVER has given me several contacts. I had an incredible leg up from a class-mate, Laurence Faller, who died suddenly in 2014; she was one of the best white wine growers in the world. She unfailingly encouraged me and gave me financial support. I miss her so much, and think about her every day. »

It’s spring time, and Alexandra Isvarine has just opened up her hives. The first few grams of her jelly are about to be harvested. She is happy to have given meaning to her science.

EM Lyon: MBA 1992
Photo credit: Nora Cherrati
Translation : Carole Bausor, ILTC
Date de parution : 01/06/15