Cyprien moved to Italy in 2001 where he later set up a cleaning company, and along the way, he diversified his activities based on the needs of his customers. Now he runs a multiservice enterprise.
Cyprien's entrepreneurial journey
Cyprien Sessou set up a cleaning company, and along the way, he diversified his activities based on the needs of his customers. Today Cyprien deals with the cleaning of apartments, offices, factories, construction sites and accommodation facilities as well as offering porterage, moving services and logistics in general.
Explaining why he became an entrepreneur, Cyprien says: “It all started with an idea of setting up my own business, to create something of my own even before coming to Italy. I arrived with a regular tourist visa, but once it expired, I lived as an illegal immigrant until the 2003 Amnesty. Since then, I have had many jobs, both in cleaning companies and in assembly lines. I worked in the cleaning sector, which is a transversal sector. It’s a very unique industry, almost an oligopoly, but with great competition between companies.”
Cyprien had a one-year contract and the management of the company decided to not renew his contract. It was a very challenging time for Cyprien. He decided to start his own business as a personal challenge to become the competitor of his previous employer. In the beginning, in 2004, he formed a cooperative of ten people, but they had difficulties securing large contracts. Finally, when they won a big contract, the client declared bankruptcy and they were never paid. This is when Cyprien decided to open his sole proprietorship, in 2012.
Cyprien believes that the best job is not necessarily the one that makes the most money, but the one that gives you the most satisfaction. People have to be able to look around and figure out how to apply their skills to the current trends and reality of the job market around us, he says.
Cyprien has faced various obstacles, starting with language barriers. “I can communicate in Italian, but when you encounter bureaucratic language it’s another story. I’m what you might call a self-made man, but I’ve realized over time that I can’t do everything on my own; in these cases, it is helpful to have consultants. In general, I’ve always tried to do the bureaucratic and financial aspects myself, but now I often rely on consultants; especially for important matters, for example preparing a big budget.” He has also overcome financial obstacles. Every company needs a crisis to grow and it takes a lot of creativity and inventiveness to make sure that you always have the liquid capital to cover the expenses and pay employees and suppliers. Finding contracts is another challenge. Cyprian finds lot of contracts through online advertising campaigns.
He faced issues posed by the government lockdown to halt the spread of the Covid-19. Due to the high demand from his current clients, he opened a new line of activities related to storage. He rented a place in February 2020, but the business couldn’t even start properly due to the lockdown imposed by the government in March. Cyprien has also encountered racism in his line of work: “Customers are often looking for “Italian” companies and my business is one, but when they see me, they are a bit put off.”
Cyprien says that his greatest success is yet to come. He says that it is a success to be able to solve, step by step, the problems you may have in a company. He is very happy with the fact that his business is profitable, so he can also give work to other people; people from all over the world who contact him for employment. This is for him great satisfaction but also a starting point.
Cyprien had not received any training before starting his business. Initially, as a cooperative, they participated in a regional call for proposals, and based on this experience, there is a great need for training for those who would like to start an entrepreneurial activity; both in terms of understanding how to apply existing skills in the local context, and the bureaucratic and financial aspects.
“By the end of 2021, I would like to have 50 employees in my company. I think this an achievable goal, but I will need a competent and strong administration.”
Advice for prospective entrepreneurs
Cyprien is from the Republic of Benin where he studied law at university. He completed two years but never graduated. He obtained a professional diploma in commerce, which allowed him to start working. Cyprien also followed a World Bank program offering a two-year contract with one renewal. He then worked at the Ministry of Finance working on public procurement. That helped him to learn how different types of contracts work, and to acquire problem-solving skills. There were no funds to renew his contract, but he kept working for a while without one. In 2001 Cyprien came to Italy on a tourist visa, visiting his brother who was studying in Italy, and since then he has been living there.