Veuve Clicquot’s story: Boldness, creativity, resilience and entrepreneurial spirit
Barbe Ponsardin, the future Madame Clicquot, was born in 1777 in Reims, France to a wealthy family of textile manufacturers. She married François Clicquot in 1798 when she was 21 years old. Tragedy struck just six years later when François died, leaving Madame Clicquot a widow at the age of 27, with a young daughter.
When her husband died in 1805, Madame Clicquot was left with a difficult decision. How to proceed with the House that her stepfather, Philippe Clicquot, founded in 1772? It was then that Madame Clicquot made a choice that would change her life – and the history of Champagne. In 1805, she took the reins of the House, at a time when, in France, women could neither work nor hold a bank account.
Madame Clicquot had to face numerous obstacles, from Prussian forces who pillaged her cellars, to international markets that were blocked due to the Napoleonic Wars. But early on, a cosmic symbol appeared that would foreshadow her great achievement to come. In 1811, a sparkling comet crossed the skies of Champagne, and would ultimately be credited with an exceptional harvest. Madame Clicquot lived a life brimming with audaciousness, curiosity, and innovation. Her innovative spirit created a rich savoir-faire and many “firsts” in Champagne. In 1810 she created the first recorded vintage champagne, in 1816, inspired by a desire to make crystal-clear champagne, Madame Clicquot created a radical innovation: the riddling table, to entirely eliminate the bottle deposit of lees from her wines and in 1818, she created the very first blended rosé champagne made to satisfy her exact vision for rosé champagne with color, taste, and aroma.
She also proved to be a very savvy businesswoman – indeed, one of the first businesswomen of modern times. Madame Clicquot, ever the visionary, heard the call of faraway lands. She courageously shipped bottles of her product to Saint Petersburg, as soon as the Continental Blockade (Napoleon’s retaliatory trade embargo against Great Britain) was lifted in 1814. She risked half her fortune to ship the cuvées which were, incidentally, the vintage of 1811, the year the comet had passed over the skies of Champagne. The champagnes were very well received in Russia, and became fashionable among the literary crowd, among others. From that point on, there was no stopping Madame Clicquot. Under her leadership, Veuve Clicquot champagne soon reached the shores of countries including Brazil, China, Canada, Australia…
Madame Clicquot becomes known to her peers as “la grande dame of Champagne”.
In the centuries that followed her death, in 1866, her vision, her tenacious spirit, her determination, and her desire to always go further have inspired not only the House that bears her name but generations of women around the world.
To mark its 200th anniversary, in 1972, the House launched its prestigious Cuvée La Grande Dame and created the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award, a tribute to the entrepreneurial spirit of Madame Clicquot, to champion the success of businesswomen worldwide who share the same inspirational qualities as Madame Clicquot. First launched in France, the award was then deployed all over the world.
In 2014, the House created the New Generation Award to recognize the women entrepreneurs of tomorrow. To date, more than 350 women in 27 countries have been honored with these awards.
The House was avant-garde in launching this award and Veuve Clicquot has always been on the side of audacious women, wanting to be a driving force and making a real contribution. In 2019, the House sought to understand how the world is evolving and launched its first international barometer, to have a clear picture and map out the state of female entrepreneurship. This first international Veuve Clicquot barometer on female entrepreneurship showed that there are still too many structural and psychological barriers holding women back in their entrepreneurial ambitions. It’s why the House decided to bolster its support of female entrepreneurs by establishing an international program in 2019: Bold by Veuve Clicquot.
Bold, in response to society’s evolution since 1972. The models of women’s success no longer stop at the borders of the business world. Bold to think about inspiration beyond the purely business dimension. To understand these women with multiple paths and achievements who have become an inspiration for other women in all fields.
Bold by Veuve Clicquot is a program designed for more inclusion, more impact, and more visibility of audacious women. A program structured around key phases throughout the year, around the world, with the Bold Woman Award and Bold Future Award at the heart of it all (previously known as Business Woman Award and New Generation Award). As part of a more inclusive program, the House launched in 2019 the Bold Champion Award, an honorary award created to recognize a man who has helped improve women’s representation and consideration in society through his own concrete actions.
As part of the Bold by Veuve Clicquot program, the House created multiple moments of discussion and inspiration to embolden successive generations of audacious female leaders. Veuve Clicquot’s ambition by launching the first barometer was also to be able to observe and understand the evolution of female entrepreneurship over time. This is why the House launches the second edition of its barometer in 2021, covering 17 countries including Nigeria with 34 622 respondents – also exploring the impact of COVID on female entrepreneurship. This barometer is one of the rare tools enabling us to truly understand the state of female entrepreneurship, not only among women but among the general population, hence giving a global-long-term vision of society in its complexity.
It is with this backdrop that Veuve Clicquot will be launching the Bold by Veuve Clicquot program in Nigeria and hosting their first edition of Bold Conversations in Nigeria. Transcending borders and bringing together in conversation phenomenal business leaders who will share their thoughts on the state of female entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
Veuve Clicquot believes that breaking down preconceptions, removing structural and societal barriers, and providing support and training will enable women to move forward and take the first steps towards entrepreneurship. Veuve Clicquot’s mission: give visibility to the role models of today and tomorrow, actively support women entrepreneurs, and build a brighter future for female entrepreneurship.