Every month My Swiss Story brings to you inspiring stories of women entrepreneurs, leaders, and creators, and this month we are super happy to introduce you to the dream team behind the monthly subscription box of artisanal cheese from across Switzerland; L’Atelier du Fromage.
Psst… I have tried their apero box for the month of September and I can personally vouch for everything that goes inside the box – everything is handpicked, is delicious and the quality is on point (I mean, there’s cheese, there’s wine and there are homemade crackers…what’s not to love). Without further ado, let’s hear it from the ladies themselves – their vision, their partnership, the idea, and their story.
Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself
Johana: I was born and raised in Switzerland, studied commercial and tourism management in the Neuchâtel area. I spent some time in England, in Spain, and Wales. At 29 years old, I decided to create my own company as a private concierge, this is how I met with Lhney. In 2016, when I had to reduce this activity, Lhney and I decided to create L’Atelier du Fromage.
Lhney : I am an American expat who has had the pleasure of living in Switzerland for 9 years. My husband and I originally moved to Neuchâtel for my job. Four years later, I left the corporate life to raise our family. The 30% of international travel was too much for a new mom whose husband traveled 80%. Three years later, I was ready to re-start my career and Johana was thinking about starting a new business. The timing was right for us both and we decided to become partners.
Tell us about L’Atelier du Fromage
Lhney : Johana and I started L’Atelier du Fromage two years ago to discover the artisanal cheeses of Switzerland, and to share our discoveries with cheese lovers like us. We offer a monthly subscription Box of Swiss artisanal cheeses from local producers who sell only in their area. Each month we present a different Swiss canton and the cheeses unique to that region.
We are excited to launch a new Box this month! The new Apéro Box is the curated combination of Swiss artisanal cheeses paired with a Swiss wine – from the same canton whenever possible. We round out the Apéro Box with delicious house-made crackers.
Follow us on our road trips across Switzerland to meet the cheesemakers, tour our cheese dairies, and taste our artisanal specialties. You can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter, and/or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
Tell us your story
Johana: Lhney and I realized there are over 700 cheese varieties in Switzerland, but we could only name a few of them! Living in the Swiss Romandie, we had never tasted the cheeses of St-Gallen or Thurgau. Many of these artisanal cheeses are only sold locally. You would have to travel to that village to taste their cheese. The idea of a monthly Box started to take shape. We do the traveling and share our discoveries with you! Shipping once per month means we can control our inventory and balance our family life.
What’s a day like in your life
Lhney : The most exciting part of our job is meeting with the cheesemakers who are keeping their traditional recipes (oftentimes passed down from generation to generation) alive. These recipes are a guarded secret and only made by that cheese dairy. We are not looking at the cheeses that are massed produced, but rather the artisanal house specialties. These are the cheeses that have a story and we want to tell them.
Our typical road trip starts early in the morning. Johana wakes up before the sun rises to drive to my home, which is a 40-minute commute. I don’t know how she does it, but she always has hot croissants! I am eternally grateful because with preparing two small children to get ready for school, I don’t have time to make myself a cup of coffee!
The journey starts with the normal highways and then quickly changes to the side roads which get smaller and narrower as we approach our first cheese dairy nestled in a scenic mountain village. It’s embarrassing but true… we usually get lost or miss a turn as the car navigation and Google Maps disagree on how to best arrive! We have had to back down some rather steep and scary inclines as we realized this was not the right path! It is always an adventure with us! Then we hop out of the car to take pictures of landscapes, cows, and street signs. People look at us strangely, but we want to document where we have traveled.
Once we arrive at the cheese dairy, we are always warmly greeted. Many times they are thanking us for what we do – which surprises us! We are here to thank them! We always have the best time talking and touring their facilities – and of course, tasting their cheeses. We always buy extra cheese to take home and finalize our cheese tasting. Selecting the artisanal cheeses for our Box is an incredibly important part of our job. We want to make sure the variety is an array of different tastes and textures. It can be a difficult decision. The journey to home is always easier. Our children are excited to see what cheese we brought home that day!
On our last visits, we decided to combine with a family vacation. We took a week and enjoyed Valais, Ticino, and Graubünden. We visited cheese dairies and then spent time with our family enjoying this beautiful country. We are getting ready for our next visit in 3 weeks.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have
Johana : No matter the business, my daughter will always come first. I have always organized my day around her schedule. Meaning working in the evenings or during the weekends when she was younger. My advice is to clearly separate business and quality time with your children. And when you are a solo-entrepreneur, don’t hesitate to seek for help or for someone to talk to when you need it. Being on our own can be overwhelming sometime and it is important to share any frustrations but also great achievements!
Lhney : The hardest part of being an ex-pat woman business owner is doing it all without the family support network. I miss having my mother here! She is an amazing grandmother who adores her grandchildren!
The advice I have for expat mom’s wanting to start a business is:
Believe in yourself, take time out for the family, spend quality time with each child individually (even if only 10 min!), outsource where it’s needed (cleaning, delivery services for fresh fruits/vegetables, etc.) The better you can organize yourself, the better you can be present for your children. Never give up – and take time to celebrate your successes!
Are you a female entrepreneur whose story needs to be heard, we’re waiting to hear from you.
Are you enjoying our content? We would love to hear your opinions in the comments sections. Stay tuned for more resources, our team is talking about – swiss travel, ex-pat living, mental health, nutrition, wellness, autumns activities, recipes, and activities for children. Stay well and stay with us!
To read posts from September, click here