Rolling in dough

Apollonia Poilane took the helm of the Parisian bread empire at the age of 18, and the number of outlets has since increased from three to five. By Chew Hui Yan

Published Fri, Apr 4, 2014 · 10:00 PM
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APOLLONIA Poilane was not your average university student. She attended classes, did her homework and had a social life, but she also ran a company half-way around the world in Paris from her Harvard dorm room. The company - Boulangerie Poilane - was no small start-up either by the then 18-year-old. It was a well-established Parisian bread empire that had been started by her grandfather, Pierre Poilane, in 1932 and passed down to her father, Lionel Poilane.

In 2002, both Mr Poilane and his wife, Irena, were killed in a tragic helicopter accident leaving Ms Poilane and her then 16-year-old sister, Athena. Ms Poilane, who had always known that she would eventually take over the business, put the plans she had for a gap year on hold and took over the reins. When she left for Harvard to study Economics 10 months later, Ms Poilane was determined to run the company from her dorm.

"I left for college with an idea of how I was going to handle the business and after that, it was all about adapting. In the first semester, it was a little hard figuring out a way to go about my day's work but after that I had a routine," she says.

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