I’m always blown away by the women featured in the #My9to5 series, and this month I’m thrilled to share another truly inspirational story. In 2008 Fany Pechiodat sent an informal email out to 50 friends, sharing some of her favourite Parisian shops and restaurants. And within six months the My Little Paris newsletter had more 10,000 subscribers. It’s now one of the most visited websites in France, and has paved the way for My Little Box, My Little App, My Little Kids and many more. Here’s how Fany made it all happen…
Have you always had a love affair with Paris? What is your history with the city?
I wasn’t actually born in Paris, and grew up in Clermont-Ferrand, a town in the centre of France. But when I arrived in Paris to study at the age of 18 I completely embraced the famous Sacha Guitry quote: “To be a Parisian is not to be born in Paris, it’s to be reborn there”.
I studied at ESCP – one of the few business schools located in the heart of Paris – and every Sunday I would walk aimlessly around the city, wandering through the streets, the markets and the shops. I’d pick a Metro station at random and start exploring the neighbourhood, discovering the best cappuccino or the tiniest bookshop in Paris. After graduation I took a conventional job doing marketing in the fragrance industry at Jean-Paul Gaultier, but I never stopped exploring the streets of Paris on my weekends…
When did you get the idea for the My Little Paris email newsletter?
My friends were always calling me to get addresses for cool places in Paris, and that gave me the idea to start sending them emails detailing my latest discoveries. The first emails were an instant success, so My Little Paris became a regular newsletter. My sister, Amandine, wrote the text, and an artist I’d met named Kanako did all of the drawings. I’ve always been a big fan of The New Yorker, so for me it was obvious we needed an illustrator.
With My Little Paris I just created the newsletter I would want to find in my inbox. I sent the first email out to 50 friends, and within six months we had 10,000 subscribers. At that point I knew I was onto something, so I quit my job, got some advertisers on board and continued telling compelling stories to people as if they were my friends. That’s how My Little Paris went from 50 friends to the 3 million subscribers we have today.
Why did you decide to expand the My Little Paris empire and create the My Little Box subscription service?
My Little Box felt like the natural next step for My Little Paris. We launched it in 2013 as a small experiment with just 2,000 boxes. At the time the subscription-based e-commerce market was booming in France, but I wasn’t quite convinced by it. To me, it lacked authenticity and emotion.
I asked myself and my team, ‘What would you like to find in your mailbox every month?’ And that’s why we decided to include lifestyle surprises as well as beauty products. Our brand became physical with the introduction of My Little Box. Now, every month, Kanako’s hand-drawn illustrations become a part of women’s lives not just in Paris, but also in Tokyo, Berlin, London and other cities across France. Being Parisian is an attitude, wherever you are!
What does your typical workday at My Little Paris look like?
I usually wake up at 7am, and the first thing I do is open my bedroom window and watch the sun rise over the rooftops of Paris. Then I’ll style my hair with a curling iron, because I’m a complete hairaholic!
Every morning I arrive in the office by 8.30am. We work in a converted artist’s atelier in the 9th arrondissement, near Montmartre, and I do my best to make sure the space doesn’t look like a normal office. I sourced most of the furniture at Paris flea markets because I believe it’s really important to spend the day in a creative environment.
My typical day consists of numerous meetings: with the editorial team, the e-commerce team, the developers, and the commercial team. My Little Paris is our umbrella brand, but we also run other websites and Apps, like My Little Kids, My Little Book Club, Merci Alfred, Mind, and My Little App. And, since many of our followers are not French-speaking, we’ve always got a lot to do.
Lunch is the most sacred time of the day. We often have a chef who cooks in our office kitchen, and we gather around our huge dining table to brainstorm and get crazy ideas.
SHOP FANY’S STYLE:
What are the biggest challenges you currently face in your work life?
Recently we’ve had to recruit a lot of new talents to keep up with our growth. It’s quite challenging to find people who will flourish in our company culture. And it’s also difficult to maintain our creative spirit with 100 employees but still innovate the way we did when we were a team of five. Our motto is, ”Get big, stay small”, which is not always easy.
The key to success lies in a company’s culture and values. So my job now is to make sure everyone feels like they’re in an environment in which they can express their creativity, do new things and take risks.
What are your tips for staying motivated and productive?
I need to do something I’m really passionate about, otherwise I won’t put the hours in. I need to be in an environment where I’m constantly challenged and get to learn from smart people. That’s why our work environment is so important to me. And I also regularly set myself new and crazy challenges. The latest was to redesign an entire house in the middle Paris in and open up My Little Paris’ very first Maison de Vacances.
How do you like to unwind after a long day at work?
I love to take a long bath. That’s my way to disconnect, and it’s always my favourite ritual when I return home in the evening. I’m a big fan of Lush bath bombs.
Which women inspire you on a daily basis?
This might not be very original, but I really admire Angela Ahrendts. At Burberry she was at the crossroads of craftsmanship and technology. I’ve actually printed and framed some of her most inspiring quotes and displayed them in our office. For example, “Everyone talks about building relationships with your customer. I think you should build one with your employees first.” In an interview she also explained that she has never put finance first, but always instinct. That’s totally me.
And, finally, what’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given? And why did it resonate with you?
I’m a bug fan of Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator. I’ve never had the chance to meet him, but I’ve read every single interview he’s ever given. Once, he was talking about starting a business and he said, “It’s better to have 100 people that really love you than a million people that just sort of like you. Find 100 people that love you!”
As an entrepreneur in the media industry, I believe the most important thing today is not how big your audience is, but how engaged they are. That’s why my attention is entirely focused on all the smallest details, so we can create an emotional link with our subscribers.
You can catch up on the previous My 9 to 5 interviews here >>