“Don’t trust a business plan, ever…”

A cofounder of My Little Paris, Céline Orjubin helped transform a newsletter shared between friends into one of France’s biggest digital-media groups

What began as a women-centric newsletter shared among friends in 2008 now boasts over two million subscribers, German, British and Japanese arms and a booming goodie-box business. It’s a journey that’s taken strategic brains, a dollop of luck, some scissors and colouring pens, says cofounder Céline Orjubin. As to her winning formula? Sometimes you just have to improvise…

Find your passion “I used to work for Morgan Stanley [financial services], but left when I realised I didn’t like the job. It was in the middle of the financial crisis, a tough time, and yet I turned down several offers, because I knew the right thing was out there. Today, I can do 100 hours in a week fuelled by passion and energy.”

Experience isn’t everything “When we first launched My Little Paris, we came to it with fresh eyes. While we wanted to work in the digital space, we didn’t really know what the internet was about: we knew nothing, so we asked friends to teach us and I like to think that our approach liberated us.”

No funding? No problem “We improvised. For example, we didn’t have a graphic designer for a long time and just did it ourselves. Common sense, energy and commitment saw us through. And, within a couple of years, people were asking for our design services.”

Honesty is our policy “The five of us behind the business – four women in our 20s and 30s and a man in his 50s – ensure that we speak frankly when asked for our opinion. We’re honest, we tell each other when we disagree with something, and it stops things building up. We call it ‘franc parlez’ and it fosters a collaborative way of working.”

Just go with it “You don’t have to wait until everything is figured out before trying something. We launched My Little Box, a beauty and lifestyle goodie box, in 2011 with next to no expectations, investment or business plan – we just put it out there. We sold 2,000 in 45 minutes and now it gives us around 70% of our €30 million turnover.”

Shake up the system “My Little Boxes were flying out, but filling them was hard. When I approached beauty companies for products, they thought I was kidding when I asked for a month’s turnaround – they were looking at a year. But around one in 10 said, ‘This is crazy, but let’s do it’. We brought a digital mind-set to the physical world, which picked up the pace of our industry.”

Flex your creative muscles “People think creativity appears from nowhere, but you have to make time for it. Every month, we invite a creative figure, such as a chef or writer, to talk to us. We also have a ‘mega-lab’ once a month, where we meet outside the office and talk about something that has inspired us recently – a talk, film, music, whatever.”

Share your ideas “I think it’s funny when you talk to young entrepreneurs who don’t want to share. Ultimately, ideas are free and it’s only when you road-test your thoughts that you fi nd out if they’re worth exploring. If it’s a good idea, someone will copy it – that’s how it goes. You have to ensure that you execute it better or faster.“

Grow on spirit “We have 120 employees in Paris, Japan and Germany. We take on people who are passionate about what they want to do, rather than what they’re doing now. To me, every meeting is an interview. I’m always thinking, ‘Maybe this person could do this for us…’. I found our first employee taking coats at a conference. She’s now our Brand Love Manager, responsible for employees and internal culture.”

Enjoy the moments “There are no small victories. When we signed our first deal for €5,000, we opened Champagne and celebrated in the office. Now, we come together every Friday afternoon to share our achievements from the past week.”

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: https://ink-global.com/our-clients/portfolio/easyjet-traveller/