Once upon a time gift giving was more of a headache than a pleasure. Finding just the right object to convey your thoughts and feelings was a treasure hunt that often ended with a gift card for the FNAC or your local cinema. This story has a happy ending though because along came Histoire de Cadeau and gift giving will never be the same again.
Histoire de Cadeau is the realization of a dream held by founder Didem Michenet. An avid traveler with a talent for finding niche and local products, Didem wanted to bring together her passion and genius in an e-boutique where people could offer original items as gifts for their loved ones and once again return to the true value and emotion of gift giving.
The entrepreneurial bug bites
Born and raised in Turkey Didem pursued a master’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering at Virginia Tech in the United States. She gained her business skills from a number of years in the IT corporate world working in the U.S. and then France. At the start of 2014 she began her own company, The Startup Atelier, helping technological startups demystify customer development and build healthy businesses. At the same time a new business idea was germinating, but Didem knew she needed a business partner to bring her concept to life.
Using your natural gifts
Didem wanted to create an internet destination where people could find unique, culturally rich, artistically designed, and thoughtfully selected gifts. Through her travels around the world, Didem had come to be known by friends and family as the expert gift giver herself. She explains, “Gift giving has been part of my daily life because I have friends all over the world. Throughout my travels, I have always enjoyed finding local goods: A French “marinière” for my friend’s baby, a handmade wooden box from India for my brother and so on. Year after year, when it comes to finding the perfect gift, you run out of ideas and there is hardly time to search with the typical daily rush and crazy work schedules. Shops can be tiring and the options are endless, it is the same on the internet: information overload. Where do you start unless you know exactly what you want?” Didem decided to use her gift finding talents to create a place where giving is a pleasure once again.
A business is born
Thus, Histoire de Cadeau (Gift Story) came to life. Didem and Celine set out to offer niche objects, products and services for meaningful and personal gift giving. Didem explains, “My first client survey got a very positive response, which encouraged me to go further. I then interviewed people and talked about it every chance I got. I often saw a pleasant eyebrow raise”.
As any entrepreneur will tell you, there is a lot of hard work behind getting a business up and running and an online business is no exception. Didem and Celine knew they had a winning idea so it was now down to making the idea a real business.
“We first, wanted to set out our vision for the business”, says Didem. “We then defined our positioning and sought to understand the competition. Following this, we established contacts with our clients and our suppliers. This helped shape the overall structure and business process. Then many things happened on multiple fronts and in parallel, such as choosing a technological platform, sorting out payment and shipping details, carrying out administrative processes, and of course our marketing strategy. Quite crazy, and exhausting but also a very exciting and creative period.”
The expat experience
Did not being a French native make jumping into the entrepreneurial waters in France more difficult?
“There is always the cultural integration aspect. Fortunately though, I had spent several years working in France before I started my entrepreneurial journey so I knew a thing or two about business in France and understanding country specific bureaucracy. Above all, having a network is the biggest differentiator in my opinion. Working your network is very important for entrepreneurship; and as an expat even more so.”
“There is a freedom both I and Céline appreciate very much. Freedom to choose your own strategy, freedom to build a business you are proud of, freedom to decide where and when to work: priceless really … Yet, this all comes with challenges. We often wear too many hats and we get involved with many details from legal points to technical tricks. Non-stop budget and resource prioritization and optimization. It is similar to a computer process that is always running in the background even if we are on vacation or on weekends, it is difficult to disconnect”.
The HdC difference
Histoire de Cadeau is opening its virtual doors as holiday season 2014 begins. Excellent timing for shoppers who want to avoid crowded shopping centers, same old gifts and unoriginal options. Didem stresses, “We did not limit our categories, we want to be where there is creativity, innovation, quality, authenticity: decoration, art, fashion, accessories, high tech, unusual experiences, beauty and gastronomical tastes. Our platform hosts many local products including a large selection of “Made in France”, ecological goods, recycling or upcycling, innovative products, exclusive series, exceptional experiences…. All with the objective of supporting small designers, producers, boutiques and service providers.
“Expats who want to go off the beaten track will find a rich and fun universe with Histoire de Cadeau, which is reserved most of the time to local circles. As a longtime expat, I appreciate more than anything finding local tastes and I think that I am not alone… Moreover, we are lucky to work with other expat designers who will present their designs and services in our platform. The Expat community will get a chance to get to know their compatriot designers and service providers.”
And the happily ever after…
The long term goal for Histoire de Cadeau is to go international but at a pace that allows high quality and a superb customer experience to remain at the forefront. “We have our sights set on international expansion but are putting the priority on bringing a high quality, luxury experience to our clients in France first. Our goal is to take this step by step, first extending our supplier network and then client network for international development. Also, Céline and I are both very sensitive to giving back to those who are less fortunate. We have started our research in order to create campaigns to donate a portion of each purchase with partnered associations.”