We had breakfast with Julie Stott at Le Pain Quotidien where she takes her morning decaf skinny latte, and we were so excited to learn about her thoughts and challenges as an entrepreneur in London and as a mum to 2 beautiful angels. We also discussed the ethos and mission of Rue des Petits, the company she launched single-handedly last December.
You can view our favourite items from her inspiring collections in our Favourite Gifting Boutiques section.
ParentVille: How did the project start?
Julie: I have always loved interior design and home decoration. When I had my first daughter in 2012, I enjoyed decorating her bedroom so much, but also realised that I was spending hours researching unique items, young designer brands, and also that I was getting things from outside of the UK and that delivery costs ended up being too much. That’s when I started thinking I could offer people to help them save time and energy by creating an online boutique with a curated selection of young European designer brands and unique products, based in London. So that people don’t have to search for hours and can be delivered next day if needed.
So when I had my second daughter, in 2014, I decided it was time to start a new chapter. I left my job early 2015 and started working on Rue des Petits from home and launched just before Christmas 2015. And I am ever so happy I took this decision!
P: Tell me more about your background, how did it help you in your own business venture?
J: I studied in a business school (ESCP Europe) in their Paris, London and Berlin campuses, and I also spent 7 months in Casablanca while I was studying, working for Danone. So all that gave me the taste to live abroad, which I love! I then started to work as a consultant in a strategy consulting firm for 2 years. This taught me quite a lot on the business and organisation side. Then I got lucky enough to get a job at CHANEL where I spent 5 years. Working for such a beautiful house was an honour and I learnt more than anything else the power of branding, of staying true to your brand values and mission statement. And also, the value of not copying but being yourself as a business. I worked on the online and CRM side of the business when I initially joined, and I can feel that I still have in mind what I did for CHANEL when I am working on my Rue des Petits projects. But now, I love the fact that I am my own artistic director and that I have more freedom and room for creativity… which is what I was missing there.
P:What was your biggest challenge when you first started?
J: Choosing. I went to different fairs in Paris and London to meet the brands and designers. And I also had my list of brands that I had spotted for the last couple of years while decorating the house, researching for presents… There are so many inspiring and amazing people today who are starting their brand, that I thought this was the most difficult part. Deciding which ones to start with, as of course, budget was limited…. So I mainly chose brands for which the people behind were as nice as their products. It has been a great human experience in that respect as I have met people I really value and who I am proud and happy to distribute here in the UK.
P: Is London a good environment for starting a business?
J: Yes and no. Yes in the sense that admin-wise nothing felt too complicated. Setting up a company can be done fairly quickly. You can also work with freelancers as there are many here in London, you can find work space if you need… No, because of the cost of living in London. With two kids, nanny, school, flat… it wasn’t an easy decision to leave the comfort of my previous job and salary. In that respect, London makes it a harder decision.
P: What is your biggest achievement so far?
J: I only launched before Christmas so this is still a baby business. But all the feed-back I am getting on the website, products, boutique feel, packaging are really good. I have received emails from customers just to say thank you as they loved the personal touches in their parcels. That for me, was a very nice first step. This is probably from my CHANEL time, but I really believe and value high quality services.
J: It is not always easy as I work mainly from home. So the frontier between both is not really clear. I bring my eldest one to school twice a week. This is a nice one-to-one moment with her. Then we have a nanny looking after our little one. She knows that ‘Maman’ works when I am in the living room. So when she comes back from outside, she comes for a kiss to say hi but then leaves me. They are both really good at understanding that now my office is at home. When the nanny leaves around 6:30, then I try to switch off and really spend the next 2 hours with them…. Even if it means being back on emails after they are in bed and we’ve had dinner… It seems to be working fine and I love the feeling that I am more flexible and can, if I decide to, take my 4yo to ballet on Wednesday afternoon for instance..
P: What are your favourite hangout places / activities as a family?
J: I live next to Hampstead Heath so if the weather is nice, that’s an obvious one for us! We walk a lot, so we love hanging around little Venice, going to Primrose Hill. We love having lunch at Lemonia for a bit of a holiday feel. The zoo is amazing, my daughter is obsessed with dinosaurs so we’ve been many many times to the Natural History Museum. Also love the kids’ area at the V&A. Little Angel Theatre is a great place in North London, followed by a nice lunch in Angel for a perfect family Sunday! I also love receiving friends at home. So our big kitchen full of kids and friends is one of our favourite hangout place/ activity!!!
P: Is there any advice that you would give to a mum or dad who wants to start a business?
J: I would say that this really needs to be a decision taken as a couple. One needs to really weigh the pros and cons a lot before making this decision, as it’s not always easy, there are times where you will doubt and question your choice. You should also talk about your idea to friends. I organised quite a few brainstorming sessions with my friends at home to get their view and feedbacks. But once you have decided to go for it, then you need to be 100%, have no regrets and work hard. And finally, having a few friends who set up their own business helps.
It’s good to have a deadline. If in x months/years it’s not happening, then one needs to be able to move on. You need to know that it’s ok if it doesn’t work. There is nothing worse than putting too much pressure on your shoulders. I don’t think this is a good way to progress. And if it works, remember to say thank you to everybody that helped and supported you. And treat yourself 😉
P: What are your future plans?
J: I just want to share my selection and brands with as many people as possible, show that we can buy less but better, focus on the hand-made and beautiful products. There is a trend currently on promoting young brands as opposed to cheap ‘Made in Far East’ creations. I hope I can contribute to that. Behind most of the brands I am distributing there are young people who believe in their products, work hard, there are mums working from home and putting their love and energy in their creations. I want to try to promote that…
J: I don’t know about the funniest, but my daughters have recently discovered Frozen. My eldest one doesn’t like princesses, she loves dinosaurs! But for some reason she loves the song “Let it Go”. And the second one is obsessed with music. So every evening, they ask me for the song on the iPad, they both lie on the floor in our kitchen, watch it mesmerised and when Elsa changes into her blue dress, they both simultaneously shout ‘waoouuhhhh’. It just feels like having 2 teenagers at home in front of a boys-band! They are usually dressed up at that stage, wearing my shoes or their hats. A very comical (and sweet) sight for me while I prepare their dinner!