It all started with a newsletter sent to 50 friends in 2008 listing suggestions of things to do in Paris. Now, through purely organic growth, the same My Little Paris newsletter lands in the inbox of more than 2 million women.
The curation feels insider, and the tone familiar, as if mailed from a close personal friend, and its unparalleled success has led My Little Paris to expand this EDM into a multi-faceted media empire that speaks to numerous French cities and themes - including newsletters for weddings, men's and kids - along with an e-commerce subscription box model that began with My Little Box Paris and now includes Japan and the UK.
'With no marketing budget, this unique tone was our only way of spreading the word,' explains co-founder and business developer Céline Orjubin. It worked. In 2013, women's internet portal Aufeminin, acquired a 60 per cent stake in the company for an estimated $90 million. Not bad for a start-up launched with €5,000 from its four founders.
My Little Paris has since also conquered the app and guidebook world and now employs a staff of more than 80 people within their think-tank of a Parisian HQ. As the business grew, they took over additional floors of French accessory designer Jamin Puech's former 9th arrondissement studio/abode. The space, which includes kitchens on almost every floor, a photo studio and basement bar, resembles more of a sprawling pied-à-terre than a workspace; the wall's littered with inspirational quips like 'Don't compromise - Steve Jobs', while fresh flowers humanise each desk.
With the media business afforded by a traditional advertorial model, its USP is perpetuated by the company's insider tone and creative direction by Japanese illustrator Kanako. Even mega brands like Dior have forgoed their logos to comply with the site's illustrated style. 'It worked so well that afterwards the LVMH brands wanted to work with us in this manner,' says Orjubin. 'The way she looks at Paris is very poetic,' she adds of Kanako's work, 'She does everything by hand, which we then scan for our newsletters. I think it's magic when something very technical meets something handmade.'
A natural brand extension is the monthly, My Little Box franchise, which follows the same formula of surprise. For £11 + postage, the themed boxes are filled with cosmetics, accessories and homewares, with past curators including Inès de la Fressange and Diane Von Furstenburg. 'When we launched in December 2011, we sold out 2,000 boxes in 45 minutes,' says Orjubin. 'For January, with 10,000 boxes, they were sold out in 24 hours.' There are now 100,000 subscribers in France alone.
'It's a media group, but it's also about surprise - delighting and surprising people in their mail box or in their life,' says Orjubin. Out of the box is their speciality; they've been known to send flowers to subscribers on their birthdays or create illustrated caricatures of their loyal Twitter followers. 'People trust us to curate and hand-pack - like if there is one place that you have to see this week it's here, because you have some much information everywhere,' she adds. From lifestyle tips to subscription boxes, My Little Paris is truly the gift that keeps on giving.