A few weeks back, we met Florian Gonzalez, an accomplished entrepreneur, who certainly knows how to appreciate quality craftsmanship. In 2011 he launched an exquisite concept, Jardins Florian, which is a design house, online store and magazine, specialised in high-quality crafted items, many of them limited editions. Devoted to excellence, functionality and simplicity at the same time, the philosophy of Jardins Florian is “to serve creativity and humanity, with a true art de vivre and dolce vita spirit” without compromising sustainability and social responsibility. More about his project that is close to our own values (& hearts) in an interview with Florian below as part of our Q&A series.
FC: Hello Florian, could you introduce yourself and tell us the story of “Jardins Florian”?
In a nuthshell, in 2007 I felt that I could not work for the mainstream luxury/fashion industry as it was. I wanted to reconcile my love for beautiful products together with traceability and sustainability. When completing my MBA in 2004-05 I was already chewing on a few business concepts around retail so the “Jardins Florian” concept came quite naturally. I moved from Milan to London with a view to launching a brick-and-mortar concept store and after the crisis hit retail so hard in 2009 I decided together with my advisors that it was better to wait. In 2011 we eventually launched our collaborative brand and shop online to be lighter in terms of investment and to adapt faster to the dramatically changing market.
FC: What are the challenges in selling such high quality products and how do you overcome those in today’s world?
There are quite many challenges. The main one is obviously the very costs of producing goods made with finest materials, manufactured by skilled craftsmen and women, keeping production where it should be (e.g. tea caddies in Kyoto, shoes in Milan etc.) even when wages are 10 to 20 times higher. Another one is to work with some niche brands because we pretty much have to promote them from scratch. We have extremely loyal followers and that’s our key engine as they follow our newsletter and some customers purchase pretty much everything we offer :)
FC: What proved to be the most effective method(s) to grow your community/presence/sales? What didn’t work at all? In other words, what you wish you knew when you started?
We have 2 implicit principles: “quality – quality – quality” and “service – service – service”! We play with social media platforms but we focus on how we serve our customers, spending as much time as necessary to please them. So in a way we keep things very human and a bit old school. Well, what did not work is pretty clear, the web has become extremely crowded and there are so many websites (including Amazon and eBay!), so many products that SEO and online marketing are dangerous for small companies… You have to be very savvy about where you invest your money, time and energy. When we started (2011) it was less crowded but in 3 years things have totally changed.
FC: You are selling only few food items. What are the difficulties to find and sell more artisan, high-quality products?
We have started selling some very unique spirits and we have a long list of food & beverage brands and products that want to be featured on our website. Of course in terms of shipping, customs, tax they are not the easiest categories… But we sell over the world and we like to solve problems so we are about to add up new categories and food products step by step…
FC: Some exciting foods you’re currently sourcing or you simply can’t have enough?
There will be chocolate at some point because I am very crazy about this :) We are also about to add up the very best Turkish coffee which, admittedly, is an unexpected move…
FC: What’s next for your project? Any exciting stuff you’d like to share?
Well, hard to pick one example as we work on 30-40 projects at the same time and we launch them only when the time is right however we are quite excited about skateboards which are coming within days, straight from California!! And they are the most sustainable decks which makes us even more proud!
FC: A last word for anyone who wants to make and sell authentic food, but are too scared/shy, don’t have time/money, or simply don’t know where to start?
JUST DO IT, NOW!!! Jump jump jump! Lack of money is always an excuse. Get started (even small) and learn to fly on the way.