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Mastering the art of French e-commerce

Posted by Chad O'Connor  March 27, 2014 10:30 AM

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French native Isabelle Beck was born in Lyon, France. Recipient of an Award for being “the youngest lawyer in France,” she began practicing law at the age of 20. After a successful 34-year career as an attorney in France, Isabelle decided to begin a second life in the US. Following her passion for art, decoration, and beautiful products, she moved to Massachusetts in 2013 and founded Your French Gift to bring the best of France to the US.

JS: What is Your French Gift? (YFG)
IB: Your French Gift, LLC is an American company dedicated to selling French imports through a brick and mortar store in Wellesley Hills, and an online store: It’s a unique concept in this country, selecting and distributing not just French but unique imports for the home, men, women and children, as well as art, beauty and lifestyle products.

JS: Why did you launch YFG?
IB: I wanted to promote French savoir-faire (know-how) and art de vivre (art of living). That’s why many of the brands I carry have received the prestigious label of Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (Living Heritage Company, or EPV), a mark of recognition from the French Government rewarding French companies for the excellence of their skills. I also wanted to support small French artisan companies and workshops who continue to design and manufacture handcrafted products of exceptional quality.

JS: Why did you launch YFG in the USA, rather than in Europe / somewhere else?
IB: I chose to launch YFG in the US because this country encourages entrepreneurship, and because I believe that there is a huge market here for authentic French goods. I feel that there is a lot of interest for French refinement, particularly in New England, which is one of the reasons why I chose to settle in this region.

JS: How does your career in law help you in your business?
IB: Having a law background makes me sensitive to potential legal issues. For example, one of the first things I did when I created YFG, was to register the trademark for the brand and other similar names. I am also vigilant about respecting laws and regulations that apply to my business. Another aspect where my previous career makes a difference is the human factor. As an attorney, I learned to listen and understand people’s needs, and to advise them in their best interest. Today, I still listen to my customers and help them choose gifts or purchase something that they will enjoy.

JS: What kind of customers did you seek to find / what do you provide which is unique?
IB: The ideal customer is Francophile of any age or background. Many of the people who come into my store enjoy sharing their stories about trips to France, French relatives, or their dreams about France. The big difference between YFG and other online French stores is the fact that I have already imported the goods and everything is available to ship immediately. Another difference is the variety of products I carry. Unlike my competition, I am not specialized in a specific type of product. YFG carries more than 1600 references, 40 different brands, in more than 45 product categories. This means that customers can find something for every occasion, no matter what their budget is, and be sure that what they purchased is unique and of the finest quality.

JS: Many customers go online to focus on cost-savings. Your company focuses on quality instead. How do you make clear to customers that your products have an emphasis on quality?
IB: The first thing is to make sure that everything looks beautiful and elegant, not only the website design, but also the decoration and merchandising of the Wellesley store. The second and probably most important thing is educating the consumer. Each product sheet on the online store has a description of the brand, and many have downloadable documents explaining the history of the company or the manufacturing process. And when customers visit the store, or call the store prior to an online purchase, we inform them on the product and explain what makes it special. Not surprisingly, once someone has seen and touched our products, they can tell the difference with mass-produced goods they’ve seen elsewhere, and they really appreciate the quality.

JS: How do you manage running both a retail and an online shop? Do you see more of your business operating online?
IB: I will not lie, it is a challenge to operate both. I feel that it’s important to offer our customers the luxury of shopping from home, but it’s equally important for local customers to have the opportunity to see, touch and feel the product, and have a more human experience. Looking towards the future, it is my ambition for YFG to become the number one French imports online store in the US, while simultaneously developing the retail chain and opening stores throughout the country in locations where it makes sense.

JS: Thank you very much for taking the time to tell us about your splendid venture. We wish you great success for Your French Gift!

John Henry Silva is Chair the French-American Chamber of Commerce, New England ( FACCNE ) Young Professionals Committee.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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