Florence Giraudon set up BuyMeDesign to showcase unique new products
Florence Giraudon came to Hong Kong with her husband in 2009 in search of something different. She found it - but it wasn't where she was expecting.
"I had wanted to come to Asia for a long time, so I quit everything to try something new," says the Frenchwoman. "I had two job interviews, but then I decided that wasn't for me. I wanted to start my own business."
With a master's degree in design and 10 years of experience working for design agencies - where she moved from graphic design to digital strategy and branding for various French luxury brands - it was obvious what field she was going to target. She'd already been sharing her body of design knowledge via contributions to a lifestyle magazine, but now she wanted to share it faster, more often and with more people. Everything seemed to be pointing in one direction - a blog.
"With the magazine, it was boring," she says. "With the web, it is addictive. Plus the beauty of the web is that we can be on different sides of the world and can still connect."
Giraudon knew that there were thousands of designers in need of exposure, but they either didn't have the time or the know-how to get it. This got her thinking about a combination blog and e-commerce platform that would allow designers to commercialise their inventions.
Before long, together with her husband, she formed BuyMeDesign, an online design curator that spots design trends and introduces visionary designers and their products to the world.
"We knew a lot about social media and going online is the best way to get exposure," she says. "Designers need a platform to kick-start things, so we help connect them with retailers and consumers."
Since launching the website at Hong Kong's "Business of Design Week" event in 2010 with a single product - the Pop Phone by Native Union, which has since reached iconic status - Giraudon has spent her days reading design newsletters, examining products and connecting with designers. She currently has 250 designers working with the website and adds at least one new design every week.
"Our content is 100 per cent original and everything is there because I select it," she says. "The products have to be good, they have to be unique, and they have to be things that you can't find in a store. They also have to be simple, authentic, eco-friendly, beautifully crafted, stylish, inventive and creative."
When she writes about the products - and the designers that create them - she keeps in mind that writing for blogs is different from writing for print media.
"Posts need to be short, casual, straightforward and informative," she says. "When we review a product, we tell readers how it works, why we like it and who the designer is."
Additional website content includes interviews with designers, product reviews and top-10 lists. Everything together has helped the platform evolve into a community with 10,000 members that generates 20,000 clicks per day.
Giraudon says that people find BuyMeDesign through word of mouth within the design community and organic searches, though she also posts stories on news wires. She attends design shows and fairs - sometimes partnering with them - and is also active on social media, especially Facebook.
"Our Facebook site is a mirror image of our blog," she says. "We post a mixture of our blog's content on it, including albums that link back to product pages and blog articles on the website. We publish things from early in the morning to late at night."
She also uses Twitter to connect with influential industry figures and designers, as well as Pinterest, Fancy, and Google Plus, but all to a lesser degree than Facebook.
The secret to her success so far, she says, is passion. "When you are an entrepreneur, you have to be passionate. It's what drives me. If I am not sleeping, I am online. Every day I discover amazing new ideas, creations that I hadn't even thought about before," she says.
She adds that she is inspired by examples of skilled craftwork. "I am inspired by someone who can take a piece of leather and turn it into a nice object with his hands," she says.
Giraudon was born into a family of design enthusiasts. Her grandfather was an oenologist, her grandmother created hats, her mother practised ikebana - the Japanese art of flower arranging - while her father was an entrepreneur.
Perhaps following in her father's footsteps, she says her role model is not a designer, but a person whose expertise was predominantly on the business side of things. "It's Helena Rubinstein," she says. "She came from Poland, went to America and built [a beauty-products] empire. She had a vision and a passion for one thing, and she dedicated her life to it."
Florence's Five Favourite Designs
Bubble Chair by Eero Aarnio "It swallows sound and you feel isolated inside. That makes it unique as everyone enjoys a different experience."
Cocon by Les M "It is the coziest chair in the world. It is smart, fun and protective - I would love to have it made for two to chill out and daydream."
Ostrich Pillow by Kawamura Ganjavian "I laughed when I saw it, but I found it amazingly smart. The best thing about it is that it allows you to sleep anywhere - you may look silly doing it, but a quick snooze can increase your productivity."
Star by Marco King Chan "This has become my favourite ring, it's like a secret signature weapon. Every time I wear it, people ask where I found it."
Twine by Molami "The speakers for these headphones are embedded in the headband ... of silk-satin and chiffon brands, with adjustable positions to make it comfy. It's very pastoral and elegant."