What turns a good idea into a profitable idea? What resources do you need to succeed? We sit down with our editor and My French Country Home founder, Sharon Santoni, to hear about how she became an “accidental entrepreneur” and now runs a successful, multi-faceted company.
When was the moment that My French Country Home blog became a business?
My French Country Home first started in February 2010 as a blog. At that point, the youngest of my four children was 13 years old. Having been a very hands-on mom, it was difficult for me to see my children growing up so fast and not needing me as much. I wanted to do something new, to reinvent myself. I started the blog not knowing if anyone would read me, and to my surprise and delight, the readers started to turn up.
For the first two years, I blogged every single day – goodness knows how I found so much to talk about! One of my favorite subjects was showing the items that I bought at the local Sunday brocante fairs. Shortly after I started doing this, I began receiving emails from readers asking if they could shop with me. A year later, I ran my first brocante tour in France.
The tours were fun, but not really a business model. It wasn’t until the publisher Gibbs Smith approached me with a book offer that my website really grew. A book is a great way to give a website more credibility and visibility.
With this new, wider audience, I decided to launch my subscription box – My Stylish French Box – in 2017. It was a big and exciting step and yet another learning curve. This was the moment when My French Country Home truly became a business. As well as curating beautiful boxes for clients around the world, it also allowed me to build relationships with many traditional French brands.
I am happy that my business is an ambassador for all things French – our lifestyle, brands and the beautiful countryside.
My French Country Home Magazine launched at the beginning of this year. Why did you decide to do it? And what bricks needed to be in place before that could happen?
I wanted to explore a new channel of communication with our readers and to reinforce the MFCH brand. The blogging world has evolved a great deal since I first started, and I was looking for a way to reach a new audience, one who does not necessarily read blogs.
We were able to launch the magazine thanks to a great network of contributors, including talented photographers and journalists who are excited about our new project.
What does starting a magazine involve? What are some of the finer elements that readers might not know?
Until you have published a magazine, it is difficult to realize just how much content is required for each edition. Finding the right balance to the content; sourcing images, recipes and products for the shopping pages. There is a lot of searching and coordinating.
Like in fashion, we are working ahead of the seasons. If we shoot a garden, the images will not be used until the following year. By the time our readers have the current edition in their hands, we are already tying up the next edition.
The subscription box, the magazine, the tours: aside from essential multitasking, what does it really take to manage an umbrella brand?
A great team! We are still a very small company, and while we each have our specialty, everyone on the team is able to multitask and step into any role required. I am fortunate to have the help of talented, young women working with me, who share my love of all things French.
What did your life experience bring to your business? And conversely, what have your experiences in business brought to your life?
I have no training in business, and so I came into this armed with my passion for France, a good dose of common sense and the experience of managing a household budget for many years. Although it looks as if the business has grown quickly, we actually have taken it one step at a time. Each new project is launched and mastered before adding anything more.
Creating and managing this business has opened some amazing doors. I have met fascinating people, and I really enjoy my daily work, whether that’s interacting with my team, hosting our clients on the tours or working with French brands for the boxes.
Looking back on the last ten years, is there anything that you would do differently?
Of course, there’s been highs and lows, but when I look back, honestly, these past ten years have been a really fun ride!
The Million Dollar Question: how do you balance home and work life?
Today’s technology allows each member of the My French Country Home team to work remotely, meaning that we only get together once or twice a month. I am happy that none of us need to spend time each day commuting to work.
I am extremely lucky to have my office at home. We have an old French house with several barns and outbuildings, so the office is only a 5-second commute. That is a real luxury. My husband also has his office at home, which means we have lunch together each day.
The trick is knowing when to turn off. It is so important to leave the office and enjoy evenings and weekends.
What are your tips for someone that is starting a business from scratch?
Don’t run before you can walk. We juggle many different elements of our company each day, but it is only possible because the company has grown gradually. Make sure that each new element is mastered and understood before going on to the next.
And finally, your tough-moment mantra?
Breathe deep. Take it one step at a time.
Interested in hearing more stories from inspiring entrepreneurs? In our “Femme D’Affaires” series, we feature interesting and passionate female entrepreneurs from all walks of life.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of My French Country Home Magazine.