We all know too well that I’m a self proclaimed Flea Market Junkie. What you might not know about me is that for about a decade, France was second home to me. I split my time between my So Cal home and a family farmhouse in a tiny village near Cognac. The french countryside was good to me and I would spend hours going to the markets and brocantes looking for home decor to bring home to my retail store, Posies, that I owned at the time. My time there had a huge influence on my design philosophy and aesthetic. The allure and charm that one-of-a-kind French vintage pieces have has never left me and it's no coincidence that my best friend, Laura, lives in France and is my go to source for stunning French vintage decor. I couldn't be more excited that she is expanding her offerings to include vintage furnishings! She agreed to be interviewed for my design blog while in town on vacation. So, without further ado...
Introducing Souvenirs de Voyages, the one-woman business, bringing stunning French decor straight do your door via her Etsy Shop....and yes, luckily for us she does ship internationally! Laura Hesse is the brains behind this creative endeavor, and if you're a Francophile like me, you are going to love hearing all about what she's got planned for this upcoming year!
Laura, tell us where you live and the story behind Souvenirs de Voyages.
I relocated to the Normandy region of France in 2011 from southern California. I didn't have an easy time adjusting when I got there but I was able to make some friends. Unfortunately, a couple of years later, my closest friend relocated to Asia in 2013 for her husband's job. I was really sad and knew that I needed to find something to occupy my time. I didn't speak French at the time and couldn't take on a traditional job so my brother, who owns a successful Etsy Shop, suggested that I open one myself. I opened Souvenirs de Voyages in March of 2013 and then I opened my second shop, French Religious Finds, in September of 2013.
Tell me about the name of your shop, Souvenirs de Voyages.
I honestly didn't really know what I was doing when I started out. I had several "souvenirs" on hand that I wanted to list, they were items that I had acquired over the years from my different trips so I named my store Souvenirs de Voyages.
How did you know where to find stuff?
I remembered that there was a Foire a Tout that I had been to before that had vintage items so I went online to see where it was and started searching for other places that sell vintage items.
You started searching online in French?!?
Yes. When there is a will, there is a way! You'd be amazed at how much Google Translate has come in handy when your first move to France!
Speaking of translate...tell us what a Foire A Tout is?
Foire a tout is a Normandy phrase that means 'fair has everything'. I also source from local Brocantes and Marche aux Puces (flea markets).
Did you think that it was going to be a hobby business when you started?
Honestly, I didn't know. I just started buying stuff. I think back to the first items that I purchased and I probably wouldn't even look at them today. I've learned so much, my style has evolved and I know what my clients like to buy now.
Who are your clients?
I have clients from all over the world. They range from Collectors to Decorating Enthusiasts to Interior Designers and Celebrities.
Well, you know I have to ask! Which celebrities?
Unfortunately, I can't share who the celebrities are but Soho House in West Hollywood has also purchased items from my shop!
What do the Interior Designers like to buy from you?
It varies but funnily enough, the wall mounted coat racks are really popular with Interior Designers. The shabbier, the better!
What's the biggest struggle you've faced as an Etsy Shop owner?
Time management. I need to structure it more like a work day.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to open an Etsy Shop?
Try to post 2 items per day - it helps keep your shop visible when people are searching for items that you carry. You can't just list 5 items and then never list anything again. No one will find your shop.
Also, how you tag your items are very important.
Facebook and Pinterest are the social media platforms that drive the largest amount of traffic to my shop. I'm going to be focusing on Instagram more too.
An Etsy Shop is a great way to make extra money plus you can put as little or as much into it as you like.
What has been your best moment as an Etsy Shop owner?
One of my items, a beautiful large copper tray, was featured in the Etsy Lookbook last year.
What's new on the horizon for you and your business?
I have a new endeavor with another Etsy shop owner - a women that I met while going to the different Foire A Touts in the region. She's a creative and makes window treatments for her Interior Designer clients in London. She and I are collaborating our efforts to offer vintage French furniture and home decor. We really want to position ourselves as the go-to source in France for Designers to source vintage French furnishings and decor. She recently purchased a farmhouse and we are using it as home base to warehouse our furniture items and to shoot our photos.
So, I saw somewhere that you offer Brocante Tours, is that something that you still offer? Let's say there was an American Interior Designer that was interested in Vin-tiquing in Normandy, would you be able to hook them up?
The short answer is yes. I am currently working on what that would look like on the back end but I definitely can coordinate Brocante Tours in the Normandy region.
There you have it it!! MY secret is out! Thank you Laura for taking the time to let me interview you while you were on vacation! If you would like to visit Laura's Etsy Shop, Souvenirs de Voyage, click HERE. You can also visit her second shop called French Religious Finds by clicking HERE. The second shop specializes in vintage religious icons and relics from France. Connect with her HERE on Facebook to find out about her latest endeavors and offerings!
As always, if you need help working vintage decor items into your space or if you space just needs a refresh click the Contact Tab so we can connect. Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter to receive my musings straight to your inbox! Au revoir!