French entrepreneur brings 'art of living' into local community
The road to being a successful female entrepreneur – be it a restaurant owner, a designer, a gallery owner or a retailer – can be bumpy. In this series, "She Power," we talk to women from different countries, different backgrounds about their experiences and stories of setting up businesses in Shanghai. One thing these amazing women all have in common – they all yearn to build a brand that does good, that gives purpose and fulfillment, and even a palpable sense of joy.
Stephanie Sallette is the co-founder of Studio NooSH, a responsible interior decor brand established in Shanghai in 2020. The Parisienne has been a serial entrepreneur in fashion and e-commerce for 15 years. She arrived in Shanghai five years ago with her Portuguese husband Goncalo and for three years has been president of the non-profit women's French-speaking association La Ruche as she believes in women's empowerment.
Q: Why, after living in Shanghai for a few years, did you decide to strike out on your own and build up a lifestyle brand?
A: As expats, we are living in houses that are usually not ours and far away from our families and the homes we once created. My Dutch friend Kim Duker (who is now back in the Netherlands) and I had the desire to create a warm atmosphere where our loved ones and guests felt at home and welcome.
Studio NooSh was born in 2020 with these thoughts. Not being able to travel the world, nor to see our families, we felt we needed to "upgrade" our homes to feel good. But the message COVID brought to us was we also needed to respect mother nature. Therefore, we created a brand with strong values around sustainability and craftsmanship, for those who care about people, the planet, and their impact on both.
Q: What are you trying to bring to the local community through Studio NooSH's creations?
A: Rooted in the French Art de Vivre, my passion for eating well and celebrating life developed itself into Studio NooSH and its table linen collection.
In France, where I grew up, the art of living is first and foremost the art of enjoying yourself. Eating well means going for pure food, high-quality ingredients with real taste, seasonal produce from local farmers, home-cooked dishes made with love. And the enjoyment is just as important as the ingredients. Setting a beautiful table, lighting candles, taking the time to really taste the food and receiving all the pleasure it can give are also a big part of l'Art de Vivre.
The chatter of loved ones, the feel of soft linens and spotless cutlery, the smell of a heavenly dish, and finally the taste – it is all meant to sing together to be the highlight of your day, to relax and unwind.
By putting more love, beauty and attention into your daily life, your food, routines and surroundings, you will embrace l'art de vivre and this is what I am trying to share and bring to my local community in Shanghai.
Q: What are the biggest challenges in setting up a business here?
A: My biggest challenge is to push a product that is not in the Chinese consumer habits. Linen fabric is not an easy product to sell to the Chinese community because they first are not familiar with it, and there are a lot of preconceived and wrong beliefs about how to take care of it.
Most people don't know all the benefits about using linen compared with cotton. Linen is much better for health, skin and the environment. Just like a fine wine, linen just gets better with age, even softer and more lovely the more it's slept in. I was talking earlier about art de la table which is also not part of the Chinese culture. I would say that my main challenge is cultural differences.
Q: How do you stay motivated?
A: My motivation comes in many ways. First, the people. We work closely with a small number of trusted, certified local suppliers with whom we have built strong relationships.
Then our customers and clients. We personalize our collection with embroideries for B2C and B2B channels. We love working on new ideas and projects to help create amazing moments around the table.
Presenting our new brand, le reve d'anfu, in January this year in Paris at the Maison & Objet fair was a major step for us. Maison & Objet Paris is one of the decoration and lifestyle industry's most highly publicized events. The response was positive and reinforced our desire to go on with our brand and position it in the premium segment.
Q: What's the moment that made you most proud?
A: I am in general proud to be able to create a brand and beautiful products to create happiness in people's lives, that have sustainable values, and be able to keep them throughout our supply chain. It is very important for me and was one of the key conditions to start this new adventure. I am very concerned about the environment and the world we are living in. It is fundamental to be part of the change and acknowledge we need to change our way to consume.
Q: What are you working on?
A: At the moment, we are working on a few projects with restaurants that will open soon and want to have custom-made napkins and tablecloths. We are also working on the new collection we will present at the next fairs we will be attending in Paris and in Shanghai.
Q: Do you have any advice for other women entrepreneurs?
A: As an entrepreneur, I know how hard it is to build a brand from the ground up. It takes extreme sacrifice, both personally and professionally.
When you are an entrepreneur, you tend to be isolated and lonely in a new venture so reach out to your peers who will help you save time on many subjects. Entrepreneurs are often willing to share contacts and resources. I am an oversharer at heart. I prefer to share my sources and contacts versus gatekeeping – it's just who I am. We have a great entrepreneurs' community in Shanghai and we help each other a lot.
I suggest not waiting to have everything perfect before starting a new business. You are learning along the road. To create a pool of mentors that you can meet on a monthly basis that will give you feedback on your challenges.