Hélène Fulchi – Living in Portugal as a foreinger

30 years ago, my parents decided to migrate from Portugal to Switzerland. They were economic migrants. Their motivation was not to try out something new or make a new life experience. They were very young and just needed money to raise their daughter and give her the best future possible. My parents didn't know a thing about Swiss culture or language. My father had to leave his family for four years. That time was needed to get my mother and me a permanent residence permit. It was not easy at all for my parents, specially for my father. He missed out on so many things (first steps, first words, many firsts).

Every year, we flew back to Portugal and spent three weeks there. I didn't really enjoy it full time (to be honest). We spent maybe five days at the beach and the rest of the time we were on the road visiting family. I know, family is important but I also think that your roots are not only family but can also be a country and its culture. This is a very personal revelation but I guess, it's just honest to admit. I grew up six years in Portugal but I can barely remember a thing. Then we moved to Switzerland. I always loved to explore and learn new things. And here in Switzerland, I remember being very afraid of not fitting in. So I tried desperately to become as Swiss as possible. And therefore was not interested in my Portuguese heritage anymore. Thank god my parents had problems with learning Swiss German, so we kept speaking Portuguese at home. I went to Portuguese school on Saturday mornings (it was torture for me). Today, I see that it was very important even if I don't remember a thing about history and geography anymore but I learned how to speak, read and write (more or less).

Ok, this was a very long intro to the actual story I want to tell in this post. But I guess it is important to understand why this post is so important to me and why I chose to talk to the wonderful Hélène Fulchi, founder of Minois. Hélène moved to Portugal almost one year ago with her husband and little daughter. Their motivation to migrate was not the same as my parents'. They didn't do it because of existential reasons or because of bad living conditions in their home country France. They visited Portugal before, they knew Lisboa, they fell in love with the country and its living culture and they were looking for a new adventure!

Hélène, tell us a bit more about yourself. Where do you come from?

I'm originally from Bordeaux and used to work in Marketing. Before deciding to move to Portugal, my husband and I lived in Paris and than we moved to Bordeaux. We've always liked to go on new adventures and try out something new. He's actually a lawyer but now he has his own menswear collection called Drapeau Noir. I always knew, that some day, I wanted to create my own brand – tell a wonderful story. I specially love the children's world. And when I was pregnant with my daughter, Paz, the idea of Minois came up.

In two years you had a daughter, built up a company and moved to another country! How did you manage all this?

Yes, and my husband started his own business three years ago too! But as said, we always loved to explore new things and we are doers. We tend to jump into new things and not think too much. With Minois it was actually very easy. I worked and still work for myself whenever, where ever I want. The production takes place in south west of France and I also have someone taking care of the shipping to stores and manage the direct orders via our online shop. I travel there to create and develop new products. But otherwise, I'm very flexible.

With Minois your dream of creating a world came true. What is Minois?

Minois is a line of children’s organic cosmetics. With the birth of Paz I felt that nothing would be good enough for my baby's skin. This inspired me to create my own line of children skin care. I had one clear goal: to create safe and reliable products that can be used on babies from birth till children's age. Our products are free from parabens, sulphates, phenoxyethanol, silicones and artificial colourings, in order to respect the PH balance of little ones’ delicate and sensitive skin. This is also why the Minois' packaging is delicate and has soft colors. It reflects the ingredients.

You used to work in Marketing. How did you establish your business?

Instagram! Seriously, I started to build up the Minois world on Instagram. Specially blogger mums loved the products and started to share pictures with their babies and the products. That's how re-sellers got to know me. Now I sell Minois Paris all over Europe, the USA and Canada. We have three re-sellers in Switzerland too. Furthermore, my story is authentic, I think. I'm a mother too and I want the best for my daughter.

Do you sell Minois products in Portugal?

Yes, I have a partnership with Cabana Shop and Casa Mae. The Portuguese market is new to me and I'm exploring new ways to present the products to a wide public. In France I went to fairs. Here in Portugal, I still have to find a platform like that.

Your campaigns are always so beautiful. You show Paz on the pictures but you never reveal her face.

Yes, I don't want to over expose her to the public. Her privacy is very important to me. However, she's older now and likes to move a lot. She's also a very curious girl. In the new campaign this was a challenge. She started playing with the camera and did not want to stay still. That was fun!

We chose to talk to you, because you live in Lisboa as a foreigner. How was the moving to Portugal? Did you have any problems?

The moving was great! We had no problems so far. Maybe we were very lucky, or maybe we just didn't worry so much. We knew Portugal, we love the country and specially Lisboa. Its culture, the friendly and genuine people, the good food and the beaches. Oh, the beaches! Sometimes it's hard to concentrate on work, when the sun is out. You'd rather go to the beach. There's one challenge, the language! Portuguese is so difficult. But I want to learn it, also out of respect to the people living here. My daughter already understands everything and is starting to speak Portuguese now at school.

Your daughter visits a Portuguese school. Some foreigners send their children to international schools.

We want Paz to learn the language and culture. She will always be French and speak our language anyway at home and with our family.

Are you planing on staying in Lisboa?

Absolutely! We want to buy a place in the city. My husband produces Drapeau Noir's collection up north near Porto. This is our home now.

What do you miss about living in Bordeaux, France?

Friends and Family. That's it. To be honest, I don't miss anything more. And I can always get into a plane and visit them. It's not that far.

One last question, which are your favorite places to eat?

The Copenhagen Coffee for breakfast and brunch. But unfortunately, most of the people are tourists or foreigners. And I adore the A Cevicheria. And the Cantinho do Avillez!

Thank you Hélène for the honest and inspiring talk! Enter the world of Minois on Instagram.

Pictures by Minois Paris