It’s another edition of Lifestyles of the Startup Moms aka #BossLady! Native Parisienne Vidya Iyer is a mother-of-two and founder of the cold press juice line, Pressé Mignon. She and I met at a friend’s party last year, got soused on champagne together and didn’t see each other again until this interview because we’re both mompreneurs (seriously, candidate for worst portmanteau ever?) and we’ve got zero time—friends and acquaintances get bumped down the priority list, sadly.
Vidya is a ton of fun to drink bubbles with but she’s also a driven businesswoman who answers emails way more promptly than I do—and is incredibly kind and generous. She kept asking in her posh British accent, “What can I do to help LES LOLOS?”
Speaking to that generosity, Vidya is giving away a coffret of her Pressé Mignon juices to one VERY lucky LES LOLOS reader. As an experienced juice-drinker, I can tell you Pressé Mignon is one of the yummiest fresh juices I’ve ever tasted. Click here to enter the Giveaway!
Vidya talks with us about growing up Indian in Paris, balancing a long marriage with a new startup and how everyone should try being an entrepreneur at least once.
You seem so international/expat to me, but you were born and raised in Paris. You’re French!
Yes, I was born in Paris. My parents are from India. My father worked for the Indian foreign services and he was posted to Paris so that’s why they moved here. I grew up just outside of Paris. I went to an international school so I suppose I was used to seeing children from around the world. I did my university in Paris and also in Strasbourg so everything was in French. Then after my studies, I moved to London, where I started working and met my husband. We moved to the US and we’ve been back to Paris since the end of 2001. My kids were born here. They’re French, too.
We talked before about how when you were young, the Indian community here was really small.
It used to be very small. I don’t remember having grown up with any Indian children because there was no such thing as an Indian community in those days. Most of the people I knew were French or international from the school I went to, but nobody was Indian.
Is Paris where you feel most at home?
For a long time I didn’t feel most at home here because when I was growing up, I was always considered a foreigner. The world has changed because I don’t feel my children are growing up in the same one I did. It’s so much more international. So I think now, yes, this is where I was born, this is where I grew up, this is where my children were born.
What sparked the idea for launching Pressé Mignon?
I always wanted to launch a business because I think the whole idea of creating something is really exciting. When I was younger, I had loads of ideas and that’s one of the reasons I did an MBA. I wanted to have my own company because seeing all the aspects of how something runs is really fascinating. But then it didn’t fit into my life so I didn’t do it. Later, I was ready from a personal standpoint but was lacking ideas. My business partner (who’s French but lives in London) said, “Look I’ve seen the [cold press juice] trend in the US and the UK. There’s something big that we could be doing in Paris.” We decided to launch a range of cold press juices and nut milks for the Parisian market. There were already a few players when we started working on it a year or so ago. But that meant there was a market so it was a good thing. There are more players today so obviously this is a good idea.
How is Pressé Mignon different from other juice brands in Paris?
We observed that most of the cold press juices were about health and detox and eating less. Our proposition was to create something that’s first and foremost tasty and enjoyable. A juice for foodies. There’s nothing unhealthy about our juices or nut milks—they have the same number of calories as the others—but we really worked on the recipes and the taste. We wanted to make them interesting. The Pressé Mignon drinker is someone who drinks it because they enjoy it or they want a fruit and veggie supplement. But it’s someone who enjoys life and will also have a glass of wine. We don’t see that as being incompatible.
Can you explain the name Pressé Mignon because I thought it meant you’re busy and cute!
It’s a play on the words peché mignon which mean a little sin—a small, acceptable indulgence. France is the land of food and taste and wine and people enjoy what they eat. I think it’s important to have something tasty rather than something you should pinch your nose and drink. So… Pressé Mignon!
Do you find it difficult to manage working, motherhood, being a wife?
Not really. I think to some extent we are quite lucky in France. It’s very acceptable for a mom to go back to work here. There’s no stigma around it, there’s a structure in place and we get a good amount of help. So we’re lucky like that. It’s tricky because you have to juggle so many things, but it’s doable because I do have a nanny to help. I don’t know, I probably should ask my children. Maybe I’m not spending enough time with them! I also think they grow up in a world where most of their friends have a working mum, a working father—and I think it’s just normal for them. But in a given day, we have a job, we have our children, we have our husbands, we have our friends and we have the activities we like to do and something’s got to give, obviously, because you can’t have everything.
What’s giving for you right now?
I don’t think I spend enough time with my friends. I don’t call enough. I see them only once in a while. I don’t follow up as much as I should. I always say I’m not a very good friend. But I find most of my female friends who have families are as busy as I am. So are the single ones, actually, because they’re busy going out. In terms of activities, I manage to go to a dance class, modern jazz, religiously once a week. I try to do yoga on Fridays but I somehow never manage it. I don’t read enough. I don’t cook as much anymore. You can’t do everything. Where I prioritize are my family and my work.
Do you have any advice for women who want to create a business or a startup?
My advice is don’t be scared to fail. Do it. France is very conservative and the job market is difficult. It’s still a market where people are valued for an expertise in a certain area and it’s very difficult to expand from that. The environment isn’t easy but if you really want to do it, you should try. There are means of doing it. You can stop working for six months to a year. There are things like congé de formation, congé création d’entreprise.
What is that? I don’t even know about it!
Very few people know about it because it’s not publicized. You can get six to twelve months off work and you’re guaranteed a job (not necessarily the one you left) when you come back. The other thing is when you’re an entrepreneur, you meet a lot of other entrepreneurs and you see how they handle it. It’s not for everyone but you don’t know until you try it.
Do you think certain traits are required to be an entrepreneur?
I think so. You have to be very self-motivated and it’s not always easy. You have to be focused because otherwise you can’t make it work and I’m not at a point yet where I can say I’ve made it work. You have to get out there and make sure you’re not alone. It’s easier to have a cofounder because you bear the load differently. But even if you don’t have a cofounder, make sure you go out there and meet other entrepreneurs. I recently took up an office in a shared space and it’s great. It’s motivating. Don’t let being a mom stop you from being an entrepreneur. Having small children is actually a blessing in disguise because no matter what, you have to be up and ready by 8:30 am—so you can’t sleep in and start work at 2 pm and go on all night! And come 6 or 7 pm, your kids need you. You have to focus and I think your efficacy is higher as a mom.
You’ve been married a really long time. Any relationship advice?
Twenty years this September. One thing I don’t like about being an entrepreneur is that after your day is over, it’s not over. No matter where you go—at home, with friends—people always ask you questions about your business and people always have an opinion. It’s lovely, but it gets to a point where you just want to unwind and talk about anything else. I’ve tried not to talk about my work too much at home purely because I want to unwind. But I think at times my husband feels left out, like he doesn’t understand what’s going on. I guess my advice would be try and share. It’s a family commitment. You’re not doing it on your own. Being an entrepreneur has implications for everyone in the family.