Caroline Filou, a French entrepreneur who runs her own business from Lisbon. Pois Selection, which works with the best artisanal and a great selection of products and Portuguese brands.
Pois Selection® is specialized in original and authentic “Corporate & Souvenirs Gifts” made in Portugal, including business gifts, welcome gifts, media gifts, promotional giveaways to souvenir gifts for all special events: seminars, conferences, congresses, meeting, incentive travel, conventions, team-building, wedding celebrations, venues group, Hotel resorts in Portugal.
Brands and artisans you won’t find everywhere, permanent new products and capsule collaborations. We tried to offer inspiring and original corporate gifts for all type of occasions.
How this project was created?
I created 6 years ago with a French friend of mine Pois Selection® in November 2012 in Lisbon after falling in love with the Portuguese products and handicraft.
My partner left the business 2 years ago and I continue managing and expanding the whole business with the support of a great team of local French and Portuguese free-lancers working with me.
Pois Selection® is also one of the European leading wholesale distributors of the Arcalo® chairs & tables.
I fall 4 years ago totally in love with this original Lisbon Coffee chair since 1940, a symbol of the Portuguese culture and design. The Arcalo® Gonçalo chair is on my opinion more than a chair, it captures everything I love and is great about the Lisbon lifestyle, cafés, traditions and culture.
With my now 7 years experience of the Portuguese market, I also offer an agent and wholesale services for retailers, bars, café, Hotels, restaurants, design shops, architects offices and small exclusive groups in order to help them to distribute, promote or discover Portuguese products.
Last year I organized in collaboration with “A Vida Portuguesa” a 2 months “Made in Portugal” pop-up in a well known decoration concept store in Paris named la Trésorerie.
This year I organized a breakfast with the French Marie-Claire Enfants Magazine and Paris famous bloggers to present the future Arcalo kid chair and share some insights tips and kids brands of Lisbon.
Recently I organized a 3 days Food tours in Lisbon for the German Leaders Club, an association of gastronomes and restaurant owners to show them the Portuguese Gastronomy, new chefs and food concepts and Portuguese heritage.
Do you pursue the best selection of Portuguese handicraft?
I work with selected Portuguese brands and artisans to provide the best, always looking for new and original products.
My selection is a mix of the must have Portuguese products and brands like the Castelbel soap, the Alma Gémea cork & ceramic collection, the Vista Alegre Alma de Lisboa collection, the Pelcor cork collection, the beautiful Burel blankets. And a selection of still unknown artisans, brands and artists working with Pois Selection.
One of my bestseller for example is a leather sardine key ring done by a small artisan near Santarém, only per phone reachable!
2 years ago, I discovered a new Portuguese-French artist creating amazing tiles artisanal soap. I’m also working with a young ceramic tiles artist with her atelier still in Campo de Ourique who revisited the traditional azujelos with contemporary pattern, all still handmade.
I selected for the stationery category, two young notebooks brands, one still working with an old Portuguese Oliva sewing machine and the other one still hand-sewing their notebook covers.
Not only the selection of the product itself is important, I’m also very interesting in the history and makers behind each product.
The products can be customized with tailor-made needs, according to the thematic and specifications of each client.
How do you define your brand “Pois Selection”?
Pois Selection is much more than a simple Portuguese gifts selection, Pois Selection seeks to offer a whole made in Portugal gifts selection with a hand-picked selection of products and brands.
Our aim is to represent the Portuguese savoir-faire and know-how through our products and gifting offer. All we wish is that our made in Portugal gifts selection find a place in the corporate, professional gifting market in Portugal as well as abroad. I’m very proud to notice the last years, a mentality change in the B2B gifting market: our clients value more and more the Made in Portugal synonym of quality, design, original and handcrafted products.
What is the profile of the clients that approach you? And what are they looking for?
For the corporate and souvenirs gifts business, 40% of my clients are International companies and event agencies organizing event and seminars in Portugal. I work with foreign companies like Google Dublin, Dominos Pizza Amsterdam, Toyota Europe, Michelin Paris, L’Oréal Paris. A lot of European pharmaceutical companies organizing conferences and seminars.
Portugal as an excellent stage for ceramic, cork, leather and textile?
“Made in Portugal” is today on a rise.
Indeed, Portugal is a very attractive production source and offers some treasures for our products and gifts selection in various fields. We worked closely with an important ceramic partner, where the family production is based in the heart of the ceramic region in Portugal, in Caldas da Rainha.
We have a selection of cork products because Portugal is the world’s top producer, not only for cork stoppers but more and more for design products. Cork is not only traditional but also a high added-value product. It is ecological, a pleasant and interesting material and it can be sophisticated and design mixed with other material like ceramic or fabric.
One of our leather suppliers is also a family business managing for 2 decades the business and working not only for the local market but also for a prestigious international brand.
I discovered some years ago after a few visits in the North of Portugal, the Portuguese textile know-how: we have some beach towels, cotton and jute bag suppliers near Porto where we can custom the products easily and in a small volume.
Algarve is also a rich region with our best salt flower supplier, straw baskets, and hat supplier.
I believe Portugal can be the ‘Made in’ choice for accessible, handcrafted and design products.
What is the biggest challenge for your business?
My everyday biggest challenge is “time” to simultaneously manage my own business and my private life, also a small company with 3 kids, a cat, a house and a traveling husband! And getting a nice and optimal balance. I don’t get enough time to cope with my all tasks. Secondly, it’s a great challenge for me to improve my selection, presence, online site, services, and new collaborations day by day. I’m lucky enough to get a nice free-lancers team with me. I follow a lot my instincts and I try to network a lot to exchange ideas and insights with some entrepreneurs groups and associations in Lisbon like the French uppers or Entreprendre.
Openness, flexibility and persistence are in my opinion the difference-makers and the right combination to manage your own business.
Today my aim is to establish Pois Selection as a recognized corporate gifts brand, keep my business increasing every year and pursue my biggest aim to continue through my gifts selection and various collaborations to promote the “made in Portugal”.
For the distribution of the Arcalo chairs, 60% are private clients who mostly traveled to Lisbon or Portugal and fall in love with the Arcalo chair during a coffee break in one of this typical Lisbon kiosk. They want to buy some Arcalo chairs for their garden, terrace, balcony or home to get again a Lisbon flair feeling.
30% are restaurant and café owners, choosing the Arcalo chairs for their terrace. Last year we furnished two big terraces of a very nice Mediterranean German Restaurant concept Oh Julia, in Stuttgart and Mannheim with white and almond green chairs. This year we had a funny request of the first Lisbon café in Stuttgart to furnish their terrace with white Arcalo chairs.
The last 10% are retailers and architects. In Paris, the concept store la Trésorerie is selling very well the Arcalo chairs in some specific colours: a black mat, a green olive colour and a calcada grey.