At Work with Rasmus Michau, Paris


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At Work with Rasmus Michau, Paris

The Marais office of Hmm! is stark and all white, a place Rasmus Michau admittedly spends little time these days. A former marketing executive at L’Oréal, he started Hmm! three years ago as a creative design firm catering to the luxury goods industry.

A lean operation with four full-time employees and minimal overhead, Michau intends to keep it that way. Even with clients slashing their events’ budgets, Hmm! seems streamlined enough to weather the worst of the financial crisis.

Despite a clientele including industry heavyweights like Cartier, Uniqlo, and Diesel, Michau is quick to emphasize that he wants Hmm! to stay “boutique” and “keep things interesting.” As he puts it, “We have a reputation so we can pick and choose our clients.”

With Hmm! more or less “running on its own,” Michau has been free to pursue other interests. Around Paris, he is best known as the “Grand Blond” behind the Soirées Bagatelle – outdoor parties held in the Bois de Boulogne during the summer. The sight of Parisians dancing the night away dressed as pregnant Snow Whites might sound more like a twisted fantasy out of a Tarantino film than a fête in the bourgeois 16th arrondissement, but that’s the fun of it.

Michau attributes some of his success to being one of the first promoters in Paris to use Facebook to spread buzz for his parties. With over 5,000 friends on Facebook, Michau considers social networking, both online and off, to be an integral part of his business. An average afternoon includes a few hours of status updates and friend requests – not bad for a day’s work.

These days, Michau seems most absorbed in promoting his new line of Blitz Tequila. With Paris’ cocktail culture on the rise, along with his marketing background and contacts in the nightlife business, Michau saw an unexplored opportunity in the spirits industry. He quickly tied up a deal with a German CO2
negative distillery using spring water from the Black Forest with organic agave from Mexico.

Ever the marketing executive, Michau stresses the importance of brand affinity. With the example of Grey Goose, he knows the importance of getting a bottle of Blitz into the right hands before expanding. He sees Blitz as the new “European tequila.”

While he negotiates distribution deals throughout Europe, bars are the focus for now. In just two weeks, he re-branded a failing bar off the Champs-Elysées into Paris’ only tequila bar, all without a mariachi band in sight. With Blitz Tequila Bar on 40 Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, Michau is aiming for the atmosphere of Berlin in the roaring twenties, where tequila was actually the spirit of choice. Hence the yodeling on the stereo, a lederhosen-clad staff, and a German transvestite host.

Michau also plans to open two new locations of Blitz Tequila Bar in London’s West Ham neighborhood and in Berlin’s Mitte District by February. He also has a new karaoke restaurant in the works. Housed in a renovated 1920’s theater, “Le Renard,” or “the Fox,” should open by March behind the Centre Pompidou.

When asked about Paris today, Michau feels that despite an increasingly international feel, Parisian culture and identity remains as strong as when he arrived fifteen years ago.

He acknowledges the bureaucratic difficulties that foreign entrepreneurs face in his adopted city, but with his rolodex of connections, he has a knack for making it look easy.

Nearing 35 with a serious girlfriend, Michau knows he can’t be “le king nocturne” forever, nor does he want to be. After all, he’s a businessman with an eye to the exits, looking for the next opportunity.

So how does Michau enjoy his days off? A quiet lunch at Café des Musées, dinner at Yam’Tcha – most importantly with friends. For the holidays, he relaxed with family in Denmark before a ski trip to Switzerland with his girlfriend. Look for his reign to continue in 2010.

by Trafton Kenney
Photo by Mateja Smigoc

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