The following is an exclusive interview with Michael Costache a Jet Set concierge living and working in Monaco.
1. Where did you grow up and who influenced you most in your formative years?
I grew up in a lot of cities around Europe because of my father’s job. My father had a really big influence on me. He taught me how international business has to be managed and all the difficulties that comes with globalization and all the benefits that you can take from it. He also taught me that business is seen and developed differently considering where you live. I learned how important it is to keep that in mind when dealing with world wide clients because the trends that inspire them, their needs and their expectations radically differ from place to place.
2. When Americans think of Monaco we see a fairy tale land of royal families, castles, Grace Kelly and James Bond, how does our view differ from a locals’ perspective of Monaco?
Monaco is a magical world for a lot of people around the globe. It symbolizes a luxurious lifestyle, the jet set, the royal family, the Formula One Grand Prix and of course a great history with Grace Kelly and Prince Albert. The principality attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists throughout the year. Actually, living here all year long these elements become quite normal and just a part of everyday life. The Monegasque experience is totally different if you are a tourist or a local. People living in Monaco have their favorite spots when dining or chilling time comes. We all know each other and visit each other without even paying attention to the glamorous environment that the tourist or foreigners see on TV. As I said, it is totally normal to see a Ferrari or a Bentley at every street corner, meeting Lewis Hamilton or Michael Schumacher or even contemplating the most sumptuous yachts on the port all year long.
[Note from Rob: Monegasque is a romance language and a dialect of the modern Ligurian language, which is spoken in Monaco.]
3. How is living in Monaco different from living elsewhere?
Well, Monaco is located on the edge of Europe and across the Mediterranean and is synonymous with luxury, perfect weather and a certain lifestyle that you couldn’t find anywhere else. It’s just a very special place that attracts a lot of new potential citizens every year, because unlike other tax havens Monaco is associated with a very specific image. Once you’ve lived in Monaco it will never be the same as living in Switzerland or Andorra for example.
[Note from Rob: Monaco attracts high net income people such as movie stars, athletes etc. to become residents of the Principality in order to benefit from personal income tax exemption. Also, you may never have heard of Andorra but it should be on your list of countries to visit. It’s located in the North East portion of the Pyrenean mountain range which separates France and Spain. The key attraction is it’s tax haven status.]
4. I understand that there are a lot of economic advantages (you mentioned a tax haven) to being a citizen in Monaco, could you explain further?
Sure, Monaco is famous around the world for its image of a tax haven. In effect, the residents of the principality can enjoy no income tax, no tax on large fortunes, no local tax, no housing tax and no tax on property gains.
Moreover, in addition to the strong fiscal advantages, Monaco offers an exceptional living environment thanks to its security (1 policeman for every 100 citizens- the highest rate worldwide) and personal safety features combined with a very well-managed health and educational systems, an outstanding infrastructure for travel and transport and many cultural and sporting events such as the Formula One Grand Prix, the Tennis Master Series and the World Music Awards.
5. How would you describe the Jet Set side of Monaco?
From the beginning, Monaco has known how to mix all the ingredients for an exceptional Jet Set lifestyle; perfect year round weather, safety, famous casinos, 5 stars palaces, world-known nightclubs and last but not least the name Monaco has become a brand in it self that exemplifies Jet Set.
Unlike other well known Jet Set places like Saint Tropez or Sardinia, celebrities can be seen all year long in the principality and that is due once again to the fiscal policy present here. Very wealthy people obviously prefer to live and save their money in a no tax country so it is very common to see the top celebrities and the millionaires from all around the world in the same shopping mall or at the supermarket as you. It is just part of everyday life.
6. Would you describe some Jet Set parties and events you have attended in Monaco?
Monaco [as well as the French Riviera] are hosts to numerous jet set parties and events year round. For example, I was invited to the 50 cent pre-party prior to the World Music Awards at Zebra Square (which is a very famous and prestigious lounge bar in Monaco). There were lots of other celebrities in attendance (like Akon and Ciara ) which really made that night very, very special. The after party was fantastic too because most of the performers from the show were invited to “Jimmy’s” (one of the most famous nightclubs in the principality) and I got an opportunity to party with G-Unit, Mika, David Guetta and Avril Lavigne.
I was also invited last summer to the Armand De Brignac Jay-Z official party organized by the famous Champagne brand and to the P. Diddy party in Cannes at VIP ROOM during the film festival. I can assure you that these parties are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The atmosphere, the organization and the people present make them truly unique.
[Rob: Armand de Brignac is the name of an ultra luxury high end Champagne brand that’s sold in opaque metallic bottles and is identifiable by a distinctive gold bottle with a pewter Ace of Spades label. You can see it in the climactic scene of Jay Z’s video for “Show Me What You Got”.]
7. There seems to be a certain circle of hot spots that Jet Setters are traveling to around the world- what do you consider to be the 5 hottest destinations now and why?
In my opinion, a hot spot for jet setters has to combine awesome parties where you can see and be seen, a big number of celebrities present, but also a bit of privacy, along with a luxurious environment and outstanding service.
So this would be my ranking :
1) Saint-Tropez (the choice was very difficult but Saint-Tropez is definitely still number 1: no summer without hearing about Diddy’s or Jay-Z’s famous parties)
8. What would you consider to be the next most up and coming jet set destinations that’s all the buzz in your world?
From having heard a lot about it in the past year and having received very positive feedback from my friends who already went there, I would say that Hvar in Croatia is definitely becoming the New Saint Tropez. Celebrities really like this island because it actually manages to keep an authentic landscape with well managed infrastructure and building construction that preserves the fabulous nature present there. In addition, Hvar allows the Jet setter to organize really big and awesome parties in a very private way (in contrast to the French Riveria as an example). My feeling is that celebrities just feel much better in Croatia because of the high privacy the island can procure for them.
9. What is your company Quintessentialife?
Quintessentialife is an ultimate luxury goods finder. We are here to save your precious time by fulfilling your most extravagant luxury goods needs. We know that you are busy men and women, so why not let us take charge of your luxurious lifestyle wishes? The company has built a large web of partners and suppliers all over the world in order to assure that you are receiving your dream goods in the shortest of time possible. We believe you deserve uniqueness, so if your wish is a unique mobile phone, a diamond encrusted car, an exclusive platinum watch or whatever other uncommon luxury good, send us an inquiry on www.quintessentialife.com [http://www.quintessentialife.com] and we’ll find the one unique piece that best corresponds to you because for us, real luxury is exclusivity.
10. How did you get started as a Jet Set Concierge?
I would call myself more of a luxury goods finder. Being in Monaco and traveling around the world in hot spots like Dubai, meeting wealthy people, talking with them about their needs and wishes and analyzing the worldwide trend showing that the number of millionaires and billionaires keeps increasing year after year. I’ve decided to launch this company because I really saw a market for the services provided. Moreover, in analyzing the competitors already on the market I figured out that most of them were basic concierge services. Quintessentialife is more than that. We are specialized in finding uniqueness, exclusivity, because you surely don’t want to see your neighbor having the same watch or car you just bought for hundreds of thousands dollars.
11. Would you describe how a transaction works with your company?
People who are interested in having unique and exclusive luxury goods send me their inquiries through our website. As an example, they may want a watch encrusted with a special sort of diamond or maybe luxurious designer furniture for their villa or something along those lines. I then consult with my contacts around the world and begin searching for the items that best correspond to my clients needs. The next step is for me to send my propositions to the client (after fully analyzing them) and he just has to tell me if one corresponds to his needs to conclude the deal.
12. Describe your ideal client?
The most important thing for me is to find the goods that will make my client completely happy and satisfied. So, my “ideal client” would be someone who has a clear idea of what he wants. Of course, we can advise him on the current luxury trends around the world but in my experience to have a fully satisfied client you must have a precise and clear inquiry.
13. What is the most difficult request you’ve had from a client (and were you able to fulfill it)?
The most difficult request was definitely a Bentley Continental GTS with a gold roof. The technology was just launched and the suppliers were very difficult to find. Today, in the streets of Moscow or Dubai, you can see a few cars with gold roofs or doors but a couple of months ago these cars were non-existent. We did succeed in finding a supplier in Germany who made it for us and the client was really happy because he was one of the 3 people worldwide to possess this kind of good.
14. Do you have clients worldwide (or just in Monaco)?
Most of my clients are from the BRIC group of emergent countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China and also from the Middle East and Dubai. These countries are the ones that have shown the biggest increase in their number of millionaires in the last decade.
15. What aspects of your business are outsourced and which parts do you handle personally?
Of course, as you understood, since I cannot be in America, Asia, Middle East and Europe at the same time to search by myself- most of the research is handled by my partners all over the world in order to find the piece that best corresponds to the client’s needs. Also,The IT portion of my business will be very soon outsourced to India.”
16. Would you say that being based out of “Jet Set Monaco” has assisted your company’s growth? If so how?
Definitely. In this business, the network you build is the most important factor in getting new clients, meeting trusted suppliers and finding new partners- as well as discussing new and emerging luxury trends. So, being based out of Monaco (and the French Riviera in general) gave me the opportunity to meet all these affluent people from all over the world and build important networks. Moreover, when dealing with luxury goods- having a “Monegasque etiquette” definitely gives you a lot of credibility.
17. I understand that you are currently living abroad in Bangkok. What types of technology are you using to leverage your business (for ex. Skype, E-lance, etc)?
I am indeed currently living in Bangkok until January. South East Asia is booming and as you can imagine, the demand for luxury goods keeps increasing. Basically Skype is my best friend to leverage my business from all over the world. I have to spend hours phoning clients and suppliers in order to be sure that the goods will completely match the client’s wishes. Of course, being able to send and receive emails is crucial for me, that’s why I have been using the blackberry services for a couple of years because that gives me the opportunity to be online 24/7.
The accounting side is outsourced in Mumbai, India. I’m planning to also outsource to India the management of my website and email server because as we all know, Indian workers are reputed for their high skills, rapidity to work and perfect results in these domains. I can assure you that these guys are doing a really good job and are available for you and your business day and night.
18. Are you a member of ASMALLWORLD and if so how has it helped you with your company?
I do have an account on ASMALLWORLD. This network has brought and I’m sure will continue to bring, a lot of good things for me and Quintessentialife. Besides the fact that I can obviously talk about the company and find new clients through the network- ASMALLWORLD gives me the chance to find trusted partners and suppliers. I can follow the trends of the luxury industry and check out what business concepts are emerging throughout the world and of course make new friends that will become potential clients.
19. How has ASMALLWORLD helped you with your company?
Just to give you an example, I wanted to find the best way to advertise Quintessentialife in Kazakhstan (which has seen its number of millionaires increasing a lot in the last few years thanks to the petrodollars) having no connections in that country I decided to post a thread on the ASMALLWORLD business forum. The answers I received helped me greatly to set up an advertising strategy. The best thing with this network is that the people are very serious and trusted- so real information can be sought and exchanged and real partnerships can be set up.
20. What do you see for the future of Quintessentialife?
In the business of luxury goods, the satisfaction of the clients is of the utmost importance to me. In fact, if someone is fully satisfied with our services (they will without any doubt) tell their entourage that Quintessentialife is a trustworthy company and by consequence bring the company new clients and markets. So, with the increase of the demand for luxury goods we have noted in the last few years, I’m sure that the company will grow more and more- month after month. I want it to become an unavoidable actor of the luxury goods industry.