Her name might ring like a bell if you’ve been on social media for 48 hours. Since Monday, Claire DEspagne, the head and founder of a start-up specializing in natural dietary supplements and other cosmetic products, has been the subject of a storm of criticism and mockery following an interview on April 15. In the podcast “Freedom of Entrepreneurship”, the creator of this brand, had very harsh words against the trainees that she tries to “recruit” for her company. The latter, and the schools that send them, are accused of not understanding the reality of the world of work and, in particular, start-ups.
“Recruitment is terrible right now, it’s very, very complicated. Anyone wonder where the interns are? “, she ostensibly annoys. This former consultant to asset manager BlackRock openly criticizes the tendency to favor work-study contracts over traditional internships. “We are forced to alternate. (…) I don’t want work-study students today, I think it’s crazy, that’s all we find. “A reality in the world of work that bothers the leader to the point of pushing her thinking a little more. “It’s hard. We have schools that tell us, I’m not ashamed to say it in front of the camera, if i find out that my intern works more than 35 hours a week i will make him stop his internship. Well, then it will be difficult for your intern to get a job and buy an apartment”, says the founder of D+ For Care. “Because in the world I live in, if I don’t work 80 hours a week, there’s little chance I’ll have an apartment, a second home, and maybe another one afterward.”
That last remark, which was brought up in a short snippet of audio, caused a strong reaction on social media. So much so to say that his view of the interns’ working time did not have the expected echo. In less than 48 hours, a burst of humor and other parodies – in total several tens of thousands of tweets – fell on the thirty-something Parisian’s name.
The affair could have ended there, but Claire DEspagne’s words could have disastrous consequences for her business – flourishing until then, if an article from last February in Les Échos is to be believed. “D + For Care, a nugget specializing in the design of dietary supplements, cosmetics and wellness products, follows a hypergrowth curve as upward as the prestigious members of French Tech 120”, assured the economic daily of the time, the company with a turnover of several million euros.
“Confuses interns and slaves”
In the wake of the mockery, Claire DEspagne’s brand was indeed the victim of a hack on the company’s Google page. While the vast majority of posts were relatively laudatory, a litany of comments related to internal abuse permeated the page. In total, around 5,000 negative reviews caused the brand’s “rating” to drop to 1.1, with some even lamenting the impossibility of giving zero.
In this context of harassment, a source close to Claire DEspagne told Le Figaro that the businesswoman received “physical threats against her, her family, team members”. “Efforts are focused on ensuring everyone’s safety and containing disproportionate violence in the short term,” the source told the daily.
The price to pay is likely to be high in terms of “e-reputation”
For “the rising tricolor star of internet-born brands” who works a lot on social media, especially Instagram, the price to pay must be high in terms of “e-reputation”. The brand also closed comments on its Instagram account to over 50,000 subscribers for two days. Same thing on the professional network LinkedIn where an intern “recruitment” ad post is also attacked by negative comments. He is even accused of having posted a dozen internship offers online at once, an illegal offer given the size of his company.
“I want that fifteen years from now, with or without me, this brand will still be maintained! “explained the business manager to Echoes in February, this Internet hurricane could therefore seriously constrain its ambitions. Meanwhile, the small company is only officially looking for… four interns.