HiP Paris loves stories from expats who have made new lives for themselves in Paris. Moving to a foreign country, learning a new language, and finding work is daunting enough, let alone starting your own business! But that’s exactly what Ian and Alison from French bed linen company La Chambre Paris have done. We recently spoke to American-born Alison about life in the City of Light.
Where are you from originally and what brought you to Paris?
I am originally from Boston, Massachusetts. Ian is originally from Nottingham in the UK. In 2011, we were living in London and found ourselves hungry for adventure. We negotiated with each of our employers to do a three-month move to our respective French offices. We packed everything and put eight duffel bags on the Eurostar. We never looked back.
What inspired you to create La Chambre Paris?
When my mother came to visit us in Paris, Ian went to a large department store to find some nice bed sheets to put on the guest bed. He found the shopping experience stressful from start to finish—the sheets were expensive, customer service was atrocious, and there was a no-return policy.
Firm believers that the bedroom is a sanctuary, we were motivated to find an alternative. Our own bed linens were mediocre and good French bed linens were out of our price range. We kept asking ourselves, “Why does it have to be this way?”
In the US, new e-commerce businesses had begun selling high-quality bed linens for accessible prices. We visited factories in Turkey, Israel, and Portugal to learn what goes into making the best bed linens. By cutting out the middleman and going direct to consumer, we found that the same could be done for the French market.
What are your must-sees for first-time visitors to Paris?
Paris is best explored by foot. Get up before sunrise and walk along the Seine and stand on Pont Louis-Philippe to watch the colors change on the river. Walk through the Marais and take in the sights and sounds of the cafés setting up for the day. Take an espresso at the counter of a bistro and watch the different people coming in and see a real Parisian morning unfold.
Then walk up to the Jardin du Palais-Royale before walking through the Tuileries up to the Musée de l’Orangerie to see Monet’s “Water Lilies.” Walk to Les Deux Magots to have lunch, and people watch. Walk to Jardin du Luxembourg and sit and read a book in the afternoon light. Finish the day by picking up a bottle of wine, a fresh baguette, and cheese and walk down to the Seine to watch the sunset.
What is your favorite place in France and why?
There’s still so much of France that we want explore.
Paris is an obvious favorite. It’s our home and where we’ve chosen to build a family. We also love Normandy, its rugged coastline, gorgeous light, and beautiful country lanes. Most school vacations will find us renting a house as close to the water as we can get, wrapping our kids in warm waterproof clothes, and taking them to play on the beach.
How did you and your family manage the lockdowns in Paris?
I think we managed like a lot of other people. We were grateful to be healthy. But homeschooling three children while trying to run a start-up in a small Paris apartment certainly had its challenges.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your business?
In some ways, this is the ideal time to launch an online business because many people prefer to avoid stores. On the other hand, there’s a fair bit of economic uncertainty so it’s hard for any business owner when people are nervous about spending money.
Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs or people who want to move to Paris?
A mentor of ours once told us that the primary job of an entrepreneur is to solve problems. So far, we’ve found that to be true. As a start-up, we’ve learned that it’s imperative to build a strong team or capable partners and then learn how to delegate effectively. There’s just not enough hours in the day to get everything done otherwise.
Advice for people who want to move to Paris; Learn the language as quickly as you can, and find a community of people in France who have already experienced the challenges that you will face in setting up and growing your business.
What are your hopes and goals for the future?
To continue to be present and focused on supporting our children as they tackle the challenges of growing up. To continue to accelerate our business growth, especially our new children’s range.
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Written by Ali Postma for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates.