Good Dog Day Afternoon
It was warm as toast at La Pierre du Marais yesterday afternoon, even with all the windows open and the lights off. We drank more than usual and had even more fun — keeping cool from the gentle breeze of Aussie Judy Schreiber’s battery-operated hand-held fan that sprayed cool mists on anyone who got near her. Read the whole story and see all the photos at /parlerparis/apresmidi.html then put it on your calendar to join us next month on July 11th.
An hour later, the World Cup soccer match had much of France glued to the tele, but a small and intensely interested group of entrepreneurs showed up at the American Chamber of Commerce to hear Hat (Harriet) Sternstein talk about her incredulous experience realizing her dream to create “Mon Bon Chien.” You may have seen or heard her story before, if not by reading Parler Paris, but by seeing the overwhelming publicity her ‘good dog,’ Sophie, and her gourmet pet bakery have gotten in 17 languages, over 40 TV and radio shows worldwide and nearly 75 newspaper and magazine articles around the world (including those you’d least expect, like the sexy French magazine for men, FHM). Google it (“Mon Bon Chien” + Paris) and you’ll come up with almost 400 sites mentioning the 15th arrondissement boutique.
Hat attended our first Living and Investing in France Conference in 2002, when she first bravely announced her ‘zany’ idea and we all laughed. Look who’s laughing now! The story, while it seems to have a very happy ending from all the attention she’s gotten, is riddled with trials and tribulations of accomplishing such a monumental task in France — one that would have been one-tenth (or less) as difficult in our own American entrepreneurial culture. Strikes against her from the beginning were her nationality, gender and lack of proficiency in French. Her assets were her friends and advisors without whom this could never have been accomplished.
Last week, Mon Bon Chien celebrated its first anniversary after having survived three floods, one attempted break-in and a broken hand. Dogs of all shapes and sizes now know their way down rue Mademoiselle (number 12) and when the door is closed, they lick and paw the door in anticipation.
Now that every ounce of energy and financial reserves have been poured into making Mon Bon Chien a success, the future will depend on her ability to come up with a business plan, find smart investors and muster up even more tenacity.
Earlier yesterday a French friend who had just returned from a visit to New York and Chicago for the first time ever in the United States, called with enormous excitement in his voice. He had met with old French and Italian friends who had moved to the U.S. while he stayed here to pursue his own career. They had all wallowed in the U.S. entrepreneurial experience and come out successful, with “beaucoup” bucks in their pockets and huge accomplishments. On the other hand, he sees the frustrations of the French to decrease their unemployment, change laws to liberate the economy and encourage prosperity and growth. I split my sides with laughter when he said, “I just want to know one thing. What the hell are you doing here!?”
I understood exactly what he meant — as they say…”The grass is always greener on the other side.” We all want what we can’t have, “n’est-pas?” It’s the battle we, as Americans, fight every day here, even after living here many years, enjoying the quality of life we call “joie de vivre” of “la vie française.” We are so conditioned to a simple system, an openness and willingness to take risks, to create and seize opportunities. When faced with the French aversion to exactly that — what we see as advantages yet they see as lack of control, insecurity, inequality and unfairness…we react as Americans would, seeing these as great challenges instead, to overcome and become even more zealous!
I asked Hat why she relentlessly purs
ued this dream, against all odds and obstacles. She responded that with each step, she felt she had gone too far to turn back. And I say that “turning back” is just too regressive for us, as Americans, to accept. Never say never, never say forever and never look back.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]
P.S. There’s lots of exciting Summer activities coming up next week…Fête de la Musique, Gay Pride and more! So be sure to peruse today’s Parler Paris Previews for more details! /parlerparis/calendar.html