Thinking you might want to live abroad? Do it without the ‘stars in your eyes’ says Antonia Opiah.
In December of 2010, Opiah decided she would quit her job and move to Paris. No matter what. In two years time.
But she was realistic about what it would take to live abroad. And chose to move to the City of Lights without “a grass-is-greener-notion.” Just a desire to live a life closer to her desired future self.
Back then she was living in New York, working at a top digital advertising firm, and dreaming of a different kind of life. This is Opiah’s story of making a life-changing decision, overcoming obstacles, and
When Did You Decide To Live Abroad?
“I decided to move to Paris in December of 2010. The decision was based on the realization that I wanted to learn French and that I needed to work for myself.
I’d always wanted to run my own business but never knew exactly what that business would be.
I’d been working in digital advertising for the past few years and decided I needed to be deliberate about getting what I ultimately wanted. So that year, I gave myself two years to quit my job and move to Paris. In December of 2012 I did just that.”
Tell Me The Steps You Took To Do It?
“The first and most important step was giving myself enough time to do it. At the time I felt that two years would be enough time for me to save enough money to last me a year. I wanted to save at least $40,000. I ended up with half that but pulled the trigger anyway when the time came.
I’m pretty resourceful and frugal so I knew that I could make that amount stretch. When I made the move, surprisingly enough, I was actually able to get a really lovely studio in Marais, Paris (the “Soho of Paris”). It is slightly cheaper than New York, but I did have to stop eating out as much the first year I moved.
“EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. there’s some sort of challenge. I’ve gotten used to rolling up my sleeves and figuring the damn thing out.”
Other than giving myself enough time, I also downsized my living situation and picked up a couple freelance gigs alongside my very demanding job. It’s funny– I found the more determined and uncompromising I was about moving, the more things “fell” into place. Every major decision I made during those two years was made through the lens of, ‘does this get me closer to Paris?’ Having that kind of singular focus can be very fruitful.”
When Did You Start Your Business and Why Did You Create It?
“I launched Un-ruly.com in 2013. I wanted a site dedicated to Black hair that fully encompassed my personal needs at the time. So, I created what I wanted to exist.
“Three years down the line, with my sister now onboard, we extended the brand to include a mobile styling service—Yeluchi by Un-ruly, which services NYC and LA. I launched Yeluchi for a similar reason. It was something I needed myself and I bet that other women needed it too.”
What Resources Did You Use To Launch Your Business?
“A lot of patience, strong will, and emotional support. There’s so much glamour around startups and entrepreneurship these days. But people don’t always show how much work it requires, especially if you’re bootstrapping.
It’s been an emotional rollercoaster and it can be VERY scary at times. Sometimes I honestly don’t know why I’ve stuck with it. But I guess what I’ve created is the perfect mixture of everything I like. I like art and numbers, I like to create and I get to do all of those things with this platform.
But on a practical level—Youtube and Google are godsends! There’s no excuse for not knowing stuff these days. I’ve become well-versed in so many new fields just from Googling and taking the time to learn stuff. I can edit videos, I can implement successful SEO strategies and manage performance marketing campaigns across at least three different platforms. I’ve got my finger on the pulse of culture and the global zeitgeist. So I feel like this is the most knowledgeable I’ve been in my life so far.”
What Lessons Can You Share About Business And Branding?
“UGH, I hate branding. It’s important but I’m not sure I’ve figured it out my brand, which is probably the biggest lesson. When you define your brand identity—brand pillars, personality, visual identity (i.e. logos, fonts, colors, etc.), a brand can feel fixed, like okay here’s my logo, here’s my voice this is what it is and it’s not going to change. But I feel like brands, businesses are living things. They evolve. They grow. They respond to stimuli. So I’ve kept certain truths about what I’m building constant but have also left the door open for the possibility of what my brand can become.
If You Were Starting Now, What Would You Do Differently?
I don’t know if I’d do anything differently. Every step, especially missteps have been learning opportunities. So, I wouldn’t change any of those. I probably made things harder for myself by launching an American company from France. Sometimes I wonder if I’d be further along had I stayed in the US. But being where I am now is part of a larger vision I have for my life, so when that thought comes to mind, I just say ’naaaaah I’m good’.”
What Kinds Of Obstacles From Friends, Family, Yourself, Or The Market Did You Face?
“Friends and family have been my biggest asset through all this. I think I probably would’ve given up if I didn’t have the network and support system I do.
My memory is choosing to be selective at the moment ♀️ when it comes to obstacles. But I think it’s most likely because EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. there’s some sort of challenge and I’ve gotten used to rolling up my sleeves and figuring the damn thing out.
A very good friend of mine, who is also the founder of her own business, helped me change my perspective on problems. She told me the problems are really just opportunities waiting to be seized. And it’s so funny how your world changes when you think of problems that way. You realize that there is a way to make money or bring in some form of abundance everywhere.”