‘The expat entrepreneur’ is a Yay For Today Q&A series with expats who have set up their own businesses
Sabine Werner is originally from Munich, Germany. She left Germany in 2008 for her husband’s work. Since then she and her family have spent six years in Australia and the last five years in the South of France. By profession she is an architect but she also studied in Munich at the Academy of Visual Arts and has painted on and off over the years. After spending ten years working as an architect in Germany and Australia she decided it was time for a career change. Living far from home Sabine was finding it difficult to maintain a regular daytime job while looking after her family. The lack of a reliable family network and her husband traveling a lot for work meant family life was challenging. Designing, producing and selling her jewelry turned out the perfect way to keep her happy and to stay flexible for the family.
How did you come up with the concept for your business?
One can say my passion for art and jewelry led me into jewelry making at a Goldsmith School in Australia which I became passionate about from the very first moment on. At one stage I got to the point where I had heaps of tools, materials and I could no longer wear all I was making so I started a small business selling my jewellery. To start with I was mainly at art shows and open studio sales. I really enjoyed the social side of my jewellery business, meeting new people, collaborating with other artists and organising shows.
Sabine at work in her studio
What was your mission at the outset?
My mission was to be able to work in a creative field but to be able to have more time with my family than being an architect allowed.
Do you chose your current location or did it chose you?
It chose me. We came to France for my husbands work. Since moving from Australia I am working on being better prepared for future moves. I’m investing more time in my social media and my online presence so it’s not so important where I am based. I have also just started an etsy shop so if we move on at any stage I don’t have to start from scratch again.
Some of Sabines stunning work.
Do you think being an expat contributes to your success at all?
Being an expat, having all those wonderful new experiences and meeting new people inspires me tremendously and contributes to the way I approach my work. I’m currently working on a collection of sea glass jewelry. I collected the sea glass in Australia and now at the Cote d’Azur so it is very exciting and special to me, as my pieces are totally part of me and I like to tell a story with them.
Having a business like this has also been great incentive to learn the language and to becoming integrated into the local community.
Do you face any unique challenges because you are an expat running a local business?
There are always going to be challenges. I have found it hard to give up my progressing business several times. Firstly, the blossoming architectural career I had to leave behind in Germany and then all the clients and network I had built up in Australia. It has also been hard to find a community here in France within the industry and to find guidance on how to even set up my business here. In the beginning I was told it is even not possible for me to set up a business as an expat wife but I didn’t give up and eventually found the solutions to make it work for me in France!
If you had one piece of advice for a expat entrepreneur just starting out what would it be?
Until today I have not been able to find a community for self taught jewelers and silversmith here in France, while this was very easy in Australia. Nevertheless I found great support online being member of a jewelry platform based in London. So all I can say is follow your passion and don’t give up! Keep searching for your community and support network and eventually it will show up but it might not be exactly where you expecting it to be.