Madeline is an expat entrepreneur. She is an American living in Ireland. Last year she moved with her husband to the West of Ireland so he could pursue a graduate degree. For the past few years, she had been developing and running her business, Opaline Hue. She launched Opaline Hue last year from Ireland as a sustainable womenswear brand. The ethical clothing brand focuses on functional, stylish apparel for busy lives.
1. How did you come up with the concept for your business?
I am always on the move, and I came up with the concept after realizing there wasn’t much on the market for technical apparel that looked great for any occasion, work and play included! I create classic designs in merino wool fabric that offers technical properties like wrinkle resistance, stain and odour resistance, four-way stretch and shaping.
My products are made to order in the USA and the fabric is sourced from New Zealand and Australia. I sell to women who are always on the move – for work, travel, raising kids or playing hard!
2. What was your mission at the outset?
In the beginning, I knew that I wanted this business to be sustainable and ethical. The fashion industry is infamous for human oppression and egregious pollution to the environment.
Before really knowing what kind of sustainable clothes I would create and what kind of customer I would serve, I knew it would be a different kind of fashion brand. Once I began to narrow down the type of product I wanted to create, I landed on using merino wool – my favorite fiber!
3. Do you choose your current location or did it choose you?
My husband works with children with autism and had long talked about pursuing a PhD. He had reached out to some researchers that he admired and found the placement he is currently at. Things escalated quickly, but we were prepared for a big change – though we didn’t expect THIS big! It came about quite serendipitously – as I had always wanted to live abroad and Ireland seemed to suit us very well. We now live in Western Ireland and have been warmly welcomed.
4. Do you think being an expat contributes to your success at all?
Absolutely! I have always thought that business owners thrive most in limitation. There is a push to get resourceful and creative when not everything is at your disposal. With this mindset, being an expat has forced me to get creative with my time management, my money and even things like how to find a new photographer for a new collection! I am challenged to make efforts that I might not make if I had the familiarity of my home.
5. Do you face any unique challenges because you are an expat running a local business?
That’s a great question! I think there can be some awkwardness for sure. Since I am an e-commerce brand shipping for free worldwide, it’s hard to feel local anywhere. Even where I lived in Chicago, I never quite felt local there either.
It’s challenging to know if I can call myself a local business where I am because of course I’m not a local, but I am running it here. I would never take advantage of local business support. However, I might ask if I am allowed to sell at a market that calls themselves local or collaborate with a business here! I want to serve the community I am in, wherever in the world that may be. I think this is a unique challenge!
6. If you had one piece of advice for an expat entrepreneur just starting out what would it be?
Make connection a priority! Both through online groups and in person. Being an expat entrepreneur, your business is likely online. I find it can be very easy to keep my business online and separate from the life I’m trying to build in my new city. I found though, when I try to network professionally in person, it goes a long way. I’ve also found online groups to be a wonderful support as well. We all need our entrepreneur friends!