How a French Artist opened a thriving vintage gift shop business in Los Angeles, California

How a French Artist opened a thriving vintage gift shop business in Los Angeles, California

How a French Artist opened a thriving vintage gift shop business in Los Angeles, California 

Yael’s story: Yael yearned to move to the United States. She knew that L.A.’s artsy scene was just the place for her and her unique one-of-a-kind fashion accessories and home décor. Read about her journey here from France and how she persevered and obtained her E-2 investor visa, despite incurring some obstacles along the way.


Name. Yael Bolender

What country did you originate/emigrate from?  France

What is your business name and website address?


Describe your business.

Retail store of Home Decor, Gifts and Women Accessories.
A lot of Arts and Crafts, and I organize Arts and Crafts workshops myself.
I also have a lot of Vintage things.
It is a mix of Vintage and Crafted in a rather French style.
I only search for the one-of-a-kind and unique gift.

How many people do you employ? (Fulltime?/Part-time?)

I have one person part time and two other people coming punctually when I need them.
Otherwise, I sell for people their vintage things and share the money with them.

What year were you granted your visa and how long did it take to get your E-2 Visa approved?

December 2009 and it took me 2 years and half to get it approved.

Were you approved for your E-2 Visa on your first attempt? If not, how many attempts did you make before you granted your visa?

Not approved on the 1st time, I had to ask it twice and got it on the 2nd time.

What were your biggest obstacles when applying for the E-2 visa?

It was my lawyer, for the 1st attempt: very bad lawyer who didn’t do his job. He didn’t want to help me with the business plan, and I didn’t know how to do it, he didn’t even give me the name of someone who could help me to do it. He said I could do it by myself, and I couldn’t.
They made fun of me at the Embassy because of my business plan, but they were right, it was not professional at all.

How did you determine where in the U.S. to move to?

I just loved Los Angeles and wanted to go there. L.A. is very Artsy, it was totally fitting the spirit of my store.
Also my son wants to work in the Film industry, so it was the right place as well for him to learn about this field. He wants to compose Music for films.

How did you determine what type of business to pursue?

I used to be an artist and Arts and Crafts teacher, I always loved Home Decor and Antiques, so I didn’t have to think much.
I always wanted a store like that. It is my 1st store ever.

What were your biggest issues when choosing your business?

To find the right location, because I wanted to buy, I wanted to live behind or above the store, I had a specific idea in mind, and I searched during a very long time.
Finally, I found the right place, in my budget, and exactly what I wanted. I have actually two stores: one that I rent to someone else, and one that I occupy for my business.

What resources did you find most helpful when you started your E-2 visa application process?

It is going to be weird to say: the US Embassy in Paris website. It allowed me to know exactly what they wanted, I read everything inside, what allowed me to know what went wrong during the 1st attempt.
The fact that Obama became President just before my 2nd attempt helped a lot I think.
But honestly, nothing was really helpful at the beginning, I had no idea what I was exactly doing, then, I had to learn everything on my own.

What is the biggest benefit you and/or your family have enjoyed by making this move?

I just moved with my younger son, my older one is working in Tokyo.
But the biggest benefit for the two of us, is that it taught us to create everything we want, to be more courageous and adventurous, to speak English much better, to feel more confident in life, to know what we want and go for it.
My son is student here. He is totally fluent in English now, we can’t tell he is French.


What do you miss the most about your home country?

Being able to walk in the streets of Paris. L.A. is not really a “walking city”
Sometimes the food, but not really since I discovered Trader Joe’s.
London. I used to go to London a lot, and now, it is rather far from here…

If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would have chosen another lawyer than the stupid one.

I would have searched for a place to buy right away. I would have spent my money differently for a few things.
I would have been more careful: my contractor was a false contractor and stole a part of my money, he went to jail later, I had a lot of troubles because of him, still now actually.
I also have been robbed in my store by two guys with a big gun.
It is possible that the two stories are linked. I have no proof of that, but I am convinced there is something between the robbers and the false contractor.

What are some of the key lessons learned you would like to share with others?

Trust nobody, check everything, go with your guts, not losing time to please other people, not feeling guilty because we moved away.
Doing everything for the business and the success. Vacation and relaxation will come later, we came to do something and we have to do it honestly, of course, but completely.
I came to fulfill a dream I had, and I want to fulfill it totally.
Being courageous is the biggest lesson, I think.
Here, we are not in France, we are not assisted anymore, we have to do everything ourselves, and it is wonderful, that is exactly what I wanted for me and my son.

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