Friends of THATLou – Sasha Levenson-Wahl

The Friends of the THATLou series is running for the month of November with guest blog posts from just that, Friends of THATLou:

One of my very favorite THATLou experiences was catching Sasha Levenson-Wahl and her Savoir Faire team in the halls of Roman Emperors. One of her teammates, Tess Bovee, was a whole room ahead of her teammates (a crime penalised with deducted points as per the distance found apart). Tess was looking for a bust of Livia, but Sasha, a room back, was standing in front of Messalina, 3rd Empress of Rome, muttering to herself saying, “Damn-it all, How many men did Messalina sleep with that one night! (one of the bonus questions relating to this post), I just read it today?!?” Sasha is one of the very few Friends of THATLou who does her homework, and as a result she’s walked away with the prize numerous times!

Without further ado, I am pleased as punch to leave this Guest Post for Sasha to speak for herself:

Sasha Levenson-Wahl, founder of Savoir Faire

Sasha Levenson-Wahl, founder of Savoir Faire Paris

I am probably one of the few expat business owners who came to Paris kicking and screaming. When I moved here at the age of 15, I cried the entire 8-hour plane ride across the Atlantic. In my very 15-year-old state of mind, I thought my parents were ruining my life by moving me to a foreign country for a year. Ironically, 4 months into that “year-abroad,” after being seduced by this beautiful city and rich culture, it was me who asked the entire family to stay. 12 years and many administrative frustrations later, our entire family calls Paris home.

In August of 2010, Savoir Faire Paris was born. As an expat who has experienced the many woes and frustrations foreigners face in France, I wanted to work to help other expats over the hurdles of life abroad. Savoir Faire Paris aims to do just that. We are Paris’ ultimate personalized concierge service helping foreigners with everything from complicated administrative tasks to finding the perfect babysitter for the kids or snagging that perfect date-night reservation. We work with families, businessmen and tourists to help make the most out of your time in Paris.

As an expat business owner, you can only imagine the hoops that I had to jump through. Friends and family worldwide are so impressed that I own my own business, especially at such a young age, but, as it turns out, it is much easier to get a visa to start a business in France than it is to get a French company to hire you without a working visa.

Canal St Martin

Canal St Martin

It took me about a year to start Savoir Faire Paris and it was a full time job. I was required to write an entire business plan and financial plan in French that was delivered by hand with my visa application in the US. This entire dossier was then, of course, sent back to France to be examined and then I had to fly back to the US in order to pick up my approved visa.

Once I had the visa in hand, however, I still had many steps to go before I had the business up and running. Registering a business in France, and I mean a full registered company, not an Auto-Entrepreneur, requires so many steps your head will spin. My biggest advice for anyone looking to start a business: hire a lawyer! I hired a lawyer who took care of everything including helping me decide what kind of company to register and then the writing and registering of the company’s bylaws with the tax administration (in person!), registering the company and publishing the incorporation of the company, taking all of this for an official stamp in court and sending it all back to me. Is your head spinning yet? Mine nearly fell off!

Two years later, however, Savoir Faire Paris is up and running and successfully helping clients register for social security, find apartments, plan travel itineraries and iron out any other little kinks that they might have. Paris is such a magically beautiful city that it is no wonder why it is one of the cities in the highest demand for expats. That said, however, it is also one of the hardest to settle into. The administration hurdles alone make it very hard for foreigners to ever feel at ease and comfortable in their new surroundings. This emotional state of mind where one finds themselves in a foreign country, unable to communicate and relate to the local people is exactly what Savoir Faire Paris was created for. We are a completely personalized service that helps individuals with the daunting tasks of living abroad, allowing them to experience the Paris they came here to see.

I now have a great team working with me (don’t even get me started on the requirements for hiring someone in France!) and we are always looking to expand. There will always be administrative difficulties with life in Paris, however, on a warm spring day sitting along the Canal Saint Martin with a croissant or some charcuterie and a 4 euro bottle of delicious red wine, all of those woes seem to slip away!

 

If you’ve got guests coming to Paris or friends moving here, you can find Sasha on her blog (Paris Up Close and Personal), website (Savoir Faire Paris) or twitter (@SFPConcierge). She made a generous mention of THATLou here and also wrote us up in her newsletter here.

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