The first thing you notice about Claudette Parry Laws when you meet her is her undeniable ‘joie de vivre’. She seems so at ease in her role as an expat in Paris that it is hard to believe she ever felt out of place here. But that was exactly the case when she first arrived in The City of Lights two and a half years ago. Instead of lamenting being away from home, following her husband to a new country and not knowing a single soul, Claudette decided to take things in hand and turn what was looking like a negative situation into a positive one. Thus her website Mama Loves Paris was born.
Claudette, can you tell us about your background?
I had a career in publishing in London that spanned about 17 years, prior to having my twin boys. I worked for the BBC, The Independent (a UK national newspaper), EMAP and a few other places. My role in these organizations was as a creative executive initially and eventually Creative Media Director. After I had my boys however, I became a full-time mum, although occasionally I did some consultancy work with small businesses in the UK. Then my husband got a job in Paris and we kissed the UK goodbye.
What drove you to become an expat entrepreneur?
It wasn’t a deliberate decision actually. When I got to Paris I found it challenging that I couldn’t find information in English about how to enjoy Paris as a mum. There were some sites that covered key information, but I couldn’t find a voice online that I could relate to, or that was delivered in a style that I could personally connect with. I was looking for something that encompassed my needs as a mum in a new city. I also found the first year here a bit of a struggle. Arriving here not knowing anyone and not speaking the language led to feelings of isolation and culture shock which I hadn’t anticipated. I didn’t really like Paris initially, but I was determined to love it and I was on a mission, so I positively came up with the name – Mama Loves Paris.
You are not just an expat entrepreneur but a “mompreneur”. How do you balance business and your personal life?
It isn’t easy, but my children provide a lot of inspiration and my husband is very supportive. Luckily the concept of Mama Loves Paris blends itself perfectly to family life. It focuses on my role as a mum and also allows the family to be a part of its content and development. I can explore a place or attend an event with the family and get an immediate perspective through my children’s eyes which helps feed some of the content I write.
What was your original intention when you set up Mama Loves Paris?
I wanted to create a blog that focused on having a good time in Paris. I thought it would be useful to create a website initially that not only gives people interesting information about what’s coming up in the city, but also reviews events. Plus I wanted to give some cultural insight into Paris from an expat perspective, which would give me poetic license to inject some humour and provide more engaging editorial.
Who can get the most out of visiting Mama Loves Paris?
English-speaking families living in or visiting Paris are the primary audience. My kids go to an international school, so I am very aware of its appeal to mums for whom English is not the first language, so MLP has a translate button so I can ensure they are catered for too.
Mama Loves Paris has definitely built a following and seems to be growing daily, what do you attribute that to?
Hard work! I attribute the growth to consistently providing good content and using the Internet to help spread the word, that aspect is crucial. There is also a growing community in Paris that supports the idea which adds to its appeal. I am thrilled, after working so intently on MLP, to now have some wonderful contributors, a growing readership and an increasing number of followers.
Where would you like to see Mama Loves Paris going in the next 2-3 years?
I would love to have more parents involved with what is now becoming a brand! I am extremely keen to get new writers involved and have them share their insights and experiences of Paris life, this will help Mama Loves Paris become a well-rounded offering in the future and provide a platform for new and experienced writers. I also have a number of ideas for ways to expand the concept. Overall, I would love Mama Loves Paris to be the “go to” site for families who are looking for fun, inspiring and useful information about Paris. Hence the strapline: “escapism for you and the kids”. Mama Loves Paris doesn’t pander to mummyhood, it addresses mothers as independent women who want to have fun with their partners or girlfriends as well as their kids, so it uses a tone and a style to reflect that.
What tips can you share with someone who is ready to step into the role of an expat entrepreneur?
“Go for it!” would be my first advice. What have you got to lose? If you have an idea, put it out there and see what happens. I was so nervous about Mama Loves Paris going live! It had been an idea in my head for a while but I was so worried that people wouldn’t like it or that it wouldn’t be good enough. In the end I decided to bite the bullet, feel the fear and do it anyway. Don’t think you can’t do it. I had never designed a website before but I taught myself and it’s not too bad! I would also suggest to do research. Cover the ground so you know what you are getting into and finally, stay focused and enjoy the process rather than getting too caught up in the end result.
Finally, as an expat mompreneur living in Paris, what is your all-time favourite thing to do in the City of Lights with your kids?
I can’t say just one, so… For park life we love the ‘Jardin du Luxembourg’. It is one of the kids’ favourite places: the playground, the little boats on the lake, the go-karting. It’s paradise for kids! By the River? It would have to be Berge Street and ‘Canal d’Ourq’. The Canal stretch in the 19th is so beautiful and we love boating and all the cool little eateries. It’s super fun. Culturally we love the ‘Palais du Tokyo’. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but the venue just amazes me every time I go. Recently they had a lake inside the museum and we were beside ourselves with excitement! It’s full of surprises.
You can follow Mama Loves Paris on Instagram and Twitter as well as Facebook . To subscribe to the website and get the regular newsletter visit www.mamalovesparis.com. MLP is also looking for writers. Get in touch and become part of the MLP family; Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Photographer : Nancy R. Jochimek, www.nancyjochimek.com