From running one of the most influential and well-known independent bookstores in the U.S. to establishing a family- and community-based business in one of Mexico’s most beautiful colonial cities…Patrice Wynne’s career has taken some dramatic turns. She now calls San Miguel de Allende home, and her unique take on life and business in central Mexico is an inspiration to anyone who thinks that the challenge of starting over is one to be savored. It was certainly that way for Patrice, and she’ll tell us why in this edition of Finding Your Overseas Paradise.
Your Name: Patrice Wynne
Business Name: Abrazos featuring San Miguel Designs by Patrice Wynne, a maker of mexican designed clothing
Type of Business: Clothing & Accessories/Home & Housewares/Social Enterprise
Business Location: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Reason for starting
I arrived in San Miguel de Allende in colonial Mexico in 2000, after owning a very successful independent bookstore, GAIA, in Berkeley, California. I was depressed after closing my bookstore, due to economic forces in the industry. I realized that I could choose sadness or choose a great new adventure. I decided to live the next phase of my life in a new culture and country, following a childhood dream to live abroad in Latin America. When I arrived, I discovered that my town had a rich history of sewing and fabric production that was disappearing. I decided to start a design and manufacturing business, San Miguel Designs, drawing on this tradition and the talent all round me. I began working with local women seamstresses who could work at home to produce aprons, handbags, homewares and clothing using Mexican themed fabrics that no one had imported into Mexico. I now sell wholesale to stores all over the world and have opened a boutique, Abrazos, in San Miguel de Allende, a popular tourist town and a UNESCO World Heritage site that brings tourists to visit from all over Mexico and internationally.
How do you define success?
Success is doing what you love with passion and integrity and creating dignified work for yourself and others.
My biggest success is closing my bookstore that I loved and making a great leap of faith into the unknown: moving to a foreign country and starting another small business in a different industry, designing and manufacturing homewares and clothing, San Miguel Designs. Using my entrepreneurial skills forged in my previous career and holding to values of doing good and giving back in whatever business I create, I have successfully remade a new life and a new livelihood in another culture.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Top challenge has been to do business in a foreign country where I am learning different cultural values, attitudes, beliefs and perceptions while in a foreign language. I attend to this challenge by surrounding myself with competent, bilingual managers who are honest with me about the best way to conduct business in their culture, and soliciting their knowledge and ideas constantly.
Who is your most important role model?
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