Volunteering to Entrepreneurship: Ann Déla Victoria’s Journey with EasyStart Relocation

Ann Déla Victoria’s journey from an expat navigating the intricate French administrative system to a successful entrepreneur leading EasyStart Relocation is a testament to resilience and empathy. Over the past 11 years in France, she has faced and overcome numerous challenges, which ignited her passion for helping other expats and immigrants. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ann’s volunteering efforts evolved into a full-fledged business, providing comprehensive relocation services. In this interview, Ann shares her inspiring story, the transformative moments that shaped her path, and her insights on entrepreneurship, particularly as a solo woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry. She also offers valuable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and discusses the future aspirations for EasyStart Relocation amidst changing global dynamics.

What inspired you to start volunteering to help expats and immigrants, particularly during the challenging times of COVID-19?

After residing in France for the past 11 years, I encountered significant challenges while trying to navigate the intricate French administrative system. The dynamic nature of rules, regulations, and processes posed a continuous hurdle. Particularly for those not proficient in French, communication with the administration became an additional obstacle, given their limited proficiency in English. The constant redirections and lack of clarity in the processes prompted me to empathise with the difficulties faced by fellow expats and immigrants. This personal experience ignited a strong motivation to contribute to the community during the challenging times of COVID-19 by volunteering to assist others in overcoming similar bureaucratic challenges.

How did the transition from volunteering to establishing EasyStart Relocation as a business unfold?

During my tenure in a corporate role, I found myself with some downtime, prompting me to extend a helping hand to fellow expats relocating to France. I delved into my Facebook communities, addressing queries and offering assistance where I could. As people reached out, the scope of my involvement grew organically. Initially, I volunteered my support, but the demand led to some expressing their willingness to compensate for my assistance.

What began as aid in the housing search evolved into a comprehensive suite of services, encompassing everything from visas and housing/utilities to social security/healthcare, schools, and driver’s licenses. Our efforts have expanded to collaborate with immigration lawyers and established international businesses and corporations, fostering a more robust support network for expats in need.

Could you share a significant moment or experience that reinforced your commitment to assisting individuals with relocation and asylum processes?

During the challenging times of COVID-19, there was a moment when I experienced a profound sense of discouragement. It felt as though everything in my life was unravelling, and I contemplated the idea of giving up and returning to my home country, the United States, while labelling myself as a failure. Despite holding a corporate position at the time, I found little fulfilment in my work.

The turning point came when I recognized the opportunity to make a meaningful impact by helping others. Motivated by the prospect of a more fulfilling and liberating life, I took a significant leap of faith. I made the decision to leave my corporate job and venture into establishing EasyStart Relocation. This bold move was driven by my aspiration for a path that not only granted me more freedom but also promised a deeper sense of self-fulfilment in life.

What role does volunteering continue to play within the heart of EasyStart Relocation, even as it has evolved into a business?

I’ve consistently carried a strong sense of empathy towards people and their challenges, always seeking ways to provide meaningful assistance. During EasyStart Relocation’s ascent to recognition, largely through word of mouth, a pivotal moment unfolded with the onset of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. I began receiving inquiries from individuals seeking asylum in France amid the war, as well as from those in the Middle East searching for a safe haven.

Given our role as a relocation company, it felt only natural to extend our assistance to those in need. Since the inception of EasyStart, rooted in the ethos of volunteering, empathy has been a core value. It was crucial for me to uphold this principle, especially when faced with more complex cases. We believe in the importance of maintaining our commitment to empathy, ensuring that the challenging nature of certain situations does not deter us from our founding principles.

As a solo woman entrepreneur, what are some of the most significant challenges you have faced in building and growing EasyStart Relocation?

Navigating the world of solo entrepreneurship, especially as a woman, has its unique challenges that aren’t often discussed—chief among them, the loneliness and stress that come with the territory. Imagine making the leap from a well-organized corporate setting to starting from scratch, not entirely sure where to begin. It’s a blend of scary and invigorating all at once.

One of the most exciting yet challenging aspects has been funding. From day one, I’ve been the sole financial supporter of my business, and while it’s been an organic journey, scaling up has presented its share of difficulties.

Loneliness has been a companion on this road, especially in the early days. Making decisions in isolation and working in a niche industry where collaboration is limited can be tough. Who knew administration could be so niche, right? It would have been wonderful to have a fellow partner or colleague to share thoughts and explore solutions with. But despite the solo journey, it’s made me wiser and mentally stronger, turning challenges into opportunities for growth.

How do you navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, especially as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry?

Personally, I believe we’re in the midst of a positive shift. While business has historically been male-dominated, the landscape is evolving, with more women assuming CEO and leadership roles. Men, too, are recognizing the valuable contributions women bring to the workforce. As an entrepreneur, I’ve mostly encountered positive responses, but there have been instances where the opposite gender assumed a position of authority over my business decisions.

Thankfully, these instances have been few, and overall, I’ve received a lot of support. However, there were moments when certain men presumed they knew better about managing my business, despite having no understanding of its intricacies. If asked to pitch it to an investor, they wouldn’t have a clue. Those moments can be infuriating, as it feels like they’re questioning my intelligence. It makes me wish they could step into my shoes and see how they fare in the type of work I do! Haha.

What strategies or approaches have you found most effective in overcoming obstacles and setbacks in your journey as an entrepreneur?

Over the years, I’ve honed several strategies to overcome obstacles effectively. One key approach is meticulous planning and ensuring everything is well-organized. Taking dedicated time for myself allows me to step back and gain a comprehensive view of the entire picture. It’s crucial not to let disappointments derail progress. I firmly believe that things unfold for a reason, and if it’s meant to be, it will find its way.

In addition, incorporating meditation and self-regulation practices has proven invaluable in calmly navigating and overcoming hurdles. This not only enhances resilience but also fosters a grounded mindset to tackle challenges with clarity and composure.

Can you share a specific instance where you had to overcome a major obstacle or setback, and how you managed to persevere?

Honestly, I’ve encountered numerous hurdles in my entrepreneurial journey. Whether they stemmed from personal challenges affecting my business or internal operational issues, the key to perseverance has been a steadfast refusal to give up, even when faith was in short supply. Somehow, by persisting through these challenges, I’ve consistently managed to navigate and emerge on the other side, continuing to move forward despite the difficulties.

EasyStart Relocation has been commissioned to assist with visa processes for the Paris Olympics 2024. How does this opportunity impact your company, and what does it mean for your future goals and aspirations?

Up to this point, assisting companies and individuals with the visa process for the Paris Olympics 2024 has been a transformative experience for our company. In response to the increased demand, a complete restructuring became essential. I enlisted the expertise of the talented professional, Pari Aryafar from Pari-Cherry.com, who not only contributed significantly to the restructuring process but has also become a cherished friend.

Together, we are focusing on reorganizing the structure and delegation of consultants, ensuring preparedness for rapid hiring if staffing shortages arise. The primary goal was to establish a well-balanced and streamlined company flow, maintaining a harmonious company culture throughout the process. This strategic approach aims to facilitate a smooth and efficient operation as we navigate the unique challenges associated with the Paris Olympics.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs, especially women, who are looking to start their own businesses or pursue their passion projects?

The most valuable advice I can offer aspiring entrepreneurs is to begin with the mindset of wanting to genuinely help people, rather than solely focusing on financial gain. When envisioning your business, consider how your product or service positively impacts the lives of your target customers. Starting with this mindset, rather than solely pursuing monetary success, positions you ahead of the curve.

Successful businesses are typically those that serve a purpose by enhancing the lives of others. By prioritizing the value you bring to your customers, you inherently lay the groundwork for financial success as well. Remember, if you succeed in making a meaningful difference in people’s lives, financial success will naturally follow.

Looking back on your journey with EasyStart Relocation, what are you most proud of achieving, and what do you hope to accomplish in the future?

This journey has been undeniably tough for me. I embarked on the adventure of starting a business entirely on my own, self-funding it, all while navigating the uncertainties of COVID-19 and enduring a domestically violent relationship. To add to the turmoil, I found myself moving eight times in just two years. Life felt like a constant whirlwind, and EasyStart Relocation became my anchor – the one thing that kept me going.

It might sound a bit cheesy, but I take immense pride in not giving up. Amidst the chaos, the hope that this business would eventually thrive kept me pushing forward. Looking back, I realize that my journey has been a testament to my resilience and determination.

Now, as I reflect on my experiences, my hope is for EasyStart Relocation to scale further, extending its reach to other countries. My ultimate goal is to help more people pursue their dreams of moving to a new country, turning their aspirations into reality.

How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance while managing the demands of running your own business?

I prioritise maintaining a healthy work-life balance by setting clear boundaries on my daily working hours. When I’m not at my best, I make a conscious effort to prioritise self-care, whether it’s taking a day off to rest or hitting the gym to boost my endorphins. Relaxing at the hammam and sauna has also become a staple in my self-care routine. I firmly believe that when you feel good and nurture your internal well-being, it positively reflects in the flourishing of your business!

In what ways do you see EasyStart Relocation evolving in the future, particularly in response to changing global dynamics and immigration policies?

France is currently undergoing significant changes in immigration policies, but that doesn’t deter us from pursuing our business objectives. While challenges may arise due to evolving policies, we acknowledge that these regulations are beyond our control. Our approach is to adapt proactively to ensure continued success.

Dreaming about streamlining the business and embracing a more ‘digital’ approach is a vision I hold. Although I have numerous ideas in that direction, it seems like a venture for the future. Presently, I recognize the importance of taking things one step at a time, focusing on the current scenario and adapting to the changing landscape as needed.

Linkedin EasyStart: https://www.linkedin.com/company/easystart-relocation

Personal LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/anndelavictoria

Facebook EasyStart: https://www.facebook.com/EasyStartRelocation

Instagram EasyStart: https://www.instagram.com/easystart_relocation

by Harness Editor

Harness believes that freedom of expression equals female empowerment. The truth? We’re a badass authentic community of fierce women, and we exist to help your voice be heard. Harness is here to be your safe haven. A place to shed the competition, the insecurities. This is a place to rise by lifting others. This is who we are.


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