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Lessons From The Immigrant Hustle: “Don’t think about the money, Keep your mind on the big picture” With Laurent Vrignaud

Keep your mind on the big picture. Don’t think about money. Be relentless in keeping your end goal in mind and the money will come. I was…


Keep your mind on the big picture. Don’t think about money. Be relentless in keeping your end goal in mind and the money will come. I was working my ass off (out of my VW bus) and eventually bigger brands wanted to hire me. I was relentless in pursuing my end goal. In just 3 years, I had a booming business. And between 1999 and 2008, I had grown my business into the largest independent sales rep agency in North America.


I had the pleasure to interview Laurent Vrignaud, the founder of Moulin Bistro in Newport Beach, California.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you describe your childhood in Montmartre?

My grandparents owned a small apartment in “Rue Lepic” in the heart of Montmartre. I spent my childhood running up and down he hills of Montmartre, playing on the sidewalks, and splashing in the fountains of Le Sacré Coeur’s gardens. Our school was there, our friends were there, and it felt as though our little village in the heart of Paris was the center of the world. Life was simple, but that’s what made it beautiful.

Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you please describe that story.

When I was 17, my dad had taken an engineering job in Silicon Valley, CA. My parents were divorced, so my brother (then 15) and I attended boarding school. One day, my dad asked if we wanted to join him in the U.S. I said, “Why not?” My brother said, “Never.” It’s been that way ever since.

How was your experience in coming to the US?

The transition was not easy. I was 18 when I came to the Bay Area to join my dad. As a recently transplanted high school senior at the Lycée Français de San Francisco, my mind wasn’t on school, it was on the new adventures to be had here in the U.S. I was enamored with the new terrain and all I wanted to do was go the beach. And so I pursued that dream. Ultimately, I was spending day after day at the beach, which got me kicked out of high school for poor attendance. When my dad found out, he too kicked me out. So, with no where to go, I headed to the beach. I knew I wanted to stay in the U.S., so I got a job at a surf shop and waited tables at night to keep a roof over my head. I was able to windsurf daily, which at the time made it all worth it.


Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable?

If it weren’t for my dad, I would have never had the opportunity to come to California. But if it weren’t for our disagreement about priorities, I would never have made it in America.

Tell us about Moulin. Where are you now and what’s next for the brand?

After a successful 30-year career as a sales rep for action sports brands, I decided to pursue another passion of mine.

In 2014, I opened Moulin, an authentic French bistro-epicerie-cafe, in Newport Beach, CA. with the mission of making guests feel as though they have been transported to Paris. From the moment you step inside, Moulin transports you to France with the smell of fresh artisan bread, the sight of fresh chickens turning in the rotisserie, French music, and the sound of people speaking French.

But for me, Moulin is more than just delivering an experience; it is about fulfilling a lifelong dream. Born and raised in Montmartre, Paris, I created Moulin out of my love for the French bistro culture I’ve missed since moving to California in the 1980s. As a child, I would spend time after school in my grandparents’ Parisian market, serving customers and learning how to work with people. This experience taught me the value of hard work and I developed his work ethic. Today, Moulin allows me to share the story of France and its culture in the most authentic way possible — through the classic, artisan breads it bakes and the traditional dishes it serves. Moulin is filled with vintage bistro tables, chairs, fixtures, art and other furnishings that I’ve been collecting in France during visits back home over the last 20 years in anticipation that someday, I’d own my own bistro.

What’s next? We have two locations in Orange County and now I’m working on location #3. Moulin will continue grow at the right pace (like I said, building The American Dream takes time) because our brand will always stay true to “people, product, place”. This requires a relentless passion for details. Maybe locations 4 and 5 will be in Orange County…and then, who knows!


How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am able to bring goodness to the world by employing lots of people from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. This creates a rich and rewarding work environment for them and their families. Moulin provides people with a home away from home. We are a family and that alone brings goodness to the people we employ.

You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you change to improve the system?

I see positives and negatives with the US immigration system. The U.S. does their due diligence. It’s a lengthy process for immigrants, but without it, there would be chaos. Just look at Europe today. But the issue lies here as well, there seems to be a complete lack of US resources in expediting the process for pending and future immigrants.


Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. No school? No problem. I’ve never had a diploma of any kind — not even a high-school diploma. I was driven by success and knew if I worked hard enough and smart enough, I could create the life I’ve always dreamed of. That’s exactly what I did.
  2. Where there’s a will, there’s work. Work is everywhere in the U.S. you just have to want it bad enough. At 18, I was forced to support myself in the U.S. or return to France. In my mind, there was only one option. So I walked into a surf shop with the will to work and got a job that day. I knew I needed to make more money, so I walked into a French restaurant, got a second job that day. I worked two jobs just to afford “The American Dream”.
  3. Work harder than the next guy. About two years into working at the surf shop, a 22-year-old independent sales rep pulled up in his Porsche 911 to sell windsurfing equipment. To my 18-year-old self, he was the epitome of success. So I decided that, I too, would become “a sales rep.” I began peddling cheap brands up and down the coast of California in my VW bus (which I also slept in). I saw the value in always having something to sell. Including myself — I sold myself by playing up my tenacity to bigger brands who I wanted to represent…and it worked.
  4. Keep your mind on the big picture. Don’t think about money. Be relentless in keeping your end goal in mind and the money will come. I was working my ass off (out of my VW bus) and eventually bigger brands wanted to hire me. I was relentless in pursuing my end goal. In just 3 years, I had a booming business. And between 1999 and 2008, I had grown my business into the largest independent sales rep agency in North America.
  5. Invest in Yourself. And yes, I bought myself a 911.

We know that the US needs improvement, but are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?

1.Go anywhere in the world, and people will tell you they want to go to America. Why? Because the “American Dream” is proven. This country allows risk-takers and go-getters to thrive.

2. Look and listen to people who’ve made it here. They’ve done something right and we all — no matter where your country of origin is — could learn something from them.

3. America was built on optimism for all! It’s diverse economic landscape full of inspiring entrepreneurs. That’s what makes success in America contagious.





Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with at Moulin, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I’d love to have lunch with President Obama at Moulin. I’m fascinated by him and want to know what is was like for him as POTUS.

Also, I’d like to have a coffee with Tom Cruise to ask him about his exciting career and to say, “Scientology? You can’t be serious.”

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

On Instagram — @moulin

Originally published at medium.com

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