You might expect me to say, “Bonjour, my name is Léa France”….. But actually, my name is Carine Soriano and I’m the creator of Léa France.
I’m originally from Bordeaux, France and when I moved to North America, I experienced scrapbooking culture shock.
And so begins the story of how Léa France was born.
The little seed appears in my head.
My husband, my 18-month-old baby Loriane and I had moved from France to Ottawa, Canada where I was teaching French to people who worked for the Canadian government.
My husband skating with my daughter on the “Rideau canal” in Ottawa
One day, I wanted to scrapbook a page of photos of our family's skating adventure on the canal. So I went to store after store looking for the scrapbooking stencils I was used to in France and no one seemed to know what I was talking about.
They kept showing me decorative stencils (trees, birds, hearts, etc.. when I wanted scrapbooking stencils to create pages…. But they were clueless, they had no idea what I even meant. European-style scrapbooking stencils simply didn’t exist here.
When I got home, I shared my experience of scrapbooking culture shock with my husband and this is where the little seed of an idea started to grow….
I finally decided that I wanted to take the plunge.
6 years later, I now had two daughters and had moved again, this time to the USA (I lived in Fremont in the Bay area). Really believing in this “stencil system,” I finally contacted 2 companies in France that were doing European Style Scrapbooking to discuss a possible partnership.
One company was doing only Shape stencils which required some “artistic” skills to combine the shapes and make the page look good. I knew this system was new to the USA, and there was no way I could start introducing this new concept with something complicated.
The second company had photo layout stencils, but they were not adapted for 4x6” photos (as photos in France are usually 11x15cm which is 4.33x5.9”) and were not enough versatile to me. When I offered to create a flag design for them especially for the USA, they told me it would never work…
And that’s when I realized these French companies will never get it. They didn’t understand Americans like I did. (It’s not their fault, but I think you need to live with people to truly understand them.)
One night crying out of frustration, my husband said, “Do it then. If you know what would be the BEST for people in America, just create your own collection.”
But that just made me cry more. How could I, Carine Soriano, with 2 little kids, do what 2 big successful companies in France have achieved in Europe here in the USA! And my English was not even good!
I may have cried myself to sleep that night, but something magical happened. In the morning I woke up with 3 designs in my head: Stained Glass, American Flag and Blooming Flower. I thought: “I did it, I really can create!
The turning point.
My very first scrapbooking show was in Pleasanton and hosted by Scrapbook Expo. I was SO scared, I still felt like a little woman playing with all the PROS.
I was just about to go and set up for the show when I asked my husband....
“Do you think I should take everything or just half of it and the rest tomorrow?”
He agreed I should just take half.
But this little voice inside was whispering to me to take them ALL. Even though I thought, “there is no way I will sell out,” I took everything thinking I would leave them in the car just in case.
Well by the end of the day I was running to my car calling my husband saying I was already out of stencils and need to bring more to the show floor!
And that day was the moment of truth for me and my husband: Americans DO like the stencils!
My American friend, Ann, always says to me, “You took the stencils from France and put them on steroids for all us here in America.”
I was so happy I could share my passion for this system with everyone here in North America. And I’m so thankful my husband pushed me to pursue my dream all those years ago.
And after doing this for so many years, I can’t believe how much I still learn from my customers, my mistakes along the way and how I feel fulfilled by going through my “human journey” having a business.
What does the name Léa France stand for?
Well Léa is an acronym that is really meaningful to me:
L for Loriane - My older daughter
É for Stéphane - My husband
A for Alissia - My youngest daughter
And for the second part “France”, I wanted to add where this scrapbooking passion came from. I learned European Style Scrapbooking in France while I lived there so it was an obvious choice.
So there you go, the name Léa France was born.
As for the Eiffel Tower in the logo, I know how much Americans love it, and, as it happens, I love it too : )