i'm a big fan and increibly jealous. if i could switch jobs with anyone here who's been smoked out it'd be you. i'd give my eye teeth to be able to live and work doing something i sorta kinda like in italy.
how were you able to set up shop in the EU? the legal pitfalls from what i can figure is overwhelming.
you do great work my friend, i hope we run in to each other soon.
I was fortunate enough to have some hospitable employers at the university where I was working. Without their help (and that of a large pool of others), I would have never made it. Many ask how to "do it", but for me it was a series of evolutionary progression, piece by piece, that allowed me to stay. Those first few jobs that I was sent out on were in North America b/c I "couldn't" be legally in the country while the documents were being checked and prepared. As you describe, it was very overwhelming.
Making bikes was the easy(ier) part. I had already been married, filed for my permanent residency card (legally married in town hall), so at that point they couldn't repatriate me unless I held up a bank or something. I had won a business competition with the Arezzo Chamber of Commerce in 2004 and began to make some local waves and all the politicians jumped on any new business that created "growth" in our area. I was like the poster boy for job development that year. Really comical stuff. They did interviews and I even did a few talk shows. You know, the ones that come on at 3.35 in the morning on channel 143. After all the lights dimmed, I was shunned by the banks and my new political friends and they were off to find another tv-worthy chump. Starting (and maintaining) a business is WAY easier and there are so many more resources in the US. The SCORE Council with the SBA was a big help to me to understand the basics of running a business and I just read all their startup material and tried to be an American business, but over here.
I also think that the USA has another important advantage of night school. In the outskirts of Houston, where I moved here from originally, you can take classes for anything. My mom told me she was taking a class on HOW TO USE YOUR NEW MAC, for pc users. I mean how much help can you get? I wish there was a school here (locally) where I could go to learn how to "really" machine a piece of metal or to turn tubes the right way. There were some schools here years ago, but they have since been disbanded. I spend a good bit of time at the local machine shops asking questions and watching.
Darren, Welcome to smoked out, I've been watching you for a long time on the internets and am absolutely a big fan. How much stuff do you have to order from the US for your frames ie Paragon stuff? How does that affect your pricing having stuff shipped back and forth so to speak? I am stoked you can sell stuff locally, and I admire your ti finish work. I have a strange relationship with Ti, I never have enough left over to build myself a frame. Keep rockin! My girlfriend is way into Montessori so someday we have to go to Bergamo, its the trip of dreams for me to go to Italy.
It's nice to be here, too. We miss you around here a bunch and we're working hard to improve the accommodations round here. The Val di Chio will be waiting with all it's glory. Ti abbracciano le mie donne and we hope to have you back soon for inspection :)
I can only add one thing : http://www.anticatrattorialafoce.com...0CINGHIALI.jpg
or maybe two: antica trattoria la foce
Coming back from Marco's the other evening I almost hit 3 cinghiali crossing the road near Palazzo del Pero (coincidence?). It made me think of you and how much sugo we could have made!
Thanks for the kind words. I order almost everything from the US. Paragon is on the speed dial and I get all my machined parts from them with the exclusion of some custom shells and bits that I machine locally from raw stock. Most of the material is US in origin and you can find the main suppliers on the TFC forum where we've put forth some of the more prominent names.
I have truckloads of ti, too. All are drops and way to small to make a complete frame. There are some "pixie" races here at the SS events, where guys and gals jump on infant bikes and careen down large hills. May be able to work up a frame for that event...
If you're in the neighborhood, don't forget to give me a shout. I've got an open door policy for f'builders!! Most never get in touch when there here, though. It's not like I'm going to make you work or something...
Bergamo Alto is freaking beautiful. If (when) you come, bring your bike or you'll regret it!
It has a great effect (great meaning big, not good). I have to pay 21% IVA/VAT tax on all my raw material and goods (ti mat'l, Enve forks and wheels etc). Then on top of that I have to pay customs tax which is another 4-5 % . Then if it comes UPS or FedEx or DHL or similar, they usually tack on another 1-2%. Basically I pay a premium for my raw materials. This is why I cannot, and don't try, to compete with the bigger ti makers that are importing volume from the Far East. I'm not about cheap, I'm about good...so to speak.
Right now the Euro has a little more buying power than the dollar. With all the EU problems in the making, we'll see if that lasts. This means that I can buy with a little bit of savings, but those clients in North America or other places that use the dollar as a benchmark have to extend themselves to buy one (or two) of my frames. It's a catch-22 thingy..
Does that make sense? I'm not sure if that answered your question so let me know...thanks!
as a fellow Texan (Houston) I can confirm that Texas is a country. We even have our own embassy in London. I came to Germany 20 years ago not speaking the language so I can really relate to what you went through.
I've always admired your website. Did you build it yourself or have it done?
Thanks! I must say that I liked my website when I first completed it. Now I believe it's too heavy and FLASH just doesn't do it for me anymore. I made the website years ago with Illustrator (2005) and I had some help to program it. The problem is that with that platform, I could not update photos without the programmer and it was just unrealistic. Presently, I've linked to a blog and killed the website photos, just using the Flickr as my archive. I don't have the time right now to work on a new website but it will come soon. I started the blog just to get familiar with a control panel and to start learning how to update content myself. I'm a pretty slow learner and like to get comfortable before I jump into the new web stuff. One more aspect of working alone is you're really ALONE. That means that I can delegate the website to anyone for updating or content unless I go outside the business.
your frames certainly reflect an architect's eye. their simplicity and spareness are elegant.
like perhaps the overwhelming percentage of cyclists who visit italy, i've fallen in love with the country and its people. and of course i've dreamed of living there one day. as someone who is living that dream (and done an incredible amount of hard work to make that dream a reality) i'm curious about something:
is there something about living in italy that has unexpectedly brought you happiness? and is there something that you find unexpectedly difficult or frustrating?
our daydreams about living abroad are always so rose-tinted. you're in a great position to comment on the reality. thank you.
take care, james
With those two statements, I think I could write for days or even months about this because it is something that I constantly think about. I really went through some shit to get where I am today. I don't mean exclusively with Crisp Titanium but with many other experiences that have gotten me to this point. Some wonderful : my wedding, birth of my two girls, success at achieving many of my goals. Some were terrible: lawsuits, work experiences, local politics.
In the end, each one has given me a story to tell. Not really to tell the world, but to give meaning and richness to my life here. I often think about what my life would have or could have been had I been an architect or bike guy in the USA. It used to consume me because when you're at wit's end i.e. from a back operation that went wrong or similar, you start to evaluate whether you made the right decision. In the end, I don't think there is a right or wrong decision. It is what it is. I would have found happiness and pain living anywhere.
In these last few years, I have really become introspective. I've always been goal oriented as you have probably noticed from my previous passages. This has begun to change. Not sure why, but it could be from age, seeing my kids grow up, whatever. I really have had to kick myself to slow down, but now I frequently find myself looking at bugs, watching the trees, or just looking off into the distance (could be my welding hood is too tight, huh?). I've never stopped to appreciate the Forest Gump life that I've led. Never stop long enough when I finish a frame to say, "what a nice piece of work" or to just sit with the fact that I've made something from nothing that will give adventure to someone long after I'm gone.
I think this is why people (like myself) have often thought how great it would be to live somewhere else. I have a zillion Italians tell me that I'm crazy for choosing to live here. And just as many on the other side who want to pull up along side me and live in Tuscany. I think it's because we really don't live WHERE WE ARE.
I'll think more about this, may add some more later. Off to weld a bit..
ciao! and thanks for the questions..
I may have implied that washing dishes is a negative thing. Not so. I actually would probably enjoy it if I had not been so intent on "getting out" of there. If I had really looked around and saw what kind of place I was washing dishes in (a 17th century monastery), I may have never have left. It's pretty interesting to sit around and think about what we are chasing...