Noelle Nguyen

[aside title="American Love Affair, LLC"]
Company URL:
AmericanLoveAffairOnline.com

Location:
Los Angeles, CA

Mission:
One e-commerce destination from which to purchase expertly crafted American-made fashion and consumer products.

Business Idea:
Design and market American-made apparel; provide a commerce platform for other American brands.

Problem Set Out to Solve:
A nationwide loss of pride in American-made products.

Target Customer:
Those who support American manufacturing and would like to promote the prominence of the “Made in the U.S.A.” label.

Year Founded:
2012 (e-commerce division)

Avg. Annual Revenue:
Confidential

Number of Employees:
12 (e-commerce division)
[/aside]

Where is the crossroads of fashion, business, and a sense of patriotism? One intersection is American Love Affair®, a company recently founded by Noelle Nguyen (Presidents and Key Executives MBA ’12). While the company itself is new, the genesis of the idea spans Nguyen’s formative years outside the United States.

Born in Vietnam, Nguyen and her mother fled the country after the fall of Saigon and spent a harrowing two weeks at sea before landing in Thailand. They lived in a refugee camp for two years where Nguyen first came into contact with Americans. “I looked forward to the days when members of the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army came to our camp and brought us food and clothing,” she says.

That early experience was soon followed by other American influences in her life, including church members who sponsored her and her family when they immigrated to Maryland. “I’ve developed an unwavering appreciation for Americans, and an allegiance to the country I’ve called home for more than two decades,” she says.

Today, Nguyen focuses that appreciation into a passion for designing, developing, manufacturing, and marketing American-made apparel and related products. The American Love Affair site sells only American-made brands.

“We scoured the market and found a few hundred companies that manufacture in the United States. We are highlighting about 50 of them in our launch,” she explains.

Entrepreneurship has given Nguyen an even greater appreciation of the American business system. “You are free to take a risk and you have an opportunity to earn a return on your investment,” she continues. “This is clearly not a freedom that many others around the world experience. In America, with hard work and average intelligence you have a reasonable chance at success.”

While Nguyen has embraced the freedom of working for herself, she says that structure is critically important for aspiring entrepreneurs. She advises current Pepperdine students who are interested in entrepreneurship “not to fly by the seat of your pants.” Instead, they should make a plan. “You must force yourself to adopt some level of structure and planning while still maintaining the flexibility and instincts to respond to a changing environment,” Nguyen advises.

She also counsels students to take advantage of the experience and advice of Graziadio professors and advisors. “They inspired me every day with their knowledge and intellect. Understanding how they think allowed me to stretch my own thinking,” she says.

The driving motivation behind Nguyen’s business is seeing four simple words—MADE IN THE USA—show up on more clothing labels. While she says the mission of the company is to create stylish and superbly constructed clothing, the company’s vision is to remind people to “fall in love again with all things that are uniquely American, be it country, community, or, perhaps, fashion.”

Nguyen’s experiences—particularly during her escape from Vietnam, her time in the refugee camp, and her early years in the United State—have shaped this vision for her company. “From these experiences I have developed an appreciation that may be difficult for someone who has never lived beyond the boundaries, safety, and charity of this country to fathom,” she says. “The greatest compliment I could be paid is to be called a patriot—one who is pro-American and defends its greatness.”