Blown away by the Windy City
WILD GEESE: FIONA McENTEE: Founder of McEntee Law Group and hair salon Blowtique
FIONA McENTEE is only 30 years old, yet she already has two very different businesses under her belt – a law firm specialising in immigration and a blow dry-only hair salon.
The Chicago-based entrepreneur, originally from Dublin, is also planning to expand her hair salon business to four more locations.
Her journey to Chicago wasn’t easy. In 2002, the then UCD undergraduate got offered a place on an exchange programme to study law at DePaul University in Chicago. “The city felt right from the first few weeks of arriving. I knew Chicago was the place for me.”
She came back to UCD to complete her studies before returning to Chicago in 2005 to pursue a juris doctor degree at Chicago-Kent College of Law. “It was such a hassle to go back to Chicago to study law. I had to sit LSATs [Law School Admission Tests], which are college admission tests that everyone in America is practising from a young age, but something I had no experience in. I couldn’t even do them in Ireland so had to travel to London to sit them with no guarantee of ever getting a place.”
It was during her time at Chicago-Kent college of law that McEntee discovered immigration law. “I knew I wanted to work in an area connected with social affairs and human rights, but immigration was something I had never thought much about. A lot of people, when they think about immigration law, they think of undocumented people in the United States. They don’t think of proactive immigration. Anyone coming here not for a holiday needs a visa.”
McEntee wasn’t always her own boss. After graduating from Chicago-Kent in 2007, she got a job in immigration firm Visa Now, which organises thousands of visas each year for people to visit, work or join family members. The company also specialises in placing foreign nationals in US companies and in assisting placement of US employees in foreign locations.
“I worked in Visa Now for more than two years and the experience was invaluable . . . one year of experience there is worth 10 years at a general firm as it was so specialised.”
In 2009, she left Visa Now to set up her own practice. It took time to build up the business, though. “You have to prepare. You can’t sit there and expect work to come to you. You can’t expect the phone to ring off the hook.”
McEntee arranges visas for people to work in the US, for musicians to play gigs, for artists and fashion designers to put on shows. “I started representing Irish musicians such as The Coronas. It was good as they were repeat clients – they come here to perform every year.”