They say the sweet spot in business begins with taking what you’re passionate about and finding a way to make it profitable. For a food-loving, hospitality-trained business woman, Lauren Aloise was clear what her path in Spain would be: to leave teaching and focus her energy on building a business that combined her love of cuisine with a plan that brought the best of Spain to the plate.
Madrid Food Tour was born in 2012, and after Lauren and her team found success in tapas tours that mix chowing down with history and culture, she began expanding. Lauren takes us through the process of being an entrepreneur in Spain in our latest installment of Careers in Spain:
Your Name: Lauren Aloise
City and Comunidad: Madrid, Madrid
Job Title: Managing Director, Devour Spain SL
Why did you initially come to Spain?
My first trip to Spain was as a college student, and the focus was on learning Spanish. I was at a language school in Granada for four months and loved every minute of it! Years later I returned because I didn’t feel a connection to any of the jobs I’d applied for out of college. My dream was to attend culinary school. I found out about an English teaching program in Spain, and I decided to perfect my Spanish and live abroad for at least a year. That was over five years ago by now!
How did you transition into your current position?
I went from teaching English to starting a food and travel blog and trying (briefly) to make a career for myself in freelance writing. But my background was in food, tourism and business, so when I stumbled upon the idea of a walking food tour I knew I had to set one up in Madrid. In 2012 I started Madrid Food Tour and in 2014 opened Devour Barcelona Food Tours. Our company is now called Devour Spain and we plan to expand into a couple of other Spanish cities this year.
What was the interview process like?
I’m my own boss and I can be very hard on myself– but there was no interview for the job!
How are you legally working in Spain?
My husband is Spanish and I have residency and work permission through marriage.
How does working in your field in Spain differ from your home country?
I suppose being an entrepreneur has its parallels no matter where you’re based. I think I have to deal with some laws and legislation that other US based business owners might avoid, and it’s also tough to compete with US based companies that don’t have to charge customers 21% Spanish sales tax! But, overall, I think the culture of an entrepreneur, the pay and hours are pretty much the same anywhere!
What has been the hardest part of working or starting your own business in Spain?
There is a lot of bureaucracy and a lot of costs that sneak up on you when first getting started. It’s also difficult at times to make other businesses understand the full value of what we do, given they are so separated from our target market. Lastly, hiring has been really difficult. We have been lucky to find some fantastic staff so far, but finding people who can legally work in Spain and who speak near native English (and love food and history!) is tougher than it sounds.
Any advice for non-EU citizens seeking a job outside of teaching?
Be persistent and explore all of your options. I’d suggest looking into ecommerce, and perhaps something you could run wherever you’re located. Start a portfolio asap, whether that be a blog, website, or otherwise– don’t waste time worrying about the business plan (which is definitely important and has its place) but try to hit the ground running!
What are your plans for the future? Will you stay in Spain?
We plan to expand Devour Spain to include food tours in various Spanish cities, where we will continue giving visitors a truly local taste of the city’s culture and cuisine. We know that our promise to work exclusively with small, family run businesses is making a difference in our communities and look forward to fostering these special relationships as the years go on.
Also check out Madrid Food Tour and Devour Barcelona Food Tour on their blogs and social media:
Stay tuned as we feature more expats who have made a successful transition from teacher to trabajador! If you fit the bill and would like to be featured, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!