Moving to Barcelona as an Entrepreneur – Inge Barker

This month we thought it would be great to interview a long standing expat and successful entrepreneur from the Sitges community, Inge Barker.  Inge is the owner of A Taste of Home and is also very active at supporting and raising money for local charities.

Where are you originally from Inge?
My father was German and my mother English. As a child I lived in Berlin and when I went to school we returned to live in Lincolnshire.

What made you move to Barcelona (and specifically Sitges), and how long have you lived there?
My husband worked for the Libyan Government on the great River Project and the components where produced in Barcelona so he relocated here. We only came for 6 months but after a few weeks decided to stay.

Tell us three of the things that you love about living in Sitges/Barcelona?
I love the weather, being close to the sea and the cosmopolitan feel to Sitges.

How long after moving did you set up your business?
I had been here about 6 months and was bored so I opened a small British Cafe bar/restaurant.  Then Marks and Spencers closed and everyone was asking where to get things so I opened a shop.

Tell us a bit about A Taste of Home and where we can find it?
A Taste of Home is situated in Calle Floridablanca 78, Barcelona and Calle San Jose 32-34 in Sitges.  Everything is imported either from the UK, Holland or America.  We only sell things that it is not easy to get elsewhere.  We are the only two English supermarkets in Catalunya.  We sell a lot of very up market products, Border Biscuits, Tip Tree Jams and amazing chutneys.  We also do Gluten Free products.  One of our biggest sellers is Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar which is apparently a wonder product rivalling Manuka Honey.

What challenges did you face setting up a business in Barcelona as an expat? 
Originally the language caused problems but my Spanish has improved and though my Catalan is almost non-existent I can understand some.  Also I speak German and most of our Clients want to practise their English.

The constant struggle to get licences is also annoying.  There is so much red paper and hoops to jump through.  It is easier to buy an existing business and just change the licence to the buyers name.

What advice would you give fellow expats who are thinking of moving to the Barcelona area to set up a business? 
Think carefully, find a niche market and learn the language.  You need capital to fall back on.  To stock the shops costs thousands.  We started very small.  In Sitges we are looking into moving into a much bigger store.  I love working here.  It is fun and I can honestly say our customers are the best.  It is very social being in a shop.  Even when you are busy you must take time to be friendly and chat.

We also raise a lot of money for animals by selling second hand books.  The money goes to Refuges, to buy food and medications.  We feed the young men on the streets and their animals.  The ladies who feed the cat colonies also come to us for food and we collect blankets for the refuges. 

At the moment we are running a raffle to help little Isla Caton who suffers from a rare form of cancer. She is being treated in Barcelona as the treatment is much more advanced here than in the UK.  Her mum and dad are lovely.  They have given up their jobs to help Isla´s fight so if anyone wants a ticket we have them in the shop 2 euros each.  She is a real sweetie and a great little fighter.

A Taste of Home is also on Facebook.

For more information about ‘being your own boss’ if you are thinking of relocating to Barcelona, you can visit dedicated information sites such as BLE

Barcelona is a great place to grow your own startup or relocate an existing online business to.  Office space is relatively cheap and more and more co-working spaces are opening, making it even more cost effective and less isolating.  In fact 35% of Spanish startups alone come from the Barcelona area.

Do you have a local startup story to share?  We’d love to hear from you.

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