Success Story: Starting a Business from Scratch to Success – Episode 28

Business from Scratch

In this episode, we talk to Andre Arriaza from Spain about his story of starting a business from scratch and achieving success. He tells us more about his business, how he came up with the idea, how it works and the experience it can give us. Let’s all be amazed at how they have monetized the combination of their passion and love for country into one successful business that provides awesome Barcelona culinary experiences. He also shares how he started from scratch, and their biggest accomplishments, and the power of collaborations and networking for your business. Andre also gives 3 tips for people who are starting a business from scratch.

Important Links Mentioned in the Show:

Barcelona Eat Website

Barcelona East Facebook

Barcelona East Twitter

Angela Henderson Website

Angela Henderson Active Business Facebook Group

Angela Henderson Facebook Business Page

Angela Henderson Instagram

Prefer to read Success Story: Starting a Business from Scratch to Success? Here’s the transcript:

ANGELA:

You’re listening to the Business and Life Conversations podcast, with Angela Henderson, episode 28.

Hey there, you’re listening to the Business and Life Conversations podcast, my name is Angela Henderson, and on this show we talk about improving your business, life or both. By having amazing and rich conversations with brilliant guests. Who will inspire you and who will give you tips and tricks, to help you grow both in life and in business.

Hey there and welcome back to Business and Life Conversations with Angela Henderson, and I’m your host, obviously Angela, from Angela Henderson Consulting, and I’m so thrilled to have you on the podcast today.

On today’s podcast, I’m excited to have Andre on the show, who is joining us all the way from magnificent Spain, to talk with us today about his business, Barcelona Eat Local, but specifically talk with us about his success story, starting a business from scratch to success. Now I wanted to have you on the show Andre, because you don’t just have a wealth of business knowledge and experience, but your life experience in general is super fun, exciting and I think the listeners will be very intrigued with what you’ve done so far.

For example, Andre you’re an avid traveller. You have lived in remote locations as an aid worker and you’ve developed a passion to eat with the locals everywhere and anywhere you go. I’m super excited to dive a little bit deeper with this you Andre, in just a few moments. But in the meantime, welcome to the show Andre.

ANDRE:

Thank you. I’m super excited to be here Angela, and thanks again for inviting me.

ANGELA:

Gosh no I’m excited to have you! I mean, listening to, going to your website and seeing everything that you offer in Barcelona, it definitely made me wanna hop on a plane to come and visit because it seems like such a beautiful city to travel to. With the tours that you offer, which we’ll talk a little bit more in a minute, it seems like there’s just a vast array of awesomeness over in Barcelona.

ANDRE:

Sure. Yeah, actually, Barcelona, it’s for me, in my own opinion, it’s a city of passage. It has been a city of passage. It is a city that absorbed a lot of culture. That gives this multi-culturalist flavour to the city. There are lots of expatriates, as myself, I’m one of them. It’s super nice. I think Barcelona in a way has a unique identity because it has absorbed so many cultures for the last 2000 years.

For example, today, probably you hear on the news that the immigrant crisis in Europe, no one wants the immigrants. All the politicians are fighting about it. The only city that says “We want to welcome the immigrants. We want to give them jobs,” is Barcelona. So that’s the place where I live and I really love it.

ANGELA:

Again, like you said, it’s a vast, it’s a cultural, a vast cultural country you could say, or city you could say. 2000 years of welcoming a variety of different cultures. Talk to me a little bit about what cultural experiences are quite present in Barcelona?

ANDRE:

Okay. Yeah, this is a question that can have a very long answer, but I will try. I don’t want to claim to be an expert. The city has been always the main seaport in the Mediterranean Sea. It is where different cultures converge. It has been occupied by the Arabs. It has been occupied by the Romans. The Greeks passed by. Different kingdom and alliances of European kingdoms, sorry, pass by. That’s what gives the unique identity.

On the other side, that’s history. In present days, you have a lot of history, but at the same time you have a lot of trends. You have an open minded culture. Whether you’re a local, whether you’re an immigrant, whether you are coming from a minority, it’s a city that really lets you go in and find your space and certainly you will find it, and live at peace. I find that really, really, really wonderful.

In terms of food, it’s the same story. I mean, I hear many, I have many friends and the people who are proud about the foods from their own countries, cities, which is really nice. But here it’s like, but Catalans are really proud about their cuisine, but here is really about taking the best pieces of different cultures. The tomatoes that were brought from Americas, the spices that were brought from Asia, and it’s a wonderful blend.

ANGELA:

So tell me a little bit about, now that you’ve again, brought up the enormous, or delicious I should say, food over in Barcelona that I’m very envious about. Tell us a little bit about your business, which is Barcelona Eat Local. Let the listeners know a little bit more about Barcelona Eat Local, and how did this idea come up for you.

ANDRE:

Okay. Good. Basically, I’m originally from Chile actually. I’m not a Spaniard. Yep? My wife, she’s Russian. So, we came from opposite sides in the world. Personally, as you mentioned at the beginning, I been travelling a lot, because I’m an aid worker.

One of the passions I realised I really enjoy when I was travelling, or when I’m travelling, because I still travel a lot, it’s going to local markets. Trying to find local spots, not the famous ones, but the dirty corners in the cities where locals gather and enjoy. I found myself in many locations doing the same thing. I really enjoy it.

On the other side, Marina my wife, she’s someone that is really passionate about food, but for quality. Don’t go and give Marina whatever tomato you find in the market. You have to give her the best one. Basically, we settled in Barcelona in 2006. You know when you settle in a city like that, you have plenty of friends visiting you. You have to take them out and I will say 95 percent of people who visit, they’re interested in food. You are coming to Spain and you want to taste the real tapas and go for the late dinners.

So, with the fact that we really like food, and we really like to explore different places, we start to develop relationships with local vendors, with local businesses, family owned. We realised that in Barcelona, it happened all over the world, there are many food businesses that are family owned that are passed through generations. At some point, we became a little bit selfish and we said we should monetise this.

Because we’re seeing that people were enjoying us taking them to different places, not the ones you find in guide books, the ones that are famous, which are not bad, but the ones that are genuine. Talking to a couple of friends on ideas to do a business, we were thinking to open a restaurant because I really like cooking as well.

That’s something that works out very well with me. At some point, I was thinking I like cooking but I like cooking for my family. I like cooking for my friends. That’s not really something that I want to work in. I don’t see myself in a kitchen every day. Then we genuinely thought, I still remember exactly the day, but maybe providing culinary experiences is the way around. At that time, I was planning to get into business and again that’s how we created the business.

It remains a small one. It’s family owned. It’s both of us. Now we have two guides. Tell you later on that. What we do, it’s basically we have four, five products and all of them, it’s a culinary experience in Barcelona. They last around three hours. So, imagine yourself. You go to Barcelona. You want to taste the local cuisine and you join us, and we take you to genuine places, family owned in no touristic areas. We insure that beyond you tasting good food, you also have an interaction with the vendors.

Because that’s the cultural experience. The food is good. The food, you will taste it anyway. You don’t need us to do that, but the interaction and discovering few small corners of the city, that again are not in guides. So that’s more or less in a nutshell what we do.

ANGELA:

Perfect. So really you guys were able to combine not only your own I guess, history of where you come from, or origin of coming from. Combine that with your passion for food and just your overall passion, and through that, you’ve been able to monetise it through Barcelona Eat Local, which is fantastic, because you and your wife, I’m assuming, will never get bored of meeting new people, trying new food and working really with those local individuals to provide an experience that is really probably nothing they can ever get in those big guide books.

ANDRE:

Yeah. One thing you mentioned, and it’s really nice about the business, and probably is one of the things that keeps me alive, one: it’s meeting new people. It’s really fun, ’cause it’s real interesting to get people who are genuinely interested about food. They also give you something back.

I was telling you before we started the interview, we were on holidays in New York a week ago. We go to places because some of our clients who were New Yorkers at some point, recommended something. We went, and we had our notes and we tried. So that’s really nice because it gives back something. Again, working with local vendors, it’s really fulfilling because you get to know really passionate people. Wine producers, vendor markets, and it’s amazing the amount of information they have and they give to you, and that’s for free.

ANGELA:

And it’s also about I guess for me, is I always try and keep things local where I can, so by you guys opening up your own Barcelona Eat Local and yes, you’re monetising it, the reality of it is you’re still helping each other from a local perspective. You’re able to still, take your own clients to these particular beautiful local facilities, which allows them to still remain in business and show their culture and their diversity and their food to a variety of people that they may not have had if it wasn’t for you and your wife coming up with Barcelona Eat Local. Which is a wonderful thing to have.

ANDRE:

Yeah, it’s great. That’s one of the ideas. Small businesses, they cater a different segment of the population and that’s good. But also I can see they enjoy also being discovered by other people and the interaction is wonderful. We have this vendor. They opened a restaurant in the ‘70s in a very depressed area in Barcelona. But it’s the place where all the Spanish politicians, when they’re in Barcelona, they go there to do their business. King of Spain, famous actors, everyone goes there. It’s not a fancy place. It’s just a genuine place.

When we come with our groups of people, the owners, who are in their seventies, every time, they come and greet them. They come and talk to them. We are not consuming with our groups, what a famous actor is consuming. We are not paying the same sort of bill.

ANGELA:

Yes.

ANDRE:

If I’m making myself clear. I really appreciate that they dedicate the same amount of time to them. That’s really wonderful.

ANGELA:

That’s a beautiful story, because in a world we live in, where everything is so busy and fast paced and people can be fueled by greed, the fact that the business owners still stay so connected with not only yourselves, but the people that you’re bringing, is a very magical thing to see happen.

ANDRE:

Sure, sure.

ANGELA:

I guess when I speak about magic, let’s be honest. Nothing beats the magic of creating something new from scratch. I guess that’s what we’re talking about today, is starting something from scratch. Funny, I mean food, if we look at food, I do find that the little bit of a blend here is so much starts from scratch, obviously, in order to get beautiful dishes, beautiful tastes, etcetera.

But my question to you is, overcoming the obstacles and allowing you guys to kick some serious butt with Barcelona Eat Local, there obviously have been times when things have been probably frustrating or you run into dead ends, and potentially you even felt like giving up. So, talk to me a little bit about when you started from scratch. What does scratch mean to you and your wife?

ANDRE:

Okay. Good question. Let’s say you go to the market one day. You want to prepare a salad. You go buy salads. You pick tomatoes. You buy some veggies. You prepare your salad. You are not that happy with it, but then you go back. You talk to the vendors. You say, “I wasn’t happy with the tomatoes”, so then they give you better tomatoes. That’s how you start. You are starting your salad from scratch.

In our case, starting from scratch meant that one of us had to leave a job, and that was me. It meant that we had to set a budget to build an infrastructure. Our business takes, one thing I already talked to you about are the experiences, but how we sell, we do that through e-commerce. Okay? Just to make things clear. So, allocate time and find ways to sell. Building the product itself, the tour. I think at the beginning, things seemed like climbing a huge mountain.

ANGELA:

Yes.

ANDRE:

Right now, it’s not that difficult. But it was difficult because we had to, okay, we were two foreigners who had to talk to local vendors, who are really proud about their stuff. And convinced them that this was good. Most of them, they never worked with tourists. Most of them, the first impression was, “I don’t want to have a flock of people here every day with cameras and selfie sticks”, and we promised them that that was not going to be the case. That no one with a pink umbrella will come.

So, it was really challenging to make people believe in us. That was one thing that comes to the product. On the other side, any business itself. This is an e-commerce business. So, we had to build knowledge there. None of us had knowledge on that. So what we did, we explored our social capital, and that was amazing. That was something I learned in a course. I cannot remember which one, but one of those online courses in businesses.

We started mapping our friends, our connections. We realised one of them is a travel agent. Oh, a travel agent in the food tourism industry might have some insights.

Restaurant owners. We have friends who have restaurants. In Barcelona, there is a local office, which is managed by the city hall that helps entrepreneurs. We went there. We presented the project, “This is our idea. What do you think about?” So they give us the hint on where to look from the administrative and legal aspects.

But I think the most important one was the social capital. Then we had to invite all those friends, separately, to have a coffee, to have lunch and to expose our idea. It’s unbelievable, the amount of information that we managed to gather from them in order to build a work plan. That is what it takes in my opinion, for a small business to start from scratch.

None of us had knowledge in the tourism industry. I told you before, I’ve been always working as an aid worker, travelling around the world, to remote locations. Marina, she’s a finance controller. She works in a finance company, so she’s very good with numbers, which is good. As I mentioned before, she’s very picky with quality of products. Myself, I have this passion for cooking. I love food. I’m the one who creates things in the business. So I go around and I think okay, this route might work because I have five, six vendors in this area. We can go through this street because there is this building that has some. So, I do this kind of thing. So we mixed a bit. We identified what we know. We identified our social capital. Of course, we had to build a website, and create the social media channels and push some ads at the beginning.

ANGELA:

Sorry, go ahead.

ANDRE:

No sorry. That was my last point. That’s how we started. Just to finish there, the most important part, at the really beginning, was to build trust. With vendors and with clients.

ANGELA:

So really again, when you say about starting from scratch, like you said you had a wonderful business idea, but you still wanted to get that validated by the local Barcelona administration, you could say. You had to go and meet with your friends to gather data and really assess that this is going to work. You had to convince the locals that this idea was good and they weren’t gonna be running around with selfie sticks and umbrellas. Through all of that, what would you say were your three biggest obstacles though, when it came to starting from scratch?

ANDRE:

I think one I already kind of mentioned it. It’s the trust from the local vendors. I think that’s in general can be an obstacle for many entrepreneurs.

ANGELA:

Yes, I would agree.

ANDRE:

The second one is to generate sales. Because you build your infrastructure and at some point, you need to sell. You start getting income. So, the selling was hard at the beginning. Another obstacle and I think it still remains one. It’s the legislation.

ANGELA:

Can you talk a little bit more about what that is for you in Barcelona?

ANDRE:

That’s something that we are learning on a constant basis. Because the nature of what I concluded and this is very particular to the nature of our business. We got an insight of what we do in order to make things right. Another to fill the proper form to pay our taxes and stuff. We did so. But tourism is seasonal. So it goes up and down throughout the year. That implies that in some periods we have more workers with us. In some periods, we have less workers with us. On a week basis, for example, we have ten tours open. Sometimes we have the full ten tours full. Sometimes we have seven. Sometimes we have six. It really depends on the market and how things are moving.

The challenge there is for example, local laws are not that flexible for the worker. They require us to have a full time or a part time contract with the worker and us not knowing how much work we can provide to the person. See what I mean?

This kind of thing, for that we ended up having a recruiter what we call here, which is kind of an accountant slash lawyer.

They can help you and try on these kind of issues. They can be quite severe.

ANGELA:

Yes I wonder, what say in just managing those numbers in your books, in your predictability about how many you’ll sell and how many you won’t sell. Well not having too much staff on board because those are overhead costs. They’re gonna eat into your overall profit margin.

ANDRE:

Yeah, correct.

ANGELA:

So what would you say, obviously you’ve talked a little bit about some of the obstacles when starting a business from scratch. What would you say is your biggest accomplishment so far with the business?

ANDRE:

Okay. I keep relying on trust. We build trust. Why? Because we did everything from scratch ourselves. We were the tour guides. Now we have tour guides, but we did the tour guide. We did the accountant job. We did the social media. We did the ads. We did the search engine optimisation. So in that sense, as an accomplishment, the trust issue has been great. Because after we managed to establish ourself to have a good reputation with the local vendors, to have good reviews from clients, building up the business was real easy.

Because when we wanted to put another tour in another part of the city, we went there. We said this is who we are. We are working with these people. These people, they called them to cross check on us. Then we got good feedback and then here we go. For the business is up and running since early 2016. So for two years, we’ve been having Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor.

Meaning that we’ve been having five star reviews on a regular basis. I think that’s a big achievement in this industry. We have grown a social base. I see more and more people contacting us, asking, “Okay, I’m going to Barcelona.” Sometimes, they’re not even interested in our product and that’s fine, but they still ask for advice, “Can you recommend something?” and that’s really nice. Because it shows that we built a brand.

Yesterday I was checking the hashtag in Instagram in Barcelona Eat Local, which was a hashtag that didn’t exist two years ago. Now plenty of people and restaurants and bloggers are using it.

ANGELA:

Yeah, ’cause you built such a great brand!

ANDRE:

Yeah. Another accomplishment, I would say it’s building the partnership with the local vendors. That’s not something quite easy to measure. Probably more is a personal thing, but partnerships are nice. They bring value, I hope, on both sides. I get to know a lot about local wines now, which two years ago I didn’t know.

ANGELA:

Drinking wine is a good thing.

ANDRE:

Oh yes! I’m a wine lover.

ANGELA:

I guess, you would say though is, I think it would be hard to measure, yes. But on the other hand, through trust you’re building credibility and through credibility you’re also equally building that authority within the space of Barcelona Eat Local. So even though you may have started off with a few tours, you could also measure that as you build your trust credibility and authority in the local area, you equally are being able to bring on more vendors because they now see also the trust that their business can grow because of what you’ve built too. Would you agree?

ANDRE:

Yes, definitely. Just to give you an example there, a year ago we met another entrepreneur in the area, who was organising clandestine dinners, in wonderful locations. It’s kind of a VIP product that goes a bit beyond what we do.

We go, we test it. We say, “Why don’t we partner?” Because we have an authority that is growing and the guy was offering a fantastic product, but he didn’t have that. So we partnered. Now we are selling together. We’re organising clandestine dinners in Barcelona.

ANGELA:

Perfect.

ANDRE:

It’s working really good, yeah. It’s something that I happen to find in many cities, when I travel.

ANGELA:

I think also that there’s something I say all the time, with my first business Finlee and Me, and with now Angela Henderson Consulting, that I’ve gotten where I am because of collaborations, networking and partnerships. Not necessarily that I’ve done any joint ventures together, but the fact is that we might team up together because we’ve got the same niche market, but we’re not direct competitors of each other.

Or I’ve just come back from the Maldives, where I’ve worked with nine other businesses and obviously my business coach. We’ve had opportunity to explore ideas and see how we could work together to make each other’s businesses grow. So, I do think that the power of a successful business is the power behind collaborations, networking and relationships, which ultimately is trust.

ANDRE:

Yes, you’re totally right, yeah.

ANGELA:

Now listen, if there’s, those entrepreneurs that are listening today or those startups or even those business owners who have been around the tracks for a while, what would you say are your three tips you would give someone who’s starting a business from scratch?

ANDRE:

Okay. Once you have an idea, I think it’s great to talk to other, try to find other entrepreneurs. There is always someone around. In case you are new to a city and you don’t know anyone, go to the local office that helps entrepreneurs, because they will contact you with them. Put your idea on the table with people. Be ready to receive feedback and be ready to have some people telling you that it’s not going to work.

Take that and try to polish it the best way you can. That’s one tip I know, because when we put an idea, we think our idea is great and sometimes it’s not.

ANGELA:

Sometimes, ideas are not good.

ANDRE:

Another tip that I mentioned before, social capital. That’s amazing. You will be amazed of how much information your networking and knowledge in different areas that you might not imagine. I have this, it’s the ex-boyfriend of one of my best friends. The guy is a search engine optimisation expert. I never thought I would be talking to him, but when I set up an e-commerce business, guess who was the first guy I called for a coffee?

ANGELA:

Exactly. You need to be found.

ANDRE:

Yes. I got excellent tips over a coffee to start building a website. Yeah, so that’s, I think those would be my tips for people who want to start from scratch.

ANGELA:

Brilliant. Thank you so much, and tell me what is your big plan for 2019?

ANDRE:

The big plan for 2019, that’s good. We’ve been going through different ideas and I think the one that we like the most is to remain small.

Because we like the contact with the people and with the vendors. So, we will be polishing our products as we usually do. We want Barcelona Eat Local to be kind of a small boutique that remains very close to the ground and we will just stay in Barcelona for the time being.

ANGELA:

Fantastic. I think sometimes it’s best to capitalise and work all the kinks out and stay small and do it really, really well and build those foundations, before growth. It’s lovely to see that you’re not jumping the gun on that, and that you’re just really solidifying what you’ve already established in Barcelona.

ANDRE:

Yes, I think I will have answered something different a year ago. But I think now, I am at that point where I’m really enjoying the business. The business is working well and I think I will keep it that way for the time being.

ANGELA:

Dude, fantastic!

Now listen, for the listeners out there that want to know more bout you. Where can they find you?

ANDRE:

Where can they find us? Yes. Well our website is www.barcelonaeatlocal.com that’s the main but also we are present in different social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. That’s where people can..

ANGELA:

That can go, they can check you out and if you’re travelling to Barcelona, I would definitely say get in touch with Andre and his wife, and his magnificent tours through Barcelona Eat Local. Because I’ve been on the website, they are absolutely fantastic and very intriguing, and the fact that you get to connect locally, stay within that cultural element and truly get an experience like no other. I would strongly suggest you check out Andre.

So, thank you so much for being onboard today, Andre. And for the rest of those, just a reminder that my team and I will also be putting together the whole transcription for this episode at www.angelahenderson.com.au and of course, I cover all sorts of related business and life topics inside my own Facebook group, The Australian Business Collaborative and I’d love to see you join over there.

And for all of the others listeners, I look forward to having you guys onboard our next episode but in the meantime, have an awesome day, no matter where you are in the world. I look forward to connecting with you all soon. This is Angela from Angela Henderson Consulting, have an awesome day!

Bye, Andre.

ANDRE:

Wonderful!

ANGELA:

Thanks for listening to the Business and Life Conversations podcast with Angela Henderson, Business from Scratch. www.angelahenderson.com.au.

Angel Henderson Consulting

​​Founder of the highly successful online store Finlee and Me, Angela taps into the decade's worth of knowledge of how to grow a thriving enterprise and pours it into her business consulting clients. As a business consultant, she partners with start up and small businesses to grow their brands through hands on support, ensuring foundations are laid in order to leverage growth. Her skills were honed at the helm of Finlee and Me, where she learned everything from branding, PR, sales funnels, email marketing, website, copy, SEO and more. She knows what it truly takes to have a strong brand, consistence sales, steady growth and over all dedication. Angela has been featured in the media including Talking Lifestyle with Ed Phillips and David Koch, Inside Small Business and on numerous Australia and International podcasts.

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