Expat Entrepreneur in Madrid: Gwendolyn Alston

Expat Entrepreneur in Madrid: Gwendolyn Alston

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It took risk-adverse Spaniards some time to get used to Gwendolyn Alston's video-based informative website, but it's all worth it, says the American expat.

Name: Gwendolyn Alston
Nationality: United States of America
City of residence: Madrid
Name of company:
Date of company launch: May 2008

Can you give us a brief description of your business and how it is going?
MocaMedia was launched originally to manage the website mocaenboca.tv, which offers video-based tourist information about unusual places and people in Spain. The website and the newsletter that announce the new videos and offers chatty information about businesses and books, serve as a platform to draw users’ attention to the advantages of online marketing through email shots and video. The website has since successfully served its purpose to attract clients for video production, email marketing and other business opportunities.

What do you like about doing business in your country of residence?
I have been here awhile, and setting up the business allows me to have more control over my time and my life. Honestly, I feel that I could have done this anywhere. Perhaps the best advantage is that I was one of the first to consider providing this type of service.

What do you find most frustrating about doing business in your country of residence?
There are several frustrating aspects to doing business in Spain. Firstly, the bureaucracy and cost of setting up the business. Then, the risk of not getting paid on time or at all by your clients. Thirdly, Spaniards like many Europeans, are risk-adverse, and new ideas take awhile to catch on. They won’t accept or get enthusiastic about the advantages of new ideas until they are practically mainstream.

What hurdles did you encounter when setting up?
As stated above, convincing businesses of the advantages of having a video presence online, as well as the cost of setting up and maintaining the business, even from a home office.

How has the economic crisis affected your business?
I have been lucky enough to grow my business in a very different way, and have taken on clients from outside of the country, so I can say that I am doing well. There is a long way to go, but now I have some leverage to grow my business further. The crisis has not affected me as much since I have virtually no overhead and am completely flexible. I think I have the advantage of being very niche and offering advertising and marketing alternatives which are inexpensive.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs setting up business in your country of residence?
The best advice I can give is that other entrepreneurs must realise that their business will grow in twice the time that it might according to their average business plan. Don’t think you can have a ROI within two years, it might take double or triple that, so you have to be able to plan accordingly, especially if you’re introducing a very new product or business concept.

How does running a business in your current country of residence compare to running a business in other countries that you have lived in?
I have not run a business in other countries. Again, I might have the advantage of novelty, even though it takes longer to catch on. In my country of origin, I would have more competition to deal with.

Would you like to add anything that we haven’t addressed in the questionnaire?
I am very happy to have chosen this independent path. It has allowed me to meet people from completely different business areas, to know myself better, and to be open to the unexpected.

Another bit of advice I can give is that it is important to stay as focused as possible with your work. It is easy to get distracted, to see opportunities in everything and everyone and to run around seeking out clients. Sometimes it’s best to just plug away at what you’re doing, as bizarre as it might seem at first, and let the opportunities unveil themselves to you naturally, through unexpected channels. Then, you have to be flexible and adapt to any new circumstances, while still maintaining your course.


In this new series of Expatica interviews, we invite expat entrepreneurs in Spain to share their experiences of setting up and running their businesses in Spain. If you too would like to share your perspective about starting a business in Spain, fill out our Expat Enterpreneur questionnaire.

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