How I turned redundancy into a an expat entrepreneur adventure
Moving abroad and becoming an expat can be really exciting – a new chapter in your life! It can alsobe a bit scary and there’s always an element of the ‘unknown’. We become expats for all different reasons; some follow their spouses or partners across the world, others re-locate because of their jobs, some move abroad for a better quality of life, and some simply decide to experience life in another country, but what happens next?
I became an expat by accident in 1994 when I accepted a job in Prague, Czech Republic. It was only supposed to be for one year as I had planned to return home after my contract was up. However, it turned out to be the first year of my extensive journey as an expat. I am now an expat entrepreneur, originally from the States and currently living in the UK.
When I was pregnant with my second child in 2003, I was made redundant from my job as a senior designer. Instead of trying to find employment at five months pregnant, I started up my own design company. It was very hard going at first – I think starting up any business can be hard going.
However, not having any family or close friends nearby and being a foreigner to the UK, there were additional challenges. As an expat, however, and being used to taking on new challenges, I made a success of my company and have not looked back since.
Expats naturally share some of the same traits and qualities as entrepreneurs. We make successful entrepreneurs because we are adaptable, open to new challenges and have an inherent need to find success for ourselves. And, because expats are thrown – sometimes unexpectedly – into a brand new country and culture, we tend to develop certain aspects of our personality which are similar to those of entrepreneurs. We are able to easily recognize opportunities because we’re on the look out for ways to further develop ourselves in a new environment and are also are open to meeting new people and embracing new ideas in order to learn and experience other ways of doing things.
Traits and qualities expats and entrepreneurs share:
• Open minded
• Accepting of other people and cultures
• Risk taker
• Full of energy and passion
• Curious and inventive
• Desire to succeed
• Able to cope in stressful situations
• Open to new experiences
Expat entrepreneurship can start at any time during your expat journey. When I first moved abroad, I was employed as an English teacher and it wasn’t until several years, two countries and two babies later that I started up my own business and became an expat entrepreneur.
In many ways, going into business for myself was my way ‘in’ into British culture, becoming accepted, making friends, and understanding the culture. By meeting clients, networking and marketing my business, I’ve been able to establish myself and a support network and through that and I’m leading an exciting, successful and fulfilling expat life. Plus, I love what I do! I’m also happy to share my story with others with the hope that it will inspire them in their lives and in their businesses.
So if you’ve, just moved abroad or are planning to, if you’re an expat looking for a job, or if you’re at a crossroads, then consider starting up your own business. There are lots of resources that can help you, lots of different ways to network and find that valuable support you’ll need, not only during the initial start up stage but throughout your expat entrepreneurial journey. Feel free to get in touch with me if you’re looking for business support resources.