This week I chatted to Carrie Frais, one of the founders of MumAbroad.com – the Trip Advisor for parents in Spain!
Welcome Carrie Frais – tell me about your journey to Spain – how did you arrive in Barcelona and what made you move here?
It’s actually quite a romantic story.
I had spent 6 months in Madrid as part of my degree course and was smitten by the city and the Spanish way of life. After I graduated I decided to spend a year teaching English in Barcelona and fell head over heels in love with the city. I had to return back to London to complete a post graduate degree in journalism but promised myself that one day I would return to live in Barcelona. I spent 15 years working as a TV and radio journalist in the UK and then a serendipitous moment at a friend’s wedding in 2003 changed the course of my life forever. I found myself sat next to a man who was as passionate about his love for Spain as I was. ‘Let’s go and live there’ I (half) joked and within a year we had moved to Barcelona, within 3 years we were married, within 4 years we had both established new businesses and within 6 years we had two kids (and 2 cats). It’s amazing how you can change your life when you put your mind to it!
Like Costa Women for me in a quest to find a tribe and network with Women, you (and Rebecca Laidlaw) came up with an idea to meet a need you both had – tell us more.
In 2007, Rebecca and I both found ourselves with newborns in a city we loved but we had no close family nearby to help us with juggling the many challenges of being new mothers. At the same time we were trying to keep our careers on track and adapting to life in Spain. Rebecca is an internet marketing specialist, so we decided to combine our skills to create a website dedicated to offering advice and recommendations to mothers from the international community living in or relocating to Spain. Initially the website targeted mothers living in Barcelona (our first website was actually called ‘Barcelona Mum’ ) but we soon realized that there was a growing market throughout Catalonia and the rest of Spain so we soon expanded to Madrid, the Costa Blanca & Valencia, Andalucia and the Balearics and that was when MumAbroad Spain was launched. Within four years we had also developed sites for France, Italy and Germany.
What’s been the biggest challenge when growing MumAbroad?
Finding time for everything we want to do!!
For example, all our activities and services on the site have been recommended by a local mum or dad, so the integrity of MumAbroad is based on genuine experiences, good or bad. We are always on the lookout for insightful recommendations by parents who are willing to share their experience with us and this takes a lot of time. Another challenge has been trying to find enough micro managers in all our regions and sub-regions to ensure that all areas get enough attention. Myself and Jane Mitchell (the company’s Associate Director) are based in Barcelona so inevitably this section of the website has a lot of information. We need to ensure that we devote as much effort into every location – which again takes time!
Top tip for Mum juggling home and business life? What has worked for you?
If only there were a simple answer for this! I think you have to recognize that, on some days, you can`t always achieve everything you want to achieve . I also run a Communications agency and so I need to balance this with my work as founder of MumAbroad as well as ensuring that I don`t miss my kids growing up!
I do find that I am most productive in the mornings so that is the time I fully focus on my work and keep meetings to a minimum. It’s surprising what you can get done with a cup of strong coffee and no distractions!
Do you think it’s easier for Mums who move to Spain to make friends, because their children make the first steps to connect? What worked for you?
Kids are obviously a great leveller and when you share the experience of having children with the experience of moving to Spain, you can create extremely meaningful relationships. So I think that the real connection comes from these unique shared experiences . I do not know where I would be today without the strong bond I have with my friends here, born out of a myriad of (positive and sometimes challenging) experiences of starting a family and living abroad.
You are now well integrated into life in Barcelona – what would be your key learning which helped to make that happen?
I studied Spanish at university so it obviously helped that I could speak the language. Knowing a bit of Catalan or at least understanding it helps with acceptance and integration here in Catalonia. I think that you also need to embrace all aspects of the culture and infrastructure whether you like them or not. I strongly believe that if you make a positive choice to move somewhere, you should try to be appreciative of what you have and not hanker after what you do not have. Acceptance, tolerance and a positive attitude will help you go a long way!
This series is about ‘making it happen’ in business and life – what would be your tips for Women looking at moving to Spain and meeting a need for locals and/or foreigners living here?
Network! With the advent of social media, there are so many ways to find out about events and communicate with all sorts of people from different backgrounds and interests. It’s pretty easy to find your ‘tribe’ so there’s no excuse not to network even in front of your computer! There are numerous Facebook and LinkedIn groups through which one can connect, ask questions and get advice. Mothers innately tend to trust the opinion of other mothers and there are many entrepreneurial women and mums based in Spain who are happy and willing to impart their knowledge.
What Business Book are you currently reading and what’s your biggest take away?
I am more of a fiction reader but often read various entrepreneurs’ Influencer posts on LinkedIn. Adriana Huffington is a truly inspirational woman. In her articles she mainly focuses on overcoming fear. One of her most well known quotes is “Fearlessness is not the absence of fear. It’s the mastery of fear. It’s about getting up one more time than we fall down.”
Best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Stick to your own expectations not those of others.
Something you will achieve over the summer
Some time off (check with me once summer is over!!)
You can step into the ‘My Make it Happen’ frame and tell me 1 wish for your business you are daydreaming about
An Angel investor calling me and saying ‘this is the most incredible business idea. I’d like to invest half a million euros with you today’!
How can we connect with you and MumAbroad?
Contact us via email at email@example.com or via the MumAbroad facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MumAbroadSpain/. We are currently looking for micro managers who can advertise for free on the site in exchange for recommendations in their area so if you think you could help us, please do get in touch!