Who are you and what is your business?
Anke Rafflenbeul, 31 years old, professional graphic designer from Germany. I graduated in Berlin. I have lived in Barcelona for six years but have also lived and worked in Madrid, Tarragona, Colombia and El Salvador.
Waseem Abbas, 34 years old, mosaic, ceramics and stones specialist. I am from Pakistan but have lived in Barcelona for more than twelve years.
Business: AW Designs offers individual and specialist tile designs for bathrooms, kitchens, terraces, etc. We have a nice collection of creative designs for tables, mirrors, pictures of ceramics and web designs that you can put on the walls yourself which are available on the web-site: www.awdesigns.org
Where did the original idea come from?
The original idea was to combine our skills. I always have been very impressed by Gaudí and Hundertwasser, an Austrian architect who worked with a lot with tiles. My boyfriend is a specialist of works with tiles for bathrooms, etc. I have had this idea for many years to design with tiles. I do the designs, and he does the artwork. Coming to Barcelona, and seeing all the beautiful works of modernism, especially of Gaudí, made us finally decided to make it a reality. Our unique idea is that we want to make beautiful and qualitative designs but not just for public places, also for private individuals, who want to give their homes a special touch.
How long did it take to get your business off the ground?
We started some months ago promoting and advertising our business in Barcelona. We also started a website, were you can see some of our work. We have also now started to make designs for the web, that you can easily download, and hang on your walls yourselves. We have a website showing our work so you can buy our designs online or place an order by phone. So you even can buy our designs, if you aren't living in Catalunya or Spain, and we can send the delivery you the designs.
What do you wish you’d known when you started?
I am still learning a lot of new things, I never needed to know before such as, administration, how to register a new brand, or to make a homepage. But there is nothing, I really have to say, that I had no idea about, and wished I have had known before.
How easy was it get the financing for your business
Till now we didn’t have much investment. We are working mainly at home, selling our designs by internet or using personal contacts to get clients and visiting them at home. The next step that we are working on, is to have a shop where we can display our work and people can visit. We are investigating that right now and looking into financing possibilities.
Did you find the paperwork diffícult?
Definitely. Like a lot of people with creative jobs, I never had much interest in paperwork, and I find it kind of hard to understand, but I also know that most times it is not so difficult as it seems. And sometimes I was really surprised, that it wasn’t as hard as I expected to be.
Did you get help from any particular official organisations or associations (e.g. Chambers of Commerce)?
What is your business experience / background / qualifications?
We are both specialised in our individual work. I studied graphic design in Berlin, and later worked in different agencies and publications in Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona, Tarragona and El Salvador, before I finally decided to work on my own, realising my dream idea to make designs with tiles.
My boyfriend and partner, has worked more than 12 years in construction, in all over Europe, like Germany, Austria, Denmark, Holland and of course Spain. He’s specialized in fixing tiles and ceramics for bathrooms, kitchens, etc. So he knows everything about the materials, and collocation work.
What are the positive aspects about having a business here?
It is very positive for our business to be based in the city of Gaudí . Barcelona is also a multicultural city, with influences from all over the world, open to new ideas, especially in design.
And the negative aspects?
What makes it of kind of difficult for a stranger here, is the fact that a lot of business works with personal contacts. Somebody knows somebody, who knows somebody, who has a brother, who can help you, or who wants to contact you. Being a stranger, you don’t have the social network, people from here normally have. Especially in the beginning, when you know just a few people, this can be difficult.
Are there any other useful contacts, tips or information you think would be useful to other foreign entrepreneurs in Barcelona? Please describe:
Most of all learn Catalan. I understand the language but speak very little and hopefully will become fluent as I see that it really opens doors, when you at least speak a little.