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1. Where did the original idea come from?
The Barcelona Improv Group grew from the New English Theatre Society, which had an improvisation team. When NETS folded, we all sat around doing nothing for a while, until Dan Ryan and Matt Watson Jones decided to carry on, offering workshops to the public and putting on shows. BIG just grew from there.
2. How long did it take to get your business off the ground?
The money that we earn goes into covering costs of rehearsal space and our website. I wouldn't call it a business; I'd call it a community. Our aim is to share this great form of comedy with many people either as audiences or as participants. As our reputation for providing great comedy shows grows, and we can put aside more money, then we will start doing business-like things. Or make T-shirts. We could use T-shirts.
3. What do you wish you’d known when you started?
It's difficult transitioning from a collection of comedians and artists putting on occasional shows for the English-speaking arts community to a larger theatre company. Now we function as a school, offering classes, weekend getaways, free workshops, & free jams, and a professional theatre, performing shortform and longform improv comedy shows every month. The most difficult thing is getting the message out there, finding people that want to take classes or attend shows. I meet people every week that had no idea English comedy existed in Barcelona. We are constantly learning about advertising and search engine optimisation and distribution networks. It's much more fun to make up silly characters on stage.
4. How easy was it get the financing for your business?
We keep our costs low so that we can keep our ticket prices low. Most of our events are free. Will people just give you money to operate your business? Can we have some? As I mentioned before, the T-shirts would be fantastic.
5. Did you find the paperwork diffícult?
Nah, we do everything on computers nowadays. It takes a bit of time, but when it's for something you love, even accounts don't feel like a chore.
6. Did you get help from any particular official organisations or associations (e.g. Chambers of Commerce)? If so, please describe
We receive a lot of support from other English language arts groups. There is an incredible community of actors, musicians, visual artists, even flashmob organisers. Many people would be surprised to find how much quality entertainment is available in English here in Barcelona.
7. What is your business experience / background / qualifications?
We have a lot of teaching and performance experience. Our troupe has actors that have performed professionally in locales as diverse as New York, the Edinburgh Fringe and Johannesburg. The challenge has been training our creative minds on the tasks of growing BIG as an organisation.
8. What are the positive aspects about having a business here?
The expat community here is really welcoming and inclusive; we've found that word of mouth can be a great asset. We notice when people are bringing friends to shows and workshops, and we get to talk to them afterwards and get feedback. Also, while there are some established drama and theatre companies in English in BCN, we're the first big name in English comedy here, so we're forging the way.
9. And the negative aspects?
Not anything with Barcelona, specifically. If there were more hours in a day or more days in a week, life would be easier. But with all of these austerity cuts, those additions to the calendar are unlikely.
10. Are there any other useful contacts, tips or information you think would be useful to other foreign entrepreneurs in Barcelona?
Running a business is hard work with few monetary rewards to start out. Don't forget why you came to Barcelona: the beauty, the beach, the sun, the cultural offerings. Take time off to enjoy yourself. Maybe at a comedy show. Free tickets for anyone with a T-shirt company.
For more information on Barcelona Improv Group, click here.