Who are you and what is your business?
My name is Inge Barker and a Taste of Home is a shop that sells British products. We have over 2,000 products all imported from England. We don’t have any Spanish products at all because we are not aiming at that particular market. We do do some Dutch, German and American products, a lot of vegetarian products but we specialise in British products.
Where did the original idea come from?
The original Taste of Home opened in Sitges, very shortly after Marks and Spencer closed down. I regularly shopped at Marks and Spencer and everyone was saying “What are we going to do now!? Where are we going to get our crumpets?”. So we though “Ah! An opportunity!” and at that time I had a small bar down in Sitges, so we opened the shop and we found they worked well together. Some would do their shopping and go straight across to the bar for fish and chips!
How long did it take to get your business off the ground?
Back then it was a very tiny store. We were later persuaded to go down to the Tarragona province where there are a lot more English. There it was mostly people who were retired and they wanted the things that they knew. You wouldn’t believe it, but some people wouldn’t go into a Spanish restaurant! They wanted everything from England. Which I find very strange, but there you go. Then a lot of people, with the onset of the recession, started going home because the Euro was so powerful it affected their pensions. Plus we were delivering almost everyday into Barcelona, to the yachts and the yacht brokers. We thought it seemed a bit ridiculous travelling up two or three times a week to do deliveries. It is far better to have a shop here. We opened up in Barcelona in August 2009.
What do you wish you’d known when you started?
Make sure that you really research what you’re doing. We’ve survived because basically we’re unique. We started off very, very small and we’ve just grown. We couldn’t possibly afford to set up a shop like this now. Just looking along the shelves at how much stock there is, we couldn’t possibly afford to do it now. Start small… Unless you’ve got pots of money, then go for it! But also be sure that you know all the rules and that you don’t break them. It’s just not worth it. You wouldn’t do it in England, and they are a lot stricter here. You have to have a license for everything. For example, we wanted to do a little coffee shop up here, but it’s just not worth it.
What are the positive aspects about having a business here?
It’s nice because you meet a lot of very nice people. I can honestly say we have hardly any customers that aren’t nice. They’re all interested in what you do. For example today, when a lady came in and said we had turned her husband’s life around because he can get proper English fruit cake now. Everybody’s really thrilled when they find something that they’ve not been able to get before.
And negative aspects?
I think as long as you stick to the letter of the law, you do everything that’s required of you and you make sure all the rules are followed, you shouldn’t have a problem. Sometimes you do, if you think you’ve got everything right, but then someone will come up as say something like, “No, that’s not the right size, you’ve got to have more of a space between these shelves” and then you have to revamp. I think as long as you do your best to get everything right, then you won’t have a problem.
Are there any other useful contacts, tips or information you think would be useful to other foreign entrepreneurs in Barcelona?
You can get information from the council, the internet, and you always have to employ an architect. Everything has got to be done step by step and it’s all got to be done correctly.
You also have another business don't you?
Yes. We set the Sky installation business up 13 years ago, we don’t just do Sky we do Russian, German and Dutch TV, all the sports channels and it’s properly regulated. We have an office here for Sky and a 24 hour helpline which, although sometimes at 3 o’clock in the morning I don’t want to, we always answer the phone. We have a showroom here so people can come and see the systems working. Having this means people have confidence in us, we’re so much more than just a mobile phone number on an ad. We’re also happy to do repairs if anyone has had any Sky TV problems from an installation company and now can’t get back in touch with them.