Juan Maria Serra - Farmacia Serra Mandri
Who are you and what is your business?
I am from Barcelona, I am 57 years of age, I studied pharmacy because that is what everybody in my family did. My mother, my father, both grandparents. I have a pharmacy at the intersection of Diagonal/Via Augusta. There are about 20 of us working in the pharmacy, a mix of qualified pharmacists and people with other degrees. I am a big fan of publicity art, old (how could it be any other way) medicine bottles. Equally, I enjoy ceramic, paintings etc. I like the countryside, and I prefer going to the mountains rather than the beach (as opposed to my wife)
Where did the original idea come from?
My grandfather first opened the pharmacy at the start of the 20th century. Our specialisation in natural therapies is more a product of my personal leanings rather than any business plan. It ultimately had massive repercussions in the development of the pharmacy. In my case, it was a good thing to mix business and pleasure
How long did it take to get your business off the ground?
Our pharmacy has two fundamental characteristics: firstly, we offer a great variety of products, a reputation which takes time to develop because people only realise it gradually, and secondly our specialisation in homeopathic and natural therapies which I already mentioned, and which was an immediate success, because it was fulfilling a demand. In Barcelona, these types of pharmacies, which offered such variety, did not exist .
What do you wish you’d known when you started?
From a business point of view, I lack any commercial education, in that I only studied pharmacy. It is now a little late to catch up.
Did you find the paperwork difficult?
I do not like administrative work at all. It is the same problem for all business owners.
Did you get help from any particular official organisations or associations (e.g. Chambers of Commerce)?
Can you tell me of the positive aspects of your business?
Work in a pharmacy is very varied, at times too much so because it is not easy to progress in any one specific area. It is also quite rewarding, because you can help a lot of people.
And the negative aspects?
In my situation, because the pharmacy is located in such a busy area, it is difficult to be organised because many people can turn up all of a sudden and you have to work very quickly. There are also absurd regulations that you must face every now and again, and particularly when selling natural medicines. You can come across products which are sold in Great Britain, or the USA or France which we cannot sell here because of regulations which make no sense. In Spain and Catalunya, we make rules so that we can be bottom of the pile in many cases rather than at the top…
Are there any other useful contacts, tips or information you think would be useful to other foreign entrepreneurs in Barcelona?
You can be sure that what is now new in your countries, will be successful here in five years because we are a little slow. We are getting better, and we are very receptive, and we accept what comes from other places.