Ruth Ibars, a 36 year old native from Barcelona, is the founder of “Ibars. Finding your place in Barcelona”. She has travelled the world and lived in several countries and has come to realise how much she loves being in Barcelona. She has launched Ibars with a double objective: favour new beginnings for those who want to build a new life in Barcelona; and give support to those companies who understand that taking care of their employees and their families means taking care of their most important asset.
1. Where did the original idea come from?
Last year I reached that point in life when you realise that you won’t be able to do all the things that you love doing… unless you work for yourself! I had a meaningful job but I wanted to build something from all the knowledge and experiences that I had acquired. I had three things in mind: I wanted to work improving people’s lives (my vocation), I wanted to work with people from different backgrounds and cultures and I wanted to do it in Barcelona, the city I love.
I have always been very close to the Human Resources field. Not only because of my own experience but also because of my family and friends’ involvement in human resources management. We could all see that companies are moving forward to more careful mentalities. I understood that the key to success lies in understanding that the more you look after your working team the better your results will be. And the best way of creating a great place to work, the best way to ensure you have motivated and highly committed employees, is to embrace social policies that favour a better quality of life.
Here is where Ibars comes in: we provide a valuable resource for companies that care about their people. Companies that are aware of the difficulties of starting over in a new city and that want to turn that transition into a more enjoyable experience for the whole family. But we also cater for individuals who feel they need a helping hand in their adaptation process and seek us independently.
In addition to this, I wanted to promote Barcelona as an incredible city to live in. A cosmopolitan city full of resources and opportunities for international companies, international professionals and international talent. A place to come and a place to stay.
2. How long did it take to get your business off the ground?
I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do but I wanted to be thorough. I did my business plan to cover every aspect. I shared the idea with several companies, I had interviews with people that had undergone a relocation experience and I made sure that our services covered every emotional and socio-cultural need that a person may experience in these situations. All in all it took me about nine months to get started. Nine months to turn that idea into something tangible to show others.
3. What do you wish you’d known when you started?
I had always been worried about the sales part. However, something that seemed a bit daunting turned out to be very enjoyable! If you're confident about what your business has to offer, you're passionate about it and you believe in the values that lie underneath, you just have to communicate it! From that point on it's just a matter of finding companies with strong values that consider Corporate Social Responsibility as an important factor in an employee engagement strategy, and that want to invest in innovation.
In this regard I am pleased to say I have met some incredible people. People whose vision goes beyond the present moment, beyond crisis and indifference. Managers of companies who were entrepreneurs once and are keen to help, reputable business men and women who believe in promoting new ideas, and a new 'breed of people' who really care about giving before receiving, starting with my family and friends.
5. Did you find the paperwork difficult?
The paperwork wasn't very hard. I had experience in helping entrepreneurs with their projects as a consultant so everything was familiar to me. Nevertheless, if you feel unsure about it there's always the option of hiring an advisor to help you with the paperwork.
6. Did you get help from any particular official organisations or associations (e.g. Chambers of Commerce)? If so, please describe
I've always tried to be meticulous with what I do. Even though I had my own business plan completed, I took a course in entrepreneurship in Barcelona Activa, just to be sure I was well prepared. There are always new things to learn and new aspects to consider.
7. What is your business experience / background / qualifications?
I have always studied things that suited my motivations and interests. That reasoning made me approach fields of study that apparently had little in common (Psychology, Tourism, English Studies, NLP and Oriental Philosophy and medicine) until, one day, I connected the dots. I realised this was the perfect symbiosis of elements that allowed me to approach the person as a whole.
In the professional field 'improving people's lives' has been my motto. I've spent ten years dedicated to this. I have worked for private and public organisations providing orientation during life transition situations. I have also worked in the tourism industry, I have taught Spanish as a foreign language and I have lived abroad (France, Australia, Argentina and Canada), which gave me the opportunity to live among different cultures and realities.
However, Ibars is more than my CV; It has a lot to do with my personal life too. I love exploring my city, interacting with people from other cultures, sharing knowledge and learning from everyone I cross paths with. Besides, I have a first-hand experience on what it´s like to arrive somewhere new, to deal with transition issues, to rediscover yourself in a new environment and to create new networks all over again.
Education, professional experience and personal motivation. That's what Ibars put together.
8. What are the positive aspects about having a business here?
When I was living abroad I used to hear "Barcelona is the place to be". I had to leave it for a while to understand what people meant. If I was meant to spend the rest of my life in Barcelona I wanted to be sure it was because of a personal decision, not because I was born here. Today, I totally agree with that premise. Barcelona is a fantastic place to be. A cosmopolitan city, with seaside, beautiful mountains, history, culture, leisure and lots of opportunities to grow personally and professionally.
I think it would be a real shame for people coming to Barcelona not to take advantage of the whole experience, and for well prepared women and men coming to our city not to fully enjoy the experience because they find it hard to fit in. It can be difficult to redefine your identity in a new city but if there's a place where you can build a meaningful life, it's Barcelona!
This city is experiencing new initiatives related to economic development, attracting investors and international companies. Initiatives that know how important it is to attract and retain international talent. When I created Ibars I had two things in mind: to make international workers feel good in their new positions so they would do a good job, and to make their families feel welcome and integrated with. This accomplished and they’ll want to stay! Here is where Ibars wants to be! Embracing the talent of the whole family!
9. And the negative aspects?
No negative aspects! You can turn everything into a learning experience. Have a positive vision of the world, stand on your values, do absolutely everything that’s in your hands to achieve your goals and try to improve the world around you. Don't base everything on an outcome, enjoy the ride! People talk about crisis but there are companies who don't follow the rules, who are still doing incredible things for their employees, companies that are fantastic places to work because they care about their people.
10. Are there any other useful contacts, tips or information you think would be useful to other foreign entrepreneurs in Barcelona?
If you believe in something… do it! Or, at least, try it! Don’t fear failure, don't complain, give your best and be grateful to every person that has helped you along the way. And, if I can do anything for you... don’t hesitate to ask me!
To learn more about Ibars, click here.