It´s Tuesday! And if you´ve been following my blog you´ll know by now that Tuesday is the day I feature an interview with an avid traveler or someone living abroad. Today´s interview is with a woman whose rich personal and professional story is impossible to sum up in just one sentence! While Kay originally came to Madrid from the Los Angeles, CA with plans to improve her Spanish, she ended up falling in love…with both the city and her Spanish boyfriend. Five years later she´s not only become fluent in the language, but has effectively made this city her home away from home. Read on to discover how she decided to move abroad, what´s her secret to keeping a smile overseas and just what it´s like to be an entrepreneur and brand storyteller in Madrid.
First things first, tell us a little about yourself.
I work for myself as a brand storyteller, helping start-ups craft intelligent online communications strategies. In my experience, all the marketing in the world won’t help your business get results if you don’t know how to share your message. And it starts with your story! Which is why I’m passionate about helping entrepreneurs find and tell their stories to power their profits.
I work with clients from all over the world in English and Spanish. I give talks on branding here in Madrid, and recently expanded into in-person and online trainings.
I also help run PINC, a professional women’s networking group that has chapters in Madrid and Seville. I’m proud that we’ve been able to create a space to support and encourage women in their professional endeavors.
When I’m not building my business, I enjoy singing, cooking, enjoying the local cuisine, reading, and, of course, travel!
What motivated you to move abroad?
I often joke that I was born with wings! I’m a second generation Filipino-American. And I think when you grow up as a third culture kid, you’re naturally exposed to this idea that the world is full of possibilities, that there’s so much more out there to explore. I always admired that my parents were brave enough to leave everything they knew behind and start a new life for themselves. So I guess you could say I always knew I wanted to live abroad.
I studied abroad in Madrid for a semester while I was in college. I absolutely loved it and knew I’d have to find a way back. I just didn’t know when or how.
After finishing my undergraduate degree in 3 years, I worked for 2 years in a job that I eventually realized wasn’t for me. While I was deciding what to do next, Spain crossed my mind again. I figured if I could move back to Madrid for a year, I could support myself teaching English while finally becoming fluent in Spanish.
It goes without saying that I fell in love with Madrid… and my incredible Spanish boyfriend that I met my second year here:).
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I originally started as a freelancer because I wanted to build a portfolio to apply for marketing jobs. I wanted to use my strengths in social media, writing, and being bilingual to help other businesses. But over time, I was able to craft a personal brand that allowed me to turn freelancing into a full-time business. Now when I receive job offers on LinkedIn, I turn them down because I can’t imagine working for anyone else!
Madrid has a steadily-growing start-up ecosystem, and I was able to meet a lot of local entrepreneurs and expat business owners through networking. I realized that the one thing that we all struggle with is answering the question, “what do you do?” in a way that is compelling, convincing, and clear. And that clarity comes from knowing how to tell your story.
I learned that by combining the power of storytelling and online marketing, you can connect with your dream clients online, earn their trust, and convert them into customers.
Tell us about the process of building a business abroad.
I honestly think that there is no better time to be an entrepreneur, especially with the Internet. It gives you the freedom to work from wherever you want, whenever you want. I can accept online payments from a client in the south of Spain, out in Asia, or back in the US within the same hour. This is great news for anyone looking to do what they love while traveling or living abroad!
Building a business is not without its challenges, especially in another language! My advice? Never stop asking questions, don’t take no for an answer. Always get a second opinion. Network, network, network. Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs or like-minded professionals who can support you and offer advice. As one of my favorite marketing gurus says, “Everything is figureoutable.”
Where have you lived abroad? What place was your favorite and why?
Outside of the US, I’ve lived in Paris, France; Morelia, Mexico; Madrid, Spain; and Mumbai, India. Paris and Morelia were study abroad programs I did when I was in middle school and high school respectively. India was for a work trip.
While I enjoyed living in all of them, Madrid is hands down my favorite. It’s hard to beat the quality of life here! I love the terrazas filled with people enjoying a drink on a sunny day. I love that you have cafés run by young entrepreneurs right next to old man bars where the viejitos are sipping on their vermouth. I think I love Madrid for its mix of old and new, its wealth of cultural activities, and for a generally easygoing approach to life. It also helps that I can speak like a madrileña now too!
What’s the most difficult part about living abroad? What’s the best part?
I think the toughest part of living abroad is not falling into the all-too-easy trap of comparing where you’re from to where you are. We’ve all been there! You’re navigating a new culture and, in some cases, a new language. Which means there are bound to be misunderstandings and challenges, especially if you plan on being here for the long-term. It’s all about trying to step back and change your perspective rather than pointing fingers.
On the flip side, the best part of living abroad is being able to call (at least) two amazing places home! I’ve definitely gained a deeper appreciation and respect for the Spanish culture, as well as a whole new perspective on my American and Filipino ones.
Now, if only I could somehow move Spain and California to be right next to each other… 🙂
What is your secret to keeping a positive attitude while living abroad?
Laughing! You can’t take yourself too seriously, especially when you’re learning to speak in another language or in a bicultural relationship. I made some pretty embarrassing mistakes in Spanish as recently as last week – and I consider myself almost fluent!
I think it’s about being kind to yourself and recognizing your limitations. It also helps that I’ve gotten lucky with a great support system of friends and family here!
What’s the best place you’ve ever traveled to?
This is a tough one! I think the trip that had the most meaning for me was going back to the Philippines with my parents and sister 4 years ago. It was only my second trip back! I loved that I got to see the house my mom grew up in, visit the university where she and my dad met, and meet cousins and relatives I’d only seen in pictures. We also hiked up a volcano during that trip (Mount Pinatubo), flew through the treetops, and did what every Filipino loves most – eat!
I think it’s important to see where you came from because it’s such an important part of the story of who you are.
Do you watch TED Talks? What’s your favorite one?
Yes, I watch at least one a week! My top five are:
– “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi
– “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” by Simon Sinek
– “The Power of Introverts” by Susan Cain
– “Why We Do What We Do” by Tony Robbins
– “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” by Amy Cuddy
What advice do you have for people who are considering moving abroad, but are feeling doubtful?
This probably goes without saying, but before you move abroad you should do your homework. Reach out to people already living there via online forums, blogs, or social media. Come with some money saved up. Square away your housing situation as soon as you can. Learn a bit of the language beforehand. If possible, find a coach who can help you through the transition. Doing all of these things can help give you some peace of mind before you arrive.
Moving abroad isn’t without its challenges. But it’s a life-changing experience that can only enrich you as a human being. I don’t know anyone who has said they’ve regretted their decision!
Thank you so much for contributing Kay! If you figure out a way to move California and Spain closer together please let me know and we can find a way to fit Seattle in there somewhere too 🙂
If you want to learn more about Kay´s experience abroad, or find out more about PINC and the Brand Storytelling services she offers, you can get in touch with her through her website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or Pinterest.
And if you´re living abroad or love to travel and want to be featured in a future interview on this site, please send me a message.
Melissa, thanks so much for this wonderful feature! Happy to support the amazing work you do to help expats live their best life abroad 🙂
What a great interview! I love learning about the different things that expats dream up for themselves to do here in Spain, it’s incredible.
Thanks Ashley! I’m glad you liked it, check back here every Tuesday for interviews with other expats (in Spain and elsewhere!)